Enilchek is an old Soviet town used by workers in the Gold Mining Industry. After the fall of the Union and the dissipation of gold, jobs ceased and most people left. Now only a few buildings are used for a military checkpoint and a few local families. Everything else is in ruins. The town itself is not that beautiful, but the journey to get there and the surrounding area is an adrenaline rush. Enilchek is situated towards the southeastern corner on the country. It is remote, beautiful, and feels like a different world from Karakol.
Outside of summer, only a few operators offer tours to the area. The road to get there is not easy. Quite rough, and can be very dangerous with snow and ice. A 4×4 vehicle is required. The pass will take you up to 4000 meters with many twists and turns. You’ll end up driving near the edge of cliffs several times with no guard rails and beautiful views. It will take approx 3 hours to get from Karakol to Enilchek. There will be very few cars on the road, so you will have much of the area to yourself.
The tour guy I found was named Vadim, a nice Russian who owns a good jeep that can take on the perils of the road. +996 773 730 970. Ana at Duet Hostel will also have tour information. He picked us up at 9am from the hostel and proceeded to vigorously plow through the snow, joking about avalanches. We could feel the lack of oxygen in the mountains but the road went back down in no time. When we got to the town there was a military checkpoint. You are supposed to acquire permits for this region, but Vadim assured us he could get us in. He stepped out of the car, wholesomely shook the guards hands, and after a few minutes talk and some smiles, we were through. Whether or not he bribed them, he didn’t say, just laughed. Slowly driving through the ruins was surreal to see, but he said we couldn’t go out and explore because of the nearby guards. Some horses crossed the road. After a few more minutes driving we stopped at these open air natural hot springs. 40 degrees celsius, it felt amazing to lay in the pool with the outside temperature close to 0. Vadim also provided a delicious lunch and tea.
Afterwards he drove us back where we explored an old mining cave and did a few short walks around the mountains. We returned to the hostel around 6pm. Vadim can fit 7 people in his jeep. The tour price was 11,000 com. We were okay splitting the costs but it’s possible to bargain lower. What I enjoyed about the tour was that it felt more “off the path” for things to see and do around Karakol. I would recommend it as it is a unique corner of Kyrgyzstan. Safe travels!