At the eastern tip of Lake Issyk-Kul, Karakol is a fertile garden town of wooden chocolate-box cottages and shady, poplar-lined avenues. Fringed to the east by the TerskeyAla-Too Mountains, which tower dramatically over its low-rise skyline, Issyk-Kul ripples 10 km to the west.
Karakol is the best base from which to explore the lakeshore and Central Asia’s prime trekking and mountaineering routes. With the most spectacular parts of the Central Tien-Shan right on its doorstep and newly open to foreign visitors, the town attracts trekkers, hikers and climbers from all over the world.
Karakol and its surroundings have just as much to offer their less energetic visitors. Besides one of Kyrgyzstan’s largest and most colorful bazaars, a nomadic livestock market and several good museums, its spectacular environs boast an endless array of truly unique day trips.
Despite Karakol’s status as the administrative center of the Issyk-Kul region, it has only 75,000 residents and a gentle, small-town atmosphere. Founded by the Russians in 1869, a European-style chequerboard of streets belies the fact that China lies only 150 km. over the mountains. The eclectic multi-ethnic mix of Karakol’s citizens, however, keeps visitors firmly anchored in Asia.