is the deepest fresh-water lake in the whole world. It is called "The Glorious Sea" of Oriental Siberia. This is a magnificent natural site being the second largest freshwater reservoir on the planet after the Antarctic, with 23 million m3, which is 636km long, 79km wide and with a depth of 1,637 meters. Supplied by some 300 water entries, the pure waters of Baikal can only be described as amazing. Mighty, magnificent, mysterious, crystal, challenging, glamorous – there is no word to describe this place, no picture to show it’s vastness and beauty, until you feel it yourself and it deeps in your heart and touches your soul… Baikal is magnetic, once visiting its shores people fell in love with it and it is calling to discover Him more and more.
– is protected, severe and most preserved its natural beauty territory of Baikal. The absence of roads, settlements and tourists make it irresistibly attractive for everybody who is fond of and value pristine Nature. The mountains come very close to the lake here and their altitude is higher than on Southern Baikal. The Baikal-Lena and Barguzinsky reserve protect this vast territory. The best ways to come here is by boat while on cruise, and discover the uninhabited shore, near-by routes along the rivers to the mountains and waterfalls, have a swim in hot springs, enjoy fishing and just listening to the waves splashes and drinking the Baikal fresh air – not breathing, will fill you with energy and power of this magnificent place.
– or Small sea – it not quite a sea, it is just a strait between the largest Island of the lake - Olkhon, and Baikal western shore. So if you are aimed at sunbathing and fishing – this is a place for you. A little amount of precipitation, about 200 sunny days a year, warm water in cozy bays which warms up to 22C, lovely mountainous and taiga forest landscapes with aroma herbs, great fishing and road availability made this place quite popular among people. If you take a steppe turn or forest road – it may bring you to some interesting places, such as caves or unique sights. It is about 300 km away from Irkutsk along the road, which is not good everywhere, but quite picturesque with rural landscapes: fields, pastures, and villages.
is located in Zabaikalskiy National park. The name can be translated as “sturgeon’s head (nose)” from the language of local people. It separates two Baikal large coves: Chivyrkuiskiy, and Barguzinskiy. The deep Chivykruiskiy cove, indented with numerous bays, warm water, golden sand beaches, and the abundance of fish is highly popular among tourists. In Zmeinaya bay you can take hot baths. The name of the bay comes from nonpoisonous grass-snakes hibernating here. The Barguzinskiy cove near by the peninsula edges with sand beaches. Ushkanyi islands is especially strict protected territory as it is the major seal rookery. About 2000 human-friendly sea animals found their breeding place here away from noisy world. The islands are home to rare bitch and larch trees, as well as ant-hills number several thousand.
is the capital of eastern Siberia. It is a small Russian city with a rich history, located on the bank of Angara river, 70 km away from Baikal Lake. Irkutsk used to be wooden in the past. Even nowadays it is one of not many Siberian cities which preserved its wooden outlook. The city has mysterious charm: quiet shady streets with different carved decorations get on nowadays with many-storied modern buildings. Famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov compared Irkutsk to Paris. He said: “As England created London and France - Paris, the same Siberia created Irkutsk”. Irkutsk can join incompatible things together: asphalt and wooden pavements, domes of beautiful churches and grey boxes of administrative buildings, cultural level and penal experience, the past and the present…
- is a live heart of sacred Baikal, where shaman spirits are still being worshipped. It is the largest island of the lake, which outlines resemble the shape of Baikal. Though the island only 72 km long, various landscapes preserved there its beauty: woodless steppes together with golden sandy beaches are stretched along little bays, as well as monumental rocks and steep slopes are covered with thick shaggy forests at the eastern side. Olkhon is surrounded with lots of myths and legends; according to one there lives a master of Olkhon in the image of eagle. You won’t find ticks here and this island is called “Sunny Island” as there are almost no rains, but a lot of sunny days throughout the year.
– a small Russian settlement on the shore of Baikal, which is intended to become a Baikal city in some future as it is the shortest and easiest place to get on Baikal from Irkutsk. 70 km away from Irkutsk, and you are at the place there the only river – Angara flows out of Baikal. Baikal museum with nerpa aquarium, observation platform at Cherskiy rock with a great view to Angara outflow, Nerpa show, cafes, restaurants, hotels, shops, amber-colored heaps of smoked, dried, salty Baikal fish – Omul, and plenty of Baikal souvenirs at the local market form a colorful atmosphere of a resort. Just some kilometers away along the shoreline and you are alone in the forest with splashing of Baikal waves…
- is a mountain ridge, located at the south of Baikal. Especially much snow occurs here, and snow-drifts reach the height of a human. The slopes of Khamar-Daban mountains retain a stable snow cover till May, which then change to marvelous blossoming of wild Rhododendron which is widely spread of the slopes here. This place is also called Siberian Alps. Cross-country skiing and Alpine ski-tracks of any complexity are possible here. This place has its own multi-climate with high humidity, crystal-clear rivers and alpine lakes, huge bearded cedar-trees and soft deep moss. In summer time in such Riviera it is especially pleasant to have different trekking and hiking routes of any duration.
– or locally called just as “Krugobaikalka” is an architectural-landscape reserve, where numerous engineer constructions are located at the 80-km shoreline of Baikal. It is amazing how naturally and balanced they fit into surrounding landscape. Before revolution this part of Transsiberian railway was called “The golden buckle of Russian steel belt”. Buckle – because it connected two parts of Transsiberian, separated by Baikal Lake, and golden – due to enormous costs spent on its construction, which was more than for all railroads in Russia. To get there is the same as to make a time journey 100 years back, everything is preserved the same way it used to be…
The Trans-Siberian Railway has been acknowledged as one of the most scenic and interesting and train journeys in the world. Running a distance of 9,466 km and crossing eight time zones, this is the longest continuous train journey in the world. This journey is your best chance to see everything that Russia has to offer, right from the cosmopolitan cities like Moscow to the quiet and secluded villages on the foots of sky kissing mountains. The best of the journey is when it crosses the world famous Lake Baikal. When passing by the seemingly endless lake and witnessing the rich wildlife more often than not keeps the traveler's eyes glued to the windows.
“Amaka, Amikan” – is translated as “Bear” from the language of native people – the Evenks, who used to inhabit the territory around Baikal Lake. According to their beliefs, bears don’t touch women. If the bear meets a woman – takes her to taiga forest to his den and makes her the mistress of the den. Right now this indigenous people - the Evenks - live on the North of Baikal, most of them along the BAM railway in Chitinskaya region. I was very lucky to travel to those places. Those Evenks who still are deer-breeders live in the brides in the forest in the remote areas away from villages and civilization. Most of evenks live in the villages along the BAM. Most of the youngs go to the cities, and it's a pity that very few of them return to the campsites in the forest to continue deer-breeding and follow their traditional lifestyle. I like their beautiful language: Amaka, Syulban, Nyama... and them as well:-))
The local people keep the legend which says:
…Amikan is also a person, only can’t speak. Long time has passed. It was the time when gods were still living on earth. All over taiga forest there were their tchums. (traditional conic shaped house). When gods raised into the sky – their houses turned into mountains. And before that time the earth was flat. It was the time when shaman called Ama lived. He helped and cured people, chased away the angry spirits. Hunters used to bring skins and fur, meat and fish to shaman. Many times birds came to make their nests and flew away. Winters came and were gone. Shaman became old, was grown with hair, became ugly and angry. His wives left him. Shaman Ama had been crying for a long time, calling his wives back, but nobody came back – they found other husbands. People forgot him. Shaman became angry on people then and decided to revenge them. At night, when the moon rises from above the forest and all people fall asleep, he would come out of his tchum, turn over his head and change into a bear – such a strong bear that could break an elk’s back!
When shaman goes to the campsite – the dogs don’t bark him, he smells like a human. Then he gets into a tchum secretly and steals a young lady and takes her into the forest.
This lasted for quite a long time. Many girls were stolen by him. Hunters followed and chased him in order to kill him. But when they shot their arrows – they were flamed as matches. Shaman knew the magic word from the arrow shooting. The hunters were scared – shaman Ama would kill all women at their campsite, who will continue the family? The earth will become empty without people. The hunters went to the main god - Tengeri and told him about the trouble. Tengeri called all the gods for advice how to teach a lesson to shaman Ama.
And next time Shaman changed into a bear, the gods took away his memory and tongue. When Ama went into the forest, but couldn’t remember why. He still walks in the forests nowadays. The winter comes, it becomes cold, Ama would return to his den but he forgot the way. Then he makes a new one, hides there and spends all winter there. In spring he wakes up angry, attacks all animals and people. But once he meets a hunter – remembers that he is also a human, stands on two hind legs and attacks the man. And evenk people still call him “Amaka” or “Amikan”, which means “dedushka, old man”.
(the legend by Nikolai Kuzakov).
Olkhon land is severe. Every Olkhon villager knows it, but not likely that any tourist knows it. Every new summer more and more of them come to the island which is the most attractive place for them to visit on Baikal. For indigenous population of Olkhon this island is a sacred place, same as lake Baikal. Terrifying spirits of the Great Lake inhabit this place, this was the place where the first Buryat shaman was given the Shaman talent in ancient times, and also some believe that it is the place of Chingis-Khan burial site.
Olkhon is shrouded with myths, legends and old stories which are handed down by tradition. However, the scientific community has recognized it as the main sanctuary and the worship center of general Mongolian and Central Asian significance, and the center of the Kurumchi Culture of the 6th-9th centuries. The local discoveries include Kurumchi sites of fortified towns, burial grounds and many other archaeologican monuments, the best known of which is the ancient Kurykan’s stone wall. All these and other facts show that Olkhon has a great history. Its past is entwined with the life of the aboriginals whose principal pursuit was fishing. Its present is now tourism that became an increasingly lucrative business among Olkhon’s inhabitants. Regrettable, however, this has caused serious ecological damage to Olkhon.
Olkhon is more than 700 square km. There are some villages on it, but the biggest and the central is Khuzhir. The roads here don’t know what asphalt is. Old small wooden houses with the “house for rent” sign compete with mini-hotels and recreation bases. This is a typical village but its location is not-typical - an island, surrounded with clearest Baikal waters (and also reminding the lake by its shape!), incredible nature and unique sights. The most favourite place among tourists is Shamanka rock (or Burkhan cape) – one of the 9 sanctuaries of Asia. According to a legend, this is the palace of Khan Khoto Baabay, of one of the 13 celestials, which was sent to earth by the gods to determine the people’s fate. His son now lives on Olkhon in the form of an bald eagle.
The northernmost point of Olkhon is Khoboy cape. Its near-by rocks remind teeth, thus the name Khoboy means “the fang” in Buryat language. According to the ancient legend, the wife of one of the celestials was envious to his husband because of his palace which was given to him by the gods. And when she asked the gods to give her a palace as well – they became angry and turned her into a rock. From the seaside one may see the female outline on that rock.
Most of the villagers still survive thanks to Baikal. They go fishing. The fish that they catch they sell to tourists, but they used to give most of the fish to Malomorskiy fish plant. This only enterprise on the island provided people with jobs in the past. There were lots of fish on Olkhon area, the plant operated using its all power which gave people not only their salaries but also an electricity – a diesel station worked there. But perestroika occurred and the fish plant was not an exception among many large plants of the former Soviet union, and was fallen into decay. Local people were left without place to work and electricity. Rusty ships and old vessels which still stand at the pier, deserted half-destroyed houses and stories of old locals keep the history of those times.
The electricity came back to the island in 2005 (only!) and the problem of employment is partly solved by tourism. Most of the villagers accommodate tourists in their houses, sell fish, wood, make excursions by their UAZ cars around the island – find any possible way to earn money. The Russian proverb: “One summer day feeds the whole year” perfectly describes the situation there. The tourist season is short, that’s why people do their best to earn money during summer time so they can live in winter.
Olkhon is not the same which it used to be. Now the civilization reached that place as well. The lines of the electricity, satellite plates installed on the roofs of the wooden houses, the amount of cars and multi-national speech and dialects – made the silence disappear. The island is being build up with new hotels and tourist bases, and no villager can tell exactly whom this land belongs to. They gloom and say “to Moscow people, probably…”
I started working as a guide on this magnificent island. I spent my summer season as a tourism instructor and a guide at the yurt camp in 2003. There was no electricity, we kept all the food in so-called ground fridges – a hole in the ground stuffed with ice. There was just one road to the north of the island, and not 4-6 roads with cars overtaking each other on a high season period, and just several picnic places in the forest near Khoboy, and of course less trash there. There weren’t many guide books about legends and history of some places and I remember collecting and drafting the interesting facts in my handbook after each excursion. I remember the brightest sunsets it gifted me while I was lying on its grassy shore. I kept coming back to this island and watch the seasons change each other and the island change its outlook but preserving its beauty and charm. I can’t be tired of it as it never has the same look. I still love that place and yes it is one of my favourites, and I’m sure that it’s a magical place. At least for me and for many other people who fell in love with it.
I am not a professional in making video, but this place is such a real "Winter" place, with its own magic and magnificance, with the freshest frozen air and cleanest snow ever, that I decided to make a short video sketch about it. It shows our Christimas trip to Khamar-Daban mountains (it's on the south of Baikal lake). Now it is winter and it is perfect time to go skiing, snowshoeing and living WINTER!!! It's calling...
My video which I made 2 years ago while going on a two days trip to Olkhon with my husband. It wa the end of June, so not many tourists, great weather and stunning nature as always. We were lucky to catch the last flowers of Rhododendron blossoming, yellow poppies and warm summer sun!
Upon a picturesque bank of the Angara River stands a wooden town from a Russian fairy tale: towers, houses, manors and cathedrals built by Siberian craftsmen. And right alongside them huddle traditional tents of indigenous nomadic people who lived around Lake Baikal. This is a unique museum of architecture and ethnography called “Taltsy”, a haven of authentic cultural artifacts belonging to people of these expanses.
The Russian part of the exposition gives you the opportunity to glimpse an old-style Russian village, complete with a traditional water mill. You can find out more about the peasant household of the 18-19th centuries, admire a pottery wheel and examine tools for crafting birch bark masterpieces, and even fashion a little clay souvenir to take home with you.
While you’re there, you can also learn about the life and faith of the Buryats, Evenks and Tofalars – indigenous people of the region. The museum models traditional Tofalar and Evenk camps, dwellings and burial grounds, as well as a Buryat “oohloohs-letnik”, where you can see a newlyweds’ yurt and a shaman.
The museum is not only a unique collection of historical and architectural monuments but also a safe-house that preserves the very roots of indigenous cultures, which can help to breathe new life into long-forgotten traditions.
There is a beautiful legend about how Baikal lake appeared. Long time ago at the place where Baikal is now, there used to be a dense forest. There were so many birds and beasts in that forest that a man could hardly go through it. One bird stood out against the others; it was the size of a big sturgeon. It had strong huge wings. If it touched a tree, the tree fell rooted out, if it touched a rock, the rock broke into pieces.
People were afraid of the bird, but they couldn’t kill it because when it was flying, it emitted such hot rays that hunters fell in dead faint. However, once a boy was born among people. He was growing like a weed and soon he grew up. He became a strong man and wasn’t afraid of anything. People came to him and asked to save them from the misfortune and kill the fire bird. The strong man did as they told him.
He made a bow of one hundred of trees and cut an arrow of two hundred of branches and went hunting. Soon the earth shuddered. The bird fell struck by an accurate shot; such a furious fire started that the sky got hot. People went away from the taiga, climbed the mountains and saw that pillars of water were breaking through the fire. This is how the sea appeared in that place.
When the earth and the taiga were burning, people were running away and shouting: “Baikal, Baikal”. When the sea appeared, the place kept its name Baikal all through the ages. Nobody remembers whether it was the fire that people called Baikal, or this was the name of the bird, or, may be, the word meant “Much water”. People remember only that the place is called BAIKAL.
Ulan Ude, the capital of Buryatia, is located in the middle of vast Siberian steppes, on the 5640th kilometer of the Trans-Siberian railway. 'UU' is 456km east of Irkutsk by rail. It is a very unusual and charming city. The first striking impression is an unusually calm and mellow way of life, distinct features of people (more than 50% of people in Ulan-Ude are native Buryats with canny almond eyes), and a slightly chaotic look of the city. However, in some parts of Ulan Ude the “Russian part” comes into play: a huge head of Lenin on the central square, Soviet style hotel buildings, some remains of the typical 19th century architecture, traditional wooden houses along the streets. And at the same time little Korean passenger minibuses are rushing back and forth, like rickshaws, an old Buryat woman is selling hot juicy Pozas (traditional meat dish) on the street, the sun is unbelievably bright and hot, and you see the tips of the mountains surrounding the city…
Ulan Ude is a very interesting place to stop for a few days on your way along the Trans-Siberian: apart from its peculiar feel, there are a lot of other things to experience. We can help you to organize your tour to visit Ulan-Ude. You’ll enjoy local sights: the local open-air ethnographic museum tells an interesting story about the life and traditions of native Siberians (Buryats and Evenks), as well as colonizers (Cossacks and Old-believers), Ivolginsky Datsan - is a center of Buddhism in Russia.
We offer different tours to Tunkinskaya valley and Arshan. Tunkinskaya valley (locally called Tunka) is situated between the mountain ridges of Sayan and Khamar-Daban to the West of the Baikal South extremity. Due to its good accessibility for traffic the Tunkinskaya Valley became the gate to the Sayan. It got its name from the Tunkinskij mountain chain stretching alongside the valley.
Quite a number of little villages are spread across the area. The soil is very fertile there and valley has long been known for its hot springs and their healing power.
The chain of the Tunkinskij-Golzi Mountains has its southern end at the shores of the Irkut River and its northern end at the river Kitoi. The summits reach a hight of approx. 3000 m. Glaciers left their distinct marks of steep, pyramid shaped mountains and deep valleys where you can still make out the old moraines. Today only few small glaciers are left. Mostly you only find the crystal clear glacial lakes. Above the tree line - from approx. 1700 to 2200 m - the landscape is characterised by widespread grasslands, enormous moss fields and the sometimes very steep and rocky passes.Arshan is a resort founded by locals to take advantage of the unique properties of natural hot mineral springs of Tunka Valley. The name “Arshan” is translated as “The healing waters” from the Buryat language. The waters of Arshan hot springs are very rich with minerals and are prescribed as treatment for problems related to digestion, heart, and neurological disorders. There is also another natural hot spring called Zhemchug which is not far from Arshan. The average annual temperature ranges from 11-13°C to 45°C. This creates a natural steam bath in the winter for those who like open air hot tubs and gorgeous views for those who like winter scenery. The valley is also a home to many rare plants such as Rhododendron adamsii Rehder/Saggan-Dali, Djen-Shen. When you arrive to Arshan, you will enjoy the mineral springs, the local Buddhist datsan (temple), take a walk along Kyngyrga river to see local natural wonders. Most food in the area is traditional Buryat cuisine.