Skip links

Turtuk: the village divided by the borders

Introduction to Turtuk

Where is Turtuk?

Turtuk is located in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh which is one of the most rustic & beautiful regions of our country. It’s a border village and quite close to the line of control between India and Pakistan. It has always kept me fascinated because of its culture, history, and geography. In September 2019, I also took my women-only Ladakh group to Turtuk.

History of Turtuk

Turtuk, as mentioned above, is a village divided by the borders. It’s located only at a distance of 10 km from the line of control between Indian and Pakistan. Until 1971, it was a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the Gilgit Baltistan region. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the Indian army won it back, along with a few more villages leaving the Gilgit Baltistan region divided. Just imagine, the denizens of Turtuk village went to sleep in Pakistani administration and woke up in Indian control the next morning! As a repercussion, many families were also left divided. 

Culture of Turtuk

Turtuk is the land of mysteries, unique culture, geography, and an emotion that can only be felt once you are there. It’s home to almost 4000 people with a majority of the Muslim population. There are  Noorkbakhshias, Sunnis and  Shias, and a few Buddhists as well. People here speak Balti, Urdu, Ladakhi, and Hindi. In fact, while going from Hunder village to Turtuk,  you notice the changing culture, language, and physical features of people. It makes you feel that you have arrived in Baltistan. The residents of Turtuk village are beautiful with very fair skin, rosy cheeks, and features somewhat similar to Afghanis. 

Turtuk people
Turtuk Girl

Turtuk is indeed one of the most unique places in Ladakh! It is also the gateway to the Siachen Glacier, with the snow-clad peaks of Mt. K2, visible on the horizon from the top of the village.

Turtuk – Beginning of tourism

Turtuk was opened to tourism in 2010. I have heard that the villagers were very enthusiastic that tourists from different places would come to visit them. Did you know that Turtuk greeted its first tourist with a basket of fresh apricots, a silk scarf, and a folk dance performance? Does this first tourist to Turtuk village make you jealous? It does make me green with envy. 
It’s still one of the most offbeat places in Ladakh.

Our experience in Turtuk 

I visited Turtuk village latest in Sep 2019 while leading a women-only group tour to Ladakh, as mentioned earlier. We visited here for a day trip keeping Hunder village as a base.

The first impressions

The wooden bridge and Shyok River to enter the village

Turtuk Village
Farms of Turtuk

 As we alighted from our tempo traveler in Turtuk village, a gust of dusty air welcomed us to the rugged terrain of Turtuk by caressing our cheeks and tangling our hair. As the sight cleared, I witnessed an antique-looking wooden bridge beneath which the silver Shyok river flew in full abundance. The bridge led our trail to the interior of the Turtuk village. After the bridge, a steep flight of stairs took us inside the village followed by a narrow cemented path. Once we entered the village, we could not take our eyes off the vast expanse of green farms full of flowers, rustic mountain backdrop, and the traditional houses. Turtuk looked like a perfect postcard village.
Beautiful views weren’t the only thing I had been yearning for in Turtuk. I craved to meet local people from Baltistan.

Meeting Locals and the apricots

Apricot Tree

The sweet smell of apricots scents the air of Turtuk. Little did we know that we would be offered the abundance of apricots after every couple of steps. We met two ladies in beautiful dresses, sitting under a shady tree, extracting the seeds of the overriped apricots and squashing them to make jam. They invited us to pamper our taste buds with the pulp of apricot. Another teenager hanging like a monkey on an apricot tree tossed a few of them towards us in the next street. Eating apricots in Turtuk felt like eating them for the first-ever time. I had never tasted such juicy and sweet apricots. A couple of minutes later, an old lady with a beautifully wrinkled but peaceful visage, offered us some dried ones.

“If we eat these apricots every day, can we get rosy cheeks like you?” said one of the girls from our group to the old lady giving all of us a burst of good hearty laughter. 

Hospitable yet shy

Turtuk people
Beautiful ladies of the village

The people of Turtuk village are very friendly and shy as well. Before visiting, I had seen multiple portraits of those rosy-cheeked beautiful looking people. I also wanted to click the photos of locals. However, when I sought their permission to click a picture, they politely and shyly refused to which I obliged. Hence, if you are on your trip to Turtuk, I suggest you not click them without their consent. In fact, the portraits shared in this article are not mine, but from the albums of those lucky travelers who got the consent to click. I assume most of of them stayed in Turtuk longer than me. They must have spent some memorable moments with the locals who didn’t mind getting clicked after a while. 

Things to see/ do in Turtuk Village

Interacting with Balti people

Interacting with the residents of Turtuk village is the favorite part of the majority of travelers who visit Turtuk. You can refer to the above section to read about our experience of interacting with the locals. I highly recommend interacting with locals as it’s a luxury you can only find in offbeat places.

Natural Cold Storage

Things to do in Turtuk
Natural Cold Storage

Turtuk village is extremely cold in winters, just like any other part of Ladakh. However, the day hours of the summer season sometimes become extremely warm. The remoteness of the place doesn’t enable the villagers to source the essentials at their convenience. Also, the limited electricity don’t give the option of keeping refrigerators. Hence, the villagers of Turtuk came up with an innovative solution to create a natural cold storage.  The natural cold storage are little stone rooms, also known as hollows or stone bunkers, where stones are arranged in such a manner that the gaps between them allow the cold air to creep inside. The underground glacial watercourse also adds to the cooling effect and keeps these stone quarters icy cold. Hence, perishable food items can easily be stored here.

Balti Heritage House and Museum

Things to see in Turtuk
Balti Heritage House & Museum

Visiting Balti Heritage House and Museum in Turtuk was an hour spent very well. It’s a 150-year-old traditional Balti home that is now a museum offering a wonderful opportunity of peeking into the slowly fading Balti way of life. It’s a quaint two-storied structure with low-heightened roofs that allows it to stay warm in winter. Ali Ashoor, who owns the house cum museum, gives a guided tour of the place with so much passion that the past of Turtuk comes alive in front of your eyes. It was built in the 19th century by his great-great-grandfather.

You can see the centuries-old huge storage pots and cooking utensils made of brass, stone, and copper with intriguing carvings. There is a separate section for clothes where headgears studded with silver and gemstone jewelry, ancient robes made from animal fur, shawls, and caps are kept for the display.


Handmade and hand-carved Brass Cutlery

Coming across the Blacksmith shop in Turtuk came as a sweet surprise to our group as it wasn’t expected. It’s on the other side of the wooden bridge. Two mid-aged men clad in Pathani kurta pajama and Pathani caps were making beautiful cutlery from brass with intricate carvings. It is a cute little shop in a makeshift tent. The carvings were so intricate that only those experienced Balti hands could have sculpted them out so neatly. 


Things to see in Turtuk
The view from the monastery

Did you know that you can witness the majestic K2 from Turtuk?

Turtuk is majorly a Muslim hamlet, and its residents still maintain a Buddhist monastery atop a hill. Doesn’t it tell us about the peace-loving and tolerant nature of the villagers? It’s a long walk to the monastery followed by a steep climb on a rock. The hike is a short one though but rewards you with the breathtaking views of Shyok valley. The picturesque view from the monastery is extremely rewarding as you see the Himalayan ranges, including K2 peak (Karakoram), and the river Shyok flowing elegantly between these ranges.

Historic Polo Ground

Things to see in Turtuk
Turtuk Pologround

Who would believe if they are told that a remote Ladakhi village has its own Polo Ground? The Polo Ground in Turtuk is from the 16th century, and even now, the younger generations love to participate in Polo Games. Don’t expect to see a vast stretch of greenery around the Polo Ground in Turtuk, like we are used to. In fact, you may not even recognize Polo Ground if someone didn’t tell you the same. Kids love to play there before and after school, and sometimes, they also ask visitors to participate in the game.

Ruins of Brokpa Fort

Brokpas are known to be a 5000-year-old tribe in Ladakh. Now, the Brokpa Fort is in ruins in Turtuk. It’s a great place to visit, especially for history-lovers and those who love to click the places with rustic charm.

Water Mill 

There is a simple water mill in Turtuk village which is built in Greek style. Being centuries-old, it offers an old-world rustic charm.

Note: If you are visiting Turtuk only for a day trip from Hunder village, as preferred by the majority, then you can’t do everything here. I would recommend interacting with locals, visiting Balti Heritage House & Museum, Cold Storage, Monastery & Blacksmith. You can forgo other things if you have limited time in hand.

Turtuk Altitude

Turtuk altitude is 9846 feet above sea level. It’s a high altitude where one can be prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or altitude sickness. However, it should not be much of a problem if you have been properly acclimatized in Leh for at least 2 nights, before coming to Turtuk. The altitude of Turtuk is lesser than the altitude of Leh and Hunder Village as well. Hence, one should not get worried as long as they are getting proper sleep, drinking the right amount of water, refraining from smoking and drinking alcohol, and eating healthy food.

Turtuk Weather

Just like the entire Ladakh, Turtuk is also a high-Himalayan region and hence very cold. Although, over the decades, global warming has made Turtuk weather less cold. The owner of the Balti Heritage House, while showing us the centuries-old animal fur overcoats, mentioned that until a couple of decades ago, they needed those overcoats even in summers. 

Presently, it experiences heavy snowfall in the winter months i.e. November to March. During the summer months, April to October, it’s very bone-chilling after dusk and before dawn. If it’s a sunny day, then daytime hours could be warm because of the harsh sun. Anytime you visit here, you are definitely going to need warm clothes. If you are visiting during the summer season, carry your light clothes too. I recommended dressing in layers to go with the rhythm of the day as the temperature changes.

In nutshell, expect Turtuk weather to be always on the colder side except for sunny days in summer. Pack accordingly.

Best time to visit Turtuk

Summer months i.e. June to September are the best months to visit Turtuk. You can visit Turtuk village in winter as well but might face the challenges in crossing Khardung La. It’s one of the highest passes in Ladakh and hence, experiences heavy snowfall in the winter season. Although, best efforts are made to keep Khardung La operational even in winter months because it’s an extremely important pass for Indian Defence as army supplies are carried through it. But sometimes in case of heavy snowfall, it may stay closed even for days. Hence, it’s better to avoid planning to visit Turtuk or any other place in Nubra Valley during the winter season.

Please note that in whatever way you plan your Ladakh itinerary, if you have to visit Turtuk, you must cross Khardung La. Hence, there is no option to avoid this pass and reach Turtuk.

Packing List

  • Thermals, other Warm clothes, socks, shoes, cap, gloves
  • Insulated Water Bottle
  • Basic first-aid kit and AMS tablets
  • Oxygen cans/ cylinder
  • Neck Pillow for the road journey
  • Power bank
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Cash


Please note that there are no ATMs available in Turtuk village. Also, debit cards/ credit card/ Google Pay/ Paytm/ PhonePe etc can’t be used at homestay/ cafes or dhabas. All your transactions in here are going to be cash transactions. Do remember that some people like to buy apricot products in Turtuk such such as oil, jam, and dried apricots. Carry cash accordingly.

Mobile network

Only the BSNL network only gets reception in Turtuk that too just for postpaid sims. Even BSNL network reception could be inconsistent in different parts of the village. Feature phones receive more coverage as compared to smartphones in such areas.

Permits to visit Turtuk

Turtuk village is a part of the inner line areas, i.e. the areas close to the Indian border. Hence, everyone requires an Inner Line Permit to visit Turtuk. You can obtain the permit either from Leh by visiting the DM office or online. You can also outsource the permit arrangement work to an agent. Please note that with an official permit, Indian Nationals and Foreigners, both can visit Turtuk.

Medical Facilities

You can get basic medicines and first-aid support in Turtuk. However, there is no medical center or a hospital located here. The nearest hospital is located in Bogdang, which is 23 km or almost 40 minutes’ driving time away from Turtuk.

Places to eat

There are a few handful cafes and dhabas in Turtuk which serve satisfactory food. If you wish to satisfy your taste buds while filling your stomach, then you have to be intelligent while ordering. Ask the Dhaba owners what’s local on the menu and what would be their recommendations. During my last visit to Turtuk, our entire group ordered food items like noodles, french fries, pakoda, etc, and were able to fill their tummies without complaining. Two of us ordered buckwheat pancakes  (kissir) along with a very unique kind of curd raita (tsemik), and this meal turned out to be extremely scrumptious.  The entire group had their mouths watering when they tasted our food. Buckwheat pancakes and raita combo were priced quite higher than other choices, but worth the money. I still miss the taste and wish to go back to Turtuk to have this meal again. 


Some people also visit Turtuk to stay overnight or maybe even longer, to experience the joy of slow travel. There are a couple of homestays and guesthouses available in the village. Being an offbeat place, expect a clean and comfortable stay but nothing fancy. You can pre-book online or just finalize one on the spot when you reach there. Better to pre-book if you traveling during peak holiday time.

How to reach Turtuk?

The most viable option to reach Turtuk is through a privately booked vehicle from Leh, but not in one day. The driving distance from Leh to Turtuk is almost 200 km and takes take 7-8 hours without breaks. However, you can’t avoid taking breaks because many interesting attractions come en route such as Khardung La, Diskit Monastery, Hunder Village, ATV Ride areas, etc. As a matter of fact, a visitor rarely goes directly to Turtuk from Leh. The most preferred and common way to do this is to leave from Leh and take a night halt at Hunder Village in Nubra Valley. From Leh to Hunder Village, you can visit a lot of places. The next day, you can take a day trip to Turtuk village while keeping Hunder as a base for the night. 

Here’s a sample itinerary to visit Turtuk from Leh:

Day 1: Depart from Leh post-breakfast by 7:30 am, take a stop to Khardung La, Maitreya Buddha Statue, lunch in the restaurant of Diskit Monastery, visit Diskit Monastery, ATV ride, Hunder Sand dunes/ Double Bactrian camel ride, dinner, overnight stay in Hunder village.

Day 2: Day trip to Turtuk from Hunder village. Leave by 8 am after breakfast and have lunch in Turtuk only. Come back to Hunder before it gets dark.

Day 3: Go back to Leh or continue your journey towards Pangong Lake

We include Turtuk in the itinerary of our women-only group tour to Ladakh. We also organize a mixed-gender group tour to Ladakh but the itinerary is slightly different. You can also submit a custom tour request for a personalized tour and itinerary.

How to be an ambassador of Responsible Tourism in Turtuk?

Turtuk is bliss for any enthusiastic traveler. We need to behave very responsibly while visiting such places to preserve their beauty, culture, and authenticity. Here are some recommendations from my side:

  1. Do not take a photo of any local without their permission. People in Turtuk are very shy and they don’t get comfortable with the camera easily. If they say no, please respect their privacy. 
  2. Please don’t pluck apricots from the trees without asking their rightful owner. Apricots are a very important source of income for the villagers as they make many products from them. However, people are very generous in offering you fresh apricots for tasting.
  3. Don’t offer candies or money to the kids. It puts them in a mindset of asking for money or goodies from other tourists as well. Eventually, it becomes their habit.
  4. If you are just going for a day trip, consider having your lunch in one of the food joints in Turtuk village, instead of carrying packed/ junk food. They also serve delicious local cuisine.
  5. If you are staying in one of the guesthouses/ homestays in Turtuk, please be an easy guest. Expect clean and comfy rooms, but without any fanciness or frills. Don’t ask them to change the bedsheets every day and use less water in the bathroom.

You can also read our Responsible Tourism blog post that gives more tips on the same. 


Turtuk village is loved by the visitors having a true traveler’s spirit. If you are fascinated by remote Himalayan villages, culture, & history, then you should definitely visit Turtuk. However, it may not appeal to those who are looking to visit touristy places in Ladakh as Turtuk is rustic & rural. Make your itinerary after careful consideration of the route and driving time instead of ending up with something very impractical and unplanned. Prepare yourself well, follow the guide, and you would have an amazing experience there.

Do share your Turtuk village experiences with us in the comments. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments. 

P.S. We include Turtuk in the itinerary of our women-only group tour to Ladakh. We also organize a mixed-gender group tour to Ladakh but the itinerary is slightly different. You can also submit a custom tour request for a personalized tour and itinerary.


Leave a comment