The Heart of Baikal: Olkhon Island

The deepest lake on the planet, more than a mile deep and with an area that is approximately equal to Belgium or the Netherlands. Spring water in the lake is so clear that each stone or other objects are visible at a depth of 40 m. From the early January to the early May Baikal is almost completely (except for a small area at the mouth of the Angara) covered with thick ice, which cracks due to severe frost with a sound resembling thunder or cannon shots, revealing the ice caves on the banks…

On the lake and around it there are many picturesque natural sites, monuments of history and archeology.

Tour destination: Irkutsk – Taltsy – Listvyanka – Olkhon

English speaking guide service during the whole tour!

Day 1:

Upon arrival you will be met at the airport/railway station by our English-speaking guide. Then you will be offered breakfast.

Afterwards, you will be invited to take a city tour through historical part of Irkutsk. There are about 700 historical and cultural monuments in Irkutsk. The most interesting parts of the city were built by its 350 year anniversary. We will see most of them during our excursion.

We will start our tour from the Spasskaya Church – the place where the stockade town of Irkutsk was founded by Yakov Pokhabov in 1661. Then we’ll go on to the famous Epiphany Cathedral, the Polish Church, the Eternal flame and the Moscow gates. Later, we’ll move to the Znamenskiy Monastery– there you will also see the necropolis where Ekaterina Trubetskaya, a wife of the exiled Decembrist, is buried. The grave of Grigory Shelikhov, the founder of the Russian-American company also known as “the Russian Columbus”, is located here as well. Nearby the Monastery gates there is a monument to Alexander Kolchak.

Along Karl Marks Street we will move to Gagarin Avenue where you will see the monument to Alexander III which was erected to commemorate the construction of the Transsiberian Railroad. Also, the only Moresque Castle in Siberia – now home to the Local History Museum – is located there. Likewise, you will see the Belyi Dom (the White House) also referred to as Sibiryakov Palace: former residence of the merchant family Sibiryakovs and later Governor-General of Eastern Siberia.

Transfer to Listvyanka

Most travelers start the acquaintance with Baikal in Listvyanka village. This is the most popular holiday place at Baikal, it is 70 km from Irkutsk or a 1 hour car ride.

On our way to Listvyanka we will visit the museum of wooden architecture Taltsy. It contains 40 history and architecture monuments and 8000 exhibits of great historic importance. The first wooden buildings of the museum were removed from the floodable zone of Ust-Ilimsk reservoir. The museum was founded in 1966. On 20th February 1995 the Russian Federation President issued a decree about making Museum Taltsy an object of national history and culture heritage. During the tour to Taltsy museum you`ll see 13 architecture complexes with 36 wooden buildings on the territory of the museum. They get the visitors acquainted with material and spiritual culture of Near-Baikal nationalities – Russians, Buryats, Evenks. The museum expositions tell about everyday life, customs and traditions of Near-Baikal nationalities in late 19th / early 20th century. Original and magnificent Siberian folk architecture attracts a special attention of tourists.

Stop at the observation area opposite the famous Shaman Stone. The Angara is 1779 km long and is the only river flowing out of Lake Baikal. Its source is the widest in the world, it does not freeze during the most severe Siberian winters (width – 863 m , maximum depth – 4.8 m, speed – 5.1 km/h). In the middle of the river, at its head, rises a rock cliff 1.5 m high  (Shaman-Stone) protected by the state as a natural relic mentioned in the legends of old times.

Visit to the Baikal Museum. The museum was established in 1928 when the Baikal Limnological Station opened in the village of Listvyanka (since 1961 – the Limnological Institute). Every year the Baikal Museum has more than 30,000 visitors. The unique exhibits tell about the origin and the history of the lake, its flora and fauna, geological structure, climate and tectonics of Prebaikalye.

You will see: collection of minerals;  exhibits found in scientific expeditions models of the lake bed showing its history, the peculiarities of its shoreline and bottom. And also Baikal fish (omul, golomyanka, kharius, sturgeon, taimen, pike); Microorganisms inhabiting Baikal waters and destroying everything that might pollute the lake.

Walking tour of Krestovka village with a visit to St. Nicholas’ Church. Legend has it that Russian merchant Serebriakov was caught in a storm out on the lake and prayed to St. Nicholas (Protector of Navigators) for help. His prayers were answered and on his safe return he began to build a church to thank the saint (in 1846). Unfinished when he died, the church was completed by the merchant’s wife. Located in Listvyanka village, the residents attend service held in the church. In the 1950-s the building was restored and many icons from other churches of Irkutsk were brought there among which are some rare items dating back to the 18th century.

Transfer to Irkutsk. You will be accommodated in the hotel (comfort double/twin rooms)

Meals included: breakfast

Day 2:

Breakfast at the hotel.

After breakfast you will be transferred to Olkhon Island.

Olkhon – the largest island in Baikal and its heart – was given its name after the Buryat word “oy-khon” which stands for “small forest”. In fact, you can only see the forest in the central part of the island as the Northern and the Southern areas of Olkhon are steppe. Located in the central part of Baikal, almost above its deepest point (1637 m/5370 ft), and shaped similarly to the lake, Olkhon has a uniquely diverse landscape typical for the Baikal shores.

The island is considered to be the center of the Turkic-Siberian culture of the 6-10th centuries as many archeological artifacts, including sanctuaries, were discovered here.

Olkhon is a geographical, historical and spiritual center of the lake. A lot of Buryat legends and stories are devoted to life there; awe-inspiring Baikal spirits are said to reside on the island.

At the end of the 20th centuy, Buryat shamans recognized Olkhon as the “principal sanctuary of Mongol and Central-Asian cultures as well as the ancestral home to the Buryats”.

Rest time. Dinner.

Accommodation: at the tourist camp

Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 3:

After breakfast you will be transferred to the Burkhan Cape (also known as the Shamanka stone), one of the nine sanctuaries of Asia. The Shamanka stone was greatly revered by people. Since the first Shamans appeared, it was the place for vows and sacrifices. The cave of Shamanka was home to the Master of the Island. Shaman ceremonies were held in the through passage of the Burkhan cave. After lama-isation of the Buryats, the statue of Buddha was placed there.

Visit of the souvenir market.

Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 4:

Breakfast at the tourist camp

Whole-day guided group  tour to the northern point of the Island – Khoboy Cape.

The cape is located at the place, where the lake is widest. There is a ground, where all-Olkhon shaman festivities (“tailagans”) were conducted. Nerpa, the unique Baikal seal, can often be seen here.

Here you will also find the rock, bearing the same name, Khoboy, which means “claw” in the Buryat language, though the shape of the rock resembles rather a woman’s silhouette with a bust. No wonder they also call it a Maiden-Rock. Your guide will tell you a marvelous related  legend.

The road towards the northern tip of the island will be like riding a jeep-safari since it runs through woods, sandy fields and steppes without any hard surface. The road gets much worse after the rain, that’s why the principle transportation implies the use of the UAZ all-roaders.

Olkhon is the biggest Island at Lake Baikal. It is situated right in the middle of the lake.

The word Olkhon means “sunny place” in Buryat language. It was said that Baikal is the heart of Siberia, and Olkhon is the heart of Baikal. It is a geographical, historical and sacral center of the lake. 

Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 5:

Breakfast at the tourist camp. Free day. You will be offered an excursion for additional charge.

This day you can visit local lore museum or book a day excursion to the Tashkiney valley + Sharanur lake: Tashkiney is one of the most beautiful valleys of Olkhon situated on the eastern side of the island on the shore of so called Big Sea (the part of the open Baikal). It is surrounded by picturesque hills. Sharanur is the only lake on the island situated in the forest. The word Sharanur means “yellow lake” in the Buryat language. The water of the lake is really yellowish, same as the plants around the lake. The lake is well known for its mineralized water which has curative qualities. The mud from the lake helps from different diseases, such as arthritis. The chemical composition of the water includes hydrogen sulphide.

You can also take a mini cruise to Ogoi Island. The Buddhist stupa of enlightenment was established on the island of Ogoi in 2005. Ogoi is situated in the middle of Maloye more (The small sea) and from the air it looks like the dancing goddess. The stupa is on the top of the island (512m) on the height of 50 m above Baikal level. Volunteers from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, New York, London, Lisbon took part in the building of the stupa. Buddhists believe the more often you go around the sacred places (like stupa, Buddhist hills, sacred mountains) the more the possibility the made up wishes would come true. They also believe that if you go around the stupa 108 times it guarantees the cleansing of a sin. Our guide will tell you the details and peculiarities of visiting the stupa.

Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 6:

Breakfast, departure to Irkutsk

Accommodation at the hotel.

Meals included: breakfast, dinner

Day 7:

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport.

The end of the tour.

Meals included: breakfast

Tour price includes:
A tour: Irkutsk-Listvyanka, guide service, museums entrance fees;
Transfer: Irkutsk-Olkhon-Irkutsk
Excursion to the Burkhan Cape, Khoboy Cape;
Accommodation in Irkutsk, accommodation on Olkhon Island (category you chose);
Meals in Irkutsk: breakfast, Meals on Olkhon: Breakfast, dinner.

The tour price does not include:

Plane or train charges to Irkutsk from departure as well as plane or train charges to the next destination upon the program’s completion;
Meals, not listed in the program;
Dishes and drinks not included into the main menu according to the program;
• Additional services listed in the program but specified as at additional charge or not listed in the program;
• Higher category of accommodation / additional charge for the single accomodation.

Please note: The order of excursions can be changed.


You can order the excursion along The Curcumbaikal Rail road by train for an additional day (extra charge). 

Please note: this tour is booked in advance!

The Circum Baikal Railroad also known as KBZhD (according to its Russian abbreviated form) was the part of the main Trans-Siberian railroad until the middle of the 20th century (before the Hydro Power Electric Station was built in Irkutsk and the part of this road got to the flooded area).
The railroad is truly unique historical line. It was built more than a hundred years ago, and is an outstanding landmark to the construction and engineering art.
There are a lot of beautifully constructed tunnels and bridges along the way, making Circum-Baikal a huge monument.
The railroad was supposed to be a continuation of the Trans-Siberian railway, and was very important for Russia strategically. That was the reason why such a complicated project ever started. The volume of earth-moving work done on every kilometer of the way was equal to 400 carriages that may be compared to the volume of work done during the Suez Channel construction. 424 engineer constructions were built along 84 kilometers-long stretch of the road from Khultuk to port Baikal including 39 tunnels with the total length of 8994 meters, 14 kilometers of supporting walls, 47 stone and 3 iron galleries.
The courage and the unique skills of the engineers and workers will amaze you, at the end of XIX century, the majority of the construction was carried out by hand and in severe weather conditions, both hot summers and extremely cold winters.
Nowadays, Circum-Baikal is a quiet picturesque route along the shore of Baikal. There are a few trains every week.
During excursion you`ll have several stops to visit galleries, tunnels, to walk in the forest. Lunch box will be served to you in the train. The train always goes on Baikal shore and you`ll have a possibility to admire beautiful landscapes of the lake. Arrival to Irkutsk railway station late in the evening.

Additional charge: Accommodation in Irkutsk

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