Karakol continues to resonate with its 19th-century rural Russian past © Djusha, Shutterstock
With its homely ambience, Karakol is known as the focal point of Kyrgyzstan’s tourist industry with its array of attractions set amongst the forays of the mountains.
Of all the towns in Kyrgyzstan, Karakol tends to be the one in which the majority of foreign visitors spend the most time. This is down to the fact that as well as possessing a number of sights and monuments worth seeing, Karakol is also ideally situated for forays into the mountains to the south that beckon so tantalisingly from the town. Because of this, Karakol represents one of the focal points, perhaps the focal point, of Kyrgyzstan’s tourist industry and has, more than anywhere else in the country, including even Bishkek, a well-developed tourist infrastructure concerned with outdoor and adventure pursuits.
Having said that, Karakol remains low-key in the extreme; as yet, there are no brash hotels, fancy restaurants or lurid nightclubs. It is a delightfully serene sort of place, still resonant with the ghosts of 19th-century rural Russian life (along with the odd phantom from the Soviet period), and with an ambience that, paradoxically, feels both homely and comfortable and frontier-like.