Kyrgyzstan Orthodox church of the Holy Trinity in the city of Karakol Issyk Kul region

Karakol, on the eastern side of Lake Issyk-Kul, is a traveler’s favourite.

Just developed enough to provide the infrastructure and comfort tourists need, it still retains its village atmosphere. The Sunday market is the place to be if you need a horse or want to buy a sheep to throw a party. You’re likely to not need any animal, in which case you can just enjoy the ruckus of the animal market with your camera close to hand.

Karakol is also a hiker’s hub. Mountaineers wait here to be helicoptered in to the Khan Tengri base camp for their ascent, while everyone else heads to the Altyn Arashan valley. This broad, lush valley holds weeks of hiking in its hinterland. If that sounds boring, there is a plan B: you’ll love watching the horses roam free from one of the open-air hot springs that line the valley.

Need to know

Central Asia travel tips

There’s no escaping the fact that the more recent history of the region has been troubled. Post-Soviet independence saw the rule of dictators with appalling attitudes to human rights. But there are hopeful signs of things changing in at least some of the ‘stans as people, especially the young, find their more

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