Karakol (Kyrgyz: Каракол, [qɑrɑˈqɔɫ]), formerly Przhevalsk (Russian: Пржевальск), is the fourth-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, near the eastern tip of Lake Issyk-Kul, about 150 kilometres (93 mi) from the Kyrgyzstan–China border and 380 kilometres (240 mi) from the capital Bishkek. It is the administrative capital of Issyk-Kul Region. Its area is 44 square kilometres (17 sq mi),[2] and its resident population was 84,351 in 2021 (both including Pristan'-Przheval'sk).[1] To the north, on highway A363, is Tüp, and to the southwest Jeti-Ögüz resort.

From the top to bottom-right, Panoramic view of Karakol, Tagay-Biy Statue, Holy Trinity Church, Dungan Mosque, Apartment Buildings
Flag of Karakol
Coat of arms of Karakol
Karakol is located in Kyrgyzstan
Location in Kyrgyzstan
Coordinates: 42°29′25″N 78°23′30″E / 42.49028°N 78.39167°E / 42.49028; 78.39167
Country Kyrgyzstan
RegionIssyk-Kul Region
 • Total44 km2 (17 sq mi)
1,745 m (5,724 ft)
 • Total84,351
 • Density1,900/km2 (5,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+6 (KGZ)



A Russian military outpost founded on 1 July 1869, Karakol grew in the 19th century after explorers came to map the peaks and valleys separating Kyrgyzstan from China. In the 1880s Karakol's population surged with an influx of Dungans, Chinese Muslims fleeing warfare in China.

In 1888, the Russian explorer Nikolay Przhevalsky died in Karakol of typhoid, while preparing for an expedition to Tibet; the city was renamed Przhevalsk in his honor. After local protests, the town was given its original name back in 1921 — a decision reversed in 1939 by Stalin to celebrate the centenary of the explorer's birth. Karakol then remained Przhevalsk until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. However the name has been retained by nearby Pristan'-Przheval'sk.

Nearby Issyk Kul Lake was used by the Soviet military as a testing site for torpedo propulsion and guidance systems and Karakol was thus home to a sizable population of military personnel and their families. Karakol continues to be a major hub for visitors of Issyk Kul Lake.



Karakol is the fourth largest city in Kyrgyzstan after Bishkek, Osh and Jalal-Abad. The resident population of Karakol, as of 2021, was 84,351, of which 2,829 in Pristan'-Przheval'sk. The largest ethnic minority groups in Karakol are Russians (17.0%, 2009 census) and Uyghurs (3.9%).[2]

Historical populations in Karakol
YearPop.±% p.a.





Karakol features a humid continental climate (Dfb) according to the Köppen climate classification.

Climate data for Karakol
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) −4.7
Daily mean °C (°F) −10.4
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −16.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 12
Average relative humidity (%) 69.4 69.6 59.4 46.6 47.2 45.0 43.0 41.2 42.5 49.6 58.7 68.7 53.4
Source 1: Weatherbase (humidity) [9]
Source 2: Climate-Data.org (temp & precip) [10]

Symbols of Karakol

Coat of arms of Przhevalsk 1908

The coat of arms of the city of Przhevalsk was approved by the highest on March 19, 1908[11]

In a black shield is a silver globe with a golden meridian and a stand, accompanied on top by a golden star with five rays. In the golden ends of the shield, scarlet ears are placed two crosswise, burdened in coverage with a natural bee. In the free part of the emblem of the Semirechensk region. The shield is crowned with a silver three-pronged tower crown and surrounded by two golden ears of corn, combined with the Alexander ribbon.

— Complete collection of laws of the Russian Empire

The modern coat of arms and flag of the city of Karakol were approved as a result of the competition for the creation of symbols of the city (coat of arms, flag and anthem), organized in March 2007 by the city council and the mayor's office of the city.[12] The main composition of the coat of arms and the flag consists of elements of the sun and the head of a deer with horns (symbols of the Buğu tribe).


Teskei Alatoo
Karakol gorge

Karakol is one of Kyrgyzstan's major tourist hubs, serving as a starting point for the hiking, trekking, skiing and mountaineering groups of the high central Tian Shan to the south and east. Additionally, the city is quite culturally-rich, with several distinct ethnic groups present, such as Dungans, Kalmyks, Russians, Uyghurs, Uzbeks, and of course the local Kyrgyz.

Przhevalsky’s Grave is a memorial park and small museum dedicated to Przhevalsky and others’ Russian explorations in Central Asia, located about 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) north of Karakol at Pristan'-Przheval'sk, overlooking the Mikhailovka Inlet of Issyk Kul lake. This is also where former Soviet torpedo testing facilities are located. Facilities themselves are a closed, government-accessible only area.

Karakol has Central Asia's highest ski resort, with 20 km of slopes, situated about 20 minutes from the town.[13] Unlike Shymbulak resort, the riding at Karakol includes forest areas as well as cleared trails.

Russian Orthodox cathedral

Karakol Russian Orthodox church

The cathedral was originally built of stone, in 1872,[14] when Karakol was a garrison town established as an outpost on the edges of the Tsarist Russian Empire. It was destroyed in 1890 by earthquake, and the current cathedral was subsequently built of wood on a brick base.[14] It took nearly six years to complete, and was finally done in 1895. During the period of construction, a yurt served the congregation as a church. The building has seen considerable usage, and not only as a church, being used for an anti-Russian uprising in 1916, during which several monks were brutally murdered.[14]

Over the years, particularly following the Revolution in 1917, the church has been used as an educational center, at times housing a school, ladies' gymnasium, an institution of higher education, a sports venue, a theatre, a dance hall, and even a coal store. Then, in 1991 (following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Kyrgyzstan), the local authorities again gave the building back to the Church, whom assumed responsibility for all future remodeling and structural endeavors.

Dungan mosque

Karakol Dungan Mosque

The Issyk-kul Central Mosque of Karakol was built for the local Dungan community through an initiative of Ibrahim Aji in the early 20th century. Aji commissioned the famed Beijing architect Chou Seu, along with 20 workers (all skilled in traditional Chinese architecture), with building the mosque. The construction of outbuildings, among other projects, involved local craftsmen. Construction of the mosque itself began in 1904, lasting through 1910.[14] Ingenious techniques allowed the builders to construct the mosque without using nails.[14] The building holds 42 based pillars; encircling the building is a multi-tiered wooden cornice, decorated with botanical and natural images such as grapes, pomegranates, pears and peaches. From 1929 to 1947 (during the Soviet era), the mosque was used mainly as a storehouse. In 1947, the building was given to the city’s Muslim community, from whence it has continued to function as a mosque ever since. It is registered as a historical monument and protected by law. Today, the mosque is also open to visitors domestic and foreign.

Przhevalsky Museum

Przhevalsky museum

Nikolay Przhevalsky was one of the first Russian scientists, naturalists and geographers to commence detailed studies of the geography, flora and fauna of the Central Asian countries. Beginning in 1870, he arranged four large expeditions through Mongolia, China and Tibet.[14] During these trips, he revealed the exact coordinates of the mountain ranges and borders of the Tibetan Himalayas and Tian Shan ranges. He described in-detail the weather, relief, ecosystems, flora and fauna in the territories under his study; he described over 200 plant species. Will on these expeditions, Przhevalsky also collected an enormous zoological collection, comprising several thousand species of plants, fungi, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fishes and invertebrates. In 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.[14] The Memorial Museum of N. M. Przhevalsky was opened on 29 April 1957 in Karakol.

Karakol Historical Museum


This small museum was the pre-revolutionary summer home of the Iliana merchant family. During the turbulent years of 1918–20 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. Scythian artifacts include enormous bronze pots retrieved from Lake Issyk-Kul, displayed alongside exhibits on petroglyphs in the area. Besides a comprehensive display of traditional Kyrgyz punched leather work, felt wall hangings and woven yurt decorations, the museum has a colorful collection of national costumes, examples of finely worked silver jewellery and a good exhibition of Kyrgyz applied art. One hall covers the region's flora and fauna – much of which is endangered and listed in the 'Red Book' (a Soviet inventory of protected species). 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.

Bugu-Ene Zoo


Karakol Zoological Park was founded in 1987. This is the only zoo in Kyrgyzstan. After the demise of the Soviet Union, the economics of the country collapsed. In 2001, closing the zoo was considered. However, sponsors were found, which allowed the captive animals to be preserved. There are Japanese macaques, bears, wolf, deer, camels, llamas, Przewalski's horse, peacock, lions and many others.

Animal Market

A Kyrgyz Goat at the Karakol animal market

On early Sunday mornings, one of Kyrgyzstan's biggest farmer’s markets and live animal auctions takes place, around 2 km north of central Karakol, with locals loading livestock in and out of the backs of sedans not being an uncommon sight. The setting, amid semi-derelict flour mills, might seem unprepossessing, but is valued for its space. On clear days, a backdrop of white-topped mountains is visible and is more striking from here than from the town center. A series of earthen unloading platforms lead north. Jostle through the chaos to reach a bigger main compound one block north, where horses and embossed leather saddlery are for sale. On foot, the bazaar is about 25 minutes' walk from City Center.[15]

Hiking and Camping


Karakol is popular among fans of hiking and overnight tent camping. The following hiking trails beging here: Karakol Peak, Alakul Lake, Altyn Arashan and Sary Zhaz Valley. These routes have a variety of scenery from green forests to glaciers. The best times for hiking are from June to September.[16]

River in hiking trail close to Karakol

Notable inhabitants


Sister cities



  1. ^ a b c "Population of regions, districts, towns, urban-type settlements, rural communities and villages of Kyrgyz Republic" (XLS) (in Russian). National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic. 2021. Archived from the original on 10 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "2009 population and housing census of the Kyrgyz Republic: Issyk-Kul Region" (PDF) (in Russian). National Statistics Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic. 2010. pp. 11, 16, 50.
  3. ^ Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. Наличное население в губерниях, уездах, городах Российской Империи (без Финляндии). Семиреченская область Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine First General Russian Empire Census of 1897. Population in provinces, districts, towns of Russian Empire (without Finland). Semirech'e Province (Demoscope.ru) (in Russian)
  4. ^ Review of Semirech'e Oblast for 1907 (Обзор Семиреченской области за 1907 год), Verniy: Publishing House of Semirech'e Provincial Administration, 1908, archived from the original on 22 July 2011, retrieved 6 March 2011
  5. ^ Всесоюзная перепись населения 1926 года : Киргизская АССР. (All-Union Census of 1926: Kyrgyz ASSR), Moscow: CSU SSSR, 1928, archived from the original on 22 July 2011, retrieved 6 March 2011
  6. ^ 1939 census USSR
  7. ^ 1959 census USSR
  8. ^ Численность наличного населения городов, поселков городского типа, районов и районных центров СССР по данным переписи на 15 января 1970 года по республикам, краям и областям (кроме РСФСР) Archived 9 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "The Climate of Karakol". Weatherbase. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Climate: Karakol". Climate-Data.org. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  11. ^ on heraldic shields. Golden bees. On the site «Российские соотечественники Иссык-Куля»
  12. ^ Coats of arms of Kyrgyzstan. Karakol city, Issyk-Kul region. On the «Heraldicum» website.
  13. ^ "Skiing in and around Karakol". Caravanistan. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Lake Issyk-Kul Pamphlet and Map. Bishkek: Rarity Firm, LTD.
  15. ^ "Karakol travel guide". Caravanistan. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Why Travel To Kyrgyzstan In 2022? |Hiking Kyrgyzstan". hikingkyrgyzstan.com. Retrieved 1 March 2022.