Karakol is the fourth largest city of Kyrgyzstan and is located at the east of Issyk Kul Lake. Karakol is a very famous tourist sight thanks to its stunning natural environment.
Back in history
In 1888, Karakol, which means “the black lake”, was renamed Przhevalsk in honor of the Russian explorer Nikolay Przhevaslsky who spent many years exploring Kyrgyzstan and died in Karakol. In 1921, the city regained its original name after local protests. However, it became again Przhevalsk in 1939, following Stalin's decision to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the explorer. Przhevalsk was again changed into Karakol after the disappearance of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Karakol today is the administrative capital of the Issyk Kul province.
Karakol and its region have many assets to seduce its visitors. Its proximity to the Issyk-Kul Lake and the beautiful Altyn Arashan Valley as well as the Khan Tengri and Pobeda Peaks make it a perfect point of departure or arrival for excursions into the surrounding mountains.
Karakol is located in a particularly natural area, formed by snow-capped mountains and lakes. Many hiking trails allow travelers to explore the region on foot or on horseback.
The city itself is a pleasant stopover where you can discover some interesting historical sites. You can visit Przhevalsky's tomb, that used to be right next to the Issyk Kul Lake before the water level fell. A small museum is dedicated to his expeditions. At the entrance, you will see the old Soviet torpedo test facilities.
Karakol is also home to a large Dungan community, Hui descendants who migrated from northwest China to the region in the 1870s. You can discover the Dungan mosque with its Chinese architecture. Its pretty bright colors and its various paintings representing mystical animals make it a very original mosque.
Don’t miss out on the wooden Russian Orthodox Cathedral (known as Holy Trinity's Church) with its green emerald roof in the centre of the city. It was built in 1894-1895. Both of these religious buildings have an interesting history due to the Soviet ban on religions: they were closed, used as gyms or shops and reconstructed afterwards.
The church preserves the miraculous icon of Tikhvin, God's Mother, which was created 116 years ago in Athens, and several martyrs' relics. You can go in and admire the bell-tower, the sculptures and paintings.
If you stop at Karakol on a Sunday, go visit the animal market.
How to get there?
You can take a mini bus or a taxi to Karakol. Count around six hours to reach the city if you’re coming from Bishkek.