You could see the sites of Karakol in Kyrgyzstan in a few hours and then go eat some kebabs, but this city is the jumping-off point to some of the most spectacular mountain hikes in all of Central Asia. For those who want to rest up in style after camping on the ground for days in the valleys where only shepherds roam, Karagat Hotel is the nicest option in town.
This property has a few quirks keeping it from reaching international luxury standards, but it gets pretty close on the facilities side and rates are a real bargain. It’s walking distance to most places you would want to go in Karakol and if you want to go further, a taxi will likely set you back $3 at the most.
The Karagat Hotel’s building is visible from blocks away because there are very few tall buildings in town and this one is six stories. It makes a great first impression with its fountain lit at night, a public terrace on the second floor, and a curved shape to the building. There’s ample free parking outside.
In the basement level is a sauna, which you should request ahead of time to get it hot. The entire ground floor is for dining, drinking, and lounging. There’s enough space that every guest in the hotel could probably hang out there at the same time and if not there’s another sitting area on the terrace one floor up. There’s a full restaurant on site and a full bar as well. Naturally there’s lots of vodka on hand in this former Soviet republic, but also a good international spirits array and beer choices from seven nations.
Breakfast is included in the rates. The small buffet won’t win any awards for range or inventiveness, but, there’s enough variety to please most travelers. You can order eggs or porridge from the kitchen in addition to what’s on display. Be advised though that you’ll have to pay extra for non-instant coffee. There’s just hot water on the buffet.
Rooms here are spacious and upper floors have mountain views. They are attractive with their light laminate wood floors, patterned wallpaper, and slightly reflective ceilings. Kings are really two doubles put together but they have cushioned headboards, comfortable mattresses, and duvets. There are three outlets in the main room and one in the bath, plus an ample free-standing closet with robes and slippers. Some rooms on the end have balconies and windows on two sides. These windows come in handy in the summer because there’s no air conditioning. Really there’s no climate control period: in winter the radiators are either on or off.
The other major design flaw here is in the otherwise attractive baths. Probably because of some miscommunication in the building process, there’s a huge space between the combo shower tub and the wall next to it. Since there’s no shower curtain, this means water sprays onto the floor every time you shower and won’t be gone until housekeeping comes and mops it up every day from each room. Everything works well otherwise though, including good pressure and hot water.
Free Wi-Fi works okay in the rooms, great in the lobby/restaurant and laundry service is available.
Service is a bit quirky, with part of the issue being Kyrgyzstan’s low number of non-Russian tourists. Though this is improving each year, warm and professional service is still not a norm in the hotel industry here. It’s best to keep your expectations in check. In my case, housekeeping entered my room without knocking and I had to wait for an argument between the manager and front desk clerk to end before anyone turned their attention to me for checking out.
All this and more can be forgiven when you look at the prices, however. The most expensive beer in the restaurant is less than $3 for a half liter and room rates start at just $65 double including all taxes and breakfast. Single travelers pay less. The most expensive two-bedroom suite usually goes for $195—and that’s the most expensive suite in the whole city. The official hotel site is not in English, so your best bet is to head to Booking.com and search “Karakat Hotel.”
Editor Tim Leffel was hosted by Karagat Hotel and the city of Karakol while touring the country on a sponsored trip with Discover Kyrgyzstan. This trip was made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.