Turtuk- The Last Village on the India Border

For 2000 years, the Balti Tribe of the Gilgit-Baltistan region had co-existed peacefully, with region having mentions in the works of Herodotus, Megasthenes, Pliny, etc. The region had seen various changes in their culture due to Buddhist dynasties, Turic Khaganate, Islamic Caliphates to Sufi Muslim Preachers and the Dogra Rule.

Turtuk was one of the few villages that existed during all those periods. It was also part of the ancient Silk Road, with regular caravans travelling through the region, and local guides helping them traverse the treacherous mountains.

Initially, in the post-1947 era, during the partition of India, 3 villages of the region Dhothang, Tyakshi and Chalunka came under the control of India, while the rest of the Gilgit-Baltistan Region came under the control of Pakistan.

In 1971, after the Indo-Pak War, Turtuk and its surrounding areas fell under the control of the Indian Army. From that point on, Turtuk was placed under government restriction for tourists, until 2010, when the ban was lifted. It was discovered that Turtuk was fairly unexposed to the modern day, and Turtuk became an untouched pearl of Ladakh.

Turtuk is located at the far end of the Shyok Valley, on the banks of Shyok River. Its unique history and the barren geography, give Turtuk a distinctive image. When you visit here, you feel transported to another era.

The village is surrounded by the Karakoram Mountain Range, Greater Himalayan Mountain Range and the Siachen Glacier. In the village itself, one can visit the Balti Heritage House and Museum, ruins of Brokpa’s fort, the old Royal House, etc. Local guides will tell you the oral history of the village and the region.

The three mountain ranges are visible in this photo. The Karakoram range on the right, Siachen in the far background and the Greater Himalayas on the left.

Because of its seclusion, the village people are enamoured when they see tourists and often welcome them with loving arms and friendly smiles.

The contrast of the barren mountains and the green meadows.

Turtuk is the largest Apricot producer in the Ladakh Region. It is one of the most diverse regions too, with a mixed ancestry of Tibetan, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. dating back to 2000 BC.

Today, Turtuk maybe a rare jewel of clean, pristine geography in the junk of modern age of pollution, overpopulation and unfettered technology, but it is not without its flaws. It represents the divide between people created by conflict and war that neither of them signed up for. Families divided due to the borders that were put up after the war have not seen each other in decades. The people in the area still live under the constant threat of violent attacks. However, due to the great efforts of the Indian Army, the support of the local people and help from various NGOs, there is now some stability in the region.


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