Turtuk is a city in Ladakh. A remote village of about 4,000 residents, inhabited by ethnic Muslims, a few kilometres from the 'line of control' (the de facto border) between India and Pakistan, on the Indian side. Until 1971 a part of Baltistan, shared strong economic and cultural ties with Tibet. The residents speak Baltistani, and some Ladakhi and English.
The area of the Shayok river past Hundar, including the three villages of Changmar, Bogdan and Turtuk, were only opened to foreign tourists in 2010, so they are still quite new in their contact with tourists and the West, and feel rather unexplored.
Turtuk is the penultimate village open to foreign tourists before Pakistan. You can go on for a few KMs to the village of Shaksey (with a single guesthouse). There is another village before the Line of Control, closed off to foreigners as of August 2012.
Turtuk is situated at a distance of 211 km from Leh and 92 km from Diskit along the Shyok river. It is on the edge of the Shayok Valley, in popular understanding a part of the Nubra Valley area. As such, foreign visitors will need an Inner Line Permit to visit Turtuk, as for anywhere else in Nubra. Indian nationals can easily obtain these permits directly from the Magistrate Office in Leh. Foreign national have to use one of many travel agencies in Leh. You will need your passport, passport copies and between 300-450 Rs.
Before setting off to Turtuk or anywhere in the Shayok valley, prepare at least 3 photocopies of the permit (more if you also plan to visit the Nubra valley, e.g. Panamik), as the checkpoints you will encounter will usually ask you to deposit a photocopy with them.
Turtuk is serviced by a local bus service from Leh a few times a week, and back. Enquire at the New Bus Stand in Leh for detailed schedule. Notice it is a long and bumpy ride, although the road is well-paved almost all the way from Leh, apart from Khardung La, as of August 2012. Most people, however, opt to share a jeep for a 2-3 day trip to the entire valley, organized in Leh; this seems quite a short time to enjoy the beautiful village, however.
Hitchhiking might be hard since there is very little traffic going on the Diskit-Turtuk road, apart from the multitude of military trucks and tourist jeeps.
It can be very pleasure to motor-cycle or bicycle in here, but there are very few places to buy provisions on the ~90km way from Diskit.
Notice the actual village is on the plateu above the Shayok river, not the houses around the road.
It can be extremely pleasurable to stroll around this picturesque village.
The village is traditionally divided into three areas-
Chutang (ཆུ་ཐང་)- the lower portion of the village, located along the bank of the Shyok river. Most families living in the other two areas of Turtuk move down to Chutang during the winter season. Chutang roughly translates to "river plain".
Yul (ཡུལ་)- the oldest area of the village. Home to the older of the two mosques located in Turtuk. Yul literally means "village".
Farol (ཕ་རོལ་)- the area where most guesthouses and the old monastery are located. Located across the bridge from Yul. Literally "the other side (of the river)".
The residents of Yul and Chutang are primarily Suni and Muwahhid ("Wahabi") muslims, while those residing in Farol are mostly Sufis.
The documentary film ‘Prayers Answered’ by Geleck Pasang, a former student of TCV school Ladakh and Bylakupee, documents a visit in August 2005 of the Tibetan leader Dalai Lama to Turtuk. Listed as the "most viewed" in the online 'Film festival - Humanity Explored’, organized by Culture Unplugged Studios.
Historic Mosque- located in Yul.Historic Monastery- a few minutes hike above Farol.
You might be able to purchase some stone carvings of animals in the tea shop near the Mosque. Turtuk is the largest apricot producing village in the ladakh region. You may get various varieties of organic dried apricot. Turtuk is the largest walnut producing village in the ladakh area. Turtuk is known for its traditional woolen shawl.
EatEdible delicacies abound in this fertile river valley. Local products run the gamut from cabbages to seabuck thorn, but of particular note are the apricots and buckwheat. The best way to learn more about authentic Balti food is to ask the locals, but here are a few must-try dishes-
Zan with Tsamig- A savory steamed buckwheat cake served with a mixture of greens and yogurt for dipping.
Kissir with Grangtur- Buckwheat pancakes with fragrant greens.
Brakoo with Muskat- Buckwheat dumplings in a sauce of ground walnuts, almonds, and spices.
There is a restaurant on the "main drag" and also a tea shop near the Mosque. Otherwise just rely on your guesthouse or homestay family for the freshest meals. Remember that if visiting in the summer, you could well be here during the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan (or Ramzan to the locals), in which the locals don't eat from sunrise to sunset. Your host family or gueshouse will still serve you lunch, but don't expect for too much.
The easiest and cheapest option is probably staying with a home-stay, e.g. Kashmiri Homestay or Issue Homestay. In August 2012, this cost 300 Rs per night per person, including supper and breakfast, with very nice conditions. These home-stays are easily found once up in the main part of the village.
There is a government guesthouse on the right as you enter the village.
Balti Residency- a homestay run by Abdullah, and is in the side of the village after crossing the river. It's unmarked, and there are no signs, so it's best to ask. If you find the Mosque, you are close and someone will show you the rest of the way.
K2 Guesthouse- Run by an incredibly hospitable Balti family, K2 is the place to go if you're looking to get a taste of local Balti food. Owner Hussain Baig speaks great English, and is very knowledgable about the local history and culture. Reasonable prices and convenient location in the middle of Farol. Contact- 09419510276.
Maha Guesthouse- is very nice and situated on the side of the village before you cross the river (Farol).
There is a tent camp on the right as you enter the village but it's quite expensive (Rs2800 min.).