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Lake Baikal, situated in the very center of Russia, is one of the most surprising natural treasures in the world. Baikal, extremely transparent and clean, is the deepest and one of the biggest lakes on Earth, as well as the planet’s largest freshwater reserve. In winter when the ice is thick enough it is possible to cross frozen Baikal Lake in a special 4×4 car from one shore to the other.
You will visit beautiful Olkhon island and then cross the lake till Ust-Barguzin settlement. There you will stay with a local family, get to know experienced fishermen, explore Tchivyrkuisky Bay and admire the unique ice forms. You are also going to visit Ulan-Ude and visit a local Bhuddist Temple to get to know the Old Believers. In the end you will travel back to Irkutsk on a night train.
Sheremetyevo – A.S. Pushkin international airport
3 Hours Before Flight Time
What an exciting day! Today you will be arriving in Irkutsk and you will meet your English-speaking guide. You will take a first look at this magical place by joining our sightseeing city tour of Irkutsk by car. This tour includes a visit of the market and the Decemberists Museum, amongst other interesting places.
This morning you will meet your guide in the hotel reception and start your journey to Olkhon Island (300 km, 5h). You will stop at the village of Ust-Orda for a typical Buryat lunch with pozi – giant ravioli stuffed with meat that are steamed. As you get closer to Baikal, valleys and hills will start to emerge on the horizon. You will arrive in Khuzhir after crossing the ice to a place called “The Gates of Olkhon”.
After breakfast in the guesthouse you will go on a 4×4 excursion to Khoboy Cape at the northern tip of the island, a sacred place for shamanism. Along the way, you will stop to take in the stunning views of beaches, earthy ocher cliffs and mountains on the other side of the Little Sea. From the Cape, discover a 360° panorama that will take your breath away. Today we will have lunch outside before returning to the village.
After breakfast, prepare for an exciting day. You will cross Baikal in a 4×4 over the place where the lake is widest and deepest (about 6–7h excursion). The crossing is performed by an experienced driver with many years on winter roads so you can enjoy the majestic lake. The waters are uniquely transparent, allowing you glimpse the fractures and layers that make up this thick ice barrier. This journey will take a whole day due to the slow driving speed required on the ice and the many stops en route: ice stalactites in caves, Svyatoy Nos Cape, ice blocks near Cape Nizhnee Izgolovie, winter landscapes at the Little Sea and Big Baikal. Warm meals will be served outside or in the jeep depending on the weather. Arrival in UstBarguzin on the Buryat coast of Baikal. Banya in the evening.
Today after breakfast you will go on a 4×4 excursion to the Gulf of Chivirkuysky, where you will visit the Bay of Zmeinaya and its hot springs. Local fishermen will set up a camp on the ice here in Mongolian yurts, which are heated using a wood stove. You will have the chance to meet these men and discover how they live. Then, you will visit the little islands of the Gulf and their many caves before returning to Ust-Barguzin. You will have dinner and accommodation with a host family.
After breakfast, experience a 4×4 excursion to the Barguzinsky Gulf for an ice-fishing lesson (everything is provided). Using an auger, you will drill a hole in the ice to drop your epichura bate in the water, and hopefully catch an “omul”, a fish that can only be found in Baikal. Return to Ust-Barguzin for lunch. Private minibus transfer to Ulan-Ude (230 km, about 4 h). You will stop to enjoy the beautiful Buryat landscapes along the way. Arrive in Ulan-Ude for dinner. Night at a hotel.
After breakfast you will meet your driver and English-speaking guide. A private car transfer will get you to Ivolginsk, where you may visit the datsan of Ivolginsk, the biggest buddhist temple of the Buryatya Republic, which is located 25 km south of Ulan-Ude on the Ivolga River. Afterwards, you will leave for Nadeino, the village of old believers. Meet Evdokia, who was born here. She is a warm and generous guide. Learn about her family, her roots and her home village. Traditional feast at Evdokia’s house for the perfect end to the trip. Return to Ulan-Ude (50 km, 1 h). Visit the town and have dinner in a cafe. Transfer to the train station. Departure to Irkutsk for a nocturnal trip on the Trans-Siberian. You will spend the night on this legendary train.
After returning to Irkutsk it is time to say Goodbye. Your transfer brings you to the airport, where you will catch your flight back home or to another exciting destination. It was great having you and hope you visit us in this beautiful place again!