Karakol is a peaceful, low-rise town with backstreets full of Russian gingerbread cottages, shaded by rows of huge white poplars. Around the town are apple orchards, for which the area is famous. This is the administrative centre of Issyk-Köl province, and the best base for exploring the lakeshore, the Terskey Alatau and the central Tian Shan. It also has a very good Sunday market. In fact, try to time your visit to include a Sunday, when the animal bazaar and Russian Cathedral are at their most active.
It’s not quite paradise for those who live here – the economic stresses since independence and the decline in spa tourism have led to considerable hardship, thinned out available goods and services, and returned a kind of frontier atmosphere to this old boundary post.
The town name means something like ‘black hand/wrist’, possibly a reference to the hands of immigrant Russian peasants, black from the valley’s rich soil.
Karakol destination guides
Mountain Kingdoms of Kyrgyzstan
Get right off the beaten track on this challenging tour into Central Asia's mountainous hinterland. Beginning in Bishkek, we travel through Chong Kemin and the imposing Kyrgyzstan mountains.
Tashkent to Bishkek
Get right off the beaten track on this challenging trip into Central Asia's mountainous hinterland. Beginning in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent, we travel through the fertile plains of the Fergana Valley before heading for the high country of remote Kyrgyzstan and the dramatically rugged Tian Shan.