At the Eastern end of Lake Issyk-kul, the town of Karakol is the gathering points for all the nomads in the surrounding valleys, especially when the animal market is on! It is also home to a beautiful wooden Orthodox church. Let me whow you around...
Navigate back to the complete Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide
INFO & PLANNING TIPS - Karakol
Located at the eastern tip of lake Issyk-Kul, the societ town of Karakol is at the foot of many beautifuk valleys: Altyn Arashan, Karakol and Jeti-Oguz. Most tourists use it as a base, as the town itself is not very fascinating except for its animal market and orthodox church.
The town streets are set in a grid and although is a a tourism focal point, it has not much developped and keeps its small town feel.
TIPS FOR TRAVEL PLANNING ADDICTS - Karakol
Getting to Karakol
- 6 to 8 hour drive from Bishkek - the road is wide and paved all the way
- Buses and Mashrutka (shared taxis) run services regularly
- The main square is... square. Not much to see except for a small bazaar, the wooden architecture around the Orthodox church and the animal market
- 30 min drive to the lake
KARAKOL ANIMAL MARKET
Every Sunday before 10AM, Kyrgyz from the whole region come down to Karakol for the animal market. It is quite an experience! If you are flexible with your schedule, I recommend to include this experience. It was one of my top 7 things to see in Kyrgyzstan.
There you will find a section for horses, one of cows and one for sheep. Apparently is is rare to spot a camel or a donkey.
There is so much to see around, you should also pay attention to the cars. Some have typical trailers for the animals like below but many transport them in the trunk of their old Lada with also many people in it.
As of 2015, taxi from the city center will cost you 70SOM. Do not forget to wear clsoed shoes!!! :-)
My guide Masha told me that usually there were mostly men but now more and more women join the market. Some of them seem to be very strong haggler.
A sheep value is determined bu its fat. A goat is sold for around 5000 SOM (80 USD as of Jul 2015)
The horses were beautiful. Kyrgyz people are very proud of them. Thanks to our Russian speaking guide Masha, we were able to discover a little bit more this world. A horse is sold for around 40000 SOM (650 USD as of Jul 2015). Black horses are the most expansive.
We also talked to men you were putting horseshoes on and selling homemade horsewhips. This was a good example of how Kyrgyzstan is not yet a touristic place. In most countries the seller would have noticed us the tourists and hassle us with is product. But here he was selling to locals and we were the one who asked to see the horsewhips. Theyre were beautifully made and several of my fellow traveler bought them as souvenirs.
As you can notice in the next picture, the place is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. I loved the mix of nature and busy market!
Well, it was not that easy to find a spot for sunrise. I asked many people who were amused by my request but could not help. One taxi driver took us at 4:30 AM and drive us to the shore of the lake (30min) where we enjoyed the sunrise.
I first stayed by the water, which was very relaxing
The moon was still up on the other side
As one point, I decided to explore a bit more and climbed the hills behind. I wish I had done it earlier as I found a beautiful field of flowers and great views of the mountain. The only drawback was the start of my allergies...
The driver asked for 500 for the driving and 100SOM for the early start. I decided to give him 400SOM extra for his patience as he waited at least 1h30 for us to take pictures.
I will update with a map of where it was as soon as I find my own map.
And for sunset I asked the same driver to take me to another place. There were not many colors but the scenry was really paceful and I enjoyed it after the stress from the drive to the Altyn Arashan valley.
PANORAMA VIEW POINT
The only suggestions we go from locals was what they called the panorama viewpoint. Is it just a track climbing above the city. It might be a good spot at sunrise if the weather is clear and the mountains accross are well lit.
KARAKOL HOLY TRINITY CATHEDRAL
The other main attraction of Karako is the wooden Orthodox church. It is quite an interesting building to look at. Having never travelled in a soviet country before, it was the first time I discovered such a church.
It was built in 1985 replacing the stone church which had been destroyed in an earthquake. It is almost entirely in wood on a stone base.
If you go after the animal market on Sundays, you can enjoy listening to the chants.
Even though this does not really have the size of a cathedral, you need a wide angle to be able to take the whole building. I felt quite frustrated.
Want to see more of Kyrgyzstan's beauty?
Discover more planning information, things to do and places to see in my online Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide.
Have you ever been to a livestock market?
Sock Yee says
May I know whether you hired a guide to cover all the places or you join different tours from different places?
Which tour agency?
Hi. No, I did a complete guided tour organised by Wandering Earl Tours. It was fantastic, but it runs only once a year.