Embarking the Pamir Highway, I watched as the city of Osh transformed into rolling hills and the Alay Valley rose above us. Stopping in the small village of Sary-Oi, it was easy to imagine departing on a horsetrek and staying in the yurts sitting quietly in these peaceful green hills. Further down the road, the villages of Gulcha and Kyrkyl offered pretty B&Bs and curious collections of handicrafts. The local people of the Alay Valley showed joy and generosity making the landscape shine even brighter with beauty.
The Pamir Highway climbed higher among the Alay Mountains. The feeling of adventure was mirrored by the impressive landscape; green hills, red cliffs and snowy peaks layered each other to create a spectacular scene with only the grazing sheep to remind you this is Earth. At the highest peak of the mountain pass, the snow blew all around, impressing the ruggedness of such a remote land.
Descending the pass, the mountain village and Silk Road post of Sary-Tash appeared to welcome us with hot food, a warm bed and smiling faces. At the convergence of routes to China, Tajikistan and northern Kyrgyzstan, Sary-Tash has offered more than just hospitality for travelers throughout history. Its legacy supersedes it's unassuming quietness, but is reflected in the towering backdrop of the Pamir Mountain range overlooking the town.
West of Sary-Tash is Sarymogol, a quiet village equipped with an excellent CBT office and knowledgeable staff. This is the starting point for a multitude of one- day or multi-day hikes or horse treks throughout the Pamirs, many with yurt stays. We ventured by 4WD vehicle to a yurt community at the base of Peak Lenin, the highest peak in the Pamirs at 7134 metres. From here, experienced climbers can reach the peak on a long distance trek. However, we spent the sunny day lazing at the alpine lake Tulpar Köl and enjoying warm yak milk inside the comfortable yurts. The Pamirs offer a variety of activities for all types of travelers, whether trekking, horseback riding, playing traditional Kyrgyz games or just enjoying traditional Kyrgyz hospitality.
Continuing west of Sarymogol to the villages of Daroot-Korgon and Zhashtilek, the drive is that of unforgettable scenery. The expansive, snowy Pamirs stand impressively behind green pastures, grazing horses and sheep, rivers and cliffs. Each village along the way is home to welcoming B&Bs and Zhashtilek is the starting point for a four day horse trek through the Alay Mountains to the village of Kyzyl-Kiya. The stretch of the Alay Valley sitting between the Alay and Pamir mountain ranges is spectacularly remote and a virtually unexplored part of Central Asia. If you are looking for a truly unique experience, the Alay Valley has everything for you to create your own adventure.
Exiting the Alay Valley East through the Pamirs into China, I was left with a great sense of history and continuity. The Silk Road and routes out of Central Asia have settled in the Alay Valley, but the spectacular yet peaceful landscape offers much more than transit. Its mystery and reservation impresses a powerful energy upon travelers passing through, an energy that I hope will remain beautiful and unique for time to come.