Our 10 Highlights

1. Walking the Great Baikal Trail from Listvyanka to Bolshoye Kotui

Baikalufer bei Kadilnaja
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photo: Lars Wagenknecht

A fascinating tour along the steep coast with spectacular views on the lake and a breathtaking elevation profile – a trail of only 18 km in length where highlight after highlight strings together. The tour is well-labelled since 2005 and can be managed within 2 days including arrival and departure. The trail can easily be reached by marshrutka and a hydrofoil can be used for departure. The trail is a must not only for travellers passing through and having few time but for those who will take their time and enjoy this pleasure.

2. Banya, Omul, and Vodka

Drink cultur
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photo: Tom Umbreit

For a thorough experience of Siberia it is essential to visit a Banya if possible one in a village close to Lake Baikal, e.g. in Tanchoi, to have a smoked Omul thereafter, and drink a glas of Vodka (or two) to an international understanding together with friends and strangers. An unforgettable event which should be enjoyed with enough bread and pickled cucumbers so as to avoid a later hangover.

3. White-Water Rafting on the River Kitoi in the Sayan Mountains

Rafting at the Irkut river
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photo: Thomas Heidbüechel

Although Lake Baikal offers a lot of beautiful places it is also worth visiting the Sayan Mountains. Various organisers offer individual and reasonably priced white-water rafting tours on the river Kitoi which are manageable also for unexperienced adventurers. A spectacular mountain scenery, steep cliffs, forests, and rapids show the beauty of Siberia. With a bit of luck one might even catch sight of a brown bear on the banks of the river. The trip lasts about 3 days and offers even more beautiful views than a tour on the Irkut. A tea made of the legendary and stimulating Sagan-Daila herb and a tasty campfire-meal round the trip off.

4. Cold North and Hot Springs

heiße Quellen
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photo: Sebastian Langer

Though it takes about 34 hours to reach the north of Lake Baikal with the Baikal-Amur-Railway only few tourists make for this interesting route which shows in a very authentic way what it actually means to live in the far east of Russia. The city of Severobaikalsk is the centre of the region outside of which hot springs for bathing and relaxing can be found. In summer times, the beach of Lake Baikal close to the city attracts visitors. It is the only region where in early summer at a temperature of 25° C a single leftover ice floe tempts to jump into the clear water.

5. Working as a Volunteer in the Wilderness

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photo: Robin Clark

If you plan to spent the summer in Siberia you can apply for one of the work camps at Baikalplan Association. Since a couple of years Baikalplan supports Russian activities of constructing a Trail in the Baikal region (see also Highlight No 1). Some parts of the trail are finished by now but the total length of 1600 km is not reached for a long time yet. The work camps provide an insight in local people’s lives and it is possible to socialise with international volunteers. You will intensely get to know the part of Lake Baikal you’re working at. Volunteers work during the day and there will be outings at the weekends. It is a golden opportunity to get to know the country and its people. With an improved knowledge of the language, the region and its people it is much easier to discover other parts of the Baikal region after the camp.

6. 1600 metres above Lake Baikal

Blick vom 2025 m hohen Pik Poroschisty
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photo: Tom Umbreit

Close to the city of Baikalsk starts the trail up the Pik Poroshisty which has a height of 2025 metres and is located in the Khamar Daban Mountains. Equipped with a map and a standard tent and regular hiking equipment it is no problem to individually climb the mountain. The well-trodden trail leads through a beautiful valley and meadows with edelweiss, gentian, and rhododendron until after a 6-hours walk you will finally reach the camp. The following way up to the mountain peak will last about 4 hours and is only accessible between June and August for experienced mountaineers. The reward is a beautiful view over the lake and the close-by mountains. It definetely is a worthwile trip which will last about 3 days.

7. Rock Paintings and Glacial Caves

Felszeichnungen in Sagan Saba
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photo: Thomas Heidbüechel

Tour operators such as baikalexpedition.ru offer underground tours which are rewarding especially in the region of the Tasheransk Steppe at the Western shore of Lake Baikal. Due to the old age of the lake there are beautiful glacial caves which can be easily explored when accompanied by experts. The necessary equipment will be provided. Nearby, at the cliffs of the lake ancient rockpaintings showing Buryat hunters can be found.

8. Taking the Baikal-Express towards Ivolginsk

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photo: Manfred Bartels

Travelling by Baikal-Express, a luxurious version of the elektrishka, might be an alternative to the regular public transport. The Express leaves at weekends only. It takes about 9 hours to reach Ulan-Ude. During the journey you can enjoy wonderful views over Lake Baikal to the left side(!). The city of Ulan-Ude with its listed buildings and its Asian atmosphere is an ideal starting point for trips to the Buddhist Monastery of Ivolginsk. Ulan-Ude offers 2200 hours of sunshine a year and various possibilities of accommodation.

9. The Fascination of Olkhon in the Winter

Olkhon island at winter time
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photo: Tom Umbreit

Olkhon Island has become known by many films and books and is a popular destination especially during the summer. The spectecular Shaman Rock, the steppe with its fragrant herbs, the relatively warm water of Lake Baikal (approx. 20° C), and the Baikal Seals attract numerous tourists. However, it is an unforgettable adventure to experience the nearly deserted Island in the winter. Hikes on the frozen lake accompanied by a tour guide, Cape Khoboi with its roaring winds, the cracking of the ice crust, the icy air, and a hot banya make the trip a unique adventure.

10. Bird Paradise in the Selenga Delta

Selenga delta
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Foto: Clesar

The Selenga Delta with a length of 80 km and its numerous arms, sand bars, and clear water is a popular resting place for thousands of water birds. You can reach the delta by boat either with the help of the Tankhoy national park management or of local fishermen. The famous orthodox Monastery of Posolsk is located close to the Selenga Delta.


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10 Aug 2007

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