Wooden Holy Trinity Church with onion domes.

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images


A shady grid of tree-lined streets, Karakol (Каракол) has limited sights but lots of activities, and is a good base from which to access some of Central Asia's best skiing and most gloriously accessible alpine trekking. The town offers clear-day backdrops of snowy peaks contrasted against the old blue shutters and whitewashed walls of some remnant antique colonial-period houses. These recall the town's Russian-era heyday: 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 Przhevalsky (in whose honor Karakol was renamed Przhevalsk between 1939 and 1991).


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