Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

A shady grid of tree-lined streets, Karakol (Каракол) has limited sights but lots of activities, and is a good base from which to access some of Central Asia’s best skiing and most gloriously accessible alpine trekking. The town offers clear-day backdrops of snowy peaks contrasted against the old blue shutters and whitewashed walls of some remnant antique colonial-period houses. These recall the town’s Russian-era heydey: founded in 1869 as a support town for the then-new garrison of Teploklyuchenka (Ak-Suu), it housed many merchants, officers and explorers, most famously Nikolai Przhevalsky (in whose honour Karakol was renamed Przhevalsk between 1939 and 1991).