Last August we did a 4-day trek to the Ala Kol lake in Kyrgyzstan. The first day starts as a relaxed walk up the beautiful Karakol valley. For a while we follow the dirt road next to the river that meanders down the valley. But after the wooden bridge it goes steep up. Through the forest, climbing over sharp boulders until we reach our first camp at 2800 meters.
The next day we start with another steep climb. After 3 hours we get to the top and suddenly I catch a glimpse of the turquoise waters of the lake. It’s amazingly beautiful. The lake is surrounded with black mountains, some of them still have rests of snow. The climb was heavy but this view is so rewarding.
We have lunch at the lake and continue our trek to the pass which is at almost 4000 meters. Once again a pretty demanding climb but the breathtaking views over the Tien Shan mountain are all worth it. The insanely steep descend at the other side of the pass makes my legs shake. This is madness! Still I manage to come down.
We set up camp at 3600 meters. It’s a beautiful spot. There’s no sign of development or human presence as far as I can see. This is nature at its purest. The next day we walk down the valley and it’s getting greener again. On the last night we camp at Altyn Arashan, a gorgeous valley with some guesthouses and hot springs. We buy some beers and relax in the hot water. Tomorrow it's an easy walk down the valley.
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Ala Kul is a beautiful, glacier-fed lake high in the mountains above Karakol. It is a challenging hike, with lots of climbing, but well worth the trouble of getting there. You must cross several boulder fields on the way up to the lake, so wear sturdy boots. And the lake is at an elevation of about 3,900 meters, so it can snow at any time of year. The hike can be done in as little as three very long, challenging days, but four days is the standard time for this hike. At Altyn Arashan there are hot springs and several guesthouses where you can soak in them. It's a great way to spend the last evening on the trail.
You can get a taxi from Karakol to the starting point of this trek—the wood automobile bridge over the Karakol River. From there, it's about 15 km. to the wooden footbridge over the river that leads to the trail to Ala Kul. There is a campsite near the footbridge where most hikers spend the first night. From the footbridge, the trail goes almost straight up what looks like a dry stream bed. After a couple of steep climbs, you reach a boulder field. If you stay to the left (north), you will strike the trail again on the other side of the boulder field. Soon after you will come to a small hut and campsite that is about halfway from the footbridge to the lake. Continue up along the river, climbing and climbing until you reach the lake. There are campsites both above the lake near the trail and below next to the lake. From the lake, the trail climbs along the lake to the pass. You will have views of the Takur Tor Glacier at the east end of the lake as you climb. The pass is at about 3,900 meters. The initial climb down from the pass is steep, but then flattens out. Once you reach the Arashan River, stay on the left (west) bank until you reach Altyn Arashan, where there is a footbridge across the river and several guesthouses, some of which have camping spots. From Altyn Arashan, the path drops pretty consistently and flattens out as it reaches the village of Teploklyuchenka, where you can catch a taxi or marshrutka back to Karkol.
If you wish to see something a bit wild and something very authentic you need to see the animal bazaar in Karakol! Every Sunday very early in the morning you will be able to see farmers and shepherds selling and buying all different types of animals. It’s possible to buy sheep, goats, cows, pigs, horses, and all the necessary things you need to take care of the animals. It’s possible to see horses getting shoes and to see locals pushing sheep into tiny Soviet Ladas. The view is amazing with the white capped mountains and the huge contrast between Karakol city and the animal bazaar. If you were to walk from the center of Karakol it would take 30 mints or more to get there. My advice is to hire a taxi from your accommodation and enjoy the long walk back to the center.
Why Should You Go There?
If you would like to see the contrast between the city life and village life this is the place you need to see in Karakol. Don’t forget to take your camera because the pictures you will take will be quite comical.
About The Karakol Zoo Karakol Zoological Park was founded in 1987. This is the only zoo in Kyrgyzstan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the economics of the country quickly fell into disrepair in 2001, there was a question about closing the zoo. However, sponsors were found to preserve the wildlife area and keep it in a relatively prosperous state. There are many local bears, wolf, deer, camels, Prjevalski's horses, peacock and many others animals. It’s a great place to spend one hour and relax with the wild life. Why Should You Go There? In the mountains it’s very hard to see native wild animals but at the Zoo you can see many Kyrygz wild animals. The Zoo is a fun and interesting place it’s defiantly worth a stop!
Address: Koenkozov/Parkovaya Working Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm Ticket Cost: 50 SOM Time Spent: 30 mints to 1 hour Website: www.buguenye.info Phone Number: 0559 934239
Issyk-kul Central Mosque of Karakol city named after Ibrahim Aji was built by initiative of Ibrahim Aji. He invited the famous Beijing architect Chou Seu and 20 carvers with the skills of traditional Chinese architecture and composition techniques for building the mosque. Construction of the mosque began in 1904 and completed in 1907.
An ingenious system allowed builders to build the mosque with no metal reinforcement tools. The mosque holds 42 based pillars. Encircling of the building is multi-tiered wooden cornice, decorated with images of plants like grapes, pomegranates, pears and peaches. Besides it the mosque is registered as a historical monument and protected by the law. Today mosque operates successfully and opens for everyone who visits our city.
Why Should You Go There? The Mosque is very beautiful and interesting because it’s the only Chines architecture in Kyrgyzstan.
Address: Abdrakhmanova/Bektenova Working Hours: 6am-9pm Cost: 20 SOM Time Spent: 30 to 40 mints Contact: 03927 / 03922
Jeti-Oguz is famous for its large, red sedimentary rocks, about 2,200m. The rocks have been carved out by a river from the Terskey Alatoo mountains. Years of weathering have split the rocks into seven parts. The forms of the rocks are similar to the head of the seven bulls, “Jeti”-means seven and “Oguz”-means bull in Kyrgyz.
Another beautiful place to see is Broken Heart. This is a reddish rock shaped like a broken heart. For this rock, there are several legends: long ago a king who was very rich and had many wives went hunting. One day he saw a beautiful girl with black long hair. He fall in love with her at first sight, and wanted to marry her. However she was from a poor family and was already engaged. Her family ran away from the king when they learned that he wanted their daughter. But the king caught them, killed her fiancé and her family. Her heart was torn by sadness and the Broken Heart appeared in that place.
Address: Jeti-Oguz Valley Working Hours: 8am-5pm Time Spent: 3-4 hours Transportation: From Karakol to Jeti-Oguz Sanatorium/Broken Heart 35 KM 35 mints Private taxi for 600 SOM Shared taxi for 150 SOM per person from Karakol’s big bazaar. *Beware that after 5pm it will be hard to find a shared taxi.
The story of the church goes back to July 1869, when Karakol was a garrison town on the edges of the Tsarist Russian Empire. The Karakol church, however, was destroyed in an earthquake in 1889, which caused havoc in the town and took several lives. It took six years to complete, and was finally consecrated in 1895. It has seen considerable service, not just as a church.
Over the years, particularly following the Revolution in 1917, it has been used as an educational center housing a school, ladies’ gymnasium and an institution of Higher Education; a Sports Hall; a Theater; a Dance Hall and even as a Coal Store.
Then, in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Independence of Kyrgyzstan, the local authority once again gave the building back to the church.
Why Should You Go There? The paining’s and style inside the church are different than churches in Europe and interesting. It’s a great place to take pictures and have a rest from the noise of the city.
Address: Gagarina/Lenina Working Hours: 8am-5pm Sat &Sun closed Time Spent: 20 – 30 mints
Take a trek to Altyn-Arashan and enjoy the pure mountain air and stunning scenery of Peak Palatka. The trek takes 4 to 5 hours on way and can be done in one day or two days depending on the person. There is accommodations at Altyn-Arashan with comfortable beds, traditional yurts and flat areas for camping. In addition, guest can receive three fresh meals a day with tea. Don’t forget to spend time enjoying the natural hot spring and the showers that are available for guest.
Why should you go there? It’s a great place to see mountains and get some light trekking in. It’s impossible to get lost and it’s a lot of fun for one or two days.
Transportation: Hire a Taxi to bring you to Aksu Village for 350 SOM per car or take Marshrutka # 350 for 40 SOM per person (18km). Trek to Altyn-Arashan Accommodation ~4-5 hours (16km).
The canyon was named because of its bizarre rocky landscape, which for many years has been transformed by erosion into amazing sculptures and formations. Some formations look like The Great Wall of China and you can also find other formations that look like snakes, dragons, sleeping giants and even whole castles. From the canyon you can see a majestic panorama of Lake Issyk-Kul and snow caped mountains. It’s an excellent destination for children and adults because it’s an easy hike close to Lake Issyk-Kul.
Why Should You Go There? On the way back to Bishkek it’s really worth a stop because of the view of Issyk Kul Lake and the view of the mountains. Its only a short and easy trek with really great view! I recommend it to everyone that goes on the south shore of Issyk Kul Lake.
Address: 4 km from the village of Tosor Working Hours: 9am-5pm Cost: 50 SOM Time Spent: 2-3 hours Transportation: From Karakol to Fairy Tale Canyon (112km) 2 hours by transport Marshrutka to Balykchy or Bokonbaevo from the South Shore Bus Station and ask the driver to stop at Fairy Tale Canyon (cost 100 – 150 SOM) *Beware that after 5pm it will be hard to find a marshrutka / taxi.
Barskoon waterfall is a geological protected area located in Jeti-Oguz District of Issyk Kul Province of Kyrgyzstan in 90 km to the south-west of Karakol on one of the tributaries of Barskaun River. It was established in 1975. Within the Barskoon valley there are two waterfalls on top of the mountain and the mountainside. At the foot of the mountain you can enjoy the beautiful river of Barskoon. During the summer time there yurts built. At the yurt you try Kyrgyz traditional drink Kymys while enjoying the beauty of the landscape.
Why Should You Go There? There is three amazing waterfalls that can be seen within a few hours of hiking. It’s a great one-day activity for anyone. Make sure to bring a lunch and hiking boots.
Address: Barskoon Valley Working hours: 9am-5pm Time Spent: 2-3 Hours Transportation: From Karakol to Barskoon waterfall (100km) *Beware that after 5pm it will be hard to find a Marshrutka / Taxi.
The museum is housed in a pretty chocolate-box cottage in central Karakol, and it was the pre-revolutionary summer home of the Iliana merchant family. From 1918-1920 the building earned its socialist stripes as headquarters of the Regional Revolutionary Committee and was subsequently transformed into a museum by order of the Soviet Council of Ministers in 1948.
The museum has several interesting displays (labeled in English, Russian and Kyrgyz). Scythian artifacts include bronze pots retrieved from Lake Issyk-Kul, displayed alongside exhibits of petroglyphs. Besides a comprehensive display of traditional Kyrgyz punched leatherwork, felt wall hangings and woven yurt decorations, the museum has a colorful collection of national costumes, and examples of finely worked silver jewelry. One hall covers the region's flora and fauna - much of which is endangered. The museum is also worth visiting to gain a Soviet perspective of history in the region. A couple of walls relating to Kyrgyz union with Russia and the subsequent revolution are now historical artifacts in themselves.
Why Should You Go There? It’s a great place to see pictures and artifacts Karakol’s history. There is many stuffed animals inside and great pictures Ella Millart a famous Swiss traveler.
Address: Gagarin/Jamansariev Working Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm Ticket Cost: 70 SOM Time Spent: 30 mints to 1 hour Website: www.ianbek.kg/?p=3889 Contact: 0552 669623 / 53268
Nikolay Mikhailovich Przhewalsky was one of the first Russian Geographer who started studying in detail the geography, flora and fauna of the Central Asia. Beginning from 1870, he arranged 4 large expeditions to Mongolia, China and Tibet.
During his expeditions, he revealed the exact directions of the mountain ranges and borders of the Tibetan Mountains. Przhewalsky collected an enormous zoological collection, which comprised several thousand of species of plant, animals, birds, fishes and insects.
In the year of 1888, he died from typhoid fever on the eve of his fifth expedition to Central Asia; he was buried on the Issyk-Kul lakeside not far from the city of Karakol.
The local historical Museum has over 8 works of Przhewalsky published in the period from 1883 to 1947, as well as 30 photocopies and photos. Today there are personal things, documents photos and articles of Przhewalsky kept there. Not far from the Museum there is the traveler’s tomb and monument. In addition, in 1998 Hussein Karasaw a famous Kyrgze linguists was buried there too
Why Should You Go There? Przhewalsky is one of the first persons to discover Karakol and the mountains. You can learn about his adventures and discoveries at this museum.
Address: Pristan Prjevalski Village Working Hours: 9am-5pm Ticket Cost: 120 SOM Transportation: 20 SOM by Bus Time Spent: 1-2 hours