|Roof detail Dungan mosque; image Sue Byrne
The Russian explorer and Great Game player Nikolai Przhevalsky used Karakol as a base camp for his expeditions into Central Asia and China. (The town is 150kms from the Chinese border). He died of typhoid here in 1888 and the town was renamed after him in honour of his life and work.
In 1921 Lenin renamed it Karakol, then Stalin changed it back to Przhevalsky in 1939, the centenary of the explorer's birth. In 1957 a small museum and garden were built as a tribute to Przhevalsky. At Kyrgyzstan's independence in 1991 its name reverted to Karakol.
|Holy Trinity Cathedral, Karakol
There is also a Chinese mosque in Karakol: Dungan mosque, built in 1910 entirely of wood without a single nail. The Dungans fled China during the Han Chinese retaliation after the Muslim uprising in the north west in the 19th century. Instead of a minaret the mosque has a wooden pagoda. A Dungan community still lives in Karakol.
|Khan Tengi, sunset
Today Karakol serves a base for various outdoor activities, especially mountaineering expeditions to the Enlichek glacier and the mighty peaks of Jengish Chokusu (formerly known as Pobeda, 7439 metres) and Khan Tengi (7,010 metres). In winter Karakol is a popular resort for skiing and snow boarding.
Uzbek Journeys arranges excursions to Kyrgyzstan before or after the Uzbek tours; these include a visit to Karakol. In 2013, I plan to offer a combined Uzbek-Kyrgyz tour that will include visits to the felting and design studios of Kyrgyzstan as well as time in the mountains.
Related post: Jamilia: A Kyrgyz Love Story
5 Reasons to Visit Kyrgyzstan