A view of Alay Valley, Trans-Alay Range, and Kyzyl-Suu (West) River
The Alay Valley (Kyrgyz: Алай өрөөнү) is a broad, dry valley running east-west across most of southern Osh Province, Kyrgyzstan. (From the Russian spelling, pronunciation should probably be 'alai' rather than 'alay'). It is about 180km east-west and about 40km north-south and 2500-3500m in altitude. The north side is the Alay Mountains which slope down to the Ferghana Valley. The south side is the Trans-Alay Range along the Tajikistan border, with Lenin Peak, (7134m). The western 40km or so is more hills than valley. On the east there is the low Tongmurun pass and then more valley leading to the Irkestam border crossing to China.
The Kyzyl-Suu (West) ('Red River', Kyzyl-Suu (East) flows from Irkestam to Kashgar) drains the valley, flowing westward on the north side. It exits through the Karamyk pass and a gorge into Tajikistan, where, under the name of the Vakhsh River it flows southwest into the Amu Darya. Highway A371 runs along the valley. The western pass to Tajikistan is closed to foreigners, but the eastern pass to China is open. A371 intersects the M41 highway north to Osh at Sary-Tash. To the south, M41 (Pamir Highway) becomes very rough and leads to the 4,280m Kyzyl-Art pass to Murgab in Tajikistan, a route that requires considerable preparation and paper work.
One traveler says "with no jobs, a harsh winter climate, and poor conditions for agriculture, life is immensely tough here, and most of the adult male population have left to seek work elsewhere."
- Laurence Mitchell, Kyrgyzstan, Bradt Travel Guides, 2008