Karakol – Top Places to see and to do
Karakol is a top destination for travelers visiting Kyrgyzstan because of its rich history and versatility as a base for day trips or as a layover for other destinations. It offers a perfect blend of outdoor activities for enthusiasts, including trekking in the summer and skiing in the winter. You can easily continue your journey around Lake Issyk Kul or cross the border to Kazakhstan at Kegen. The city boasts a unique blend of architecture, including the Dungan Mosque, a wooden Russian Orthodox Church, and pre-Soviet and Soviet-era houses. Established in 1869, Karakol has a rich history, with influences from its past still evident today. Visitors can experience the local culture by shopping for handmade crafts or attending cooking masterclasses to learn about the local Dungan, Uygur, and Kyrgyz cuisine. Here are the top places to visit on our Kyrgyzstan tours in Karakol:
The Dungan Mosque
The Dungan Mosque in Karakol is known for its Chinese-style architecture. Built in 1910 by the Dungan community, a Chinese ethnic group who migrated to Kyrgyzstan, the mosque features a mix of Islamic and Chinese elements, such as a minaret and a layout structure that resembles a mosque. The minaret was destroyed in 1930 and rebuilt in the 1940s. Despite undergoing several renovations over the years, the mosque has managed to preserve its original cultural and historical significance, attracting both religious and cultural tourists. For three years, local and Chinese artisans worked on decorating the mosque, for this task an architect from Beijing was invited along with his 20 collegues. The mosque’s wooden carvings features wooden elements such as dragons and fruits.
The mosque initially featured green, yellow, and red colors symbolizing wealth, luck, and happiness, but now has a dominant blue color from Soviet-era renovations.
Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral
The Orthodox Wooden Church in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, is a historic wooden church built in the 19th century by Russian settlers in the region. In 1895, the current church building replaced the previous one, which was destroyed in an earthquake. It is one of the few surviving examples of traditional wooden architecture in Kyrgyzstan and is considered an important cultural and religious landmark. The church features intricate wooden carvings and traditional Russian Orthodox iconography, including a distinctive onion-shaped dome.
Museum dedicated to Przhevalsky
The Przhevalsky Museum in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, is dedicated to the life and work of Nikolay Przhevalsky, a famous Russian explorer who explored Central Asia, Mongolia and China in the late 19th century. The museum features a collection of artifacts and exhibits related to his life and travels, including photographs, maps, sketches, and personal items, as well as information on the places he visited and the people he encountered on his journeys. A popular destination for tourists and historians, the museum offers a unique window into the life and legacy of one of the region’s most famous explorers.
If you have some free time in Karakol, visit Karakol museum. In addition to information about the local history, you will find an exhibition hall The “Photos of Ella Maillart”. It is a testament to the remarkable life and travels of a Swiss traveler, and photographer. The exhibition showcases 125 photos from her 1932 expedition across Central Asia, providing a glimpse into an important historical period and the experiences of this remarkable woman. The photos serve as a visual record of the region, capturing its people, landscapes, and architecture at a critical time in its history. Ella Maillart also issued a travelogue of her journey as a book and it is called Turkestan Solo.
There is a local shop that has handicrafts and products from the region. Here you can buy souvenirs made of felt, wood, and local honey or jam.
Cooking class or lunch with a local family
For lunch, you can visit a local family and participate in a cooking master class if you wish to. Karakol is known for its dishes from Dungan, and Uigur cuisines which are hard to find in other regions of Kyrgyzstan.
Jety Oguz Valley
Day trips from Karakol include Jety Oguz valley, which was a popular Soviet hot spring resort for sanatoriums. If you go further the valley there are beautiful landscapes for trekking.
The statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first person to orbit the Earth, can be found in another gorge. Gagarin was launched into space from Kazakhstan and later visited Kyrgyzstan for rest and recreation. The nearby waterfalls can be reached by a brief hike.
Tepke Horse farm
It is a modern horse farm that breeds racing horses and serves as a guest house. Kalpak Travel tours stay for overnight there on Central Asia tours that include the crossing of Kegen border with Kazakhstan.
In conclusion, Karakol is a fascinating destination with a rich history and culture. From the Przhevalsky Museum, dedicated to the famous Russian explorer, to the beautiful Jety Oguz valley, with its hot springs and trekking opportunities, Karakol has something to offer everyone. With its cultural heritage, diverse attractions, and breathtaking landscapes, Karakol is a lovely destination that is worth visiting.