Whatever you thought about Russia, it's probably wrong. This photo tour will take you to one of the most exciting ice places on earth. We will spend plenty of time on the ice, crossing the lake in vehicles and stopping at various islands and other beautiful ice features on the way. Our drivers are local ice experts who know the lake in and out and who will make this a safe expedition for us.
Listen to the participants of the 2016 tour:
Lake Baikal is the world's largest volume of freswhater, holding approx. 20% of the earth's supplies. With a depth of one mile, it is also the world's deepest, and it measures about 50 miles by 430 miles. The water is so clear, if you drop a coin, you can watch it sink for over one minute. Temperatures around the lake range from over 100°F/40°C in summer to -40°F/-40°C in winter.
During our tour in March 2016 we had pretty "warm" temperatures, reaching the low point at around 14°F/-10°C. While we were out shooting, the nicely heated cars waited for us. It was an overall excellent and exciting experience from both a photographic as well as a cultural perspective.
Several of the 2016 participants signed up again for 2017, right on the spot.
Day 1 - Irkutsk
After your pick-up from airport or train station, you will have lunch and later on a guided excursion around the historical center of Irkutsk city. You will see several Orthodox churches with beautiful indoor paintings, the central city square decorated with fantastic sculptures made of transparent ice of Lake Baikal and the central food market, an original Siberian bazar. Also, you will be offered to visit local history museum where you may learn a many interesting things about aboriginal civilizations of Lake Baikal, Trans-Sib railway building and Siberia are settling history. Dinner will be served in one of the local traditional restaurants where you could try several tasty dishes of Russian cuisine.
Overnight: Hotel **** at the city center, Included meals: L - D.
Day 2 - Irkutsk- Buguldeika - MRS
Today we´ll drive through the snow-covered fields and mounts covered with Taiga woods towards to Lake Baikal. On our way to the little village Buguldeika hidden at the picturesque valley of the western shore of the Lake Baikal we will have a stopover at quarry, where the locals cut out cubes of snow-white marble stone. In Buguldeika we will get on the ice shield of frozen Lake Baikal and start our exciting ice driving journey. Today you will see several ice grottos and rocks covered with amazing ice structures and visit the famous ancient rock drawings on high gorgeous rocky cliff of Sagan Zaba bay.
Lunch will be served for you as the picnic on ice with a barbecue. This afternoon on our way you will see ancient stone build walls on the top of gorgeous Shibite Mount. Those walls remaining here from the late iron age and belong to the civilization of enigmatic Kurikan people, nomads who settled around Baikal in a past. Also you will definitely enjoy breathtaking panoramic view to the endless spaces of the frozen Lake Baikal and valley of Anga River opening from this summit. From here we will get inland to see main destinations of this area – sacred Mount Erd – place of the annual Nomadic games and valley of the Stone Spirits – tight group of unusually shaped rocks in the middle of steppe plateau.
In evening we will arrive to the settlement Sukhurte located right opposite to the southern extremity of Olkhon Island. We will get accommodated at the hotel with a nice opened view to snow covered mounts and Olkhon’s Gate straight.
Overnight: Hotel . Included meals: B-L-D.
Day 3 - MRS – Huzjir, Olkhon Island
Right after the breakfast at the hotel we will continue our ice driving trip. First we will drive across the Olkhon’s Gate straight and get close to island. First stop would be taken at one of the most spectacular local place – Horse Head Cape. This is long, deeply sticking out cape has overhanging rocky walls with ice grottos. From here we will enter a Small Sea – part of Lake Baikal framed by mountains of Baikal’s western shore and Olkhon Island. This area is famous for its small islands. We will take a special stopover at the picturesque island Ogoy, which has a Buddhist monument. We will walk to the top of the island to take close look tell on the monument and colorful pray flags decorating this area. Here your guide will tell you about Buddhism religion and suggest you to do a traditional circle walk around the monument.
Later on will discover fascinating ice caves and other islands of the Small Sea between the island Olkhon and the mainland. Upon arriving on Olkhon Island, you´ll see local port with many frozen ships and rocky Cape Burhan, which is still a sacred spot for all local Shamans. This cape has cave in it, with a help of the guide you could climb from one side of the cape to another. Finally we arrive to the main settlement of the island – Huzhir and get accommodated at the local hotel. This evening you will have an experience of Russian seam sauna – Banya! Dinner served at the hotel will complete this day.
Overnight: Hotel, wooden loge with a twin rooms, flashing toilet and shower facilities in a room. Included meals: B-L-D.
Day 4 - Huzjir, Olkhon Island – Cape Hoboy - Goryatchinsk
Along your ice drive route today you´ll see huge icicles, hanging like sharp teeth from the sailings of the rocky grottos of Harazy Island and several quite deep ice caves located at the bottom of the huge cliffs of Three Brother Cape. We will head to the most northern cape of Olkhon, locally called “Hoboy” (means fang tooth in translation) which is a most spectacular place of the whole Olkhon area. At this spot island ends by a high rocky cliff surrounded by endless ice fields with a plenty of ice cracks focusing to the bottom of the Hoboy cliff. Lunch will be prepared over a campfire, directly on the ice.
This afternoon we will take a jeep drive across Lake Baikal towards to its eastern coastline. On the way we will take a stop at the deepest spot (1682 m) of Lake Baikal located not far from Olkhon Island. From here you could clearly observe all northern part of the Olkhon Island including its heist summit – holy mount Izjimey.
Usually driving across Lake Baikal is quite challenging: we’ve got to face to the opened ice cracks, rough fields of pack ice, deep snow and many other obstacles. Drivers experienced in ice driving taking their own unique line following current ice conditions and intuition fillings. There are no practical ice roads at this remote part of Lake Baikal, so chances to meet someone’s tracks and other cars are minimal.
On the way across white arctic desert you´ll see snow covered amounts of peninsula Holy Nose, southern part of the rocky Barguzin Mountain range and whole Island Olknon. This evening we will arrive to the eastern cost of Lake Baikal in a region of Turka settlement and have a dinner in a road cafe with a good view. After dinner we’ll take a short drive along the road to Goryatchinsk village.
Overnight: Hotel ***, twin rooms, ensuite. Included meals: B-L-D.
Day 5 - Goryatchinsk – Ust-Barguzin – Holy Nose Peninsular – Chivirkuiskii gulf – fishing villages Monakhovo and Kurbulik.
Right after the breakfast in the hotel we will take a drive on the road up north along the cost of Lake Baikal to the mouth of Barguzin River, where is located settlement of Ust-Barguzin. Here we will get on the ice of the frozen river and drive on it to the Lake Baikal. Here you could see many local people ice fishing, their small fishing houses on the ice forming a whole village here. Meet some local fisherman while ice fishing. After that we will continue ice driving to the famous Chivirkuiskii gulf across the neck of the Holy Nose peninsular. Here we will explore open-air hot mineral springs of Snake Bay – you could get a swim in a hot water of the small pool in the middle of the frozen bay with a stunning view to the snow covered mountains around!
Lunch will be served as a picnic by the hot springs place. After lunch we will take a drive in a vast spaces of the Chivirkuiskii gulf exploring multiple islands, spectacular ice grottos and two old Russian fisherman villages – Kurbulik and Monakhovo – where locals still do the ice fishing in a old style with horse sleds and long fishing nets. This evening we will head back to the Goryatchnisk settlement along the main road, accommodation in a same hotel. Dinner and experience of Russian steam sauna will complete this day.
Overnight: Hotel ***, twin rooms, ensuite. Included meals: B-L-D.
Day 6 - Goryatchnisk – Ulan-Ude
Today morning you´ll have a guided walking excursion around Goryatchinsk village which is a good sample of Siberian genuine log architecture. Majority of the houses are done in a traditional log style with a plenty of the wood carving. Also, we will visit main local destination – open air hot springs and take a pleasant foot bath in a hot mineral creek!
After that we will load our luggage in a car and take a drive on a main road to the capital of Buryatia Region – Ulan Ude. On the way we will take a stop for lunch in a road café where you could try one of the local dishes – Posy – meat dumpling cooked on steam. After lunch we will continue our drive southwards through the wintry Taiga woods passing a mountain range. Just before Ulan-Ude city we will take a special stopover for visiting open-air ethno-geographic museum in Beresovka village. Here you can learn a lot about the culture of the Buryats, local ethnicity which descends from Mongolia, and live in the republic of Burjatia on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal. Also, there is a small zoo here where you could take a look on local animals – bears, wolfs, lynx, deer and many others. Afterwards you´ll cover the rest of the way to the capital of Buryatia – Ulan-Ude town. A city excursion in the afternoon and dinner at the restaurant will complete the day.
Overnight: Hotel **** At the central city square . Included meals: B-L-D
Day 7 - Visiting old Russian villages of old-believers.
This day will be dedicated to the trip to old Russian settlement Tarbagatay village where you could meet some native Russian people which kept a lot of old culture and religious Orthodox traditions from early 17 century. Sight seen tour around the Tarbagatay village and surroundings, meeting with local folk dance and sing group, lunch with dishes of traditional Siberian cuisine in a old log house. Coming back to Ulan-Ude town at the afternoon, free time for a city exploration on your own in the evening. Dinner will be served in a restaurant of traditional Buryat cuisine with a dishes of nomadic food.
Overnight: Hotel **** At the central city square . Included meals: B-L-D.
Day 8 - Ulan-Ude – Bolshoe Goloustnoe, crossing Lake Baikal back to the west coast.
This day we will leave Ulan-Ude city and take a driving excursion to the main Buddhist temple of this area - Ivolginsky Monastery, which is located in the middle of the steppe not far away from Ulan-Ude. Here you could see how local monks reading mantras and doing other sacred ceremonies in a main richly decorated temple hall.
Then we´ll drive along the Selenga River valley towards to Lake Baikal and in a while will arrive to the village Posolskoye, where the oldest church of the Russian Orthodox Convent stands. This place is also known as a one of the best fishing spots at the lake, so we have a good chances to meet there local fishermen on work to see local ice fishing technique. Today we’ve got to cross Lake Baikal in opposite direction, back to the western coast. Here, close to delta of Selenga River Lake has minimal width, just about 25 km in a direct line. This evening we are should to arrive to Goloustnoe settlement at the western cost of Lake Baikal. This place is famous as one of the oldest Russian settlements along the historical trading Silk &Tea route. This evening we will get accommodation in wooden logs of local hotel.
Overnight: Hotel. Included meals: B-L-D.
Day 9 - Along the west cost of Lake Baikal to the headwaters of Angara River.
Today we will continue our ice driving venture by driving southwards along the western shore to the headwaters of Angara River. On the way you could see several interesting local attractions – caves of the Kadilniy cape and rocky cliff Screeper . Special stop will be taken at the spectacular high cliff named Devil’s Bridge. Here you could take a walk along an interesting artificial trail which goes across the cliff wall. Other stopover will be taken at the village Bolshie Koty – Old Russian settlement settled here at the golden rush times.
After visiting this village we will continue our drive and in a short while arriving to Listvyanka – small town at the source of Angara River – the only river which flew out of the Lake Baikal. Lunch will be served in one of the local restaurants with dishes of the local fish cuisine – so you could have a taste of famous Omul fish.
This afternoon you will have an excursion to the Baikal Nature Museum where you could see Seals – “Nerpa” and nearly all local fishes species collected in a museum aquarium. After excursion you´ll take a drive back to Irkutsk along the main road. On the way you´ll stop at the open-air log architecture museum of Talzy. Here you could see a rich collection of the original log constructions typical for a Russian settler’s era of the Baikal area. Upon your arriving to Irkutsk city you´ll be accommodated at the hotel at the city center.
Day 10 - Departure to Moscow
✔ English speaking guides/translators
✔ All meals
✔ All accomodation
✔ Transportation (Jeep-type cars on and around the lake)
✔ Transfers to and from Irkutsk airport
✔ All fees for national parks and museums
✔ Two professional photographers / instructors
✔ Winter outfit (warm jacket/pants, insulated boots)
✗ International flights to/from Irkutsk
✗ Optional tours
✗ Sodas / alcohol
✗ Travel insurance
Single travelers must buy single supplement. Price: $250 (to be confirmed)
Included in the price of the tour are the rental of (of course freshly cleaned) warm jackets, warm pants and warm shoes for every participant.
We recommend you come on the optional Moscow extension right before the Baikal our. A professional photographer from Moscow will guide us for two days, showing us beautiful and well-known areas of Moscow, as well as the amazing Moscow Metro and some of the daily life of the Moscovites.
This is both a wonderful photographic and a cultural experience. See photos below.
Price for the extension: to be announced (you can book the Siberia tour and decide on this later once w have the details)
You will organise your own travel to and from Irkutsk (and optionally Moscow, if you participate in the extention).
Getting to Irkutsk is straight-forward and usually includes a lay-over in Moscow. If you come on the Moscow extension, we will give you clear recommendation which flights on S7 airlines to book, so the entire group can travel to Irkutsk from Moscow and back together, making this a simple exercise.
Lake Baikal is situated in Siberia, Russia, quite deep in the heart of Russia, east of the Ural mountains and north of Mongolia. It is part of the Asian continent.
Our goal is to provide 4- and 5-star accommodation throughout the tour.
The hotels in Siberia are excellent. We expect a great mix of local and international hotels.
Author: Chris Marquardt