One of the best things to do at Lake Baikal is to go for a hike. In this case, everyone must know about the Great Baikal Trail. Result of this organization is the system of trails around the Lake. Specially created for eco-tourists, this provides a great opportunity for people who like to discover nature on foot.
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.
Travel to Lake Baikal like a local. This video tells you how to get to Listvyanka village from Irkutsk. It is just one hour ride and costs 120 RUB per person one way. More information and helpful details in this video.
From Irkutsk there are several opportunities to go hiking. One of the most popular way is to take a train south direction and find oneself on Olkhinskoye plateau, it is mountanous area in the southwest shore of lake Baikal.
During several hour walking it is possible to visit several beautiful locations and enjoy fresh air and quietness of the forest. It is fresh and clean when everything starts to be covered with snow. Siberian Winter Hiking has its own interesting characteristics. Also keep in mind, that you have to dress smart.
Picnic lunch near the fire and great stories create a friendly atmosphere.
Totally the trip can take about 7-8 hours with departure and return at the trainstation in Irkutsk.
Nature is preperaring for winter sleep. Animals try to make last preparations before the cold season starts.
The landscape is almost always flat, until you clim up a little hill where you see that there are many flat mountains covered with thick forest and river valleys between them.
October 2018 is extremely warm, and they say on the radio that winter is going to be very warm this year. I hope cold enough to freeze the lake, we will see. But for sure it is great news for winter outdoor activities lovers as we are!
Today we walked through the city and captured some great wooden architechture. Every building has great and interesting history. Most of them are connected to important historical figures and events.
We love to go for a ride on Olkhon Island. The day was not sunny and not hot. Very nice for a day trip to the next small village Kharantsy from where there is a trail to the forest with nice clean water spring. It is very green in the forest and air is fullfilling you with powers of nature. You just can’t stop. But it is time to go home, we return and have great local traditional lunch in a village cafe. Dogs dictate us to go to have a nap after a great lunch.
Come visit us and we will show you something like that. With pleasure.
Today we went for 1 hour bicycle ride to the top of the hill with spectacular view on Khuzhir vllage on Olkhon Island. Going up the hill is hard, but the reward is great. The funny thing is that the view was covered with thick fog. After hard work up the hill it was a little upsetting. But still, the view was amazing anyway.
Second part of the trip is the best when return downhill back to the village.
We left just when cars with other traverlers started to arrive 🙂
I went for a morning forest ride today on Olkhon Island. Picked up some pine tree cones for making health potion later. I was happy to see many snowdrops on the way, these flowers appear first in our forests. The weather was great and it is a great opportunity for one to have such a great excercise trip in the morning.
Best wishes to everybody. Welcome to Olkhon Island.