Exploring Baikal's Western Edge on Foot and by Kayak
The beating heart of Siberia is best experienced among its natural landscapes and vistas. Paddling on the calm Angara River or hiking to a secluded cape on a remote island, you can sense the immensity and untamed spaces of Siberia and feel their power and beauty for yourself. On this 10-day active journey, spend some time in the small lakeside village of Listvyanka and on the remote island of Olkhon to take in all that UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal has to offer while enjoying hiking trails, kayaking adventures, and the serene beauty of this sacred lake. You’ll also have a chance to learn more about the various cultures that make up this fascinating place with visits to a Buddhist monastery in Ust-Orda, a museum dedicated to 19th century Russian political reformers, an orthodox church famous for its bell chimes, and much more.
Travels to: Russia
Days 1-3: Irkutsk (Russia), Listvyanka
Arrive in Irkutsk and set off for the village of Listvyanka on the shores of Lake Baikal. This little lakeside village began as a fishing outpost and has become a center for the study of Lake Baikal. Called the “Sacred Sea” by the indigenous people who have lived along its shores, UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal is the most ancient lake in the world and today holds about twenty percent of the world’s fresh water. Its great age and isolation have produced one of the richest and most unusual ecosystems on earth. Enjoy exploring the lakeside village and have some fun kayaking down the Angara River and hiking around Lake Baikal.
- Hike or take the ski lift to the observation platform on top of Chersky Mount, the highest hill near Listvyanka
- Learn about the origin of Lake Baikal, its characteristics, and the endemic species of the lake at the Baikal Limnological Museum
- Visit the fish market in Listvyanka, where all manner of Baikal fish can be found
- Enjoy a roughly 3-hour kayak trip down the Angara River
- Pay a visit to the Museum of Wooden Architecture, a 166-acre outdoor collection of authentic Russian and native Buryat, Evenki, and Tafalar houses and community buildings from the 17th to early 20th centuries
- Hike for about 5-6 hours along a section of the Great Baikal Trail, which will eventually be a continuous trail encircling Lake Baikal
Days 4-7: Olkhon Island, Khuzhir Village, Khoboi Cape
Depart Listvyanka and set off overland to further explore the shores of Lake Baikal before catching the ferry to Olkhon Island. The island has been a sacred place for millennia, the place where the indigenous Buryats believed that the gods of Baikal lived. Continue on to Khuzhir Village, your base for four nights while you explore the island.
- See the petroglyphs of Sagan-Zaba, etched into the cliffs lining a small bay on the west coast of Lake Baikal
- Pass by the Tazheransky steppe, a Mongolian-like expanse of grassland covering the slopes and surrounding more than 20 lakes
- Enjoy a hike on Ogoi Island, located in a peculiar rain shadow with more sunny days than the Black Sea Coast
- Explore Khuzhir Village, the largest settlement on Olkhon Island, and visit the Local Lore museum and the sacred Burkhan (Shaman) Cape
- Do some short hikes around the Pribaikalsky National Park and Khoboi Cape, the northernmost cape on Olkhon Island. On a clear day, you can see all the way north to the Ushkaniye Islands on the eastern side of Lake Baikal from here.
Days 8-10: Ust-Ordynsky, Irkutsk
Take the ferry back to the mainland and make your way back to Irkutsk with a stop in Ust-Ordynsky along the way. The town of Ust-Ordynsky is the capital of the Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous District, one of three that Stalin carved out of a unified Buryat Republic. The indigenous Buryats make up over a third of the mostly rural population here, and the land – encompassing the Lena-Angara Plateau – is a mix of taiga and steppe. It’s also a rich agricultural and cattle-breeding area. Spend the next day exploring Irkutsk before departing. The Irkutsk area has been a place of exile since Genghis Khan offered it to captives as an alternative to death. Today, Irkutsk is a pleasant, tree-lined city on the banks of the Angara River with some lovely pre-revolutionary churches, universities, a fine botanical garden, and a number of appealing museums.
- Enjoy lunch at a Buryat ger café and visit the Golden Horde Ethno Park to learn more about the indigenous Buryat people and culture of the region
- Visit a reconstructed Buddhist monastery, the original of which was destroyed by the Soviets during the 1930s suppression of religion
- Tour the Decembrist House Museum, once the home of Prince Sergei Volkonsky – a leader of the Decembrists, a group of 19th century democratic revolutionaries exiled to Siberia
- Climb to the bell tower of the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and enjoy a concert of chimes by a master bell ringer
- Take a pleasant stroll through the neighborhood of restored and reconstructed Siberian wooden houses and shops called the Kvartal Project, or Irkutskaya Sloboda
Dates & Prices
- Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
- Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
- Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.
Land tour price, per person, starting from:
- Shared accommodations as noted in the itinerary. Contact MIR for hotel upgrade prices.
- Meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- One arrival and one departure transfer. Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost. MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether or not we make your air arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle and driver (type of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group.)
- Services of an experienced, English-speaking national guide throughout the program.
- Expert guides for kayaking components.
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Use of all required kayaking equipment (paddles, life vest, helmet, etc.).
- Special events, excursions, and cultural performances, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Restaurant tips for included meals.
- Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
- Final document packet including final updates and more.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement, if requested or required.
- Baggage handling.
- Gratuities to national guides, activity guides, local guides, drivers, porters, and other service personnel.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel and trip-related insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance. (Proof of insurance is required.)
- Visa fees/passport fees if required.
- Optional pre or post-tour extensions.
- Day pack for hiking/kayaking portions and other active elements – all travelers should bring their own.
- Specialty or comfort-only active gear including, but not limited to: hydration systems, hiking shoes, etc.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, alcohol, excess baggage, etc.
Level 4: Rigorous
Please note: due to the active and adventurous nature of this tour a separate waiver, beyond the MIR Tour Reservation Form, is required for participation in this tour and must be completed no later than final payment.
Insurance is required and you will be required to show proof of insurance.
This “Active Essential” itinerary is designed to incorporate active elements such as hiking, kayaking, and more into private journeys. Only those fit to travel, with a high level of physical fitness, and who are comfortable spending half the day or more in active settings (and who accept the local conditions) should consider joining.
While the accommodations are designed to be comfortable for travel in this part of the world and are rated as three to four-star hotels, some are on the smaller side with more basic amenities and services. It is important to keep in mind that Siberia may not be up to the standards North American travelers expect. Services are improving in the region; nevertheless, you may encounter problems with plumbing, bureaucratic service, road conditions, unpaved sidewalks, uneven surfaces and steps, and availability and quality of public restrooms.
This is an adventuresome and active trip, with many active/athletic elements. It is rated as very rigorous touring due to the daily walking involved, some long driving days, the conditions of some roads, and the overall shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure as well as the active/athletic elements involved, such as hiking and kayaking. A significant amount of touring is on foot. Many streets are of cobblestones, some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases, and museums rarely have elevators. Flexibility and a sense of humor are essential components of the enjoyment of this trip.