Arshan is a small town, south of Irkutsk. The road to Arshan goes through Kultuk town, the most southern part of Lake Baikal. Remains of Circum Baikal railroad go from here to Baikal village by the very shore of the lake. From Kultuk we turn right and using the road that leads to Western Mongolia we reach Arshan village in the foundation of Sayan Mountains. Only 150 kilometers is left to reach Russian-Mongolian border, which is so tiny in terms of Russia.
Arshan is a place in the Buryatiya Republic, it is another region next to the Irkutsk region. Local people are called Buryat People. Buryats are relatives to Mongolian people, but they have their own language, customs, and way of life. The abundance of rivers, lakes, and forests made these people different from the nomads of the Mongolian steppe. Also here is the northern territories of Tibetan Buddhism culture. Local faith is based on the teachings and wisdom of Buddha mixed with shamanism. Russian population in majority refer to the Christian religion. Russian Orthodox tradition is dominating with magnificent churches and rich temples.
On arrival to Arshan, we usually have lunch in the local Buryat cafe. The meals are very simple but fresh and well cooked. Food, in general, is mild and not spicy, but hot and soy sauce usually present on the table. Simple lamb soup with little bits of vegetables. ‘Pozy’ which look like big dumplings with a mix of pork and beef meat inside are steam cooked and are eaten with hands. Also different kind of pastry with meat or other stuffings. Regular salads can be easily found anywhere. Also side dishes like potato, pasta or rice. Berry juice with water and sugar is very popular, also tea, coffee, beer…
After lunch, we head to visit holy waters of Kyngarga river with mineral springs all over the place. Roaring river with high rocks and forest on both shores. There is also a nice trekking opportunity to go and see the waterfalls up in the mountain. 2 kilometers total there and back. It is a great walk after a long ride in a car.
Then our road leads to the buddhist temple of Bodhidharma. Very beautiful location, calm and peaceful place. Small shop with Buddhist souvenirs and ritual items. It is possible to meet Lamas — locals who take care of the temple, some of them are from Mongolia and Tibet.
The next big thing on this trip is to swim in the hot mineral water pool. Zhemchug village is the location near Arshan where Hot water baths were built in Soviet Union times and now it is a popular place for local people and travelers from all over the world to go and experience a hot mineral water bath. The water is not extremely hot. It is recommended to take a bath there not more than 15 minutes. There are no public showers at the spot. Everything is organized in a very poor manner, but it is manageable and actually is a lot of fun. Entrance fee is 250 RUB per person. It is possible to take a swim at any time of the year. Swimming in winter is much better: fewer people and more exciting. After swimming, you will feel like you went to a sauna. It is a very relaxing effect.
There is more to explore
There is a Space observation facility, beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes and vast endless valley which leads to Mongolia. Spots with mind-blowing panoramic views. Wild nature with rich healthy air. Street market with local and Mongolian goods.
The recommended time span is 2 days total and 1 night in Arshan. But it is possible to go there and back in one day. The tour is available all year on any day.