Turtuk is a small village in Ladakh very close to the Pakistan border. The village is famous for its history, as it was part of Pakistan until December 1971 post which Indian Army took it back including 3 other villages. It was closed for tourists ever since. In 2010, It was finally opened for tourists. And since then it has been added in the itenerary of the tourists coming to Ladakh.
Turtuk comes under the Nubra Valley. So, once in Ladakh you need to take a travel permission from the DC office in Leh. The road-trip from Leh to Turtuk is very scenic where you cross Khardung-La pass, the highest motor-able pass in the world, Nubra valley – Hunder, where you can see the sand dunes and take the two humped camel safari and then reach Turtuk.
The ideal time to visit Turtuk is between May to mid September as it gets very chill in winters.
Here are 12 things that you can do when you are in Turtuk
- Shyok War Memorial – While you drive from Leh to Turtuk just after you cross the check-post called 9 post, you will get Shyok War Memorial. It is built in honour of the martyr of Siachen warriors. There is also an Indian Army souvenir and refreshment shop. You can buy Siachen warriors cap, jacket and t-shirt. And do try the Samosa in the refreshment shop. 🙂
- Local Dish and Butter Tea – You are likely to receive a lot of invitations from locals to come home for butter tea and snacks. You can either accept any of those invitations or walk up to one of the cafes like Friend’s cafe or Balti Kitchen in Turtuk and taste Kisir and Grangthu. Its a pancake made of buckwheat accompanied by a sabzi made of a local green leafy vegetable grown in the village. It is very tasty and a healthy local dish.
- Viewpoint – You can ask any local to guide you to the viewpoint in the village, (to be specific ask where to access the V-sat wifi). I can assure you that you will be left in awe once you arrive here. This viewpoint is on a cliff and offers you a 180 degree view of the Chutang part of the Turtuk village, the Shyok river and the mighty Karakoram range.
- Beach – Did you know Turtuk has a beach ? Well, not literally.. its basically the point where the stream flowing from the mountains, merges with the Shyok river. However, the area has sand and a crystal clear water to take a dip. So, this spot has become a beach for the kids to hangout, take bath and plan a picnic. You can once again ask a local or a kid in the village to guide you to the beach.
- Chit Chat with Elderly People in the village – Turtuk is divided into three parts : Youl, Farol and Chutang. Youl and Farol are connected through a wooden bridge(which by the way is a famous picture point in the village). Youl has a Masjid and the area outside the masjid is like a hanging out spot amongst the elder uncles and aunties of the village depending upon what time of the day you visit. Its an ideal spot to stop and chit chat with them. You can hear their stories, struggles and way of life.
- Bunkers – There are bunkers in the village which the villagers use to protect themselves in case of shelling from the neighbouring country. You can visit and experience what its like to be in a bunker.
- Sitting at the bank of the Shyok river – Do take some time out to sit near the Shyok river. As a matter of fact, Shyok is called the river of death (so be careful when you get close to it!). During summers and monsoon the flow in the river is so high, that if someone happens to slip and fall in the river, he/she is likely to reach Pakistan (mostly dead)
- Fresh fruits – If you are visiting Turtuk around July-August then you are in for a treat as mulberry, apricots and cherries are in full bloom. You can pick these fruits fresh from the trees, ofcourse with the permission from the respective land owners.
- Volunteering in the village – If you are looking for a break from your city or corporate life and would like to come to Turtuk or other neighbouring villages to volunteer as teachers. You can search Teach for Ladakh on Google, where you will find an article on Medium by Rajat Bansal. This article has all the details on the volunteer program and also the contact details of the Principal, Sarah Shah – a smart and wonderful woman running a school in Turtuk and also heading the volunteering program in Turtuk and neighboring villages.
- Carry Stationary in your visit – While we are talking about schools, I would suggest that whenever you do plan a visit to Turtuk, carry some extra stationary and board games along with you. You can buy these from Leh if carrying them in the flight is inconvenient for you. While you come across any schools or group of kids in the area, you can offer these to the kids and cherish the joy it brings on the faces of these innocent kids.
- You can also indulge yourself in some shopping here in Turtuk.
- The vessels made of stone are a speciality of the village. There is just one guy who does it. So, you can ask any local to guide you to him. The advantage of living in a small village is that almost everyone knows everyone.
- Serving spoons made up of copper and brass are also a speciality of the village. Again, with the help of your driver/guide or a local you can find the shop, it is in the Chutang area.
- If you wish to carry dried apricots or mulberries back home with you then you can shop those too from here. A very famous remedy for a lot of things in the village, however a very less known substance otherwise is the apricot oil. It works wonders on joint pain, dry skin, dry hair etc. You can buy the oil from any of the shops in the village.
- Balti cap is also something like a suvenior that you can purchase from a tailor in the Youl area.
- Last, but not the least dont forget to meet the donkeys that are in abundance in the village. These are also the heros as they carry a lot of essential stuff to the army post situated high up in the mountains on the border.
I hope you find the list useful in planning your trip to Turtuk
The Seeking Soul