- Duration 1 day
Winter is a great time to catch Olkhon Island’s dazzling ice caves, frosty cliffs, frozen waterfalls and giant cracks that can run for several km on the surface of Lake Baikal. Admire the shaman’s rock from the shore and the frozen lake from your ice-skates. Winter on Olkhon is cold and sunny with a little snow. In summer, the island tends to get invaded by tourists, but in winter you can still enjoy the calm serenity of solitude on Lake Baikal.
Generally, from mid-February to the end of March, an ice road appears on the lake. Called “zimnik” (winter road in Russian), it connects the shore and Olkhon over a distance of just 12 km. Outside of this period, from December to February and April to May, the island can only be accessed by hydrofoil. Make your journey complete with a trip into the Tazheransky Steppe or spend a night in a weather station maintained by the Ussov family at the northernmost point of the island.
Departure from Irkutsk or Listvyanka (+/- 70 km, 1 h drive) to Olkhon Island. You will start through the frozen taiga towards the dry steppe. Private minibus ride to Olkhon (300 km, 6 h drive). After passing Irkutsk, the landscape changes and opens up onto steppe dotted with herds of grazing animals. Stop at the Buryat village Ust-Urda for lunch made up of local specialities. Getting back on the road, you will pass the “Gates of Olkhon” either across the ice by minibus or by hydrofoil depending on the season. 30 minutes later, you will arrive at Khuzhir, the main settlement on the island. Night in a small private hotel.
The Tazheransky Steppe runs along the road that leads to the Small Sea and Olkhon Island. This location has a unique microclimate and pre-glacial flora.
Take a 4X4 to Cape Khoboy, a sacred place for shamanism at the extreme north of the island (3 hours drive). Several stops will allow you to visit the beaches, abrupt ochre cliffs and mountains across the Small Sea. From the cape’s summit, you will get a spectacular 360° view that will take your breath away. Lunch outside (meals heated by your guide and served with hot tea). Return to the village.
Contrary to Khuzhir, Uzury is a remote and calm place with direct access to Great Baikal. It is an ideal location for hiking because so few people live there.
After breakfast, you will have some free time to explore the Burkhan, a rock and symbol of Lake Baikal. You can also rent ice-skates from the hotel and spend the morning on Baikal’s natural rink. In the afternoon, a private minibus will bring you to Irkutsk (300 km, 6 hour drive). Night at the hotel.