One-day itinerary in Karakol: the gates of Tian-Shian

Gulzat Matisakova | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Karakol is the 4th biggest city of Kyrgyzstan and is located on the eastern foot of the Teskey Ala-Too ridge of the Tian-Shian mountain range. Karakol attracts many hikers and alpinists because it is a starting point of many hiking routes and is close to the other mountain attractions. They** include the highest point of Kyrgyzstan, the peak Jenish, a ski resort, and a famous glacier lake Merzbacher. But, this little town with a diverse intercultural background has a lot more to offer to an open-minded traveller. Historical architecture, delicious food, beautiful nature are what you can discover in a one-day trip at the gates of Tian-Shian**. 

© iStock/ HomoCosmicos

What makes Karakol stand out among other Kyrgyz towns?

Closeness to the great mountain attractions aside, Karakol is a home for many ethnic groups: Russians, Kyrgyz, Dungans, Tatars. You can see this cultural mix represented even in the cuisine and architecture. So, the first thing would be to enjoy the view of the Russian and Dungan houses with a guide who can differentiate them. Perhaps joining a walking tour organized by a group "Destination Karakol" would be a good idea. The second important thing for tourists would be to try the most famous dish of Karakol - ashlyamfu. It is a Dungan cold noodle soup with a sour and spicy taste. All over Kyrgyzstan, it is widely known that the best ashlyamfu is made in Karakol and it can be found in the central market. The dish is claimed to be the best remedy from the hangover and is served for just 40 soms. 

Unique Dungan mosque 

© flickr/Dan Lundberg

Since I already mentioned the Dungan culture, let me present you with this fantastic piece of authentic architectural art. Built in 1910, by a Chinese architect without the usage of a single nail, this wooden mosque demonstrates the Dungan pre-Islamic, Buddhist background. For example, instead of the usual minarets, it has a pagoda and imageries of Buddhist symbols such as the wheel of fire. As you can see, this beautiful mosque has quite a unique style. Therefore, it is not only an ultimate meeting place for a Dungan community of Karakol but also a very important cultural heritage monument.  

Old Russian Orthodox church

© wikipedia creative commons/Hux

Built in 1863 to serve Russian soldiers on a mission of colonising Central Asia, this wooden church used to be the highest building in Karakol. It is a classic example of an Orthodox church of the 19th century. This beautiful building with wooden walls is standing firm on the stone basis. There are 5 golden domes, inside of which there are many typical Orthodox paintings. After the revolution in 1917, the Cathedral of Saint Trinity was used not only for religious purposes but also as a dance hall, a gallery and even a lecture room. 


Since its birth, Karakol was a gate to the wonderous Tian-Shian mountains. Scientists, explorers, and adventurers would come to Karakol before setting out to their bold trips. If you come to this area to enjoy nature sights, like hiking in the national park, climbing peaks, or seeing glaciers; you might as well take a pause in Karakol. You will have a chance to engage in the one-day itinerary of sightseeing, getting to know the beautiful architecture and delicious cuisine

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