What to see in Kyrgyzstan
Tourist attractions Karakol
Nestled on the shores of enormous Issyk Kul Lake, Karakol is situated in the eastern part of Kyrgyzstan. One of the most visited destinations in the country, a trip to Karakol offers up the opportunity of discovering a diverse array of Central Asian cultures, thanks to its situation at the crossroads of the region. Although the city is humble in size, Karakol is perfectly situated as a gateway to the alpine landscapes and dramatic scenery of Kyrgyzstan.
In the city itself, you can find traditional Russian-style houses and a variety of places of worship, symbolic of the city’s diverse population. The multi-cultural origins of Karakol can be traced back to its founding as a Russian military outpost in 1869. Explorers, drawn to the region by the magnificent peaks of the Tian Shan mountains, quickly made themselves at home in the city, followed by a number of Dungan people, who fled warfare in China during the 1880s. The town was later settled by Soviet military personnel throughout the first half of the 20th-century. This remarkable history has resulted in a rich diversity of cultures, making travel to Karakol an infinitely fascinating experience.
In the city, you’ll find all the necessary amenities, such as cafes, restaurants and accommodation, but you’ll have to journey further afield to see some of Kyrgyzstan’s most captivating natural attractions. Nevertheless, with a picturesque shoreline on the world’s second-largest lake, Karakol makes a great place to base yourself on a tour of Kyrgyzstan.
Things to see in Karakol
It’s worth spending a little time in the city to discover the unique atmosphere of Karakol. One of the best things to see in the city is the impressive Dungan Mosque, constructed for the local Muslim community in 1910. The mosque stands out for its unique Chinese-style architecture and was completed without the use of a single nail thanks to the ingenious techniques of its architects. During the Soviet era, the mosque remained closed, but avoided destruction, unlike a number of other mosques that once stood in Karakol.
In contrast to the Chinese-inspired architecture of Dungan Mosque, the Holy Trinity Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox church, originally built in the late 19th-century. Following an earthquake, it was completely reconstructed out of wood and today stands majestically amongst a cluster of trees. Its vibrant green roof and traditional onion-domed spires nod to Karakol’s Russian origins. Interestingly, during the Soviet era, it was repurposed as both an educational centre, gym and dance hall.
This city is synonymous with the explorer Nikolay Przhevalsky, and the Pzevalski Museum and Memorial is one of the best things to see in Karakol. A homage to the life and work of Karakol’s most famous resident, here you can uncover Przhevalsky’s detailed studies into the geography and wildlife of Central Asia.
Finally, for a birds-eye view of the city, head to Jolgolot Viewpoint. Located in a suburb south of Karakol, the trek up to the top is more than with it to enjoy spectacular views across the city and Lake Issyk Kul.