Journey south of Lake Baikal: Buddhist temples, sacred sites and nature reserves – Road.Travel

Journey south of Lake Baikal: Buddhist temples, sacred sites and nature reserves

Road Trip Route. Visit two national parks at once, Try traditional Buryat cuisine, Swim in hot springs, Visit sacred places and Buddhist temples, Have fun at a high mountain rope park, Walk along the most beautiful railway of the country.

**Irkutsk-Arshan-Zhemchug-Slyudyanka-Baikalsk-Tankhoy-Angasolka-Irkutsk** You'll be taken on a vivid journey through the southwestern outskirts of Lake Baikal. You'll understand why Baikal is called the Pearl of Siberia. You'll visit two beautiful national parks and swim in hot springs. You'll see high peaks, ancient extinct volcanoes, mountain lakes and rivers. You will make a couple of easy climbs. On your journey you will be able to try traditional Buryat dishes and very unusual tea. You will also walk along ecological trails, where you will have a chance to see wild animals in their natural habitats. You will get acquainted with the most beautiful and expensive railway of Russia. You will admire its bridges, viaducts and tunnels. You can visit the sacred shamanic sites and Buddhist temples. And feel how ancient pagan cults are harmoniously intertwined with Buddhist beliefs. **Itinerary features: ** - Many scenic spots for beautiful photos; - Unique natural attractions; - The route involves ascents to observation sites in the mountains; - Part of the route passes through the territory of the Tunka National Park. In order to get to the park, order in advance a pass [on the website](https://www.tunkapark.ru/payment/#form) (the pass can be issued for up to 30-60 days); - There is a fee to visit the Baikalsky Reserve. You need to pay in advance and get a permit [on the site](https://baikalpass.ru/index.html#/tourists-data). **Recommendations: ** - Bring comfortable clothes and shoes. - The weather in the mountains is unpredictable, so a raincoat or umbrella is a good idea. - Mosquito repellent and sunscreen are not out of place. - For bathing in thermal springs take a towel, swimsuit, slippers. - There are several places along the trail where you can have a picnic and enjoy nature

History and Culture, Uninhabited Nature, Active Leisure. From: Irkutsk

Lina Solo. Travel Expert.

Travel Itinerary and Road Trip Route

Day 1: Shaman cliff, "Brooklyn bridge" and waterfalls on the Kalingarga river

On the first day of the trip you'll get in touch with the mystical side of the Tunka valley. You'll see extinct volcanoes and sacred places where spirits are still worshipped. When the majestic Sayan Mountains are nearby, and in the fields you can see grazing horses every now and then, it's hard to stay indifferent. Автор фото на обложке: [Lynx4502](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%90_%D0%B2%D0%B4%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B8_-_%D0%90%D1%80%D1%88%D0%B0%D0%BD.jpg)

Irkutsk

There are a lot of interesting things to do! We recommend to start the trip no later than 9 am to be sure to do everything planned.

Shamanskiy Utos

The first thing you will visit is the Shaman cliff. It has only 33 protrusions, so it is sometimes called "the cliff of 33 bogatyrs". And it's true, if you look closely and imagine, the powerful figures seem to be carved into the rock. The natural monument can be admired from the Irkut river bank. And if you climb up, a stunning view of the surrounding area will open. If you want to climb, it's better to start from the left side: the ascent is gentler there. The walk along all the ledges will take at least an hour.

Shamanka

The village Shamanka appeared on the bank of the Irkut River almost 100 years ago. It owes its name to the Buryat shamans, who used to live nearby. Shamanism is one of the ancient forms of religion. It was based on contact with the spirits of nature. Many Buryats still practice shamanism. Therefore many legends are connected with this place. It is worth visiting the Shamanka to enjoy the nature, the vastness and the very peculiar atmosphere.

Suspension bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge! That's how tourists nicknamed the Shamanka landmark. From here you can admire the Shaman cliff from a new angle and take a lot of beautiful pictures. It's a great experience, as it sways slightly in the wind because of its design. By the way, before the bridge appeared in 2014, locals used to cross the river by ferry, boat or on ice. And during the spring floods they were isolated from the rest of the world.

Каретный Двор

A good cafe with Eastern European cuisine. The most popular dish here is fried dumplings with cherries. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, around the clock. Opening hours may change on holidays.

Irkut River panorama

The road comes very close to the Irkut river. One can admire the panorama and mentally go back in time. Along the Irkut, Genghis Khan once led his troops through the Tunka valley. Now the river is popular among fans of mountain tourism. You can go rafting on it by kayak, catamaran or raft. After a couple of kilometers you will cross the border of the Irkutsk region and get into the territory of the Tunkinsky national park. For this you need to obtain a permit in advance and pay for the visit. - This can be done [online](https://www.tunkapark.ru/payment/#form), at the tourist and recreational post "Shuluty" (Shuluty village) and at the inspection sites. You should apply for permission 30 days in advance (for Russian citizens) and 60 days in advance (for foreign citizens). Information on the rules of visiting the national park can be seen [on the website](https://www.tunkapark.ru/about/pravila/) Website: [https://www.tunkapark.ru](https://www.tunkapark.ru)

Cherskiy Volcano (Khara-Boldov)

An extinct volcano with pine trees and rhododendrons growing on its slopes. Last time it erupted about 20 thousand years ago. However, the surroundings of Baikal are still seismically active. Earthquakes occur here and underground volcanic activity generates hot springs, for which the Tunkinskaya valley is famous. The volcano was named after the explorer Ivan Chersky, who explored the Eastern Sayans at the end of the 18th century. Locals call it Khara-Boldok, which means "black hill" in Buryat.

Gornyy Kozol

The next point on the map is the village of Arshan. It appeared in 1920 after mineral springs were found here. The name is translated from Buryat - "healing spring". In the spa park you can see a 500 year old larch tree! The trail to the Peak of Love starts from here. The ascent is not easy and takes about 5 hours one way. - For the lovers of extreme and breathtaking beauty there is a special attraction - Tarzanka.

Vodopad Na Reke

There are 12 waterfalls on the Kyngarga River. Tourists most often reach the first and the second one; a fairly comfortable trail leads to them. To see them all, you have to walk about 11 kilometres. On the way to the waterfalls, you will come across trees decorated with colored ribbons. Here, as well as in the glade with oboo (pyramids made of stones) are sacred places for Buryats. Ribbons are left as a sign of gratitude to the water spirits. The river bottom is made of smooth pinkish marble, that's why the canyon is called Marble Canyon.

Most Cherez Kyngargu.

Near the first waterfall, you can cross the wooden bridge to the right side of the Kyngarga. Here you can take beautiful pictures and admire the views. If you wish, you can go further, the next waterfall is about 300 m away from the first one. You have to go up the mountain path to get there. In rainy weather such a walk may be dangerous.

Shangrila

A good cafe with traditional Buryat cuisine. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 00:00.

Day 2: Bodhidharma Datsan, Warm Springs and Cape Shaman

Start your day with a sense of peace and tranquillity by visiting a Buddhist monastery. Notice how harmoniously and beautifully Buddhism is juxtaposed with shamanistic beliefs. Spend the middle of the day warm and pleasant. Hot springs are waiting for you! Try traditional Buryat dishes. Believe me, no one will stay indifferent after buuze. And then visit the place where the cleanest and deepest lake on the planet begins. Photo author: [Andrei Chugunov](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Baikal_140629_0179.jpg)

Bodhidharma Datsan

At the beginning of the XVII century Buddhism penetrated from Tibet into the territory of Lake Baikal. The Bodhidharma Datsan was built in 1911. Datsan is translated from Tibetan as "monastic school". Every day services are held in Bodhidharma Datsan. Shamanism and Buddhism in Buryatia are harmoniously intertwined. On your way to Datsan you are likely to notice several "towers" made of stones - This is an ancient place, the Sacred Glade. The towers are called oboo, which means "a hundred thousand stones" in Tibetan. It's how the Buryats worship the spirits of nature.

Bronze Boy mineral spring

There are several mineral springs in Arshan. You can take water with you at the Bronze Boy spring. It is carbonated, tasty and quite cold. There is a "drinking pavilion" on the territory of the sanatorium with mineral water resembling Narzan. However, it is open only at certain hours. Walking around Arshan, you will see a grove tied with colored ribbons. Most likely, you are at the "eye spring". The water here is rich in iron and is good for your eyes.

Stone River

In 2014, an unusual natural attraction appeared in Arshan - the Stone River. After heavy rains a stream of water, earth and stones came down from the mountains. It swept away everything in its path, breaking trees. And stopped behind the territory of the sanatorium "Sayany". The guests were very lucky. The fallen trees were eventually removed, but it is not easy to move so many rocks. They really remind a river with a wide bed. You can make atmospheric photos here.

Vulkan Tal'skaya Vershina

Tal peak is the largest of the extinct volcanoes. It is severely destroyed, but a crater up to 6 metres deep is preserved. Several thousand years ago, volcanoes were actively erupting. The red-hot lava flowed 70 kilometers down. Layers of solidified lava in some places are up to 1.5 km thick. It is now safe to walk the hills and climb the peaks. Thanks to volcanic activity, the national park is now home to fertile fields and hot springs.

Toplyye Istochniki

In the past century, oil was searched for in the vicinity of the village of Zhemchug. Instead, they found two healing thermal springs with unique water. In the well R-1 water has methane and a small amount of radon and hydrogen sulfide. The smell is not very pleasant, but it is good for your health. The water temperature here is 38 °C. In pool G-1 is more complex composition, close to Essentuki. The temperature of the spring is 56 °C. - You should bring a towel, swimsuit and slippers. The water is beneficial if you do not bathe more than 10-15 minutes a day. There are contraindications to bathing in thermal springs. Opening hours: 10:00-20:00.

Budamshuu

After the springs, the most pleasant thing is to relax and not to rush anywhere. Especially when there is a cafe with tasty bouzas and local chebureks. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

The burial mound of a warrior from Genghis Khan's army

According to a legend, the mound of the leader of the Tatar-Mongolian army was preserved in the village of Tibelti. Still, it looks like a beautiful fairy tale. The Mongols were nomads, they did not arrange special funeral rites. They, of course, honored the memory of their ancestors, but they preferred to hide the burial sites. According to one version, when they buried Genghis Khan, they let a herd of horses past his grave, so that no one would find the burial place and desecrate it.

View of Kultuk

Kultuk is the first and oldest settlement of Russians in the south of Baikal. The settlement was founded in 1647. Irkutsk appeared 14 years later. At the end of the 18th century the Great Tea Way, a caravan road to Mongolia and China, started from here. The same name is given to the local southwest wind. It often blows in unexpectedly. It happens in spring in clear weather and in autumn, bringing with it a storm. It can be predicted by fog on the Khamar Daban range. The observation platform offers a beautiful view of the surroundings.

Mys Shamanskiy

The cape, sacred to the Buryats, is called Aikha Shulun, translated as "fearful stone". According to a legend, sacrifices were once held here and a shaman was buried in one of the caves. Symbolically from here Baikal begins. On old photographs and postcards one can see the Khobot rock close to the Shaman cape; it was blown up in the last century. Archaeologists have found traces of Neolithic people here, and locals have seen rock paintings.

Slyudyanka-2

The Circum-Baikal railway - one of the most expensive and beautiful railroads in the world - starts from Slyudyanka-2 station. Until the 50s it was an active part of the Trans-Siberian Railway, later it was flooded when the Angara HPP was launched. The section from Baikal settlement to Slyudyanka II station became a dead end.

Cafe 7 Friday

You can have dinner in a cosy café. The menu includes delicious burgers, pasta, salads. The locals say that this café has the tastiest pizza. There is also a warm atmosphere and friendly staff. The cafe is open from Tuesday to Sunday.

Day 3: Mineralogical Museum, Wookiee Park and Stupa of Perfect Victory

Today you will see the world's only white marble station and the largest collection of minerals. Make a wish and the spirits of the place will grant it. Have fun in the high mountain amusement park. And feel the peace of enjoying the serenity of nature. Photo author: [Aleksandr Zykov](https://www.flickr.com/photos/infanticida/15873025871/in/photolist-qbDpzR-Zzc5hC-GhKT8P-3qMEqP-peQoLN-Cxp4UG-pUgwm5-ABjZig-a9eVGB-YyMPCQ-qbLgS3-cpP4kG-6xeHar-Ykmi4o-pUpw8F-g3Vgkz-a8C7cv-RaPoMD-g3QJ3e-g3Xgab-g3UT3R-g3VgW4-g3Qnkb-g3XheB-5mh6y-PWeNre-5mgVE-Zzc5tj-g3Qw9p-g3QPaZ-2ighzE-g3QA2A-g3UUUL-Jr32r1-g3UowS-oeGsnN-489Dnt-kzXgYM-2aTPLph-2dH799H-gKnMWK-7FGV3F-oc3mai-Cxp5VQ-ZDtu32-Zzc57N-g3XirN-a8C6Ap-ZDtugt-g3XkoS)

Lake Baikal

The embankment offers a beautiful view of Lake Baikal. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the oldest lake on the planet, more than 20 million years old! Some people call Baikal the Sacred Sea. The water in the lake is fresh and crystal clear. More than 300 streams and rivers flow into Baikal, but only one river, the Angara, flows out. About 2600 species of fish, animals and plants live there. 2/3 of them are not found anywhere else in the world.

Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker

There are minimalist temples around Baikal. They have their own charm. The Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was built in 1914 with the money of the workers of the Circum-Baikal Railroad. They say there used to be a small chapel here. It was ordered to be built by Nicholas II, when he was passing through Slyudyanka. In Soviet times, the bell tower was demolished, and the church was a clubhouse. In 2008, the church was badly damaged in an earthquake and was completely restored.

Mica-1

The only station in the world entirely built of white Baikal marble. It was built in 1904, the author of the project was an Italian. The village of Slyudyanka appeared in 1899, during the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. At that time, all railway stations were built of wood. The only exception was this station. By the way, the village owes its name to the fact that for 350 years mica was mined in the vicinity.

Mineralogical Museum S.V.Zhigalova

The only private mineral museum in the world was opened in 1990 by S. Zhigalov, a local resident. V. Zhigalov. He began collecting in 1975 with minerals discovered in Slyudyanka. Now there are more than 10 thousand exhibits, including unique Baikal ones. The museum is a part of the estate complex. There is a guest house and a souvenir shop on the territory. It is possible to admire the "Rock Garden". The farmstead has a Young Geologist's Club with several research routes. The museum is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Silver Water Spring

In the village above the river Sliudyanka you can find a unique spring. The water comes straight from the rock. Locals believe that it has healing powers. Thanks to silver ions, the water stays clean and fresh for a long time. Before the invention of disinfectants, wounds were washed with silver water. Here you can admire nature and take a bottle of water for the road.

Red Sands

One of the unusual attractions of Baikalsk - Red Sands or Pomegranate Beach. The sight is really amazing. The sandy strip of red color stretches along the coast for several kilometers. The beach is small in width: about 5 meters. This shade of sand is due to the mineral amaldine. In the Middle Ages, this kind of garnet was considered a stone of passion and love.

Nomad

You can have lunch at ethno-café. Nice atmosphere, big portions and tasty traditional dishes. The cafe is open around the clock from Monday to Sunday.

Wookiee Park.

The first high-mountain ropes park in Eastern Siberia. It is located on the slope of Sobolinaya mountain, 900 meters above sea level. It offers a fascinating view of the mountains and Lake Baikal. The creators were obviously inspired by Star Wars. The family route is called "The Force Awakens" and runs at a height of 3 meters. Suitable for guests taller than 140 cm. Extreme - "Jedi's Way", at a height of 4-7 meters, available from 12 years old. Trolley - "New Hope", 15 meters above the ground. Can be visited from the age of 12. - The park is open Monday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Ukho Baykala

Baikalsk is a small town. It is popular among fans of skiing due to the resort "Sable Mountain". The strawberry festival is held here every year. Recently an unusual sculpture - the Ear of Baikal - has been opened here. The author of the landmark is a local blacksmith Peter Dolganin. The ear allows the sacred lake Baikal to hear wishes better. Pick up a pebble, whisper to it what you dream about, and throw it through the sculpture into the water. Many people say that the wished comes true.

Buddhist Stupa of Perfect Victory

"The Stupa of Perfect Victory" appeared in the village of Tanhoi in 2017. It is dedicated to the miracle that the Buddha performed at the request of his disciples, extending his life by 3 months. Volunteers from different countries took part in the construction. The consecration ritual was performed by Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche, a lama of the Karma Kagyu Buddhist tradition. Buddhists believe that stupas guarantee prosperity and protect from natural disasters. The latter is especially true since earthquakes of up to 12 points occur in the vicinity.

Cafe Kuzminky

A cafe with a cozy atmosphere, a wide choice of dishes and pleasant prices. There is a pleasant bonus: the terrace has a view of Baikal. The cafe is open every day from 9:00 to 21:00.

Day 4: Baikalsky Nature Reserve and Warm Lakes

Today you will visit the most beautiful and wild places of Baikal. You will stroll along unique ecological trails, learn more about the reserved nature. You'll visit the historical ferry crossing. You'll admire mountain lakes and human-sized ferns.

Visit-center "Baikal reserved", Tanhoy p.

The best place to start the day is the Visitor Center, located on the territory of the ancient Tanhoi port. The ferry to Listvyanka used to depart from here. One of the exhibitions is devoted to the Baikal ferry. There are several permanent exhibitions in the main building. You can learn about the history of Lake Baikal, take part in an interactive quest and learn more about Russia's nature reserves. This is one of the best projects developing informative ecotourism in the country. - The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am. The first Wednesday of each month is a day of technical work. For a comprehensive tour you must sign up in advance [on the website](https://baikalecotourism.ru/visitcentertur).

Baikalsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve

The Baikalsky Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The unique flora and fauna of Lake Baikal are not only preserved here, but also studied. There are 22 ecological trails in the reserve in different natural zones: forests, meadows, swamps, tundra highlands. Animals and plants listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation and Buryatia can be found here. If you are lucky, you can see wild animals in their natural habitat. Observation sites are equipped for this purpose. You can also visit the ethno-town. - Eco-trails do not require a special escort. For all excursions you need to leave a request in advance on [website](https://baikalecotourism.ru/touristprograms). There is a fee to visit the reserve. It is necessary to obtain permission to visit [on the website](https://baikalpass.ru/index.html#/tourists-data) in advance.

Buuznaya

You can view the photos taken in the reserve in the cosy Buuzna. The local cuisine is very tasty here. You can take your own food and have lunch on the embankment, admiring Baikal. The cafe is open every day from 9:00 to 21:00.

Mayak

The lighthouse is one of the main symbols of the town of Babushkin. The first settlement of Mysovaya was founded in 1760, during the era of the "Great Tea Road". Merchants, who brought goods from China, founded the Uzunsky Route. Later convicts who were exiled to Baikal passed through here. Before Circum-Baikal railroad appeared there was the only ferry crossing in Russia. And in 1918 the ferry-breaker "Baikal" was shot with a cannon. Its wreckage still lies somewhere under the water.

Emerald Lake

In the evening you will go to the Warm Lakes. There are three of them: Emerald, Warm and Dead. In summer, thanks to geothermal springs, they warm up to +28 °C. The nature around the lakes is fabulous: relict poplars, which can only embrace 3-4 adults, tall ferns, fragrant pines. Warm lakes are part of the eco-park "Lakes on the Snezhnaya". Here you can ride on catamarans, go horseback riding or order an excursion on scenic trails, as well as take a steam bath or Finnish sauna. - Information is asked to clarify in advance by phone: +7 902 762-29-59, +7 904 133-83-33. You can sign up for a tour [on the website](https://ozera.club/poznavatelnye-progulki). Website: [https://ozera.club/](https://ozera.club/)

Solomon Chapel

A neat chapel appeared here in 2014. It was named after King Solomon. The chapel is active and very cozy. It's nice to wander next to it in silence. Swans sometimes come to the lake. To the left of it rises Monomakh's Cap rock. Strict pyramidal shape for the mountain is very rare. Its height is only 687 meters. From the top there is a view of all three lakes and the Snezhnaya River. In the distance you can see Lake Baikal.

Day 5: Old Angasolka, Roerich Museum and Maryin Utes

Today you will visit two most beautiful observation sites, see panoramas of rivers and taiga. In a cozy cafe with the view of Baikal you can try some new dish of Buryat cuisine. You'll visit the unique cultural and exhibition center and take a walk along the most beautiful railroad. You can also see the bridges, aqueducts and tunnels of the Russian Empire times. And finally, you'll feel like you're on Easter Island. Автор фото: [Vetra](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%9A%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B1%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%8F_%D0%B6%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B7%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%8F_%D0%B4%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0._(%D0%9A%D1%83%D0%BB%D1%82%D1%83%D0%BA_-_%D0%91%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BB.jpg)

Snezhnaya River valley observation deck

Start your day with a breathtaking view of the mountains and surrounding area. The ascent to the observation deck is easy and takes about half an hour. You'll have time to enjoy the clean mountain air, the beauty of nature and the gentleness of the morning. From the top there is a view of the mountain of the Cap Monomakh and the valley of the river Snezhnaya. Here you can take a lot of beautiful pictures.

Байкальский серпантин

A cafe with big portions and a good choice of dishes. A pleasant bonus is a wonderful panoramic view of Baikal and the mountains. The cafe is open every day from 8:00 to 23:00.

Kul'turno-Vystavochnyy Tsentr

A cultural centre with a special atmosphere is located at Staraya Angasolka station. In 1926 the Roerichs passed through here. In 2003 a museum appeared in the house where they stayed. At first only Roerich's works were exhibited there. Later, works of Baikal artists and even children's art were exhibited. For the 125th anniversary of E.I. Roerich's birth, a hall dedicated to the Central Asian expedition was opened. In 2013, the building burned down, but the paintings were saved in time. Now the museum is almost completely restored. - There are free guided tours of all the rooms. Entrance is free. The museum is open from 11:00 to 19:00. Monday and Tuesday are days off.

Bridge over the "Levaya Angasolka" river

The village of Staraya Angasolka is located at the 149th kilometer of the Circum-Baikal railroad. Where the Angasolka River flows into Baikal, you'll see two majestic viaducts from the time of the Russian Empire. The stone one appeared when the first track of the railroad was built. The iron one appeared during the construction of the second track. This part of the Circum-Baikal railway is famous for its tunnels, viaducts and bridges. Each was built according to a unique, not a typical project.

Pitomnik Rasteniy "Sanami"

Not so long ago, scientists proved that statues on Easter Island make the land more fertile. This is probably why the plant nursery near Irkutsk decided that they needed them. The height of Baikal moai is 4-5 meters, each figure weighs several tons. Unlike the harsh islanders, they are smiling. The author says that this is only the beginning of a big project. During the pandemic the icons were "dressed up" in medical masks. - The kennel is open every day from 10:00 to 19:00.

Martha's Wall

On the way to Irkutsk there is a beautiful place that not everyone knows about - Maryin Utes, near the village of Vvedenshchina. There are two trails leading to the cliff. The one closer to the shore is simpler, it goes through the forest. You do not need any special skills or equipment to climb it. You may observe a beautiful panorama of Irkut and the taiga from the cliff. This is probably the way birds see the beauty of Baikal. In springtime rosy roses of rosemary blossom here. On the cliff you can take a lot of pictures and have a mini-picnic.

Cafe Tiny Coon

You can have dinner and discuss your impressions of the trip in a cozy family cafe. The prices are democratic, the pizza is delicious, and the interior is pleasant. The cafe is open every day from 10:00 to 22:00.

Irkutsk

As interesting a journey as it was, it's time to go home.