Introducing Alay Valley
Platoons of vast, ever-snowy mountains march along the southern flank of the Alay Valley whose considerable width (up to 30km) makes the scene especially memorable – at least when the haze and cloud clear.
Visitors en route to China via Irkeshtam or to Tajikistan via Bordöbo can get a taste of the scenery from Sary Tash. Both routes cross high-altitude passes but while the Irkeshtam route is fairly easy to do in DIY hops, hitching the road to Murgab (via Bordöbo) can be frustratingly slow with no regular transport: bring a tent in case you're stranded in the (potentially frigid) wilderness.
An excellent new road follows the Alay Valley southwest from Sary Tash to Garm (Tajikistan), but for now the Tajik–Kyrgyz border at Karamyk is inexplicably closed to foreigners. Even so, it might still be worth continuing part way (30km) to dusty Sary-Mogol for the best view of 7134m Peak Lenin.