The Lake Baikal is called the Pearl of Siberia. It is a unique natural phenomenon of the Planet, the deepest lake in the world and it is estimated to contain one-fifth of all the Earth’s surface fresh water. The Limnological Museum (Baikal Ecology Museum) at Listvianka settlement (65 km from Irkutsk) acquaints you with a magnificent exhibition of the flora and fauna of Lake Baikal region and aquariums with live inhabitants of the Baikal presented. Here, for example, you can see nerpa — the only in the world exclusively freshwater small seal found only in the Lake Baikal. Scientists still can’t understand how these seals originally came to Lake Baikal located in the middle of Asian continent, hundreds of kilometers from any ocean. This astonishing species was on the verge of extinction in the second half of XX c. because of the valuable fur of cubs and now it is listed in the Red Book. In Listvianka you can also ascent by cable way the Chersky Stone panoramic platform where you will take pleasure in picturesque the Lake Baikal and the Angara River source view. Also you will see St. Nicholas Church and visit souvenir & fish market.
Olkhon Island is the largest island at the Lake Baikal and its sacral center. Shaman Rock located not far from the island administrative center Khuzhir settlement is considered one of the most important sacral places of Asia continent. Following places of interest are most popular for tourists from all parts of the world visiting the Baikal every year: Khoboy Cape, the top North point and one of of the most picturesque places of the Island with fantastic Svyatoy Nos Cape view (this view is well-known name card of the Lake Baikal); Ogoi Island located opposite the Khoboi Cape, the largest island at the Maloye More Strait where you can see Buddhist Stupa of Enlightenment; sacred Burkhan Cape (Shaman-Mount) equally worshiped by Shamanists, Buddhists and Lamaists; rocky Shara-Shulun Cape; scenic Khool Bay where the famous local omul (freshwater Arctic cisco inhabiting at the Lake Baikal) population is concentrated; Khorin-Irgee (Horse’s Head) Peninsula where Genghis Khan’s warriors are believed to have had a stopover; Khorgoy Peninsula with remnants of ancient fortifications built by the Kurykans.
The Kadilnaya Pad (in Siberia and Russian Far East pad is name of small flat-bottom valley) is one of the most popular for tourists places on the western shore of the Lake Baikal. It is located between Listvianka and Bolshoye Goloustnoye settlements. Kadilnaya Pad is a protected zone located on the territory of the Baikal National Park. There is a pier where motor boats are moored, a guest house, banya (Russian traditional stream bath house) here. Kadilnaya (the Insence) Pad and nearly located cape of the same name got such names because many years ago there was a place where lime was burnt (“incensed”). This is still possible to see quarry where the limestone was mined. At the exposures of the Precambrian period limestone rock you can watch the remains of ancient organisms. Visiting of the Kadilnaya Pad is included to the trekking tours at the Baikal coast programme.
The Tunka Valley is broad valley between mountain ranges of the Chamar-Daban and the East Sayans. In this unique place you can see young volcanoes and old Buryat yurtas, gray tops of the Tunka Golets mountain range against the background of a piercing blue sky. Accommodation of tourists visiting the Tunka Valley is arranged at Arshan settlement where they can visit the healing mineral springs and picturesque mountain the Kyngarga River, walk in the park of the Arshan resort with its natural monuments, purchase a souvenir at entertaining small market where souvenir ranks side by side with the sellers of local medicinal herbs. One day is quite enough to acquaint with all local places of interest in full. You will visit significant places of three religions specifically combined by locals. Russian Orthodox Church is presented with the Church of the Intercession, shamanism – with a sacred place Tamhi-Baryash where tourists like to ask the gods for protection at their traveling, Buddhism – with the main datsan of the Tunka valley near the resort settlement Nilov Deserts also known for its radon springs. Qualified guides will talk you about the history of the valley, its rich natural world, legends and traditions of this place.
The Sandy Bay (about 35 km to the North from Bolshoye Goloustnoye settlement) is one of the most popular recreation centers at the West cost of the Lake Baikal. Well-groomed area and landscaped beach combined with cosy comfortable wooden cottages make a good impression. Surrounded on one side by rocks and beautiful Siberian taiga and on other side by the Lake Baikal recreation center offers its guests accommodation in one of the most beautiful places at the lake: the taiga slopes of the Primorsky Range which are more than 20 million years, a lot of large and small rocks, cedars, larches, clean beaches of fine quartz pebbles. Here you can meet wild animals, really touch the virgin nature, plunge into the holy waters of the sacral Lake Baikal. Every day you can make wonderful excursions receiving a lot of bright emotions and impressions. Special physical training is not required. A professional guides will not only show you these unique places but also tell you a lot of interesting facts about local nature and inhabitants.
Founded in 1661 in picturesque bank of the Angara River as a small settlement Irkutsk is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Siberia now and one of the largest administrative, scientific, educational and industrial center, the main gate for tourists visiting the Lake Baikal area. We recommend you to visit the historic city center, the place where a small settlement (fortress) was founded in 1661 by the Cossacks, the Angara River Embankment and to see numerous architectural monuments (among them one of the oldest stone buildings in the city — the Church of the Saviour erected in 1706 in the territory of not survived Irkutsk Kremlin), the Our Lady the Sign Nunnery noted for one of the most beautiful Siberian cathedrals and graves on its territory (some Decembrists exiled in Irkutsk, Gregory Shelikhov whose expedition to Alaska in the 1783-86 got serious development of Russian America off the ground, great Russian writer of XX c., representative of so called Village Prose, energetic fighter for the Lake Baikal ecology Valentin Rasputin, the first bishop of Irkutsk and patron of Siberia St. Innocent of Irkutsk). The first in Russia monument to admiral Alexander Kolchak was put in 2004 not far from the Nunnery at the place where one of the main leaders of anti-Bolshevik “white movement”, «Supreme Ruler and Commander-in-Chief of All Russian Land and Sea Forces» was shot down in February 1920. You will visit so called District-130 (Irkutsk Sloboda) — specially created area of historic buildings in the Southern part of Irkutsk city center with several dozens wooden monuments of architecture and history restored and anew built.
Ulan-Ude is the capital of the Buryat Republic. City is situated at the junction of the Selenga and the Uda Rivers on a crossing of old trading routes from China and Mongolia to Russia and Europe. The settlement of Nizhneudinsk (original name of city) was founded in 1666 as a winter outpost of Russian Cossacks. At the historic city center you can see a lot of surviving buildings of the XIX c.: houses of local burghers and merchants, trading houses, churches, school building, trade arcades. The main monument of the Communist epoch is the statue of Lenin erected in 1970 for the 100th anniversary of the founder of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet state. In Communist period Lenin statues were erected at central squares of all Soviet cities but Lenin in Ulan-Ude is quite unusual. This is a giant (14 m tall, weighing 42 tonnes) head of the Communist leader probably symbolizing planetary scale of Lenin’s ideas.
This museum established in 1923 exhibits unique samples of cultural heritage of the Transbaikal region. Among the exhibits: consisting of 76 paintings Atlas of Tibetan medicine brought from Tibet at the end of the XIX c., a collection of costumes and masks for traditional Buddhist Cham dance mystery, manuscript of Buryat-Mongolian epic of King Gesar accounted by famous Buryat narrator of uligers (Mongol-Buryat tales and popular myths) Papa Tushemilov.
In the end of the XIX c. many representatives of Russian noble families (among them Prince Sergei Trubetskoy, Prince Sergei Volkonsky) were exiled to Irkutsk region after defeat of armed revolt against absolutism at the Senate Square in St. Petersburg on 12/14/1825. Opened in 1925 for the 100th anniversary of the event at the Senate Square Museum of Decembrists will acquaint you with life in Irkutsk of the revolt participants exiled.
Old Believers separated from official Russian Orthodox Church after church reforms of Moscow Patriarch Nikon (1666) who tried to unify Russian liturgical practices with church ceremonies fixed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Fleeing from the persecution of the tsarist regime Old Believers had to escape to remote parts of the country moving farther and farther to the East and creating isolated communities. Some scientists believe that they were carriers of the Protestant ethic in Russia. Visit to the Russian Old Believers village not fat from Ulan-Ude city might be remarkable event for you to discover life anew, to receive warm welcome, to appreciate the folklore performance and to taste dishes in traditional style of the Russian homemade cuisine preserved. This suitable to arrange visit of Old Believers village with lunch included after the end of the Ivolginsky Datsan tour.
Located not far from Ulan-Ude city the Ivolginsky Datsan (Buddhist monastery) is the main active Buddhist (Buddhism in Russia is represented by Tibetan Buddhism — Lamaism) religion center in Russia. The Ivolginsky Datsan was built in 1945 as the result of so called Stalin’s Religious Renaissance when the Bolsheviks leaders understood great patriotic mobilization function of religion in tragic period of the WW II. Nowadays the Datsan is the residence of the leader of Russian Lamas. During the excursion to the Ivolginsky Datsan you will witness and take part in services of the temple. The rich theoretical and practical heritage of Tibetan medicine is presented in the Tibetan Medicine Center in Ulan-Ude. Those who are interesting in field of Tibetan medicine and philosophy will enjoy the rich collection of ancient Tibetan manuscripts and books during the visit of the center.
Transsiberian Rail Road (Transsib) built in the end of XIX – early XX cc. and connecting European parts of Russia with Urals, Siberia and Russian Far East is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Russia. This is necessary to book complete Transsiberian tour from Moscow to Vladivostok, from Moscow to Ulan-Bator, from Moscow to Beijing (or at least a part of it) to enjoy this great train journey. Such tours take several days. Those who just stays in Irkutsk for some days can acquaint with the most picturesque part of Transsib — Circum Baikal Rail Road. It runs along the Northern shore of the Southern extremity of the lake. Sometimes called a unique achievement in engineering the Circum-Baikal Rail Road is one of the most picturesque sights of the area around Lake Baikal. Until 1949 the Circum-Baikal railway was part of the main line of later on, however, a duplicate section of the railway was built. Now Circum Baikal Rail Road is the largest open-air museum in the World. Sometimes called a unique achievement in engineering the Circum-Baikal is one of the picturesque sights of the area around Lake Baikal. You can visit this old branch line of Transsiberian Rail Road by special tourist train operating several days a week from port Baikal (not far from Listvianka settlement) till Slyudianka town with well-known railway station made of marble (1904), situated at the West end of the Lake Baikal at foot of the Chamar-Daban Mountain Range.
There are great expositions of Siberian wooden architecture at the both coasts of the Lake Baikal. The Taltsy Open Air Museum of Wooden Architecture and Ethnography is situated between Irkutsk and Listvianka in a picturesque place on the bank of the Angara River and represents a common Siberian village. Authentic wooden buildings of the XVII-XIX cc. carried away from different parts of the Irkutsk Region were reassembled at one place presenting Russian, Evenk and Buryat way of living. Tour to this museum is usually included into full day tour from Irkutsk city to the Lake Baikal. In The XVIII c. Buryat village Ethnographic Open-Air Museum situated not far from Ulan-Ude you will learn the way of living of the local Buryat population and Russian settlets. Here you have a chance to discover history of the inhabitants of this land, to see Eenks and Buryat felt yurtas (yurta. ger – traditional nomad’s conical hut), outposts of taiga hunters and fishermen.