Welcome to Karakol, Kyrgyzstan.
Karakol is a small town in the eastern part of Kyrgyzstan. It is located 400 kilometers from the capital of Bishkek. The altitude is 1700 m above sea level. Most travelers that come to Kyrgyzstan make this town one of their main visits.
This town was founded in 1869. But even before that, nomadic Kyrgyz tribes lived there. They roamed the mountains and were mainly engaged in cattle breeding. One of the Silk Road routes passed through here. Walking along the streets you may notice old Russian architecture with wooden shutters. These are the old houses of Russian settlers in the late 19th century.
The Orthodox Church.
About 60,000 people live in Karakol. It is one of the most multinational cities in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz, Russians, Dungans, and Uighurs live here. Most of them are engaged in petty trade, cattle breeding and agriculture.
Tours in Karakol
Karakol is the hiking capital of Kyrgyzstan. The most beautiful hiking routs are accessible from here, from day hikes to longer 15-day hikes. Popular hiking destinations and passes are the Ala Kul lake, the Ak Suu traverse, Jeti Oguz and Sary Zhaz. You may hike independently or with a guide. It is very easy to plan hiking tours around Karakol. You can contact tourist information centers or just write us, and we will answer as best as we can. We will help you choose a trek based on difficulty level and length. Also, here we’ve prepared the list of Top 10 hiking routes and where you can rent gear that you need.
If you are a fan of horseback riding you should definitely visit this place. Here you can experience the beauty of the Tian-Shan mountains on a horse while overnighting in tents. Check out this list of the best horse riding tours close to the town.
For adventurous seekers, skiing in the wild mountains is a great activity that is easy to arrange. Kyrgyzstan often receives a lot of snow and the natural landscape becomes incredibly beautiful in winter. We recommend the valleys near Jyrgalan, which is a small mining village 60 km from the city. In Jygalan there are guest houses and winter yurts.
Karakol is a very small town, making it possible to see most of the town by walking. Famous attractions are the Holy Trinity Cathedral notable for its antiquity and the Dungan Mosque, which is not as canonical as the typical mosques in Kyrgyzstan. It was built without the use of nails and in a Chinese style. You can also visit several souvenir stores, antique shops, and markets.
Cuisine - what to try?
Karakol is a city of contrasting cultures and people. That’s why you can try very diverse food here. We advise you to try ashlyanfu, which is a Dungan cold soup with Uigur Lagman. Vegetarian choices are also possible. There are a lot of good places to eat in Karakol. The most popular Kyrgyz dishes are beshbarmak and kurdak, which is considered an indigenous nomadic food. We would recommend Cafe Zarina or Dastorkon for a taste of these foods.
Lagman — the tastiest food in Karakol.
Hot springs of Altyn Arashan and Aksuu.
After a long hike and travel, it is excellent to let your body relax in these natural hot springs. You can take a taxi or minibus №350 from the city center to Aksuu Kench. From here you can go to Altyn Arashan to stay overnight. Many interesting trekking routes go through Altyn Arashan.
Overnight stay in a yurt.
To get a feeling of the nomadic lifestyle, sleeping overnight in a traditional yurt is a great experience. This is possible in winter as well. We recommend visiting the yurt camp in the Jeti Oguz Gorge.
Karakol Ski Base.
This is one of the most popular ski bases in Central Asia. The enchanting beauty of the slopes makes thousands of tourists return here again and again. Karakol ski resort is 15 kilometers from the town. You can get easily get there by car, and most hotels can provide a taxi. There are several places in Karakol that rent out skis and ski clothes.
Where to stay?
It is easy to find a place to stay in Karakol. The coziest hostel is probably Kbh Hostel. It’s not expensive and is located in the center. From inexpensive hotels, we can recommend Madanur Hotel. Some photos from Kbh hostel.
Kbh hostel. Photos by travelers Serialhikers
How to get.
There are two ways to get to here.
1) From Bishkek:
There is a public mini bus from Bishkek. You can find them at the South bus station. The cost is 5-6 euro. You can also find public taxi there, which are slightly more expensive.
You can also order a private taxi. We can arrange it for 75 euro.
2) From Kegen and Almaty
You can also get to Karakol via Kegen and Almaty. In this case you need to order transportation separately. And the Kegen border opens only in summer time.
Karakol in the map
Is it safe in Karakol 2021?
COVID-19 has also affected Karakol. Traveling at this time comes with some uncertainty. However, all tourist places, hotels, and cafes are running here at the moment. Here we described in more detail Covid in Kyrgyzstan.
What else to do.
Sunset cruise on Lake Issyk Kul or evening relaxation at local coffee houses.