Suusamyr Valley (or Suusamur Valley) is situated at the altitude of 2200 – 2600 m above the sea level, between the Suusamyr Too and the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain ranges and is more like a high plateau than a valley. The length of this green valley is about 150 km in east – west direction and the mountains surrounding it reach heights up to 4500 meters.
During the winter the whole area is covered with deep snow, more precisely from November to April. In the summer time the lush valley is populated with sheep and horses with lonely white yurts in the middle of vast green areas. The pastures of the valley are considered one of the best in Kyrgyzstan and the weather is considerably more cool than in the Chui valley area making it a perfect getaway in the +40C summer heat waves. Suusamur valley is sparsely populated except few small villages. Driving through this high plateau offers great views regardless of the season.
Too-Ashuu pass & 3 km Tunnel
Located on the road between Osh and Bishkek, Suusamyr lies at the south side of the 3 km long Too-Ashuu tunnel named after Kusain Kolbayev. Kolbayev was a Kyrgyz Soviet political, state and economic leader, the first Minister of Road, Transport and Highways in Kyrgyzstan. Thanks to him, the significant roads such as Bishkek – Osh, a tunnel through the Too-Ashuu pass and many more were constructed.
In the summertime the tunnel is sometimes the bottleneck on the road between the two main Kyrgyz cities. The reason for traffic might be a herd of sheep or horses passing through the tunnel or tunnel reconstructions that take place frequently. You can experience a very different weather on each side of the tunnel. It is for example very normal to enter to the Too-Ashuu tunnel from a snowstorm and getting out from sunny side with amazing views into the Suusamyr valley or the other way around.
Just below the Too Ashuu pass there are two small lakes that you can stop to admire on the way to Suusamyr, called the Sulutor lakes. They are located West from the pass and make a nice stop between the driving to catch some fresh mountain air. Sulutor lakes, photo by @j1becca
From Suusamyr there are roads leading west towards Talas, east towards Kochkor through poor roads, southeast towards Son-Kul (again quite poor roads) and south – southwest towards Toktogul reservoir and finally Osh and the Ferghana valley from where you can continue to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan or even to China. Please not that the road conditions in the winter time can be occasionally quite harsh in the valley and the passes around it. During winter it is sometimes required to have chains in the tires in order to climb the Too Ashuu pass.
For those traveling south, Suusamyr begins from the Too-Ashuu pass, where the plains open from a height of three kilometers. When you have descended from the Too Ashuu to the bottom of the valley, you will pass a settlement which is surprisingly named Paris!
Suusamur Paris Settlement
25 years ago Kyrgyzstan got its own Paris which is located on the Paris-Suusamyr pasture along the Osh-Bishkek road straight under the serpentine road coming down from the Too-Ashuu pass. Bright signs remind you to eat and relax and try to trap travelers with national treats displayed on the counters. Only modest conditions with wagons, yurts and very simple village services are offered but it is all that is available here. Better to be mentally prepared for the hole in the ground type of toilets if you are in need of relief.
The name Paris was given by the regular trucker customers as for them Paris is like an island of warmth in the middle of the chilly valley. You will pass the villages called Suusamyr, Kojomkul and Kyzyl-Oi on the Bishkek – Toktogul road that cover most of the few permanent significant settlements in the whole valley.
Kojomkul is another small village in the eastern part of the Suusamyr valley along the road leading to Kyzyl Oi village and all the way to Son Kul over the mountains. It has a small museum that has some displays of Kyrgyz culture and of the legend of Kojomkol (exceptionally large & strong Kyrgyz man) in two rooms. Kojomkul is not a bad option to stretch your legs for a moment during the long road. Kyzyl-Oi has also some nice nature to show so feel free to roam the area if you have the time. Start with the rope bridge crossing the river Kekemeren. It also seems that the Soviet Union did not have not that much effect in the Suusamyr valley as the villages here look more naturally grown.
Driving further you will definitely see a lots of herds of animals and yurt camps in the summer offering fresh dairy milk products on the side of the main road such as kurut (dried, salty yogurt balls) and kymyz (fermented mare’s milk). Some yurts offer lunches with Kyrgyz traditional menu as well.
Suusamur kymyz therapy camps & Jailoo tourism
Suusamyr valley is popular with Kymyz therapy camps or Jailoo tourism where local Kyrgyz people, as well as foreigners, stay in the camps for 1-2 weeks during the summer. The purpose of the stay is to drink a lot of kymyz (fermented mare’s milk) for health purposes and to enjoy the solitude and simply way of life of the jailoo.
The mare’s milk, enjoyed at high altitudes, contains dozens of valuable microelements that could serve as a natural treatment and improvement of one’s health together with a lot of bacteria that might not suit everyone’s stomach. Nevertheless, it is a popular summer treatment among the locals, who live in the Kyrgyz cities and don’t have relatives in the jailoo areas. However, foreigners might feel uncomfortable after drinking kymyz due to the digestion process, so it is better to really consider before trying or at least to start with minor quantities. You can still enjoy the ascetic nomadic lifestyle and meet local people without touching too much of the odd taste of bubbly kymyz.
Too-Ashuu ski base
If you pass the tunnel towards South from Bishkek side, there will be a crossing leading straight to the Too Ashuu Ski Resort towards Southwest after a couple of swings downwards in the serpentine road.
During the season the slopes are covered between 1 to 2 meters of snow which is quite a lot for Kyrgyz ski resorts, therefore creating the perfect condition for skiers and snowboarders. The resort offers accommodation with a sauna and wooden cottages.