At the beginning of March for just four weeks, Baikal experiences a unique period. The furthest reaches of the lake become accessible thanks to winter tracks and the weather is particularly good: blizzards are rare and the days are long. The sun rays add to the ethereal atmosphere of this universe – its deep woods, frozen taiga and snowy steppe that contrast sharply with the unearthly shapes of the lake’s ice formations.
Leaving from Irkutsk, you will journey through the steppe to reach Olkhon Island and Khoboy Cape, a sacred area for shamanism. Then you will cross Baikal in a 4x4 with a stop to set foot on the deepest part of the lake. You will meet fishermen along the Chivyrkuyski Gulf, who sleep in yurts and small cabins directly on the lake. To warm up, you will be offered a swim in natural hot springs (+40°C) as the temperature outside plunges to -30°C. Onwards to the coast of Buryatia and a little village called Ust-Barguzin where the locals will greet you and share tales of their lives split between the taiga and the Siberian sea.
Leaving the shores of Baikal, you will discover the town of Ulan Ude and enter the datsan of Ivolginsky, the biggest buddhist temple of Buryatia. Then, in Nadeino, the village of old believers, local woman Evdokia will be your guide through her village on one of the most memorable moments of the trip. To finish this 1,200 km trip to the four corners of Baikal, you will stay one night on board the mythical Trans-Siberian train.
Travel from Moscow to Irkutsk by plane.
Morning arrival in Irkutsk. Meet your English-speaking guide. Visit the town of Irkutsk and its market. In the afternoon, private minibus transfer to Olkhon Island (300 km, 5h). Stop in 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. Arrive in Khuzhir after crossing the ice to a place called “The Gates of Olkhon”.
4x4 excursion to Khoboy Cape at the northern tip of the island (about 3h), 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. Lunch outside (your guide will heat your meals and serve them with tea). Return to the village.
Breakfast. Prepare for an exciting day. You will cross Baikal in a 4x4 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 Ust-Barguzin on the Buryat coast of Baikal. Banya in the evening.
Breakfast. 4x4 excursion to the Gulf of Chivirkuysky where you will visit the Bay of Zmeinaya and its hot water springs. Local fishermen set up camp on the ice here in Mongolian yurts, which are heated with a wood stove. You will have a chance to meet these men and discover how they live. Then, you will visit the little islands of the Gulf and their many caves. Return to Ust-Barguzin. Dinner and accommodation with a local.
4x4 excursion to the Barguzinsky Gulf for a lesson in ice fishing (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. Lunch at the village. Private minibus transfer to Ulan Ude (230 km, about 4 h). You will stop along the way to enjoy the beautiful Buryat landscapes. Arrive in Ulan Ude. Dinner. Night at the hotel.
Breakfast. Meet your driver and English-speaking guide. Private minibus transfer to Ivolginsk. Visit the datsan of Ivolginsk, the biggest buddhist temple of the Buryatia Republic, which is located 25 km south of Ulan Ude on the Ivolga River. 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.
Arrival in Irkutsk. Transfer to the airport. Flight to Moscow from Irkutsk.