A winter tour to the deepest lake in the world - Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal in winter provides scenery like nowhere else in the world – absolutely transparent ice so that when walking on it you feel like you are walking on water. The winter sun will feel warm on your face despite the freezing temperatures and you might even get a tan! And what could be better than experiencing a real Siberian winter at the very heart of the seemingly endless land. During the trip you will visit the largest island in the lake – Olkhon, which is a centre of shamanism. You won't need to travel by boat to get there, but by car as the lake will be covered by a thick layer of ice (up to two metres thick) strong enough to take the weight of the vehicle.
After visiting the island a unique journey awaits you - you will cross to the eastern shore by car. You will travel over the deepest part of the lake (1,642 metres) and the journey itself amounts to approximately 80 kilometres. You will visit the Zabaikalsky National Park and Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia – a Buddhist republic within the Russian Federation. And of course while there you will visit the centre of Buddhism in the region – the Ivolginsky Datsan.
Despite the freezing temperatures and ice of winter Siberia, this trip does not require any special training and is even suitable for families with children. However you should bear in mind that it does involve several long transfers of around six hours each.
Irkutsk → Olkhon Island → Ust Barguzin → Ulan Ude
Total distance of the tour: 735km
DAY1 • ARRIVAL IN IRKUTSK
Arrival in Irkutsk. A guide with a sign saying will wait for you in the arrival section of Irkutsk Airport or the Railway Station, depending on your transportation.
Breakfast at a cafe.
City tour of Irkutsk - the highlights of the tour includes:
- Exaltation of the Cross Church – this mid-18th century church is one of the oldest architectural monuments in the city; it is built in the style known as Siberian baroque.
- Irkutsk Museum of Decembrists – after the fall of the secret society in 1825 and 1826 more than 120 Decembrists were sent to Siberia for imprisonment or internal exile. At certain points there were around 30 former members of the movement in or around Irkutsk. At the museum you can see personal belongings of several Decembrist families: the Volkonskys, Muravievs, Kakhovskys and Kuyukhelbekers.
- Lower Embankment of the Angara – one of the favourite places for locals and guests to walk around. In addition many monuments are located here.
- Irkutsk Market – the main market in the city where you can buy local food, Baikal omul and souvenirs.
- Historical street of the 130th Quarter – this is an area of historical buildings in Irkutsk. Most of the buildings here date from the 18th century and are historical monuments.
- Shastin “Lace” House – this is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and one of its symbols. It was built in the Russian baroque style in 1843 and its delicate wooden carvings have been compared to lace.
- Angara Ice-Breaker Museum – the oldest surviving ice-breaker in the world. In its history this unsinkable giant British-built ship has been used for both civilian and military means and been involved in many interesting events. Today it is a symbol of the River Angara and surrounding areas.
After the excursion you will have a transfer to Olkhon Island. During the transfer you will pass though amazing hilly scenery and make a stop so that you can try some posy - a national dish of Buryat cuisine.
Upon arrival at the village of Khuzhir, the largest settlement on Olkhon, you will check into your hotel and have some free time.
DAY2 • EXCURSION TO THE CAPE KHOBOY
Excursion around the eastern tip of the island – Cape Khoboy. It is only possible to see this interesting natural landmark, resembling a massive ship from the water, in winter when the lake is frozen over. The cape is a favourite place for meditation for various schools of spiritualism. At the very top of the monolith rock, in a place only visible from the lake and out of the reach of humans, eagles have nested. According to a Buryat legend the first to receive the gift of shamanism was the spirit of Olkhon Island who took the form of a white-headed eagle. These birds are still revered today on the island.
Duration: 5 hours | Transportation: by a car
After the excursion, free time on the island. You can rent skates and go ice-skating on what can be considered the biggest natural ice-rink in the world.
Night in Khuzhir.
DAY3 • CROSSING BAIKAL
Crossing the lake - you will making the crossing over the deepest point of the lake. On the way you will make a stop at the deepest point in order to enjoy the silence which is only interrupted by the whispers of Baikal caused by the scraping of the ice. Crossings of the frozen lake are always under the supervision of experienced drivers called Ice Captains. They monitor the condition of the ice and the condition of the winter roads set up on the lake. It takes between six and seven hours to cross the lake and amounts to 85km.
After the crossing you will reach the settlement of Ust-Barguzin, which in 2016 celebrated its 350th anniversary. Check-in at a guest house.
DAY4 • CHIVYRKUI BAY
Excursion to Chivyrkui Bay – the largest bay in Baikal after Bargyzin Bay. It is the warmest point on Baikal. The coast of Chivyrskui Bay is very indented and makes up many small inlets. It has its own microclimate caused by the bay being protected from cold winds and the infamous Baikal storms. In this small territory you can see a wide range of landscapes: golden sand dunes, small lakes, swamps, cedar woods, alpine meadows and snowy mountain tops.
Duration: 7-8h | Transportation: by a car
After the excursion, free time in Ust-Barguzin. You can rent skates and go ice-skating on what can be considered the biggest natural ice-rink in the world.
Night in Ust-Barguzin.
DAY5 • HEADING TO ULAN-UDE
Free time in Ust-Barguzin.
Transfer to Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia. It takes almost 4 hours to get there with the road running through Siberian taiga.
Upon arrival in Ulan-Ude, check-in at your hotel and dinner.
DAY6 • ULAND-UDE AND IVOLGINSK DATSAN
City tour of Ulan-Ude - the highlights of this tour include:
- Lenin’s Head – this is the largest statue in the world depicting just the head of Lenin. It was unveiled in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the leader of the World’s Proletariat. It is 7.7 metres tall and 4.5 metres wide, weighing 42 tonnes. It was made in two parts at the Mytischi Stone-Cutting Factory and delivered to Ulan-Ude by train.
- Ethnographical Museum of the People of Baikal - this is one of the largest open air museums in Russia. The territory of the museum is divided into several permanently functioning complexes: archaeological, the Evenk people, the Buryat People, the Predbaikal and Zabaikal areas, the bygone age, Old-Believers and city life. Each complex consists of estate and other houses complete with everyday equipment and furniture.
- Ulan-Ude Pedestrian Street - Ulitsa Lenina is the main pedestrian street in the city and you will find there many historical buildings and sculptures by modern artists.
- Hodegetria Eparchial Cathedral – this architectural monument is an example of Siberian baroque. The cathedral is unique as it is built in a zone of high seismic activity. Construction work began in 1741 and lasted 44 years.
Excursion to the Ivolginsky Datsan – this is the centre of Russian Buddhism. It was the first datsan to be opened during the Soviet era in 1945. The Ivolginsky Datsan serves as the residence of the Pandito Khambo Lama, the head of Russian Buddhists. The datsan holds one of the main Buddhist relics in Russia - the undecayed body of the 12th Pandito Khambo Lama - Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov. Even today it is not understood how the body has remained in this form for almost a century. There are 10 temples at the datsan and five holy stupas. As a back drop you will see endless steppe and the Khamar-Daban mountain range; you could be forgiven for thinking you have been transported from Russia to Tibet.
Duration: 6h | Transportation: by a car
Night in Ulan Ude.
DAY7 • LEAVING SIBERIA
Flight to Moscow.
• COST OF THE TOUR •
|PRICE PER GROUP||1-2 PAX||3-4 PAX||5-6 PAX||7-8 PAX|
- Individual excursions according to the programme.
- Entrance tickets to the museums
- Transfers in a private car according to the programme.
- Accommodation in a hotel, central location, standard DBL rooms with breakfast.
- Meals as in the itinerary.
- 24h emergency support during the tour
- Visa support documents
- Tips for the guides and drivers.
- Optional excursions.
- The tour is available in other languages upon request.
- The tour is possible from the second half of February to mid-March depending on the condition of the ice.
- Rusmania retains the right to change the order and contents of the programme depending on weather conditions in order to ensure the safety of the tour.
- The tour is not an extreme tour and does not require any special physical preparation.
- Part of the tour takes place in the open air, therefore you should follow advise in terms of required clothing and provisions for winter tours on Baikal.
- The tour is organised considering that you will fly into Irkutsk and fly out of Ulan-Ude. Such one-way tickets are generally more expensive. If you wish to save money buying a return ticket to and from Irkutsk, you should add an extra day to the tour and get a train from Ulan-Ude to Irkutsk.
- It is also possible to organise the tour in the opposite direction.
- For you own safety, when on the tour you must always follow the instructions of the guides.
- All excursions/guided tours included in the itinerary are private which means private guides and private transport along the programme - unless otherwise stated.
- The tour is suitable for travellers with children.
- FB meal plan includes on DAYS: 2,3,4,5.
- The prices given below are for guidance only. The actual final cost of the tour will depend on availability. Hotel prices and train tickets may increase or decrease in cost depending on how much in advance you book them.
• CANCELLATION POLICY •
DATE OF CANCELLATION
|FROM 60 TO 45 DAYS BEFORE THE DEPARTURE||10%|
|FROM 44 TO 15 DAYS BEFORE THE DEPARTURE||30%|
|FROM 14 TO 7 DAYS BEFORE THE DEPARTURE||50%|
|LESS THAN 7 DAYS BEFORE THE DEPARTURE||100%|
• OLKHON ISLAND •
|MINI-HOTEL BAIKAL 3* or similar|
Baikal Mini-Hotel has a great location – just 10 minutes from the centre of Khuzhir and two minutes to the shore. Many rooms have stunning views of the lake and the forest. One of the main sites on the island – Cape Burkhan - is located next to the hotel. En-suite rooms are available. It is also possible to order an additional bed. There is a banya on the territory of the hotel. Internet is available in the café for an additional charge.
• ULAN UDE •
|GESER HOTEL 3* or similar|
Hotel Geser is named after a hero of a Buryat epic and has a great location within walking distance from the central square and many museums, shops and restaurants. At the same time though it is situated in a quiet area surrounded by a garden. The hotel has seven categories of rooms of various standards, but all have free Wi-Fi and cable TV. At the hotel's restaurant you can try traditional Russian and Buryat cuisine.
• UST BARGUZIN •
In Ust Barguzin there are no hotels so the only option here is to stay at a guest house. Staying with locals is an excellent way of immersing yourself in the local culture and experiencing the hospitality and cosiness for which Siberians are famed. All houses are built in the Russian style with a Russian oven and banya. Toilets are also situated in the house.
At the guest houses you will get to try real Russian cuisine and learn about the everyday life of citizens in this remote region of Buryatia. You will have your own room at the guest house – single, double and triple rooms are available. As there are no restaurants or cafes at in the settlement, all guest houses offer full board. All in all, by staying at a guest house in Ust Barguzin you will get the chance to see the settlement inside and out and support local tourism.