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Introducing Karakol

A dusty grid of treelined streets, Karakol has limited sights but is a good base from which to access some of Central Asia's best skiing and most gloriously accessible Alpine treks. The town couldn't really be called beautiful, but a clever photographer might easily make you believe otherwise by selectively counterpointing clear-day backdrops of snowy peaks with the old blue shutters and whitewashed walls of some remnant gingerbread houses. These houses recall the town's Russian-era heydey: founded in 1869 as a support town for the then-new garrison of Teploklyuchenka (Ak-Suu), it housed many merchants, officers and explorers, most famously Nikolai Przewalski in whose honour Karakol was renamed Prezevalsk between 1939 and 1991.