Lake Baikal, or "Sacred Sea" is located in southeastern Siberia, in the Republic of Buryatia and the Irkutsk region, Russia. At 25-30 million years old, it is the oldest lake in the world. It measures 636 km long by 80 km wide, and has 2100 km of coastline. Over three hundred rivers and streams flow into Baikal, of which the six main ones are: Selenga, Chikoy, Khiloh, Uda, Barguzin, and the Upper Angara. Only the Angara River flows out of the lake. The deepest point in Lake Baikal is 1637 m, the average depth being 630 m, and it has an exceptional clarity which allows 40-50 m of visibility.
The open air Wooden Architecture Museum is located in a picturesque forest on the bank of the Angara river (47 km from Irkutsk). It represents settlements of Evenks, Russians, Buryats and provides a picture of life in Siberia in the XVII-XIXth centuries. Continue on to the lakeside village of Listvyanka.
The transfer from Listvyanka to Ust Orda (140 km) by car takes about 2.5 hours. In Ust Orda, a village where Shamanism is still practiced, you will experience traditional Buryatian hospitality and cuisine, enjoying their dancing and music. You are invited to take part in the original ceremony of "meeting-and-greeting" guests at a Buryat dwelling, view their folk arts and make offerings to the local spirits, so you will feel like a medieval nomad.
The city of Ulan Ude is the capital of the Republic of Buryatia, which occupies the territory to the east of Lake Baikal. The Ivolginsky Datsan is the Buddhism center of Eastern Siberia and the Far East. Its well-preserved temple is among the best historical samples of the Buddhism architecture in Russia.
Listyanka is 70 kilometers away from Irkutsk. The settlement is spread for 5 kilometers along the Baikal shore. A trip to Listvyanka is the easiest and the fastest way to see the Baikal that's why the number of tourists in summer often exceeds the number of villagers. A small trading square is a kind of the village's center where one may seat in a cafe or buy the famous fish of the Baikal - omul.
In the past the mansion belonged to one of the leaders of Decembrist revolutionaries - Russian aristocracy who were banned to Siberia after their of ill-fated attempt in December of 1825 to overthrow the Russian Tsar. The concert program will include the most famous Russian songs and European melodies. Prime performers will present songs and music, which would be followed by tour of champagne after.
Shaman Rock: A sacred astral center for the local Buddhists and Shamanists. This is the Holy of Holies for Buryats, generally regarded as one of the 9 sanctuaries of Asia, once called the Altar of Rock, which is believed to be a residence of the major deity of shamanism worshippers - Khan Khute-baabay who is said to have descended from heaven to the earth to rule human destinies.
Olkhon Island: Olkhon, the largest island on Lake Baikal, stretches more than one hundred kilometers and divides the lake into 2 parts. The island’s comparatively small territory is a combination of taiga, steppe and even a small desert. Its flora and fauna are unusual. Olkhon has been home to many tribes and peoples of Siberia and Central Asia: the bellicose Huns, Turkis, Kurykans and more. One of the legends connected with the island states that the "Conqueror of the Universe" is buried on the island (Genghis Khan, the great Mongol conqueror of the early 13th century).
Baikal Ecology Museum - The Baikal Ecology Museum exhibits include various fish and animal species, microorganisms, sponges and crustacean samples, geographical and geological data, ship models, diverse pictorial and video material as well as a number of showcases and models of the lake and marine vessels.
There is a numerous number of ethnographical and architectural sightseeing in the museum. The oldest building on a site is Spass Tower of Ilimsk Fortress (1667) and active Kazan Chapel (1679).
Buriats - Buriats, a Mongolian race, who dwell in the¡¯ vicinity of the Baikal Lake, for the most part in the government of Irkutsk and the Trans-Baikal Territory. They are divided into various tribes or clans, which generally take their names from the locality they frequent. The Buriats are a broad-shouldered race inclined to stoutness, with small slanting eyes, thick lips, high cheekbones, broad and flat noses and scanty beards. In summer they dress in silk and cotton gowns, in winter in furs and sheepskins. Their principal occupation is the rearing of cattle and horses.
Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia
The town of Irkutsk was established as a fortress on the banks of the Angara in 1651, and from humble beginnings developed into the administrative center of Eastern Siberia. The town initially grew rich and prospered on the profits of the fur trade, and then boomed following the discovery of gold in the area. Though much of the fine, classic Russian architecture of these boom-times was lost during the Soviet era, old gingerbread log houses remain in areas, and this atmosphere, combined with the Asiatic influences of neighboring Mongolia and China, serve to make Irkutsk one of the most interesting places to visit in the area.
Cathedral of the Holy Sign: Apart from ornate and rich iconostasis, the cathedral is famous for its graveyard containing the graves of the Decembrists Mukhanov, Beschasnov, Trubetskaya and the Russian Columbus Shelekhov.
Museum of the Decembrists: The museum is housed in a mansion belonging to one of the leaders of Decembrist revolutionaries - these were Russian aristocracy who were banished to Siberia after their ill-fated attempt in December 1825 to overthrow the Russian Tsar in favor of a Constitutional regime. The museum is truly evocative of 19th century Russia.
Ulan-Ude is the capital city of the Buryat Republic of Russia and is located about 100 km (66 miles) south-east of Lake Baikal on the Uda River at its confluence with the Selenga. The first occupants of the area where Ulan-Ude now stands were the Evenks and later the Buryat Mongols. The city was initially founded in 1666 by Russian Cossacks as a fortress. Due to its favorable geographical position, the city grew rapidly and became a large trade center which connected Russia with China and Mongolia. The Trans-Siberian Railway reached the city in 1900 causing an explosion in growth. The population which was 3,500 in 1880 reached 126,000 in 1939. On 27 July 1934, the city was renamed Ulan-Ude. Today the city has a population of about 360,000. You will definitely get a taste of the East when in Ulan Ude. The major religion of the area is Buddhism and you will see Buddhist monuments and temples during your time here.
What is the Trans-Siberian Railroad?
The main route, the Trans-Siberian, runs from Moscow to Vladivostok via southern Siberia and was built between 1891 and 1916. It is often associated with the main Russian train that connects these two cities. The second primary route is the Trans-Mongolian, which coincides with the Trans-Siberian as far as Ulan Ude on Lake Baikal's eastern shore. The Trans-Mongolian provides the most exciting travel adventures connecting 3 wonderful countries Mongolia, China and Russia. From Ulan-Ude, Siberia the Trans-Mongolian heads south to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia before making its way southeast to Beijing, China.
The Trans-Mongolian line follows the same route as the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Ulan Ude, and then follows this route to Mongolia and China:
The railway features many remarkable bridges, the longest being Khabarovsk Bridge (1916).
Branch off from the Trans-Siberian line (5655 km from Moscow)
- Naushki (5895 km, MT+5), Russian border town
- Russia-Mongolia border (5900 km, MT+5)