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Olkhon Island

Join our Olkhon tours:

Looking for an itinerary for a One-day tour to Olkhon island? It is impossible to see all of Olkhon in one day, but a daytrip can be fun and rewarding.

“Around the Baikal” tour. On this boat tour you will travel by variety of water vehicles watching slowly changing landscapes or getting adrenaline rafting the fast mountain rivers.

Winter tour to Maloye Morye and Olkhon Island. During the trip you will see landmarks which are not available in any seasons except winter.


 

olkhon island burkhan cape Olkhon is the biggest island of Lake Baikal: 45 mi (72 km) long, 12.4 mi (20 km) wide and more than 280 sq mi (730 km²) in area. It is a part of Pribaikalsky National Park of Nature located in the centre of the lake close to its deepest point (5370 ft / 1637m). The population is less than two thousand people and most of them are fishermen.

Olkhon is one of the most beautiful and mysterious places of the Baikal, rich with wonderful nature sights. Here one can find a unique variety of landscapes, including cliffs and sandy bays, thick woods and bare steppes. There are several interior lakes on the island.

Olkhon has a rich history. The archaeological exploration of ancient sites of Olkhon Island began in the XlXth century: cult holy places, sites of ancient settlements, remains of walls and fortifications, burial sites, and cave paintings. More than 150 archaeological sites including settlements of ancient people Kurikans were found on the island. For protection they had to erect fortified towns and walls, some of which exist to this day.

Olkhon belenky island

Olkhon Island is the Mecca of Shamanism in Siberia. Locals often refer to shaman for various consultations. It is believed that spirits of the Buryat pantheon live in cliffs of the island. A lot of legends about Olkhon and its sacred places are passed down from generation to generation.

The administrative center of Olkhon Island is Khuzhir village. It is located on the north-western shore of the island. Burkhan Cape, one of the key attractions of Olkhon, is within walking distance of the settlement. 1200 people permanently reside in Khuzhir. A long sand beach extends along the village.

As a rule, accommodation in the village is not a problem. There are 2 options of staying in Khuzhir: hotels and guest houses. Overnight rates vary from 500 rub to 1000 rub for guesthouses and from 1000 to 3000 rub for hotels. A stay in a guest house typically includes breakfast, sometimes dinner might be included as well. Accommodation in a guest house gives the opportunity to experience a traditional Olkhon lifestyle.

There is a museum of local lore in Khuzhir. It houses a rich collection of archaeological finds. Over three thousand exhibits introduce visitors to the history and legends of Olkhon Island. Shamanism items, ancient domestic appliances of Buryat people, numismatic collection, collection of stones and minerals are presented in museum. The museum is open daily (except Monday) from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

To get to Olkhon Island (Khuzhir):

Longitude: 107.33415E
Latitude: 53.19014N

The island is best reached from Irkutsk. To get to Olkhon from other places (for instance, from Ulan-Ude) you still have to get to Irkutsk first.

olkhon islandBy car: rout Irkutsk – Ust-Orda – Bayanday – Elantsy – MRS – Khuzhir. A ferry operates between MRS and Khuzhir. From May to December the ferry service is free.

By bus: regular daily buses depart from Irkutsk bus station to Khuzhir.

By boat: a boat service operates to Olkhon Island in the route Irkutsk – Nizhneangarsk (See boat timetable and fares).  The boat following the rout Irkutsk – Nizhneangarsk stops in Zagly Bay which is located in the southern part of the island (Latitude: 53°02’39″, Longitude 106°57’56″ E). There is no regular public transport linking the bay and Khuzhir so you should contact the hotel to pre-arrange a transfer.

 

Major Landmarks of Olkhon Island 

Cape Burkhan

Longitude: 107°20’31.2”E (107.342000)
Latitude: 53°12’14.4”N (53.204000)

The Cape is located near Khuzhir, the biggest settlement of Olkhon Island. Earlier the cape had another name – Rock-Temple.  Over time Buddhism spread among Buryats and the name of the cape turned into “Burkhan” (Buddha).

Burkhan is one of the nine sacred places in Asia. The most revered place was a through cave in a cliff of the Cape. The length of the passage is over 39 ft (12 m), its width is 10-15 ft (3-4.5 m), and the height is 3-21 ft (1-6.5 m). Shaman rites and sacrifices were regularly held in the cave. According to Buryat legend, cape Burkhan is the palace of the owner of Olkhon, the divine king above all shamans. No one but shamans had a right to come close to his residence. Women and children had to avoid the holy rock.

olkhon burkhan 640 360

Cape Khoboy

Longitude: 107°47’24”E (107.790000)
Latitude: 53°24’45”N (53.412500)

It is the most northern cape of Olkhon Island. The cape is located close to the widest part of the Baikal. When you look at the lake from the cape, it becomes clear why the Baikal is compared with a sea.

The cape is a magnificent place. Standing on its rocky cliff you can enjoy panoramic view of the Maloye Morye (Small Sea) strait. When the weather is good, a natural monument the Ushkany archipelago and the Sviatoy Nos peninsula can be seen. The view is especially beautiful at sunrise. In winter caves of the cape look magnificent decorated with glassy splashes of ice and fabulous icicles.

Khoboy is translated as ‘fang’ from the old Buryat language and indeed the stone towering over the cape looks much like a fang. The cape has the second name “Virgin”, because a huge rock looks like a figure of a woman from the waterside. The legend says that a woman asked for the same rich palace as the one owned by her husband. But Gods turned her into a stone for her envy and said she would be a rock till there is envy between people.

This site is also special for its many-voiced echoes reflecting from the monolithic rock. You can hear it if you make a loud sound.

Cape Horse’s head (Khorin-Irgi)

Longitude: 106°54’7.2”E (106.902000)
Latitude: 53°3’43.56”N (53.062100)

It is the most western point of Olkhon Island. The outline of the cape really does resemble a head of a mare. The other name of the cape, Khorin-Irgi, translated from Buryat means «A Shore (Irgi) of Khorinsk (Khorin)». Khorinsk is one of Buryatia districts.

The end of the cape is separated from the main part by a narrow strait a few metres wide. It is possible to canoe through the passage when the weather is calm and to enjoy a view of majestic cliffs of the cape.

When the Baikal freezes over, sokui (icy splashes) cover the rocks of the cape. As a rule after protracted storms, the rocks get covered by splashed ice 6 in (15 cm) thick and up to 65 ft (20 m) height. Sparkling in the beams of the winter sun the rocks look extremely spectacular.

The largest shipwreck on Lake Baikal occurred near the cape. It was caused by Sarma, the strongest wind of the Baikal. Sarma gets its name from the river flowing into the Maloye Morye strait. On October 15, 1901 the wind sank the ship “Potapov” with nearly 200 people aboard and no one survived. Some days later dead bodies were found frozen to the rocks.

The legend  says that the warriors of Genghis Khan spent some time on the cape and left a huge pot there.

There is a lighthouse on the cape, which is considered one of local attractions.

Cape Khorgoy

Longitude: 106.981560
Latitude: 53.106674

It is located in the southern part of the Olkhon Island. The cape is well-known for an ancient wall that is still preserved. It was built during the Kurykan civilization. In the VI-X centuries AD the Kurykans lived in the valleys of the Angara and the Lena rivers.

According to the archaeologist Okladnikov A.P. (The Baikal Petroglyphs as Relics of the Siberian Peoples’ Ancient Culture): “Here more than a thousand years ago and later mysterious cattle breeders of the Iron Age used to live, the Kurykans, who left enormous stone walls surrounding the steep capes on Olkhon and near it; they were natural fortresses which had witnessed  turbulent events, wars and the tribes’ migrations. The Kurykans used to bury their dead in Olkhon, in marvellous little yurtas made of stone slabs put on edge”.

The Wall is almost 650 ft (200 m) long and 5ft (1.5 m) to 6.5 ft (2 m) high. The stone brickwork was done without any fastening material. There is a ditch 11.5 ft (3.5 m) width and 5 ft (1.5 m) in depth near the Wall.

Archaeologists cannot get any information about the exact purpose of the wall. According to one version the wall is a protective construction. However during last years since burial places and altar stones were discovered nearby, there is a hypothesis that the Wall had a sacral meaning.

Cape Sagan-Khushun

Longitude: 107°43’46”E
Latitude: 53°23’39”N

Sagan-Khushun is located on the western coast of Olkhon Island, three miles (5 km) from Cape Khoboy. The cape was recognized as a natural monument. There are several archaeological sites on the cape such as the ruins of a wall and a moat about 2000 ft (600 m) long.

The name «Sagan-Khushun» is translated from Buryat as «White (Sagan) Cape (Khushun)». Sagan-Khushun is a very spectacular cape formed of white-marble rock massif.  The cape is about 0.6 mi (1 km) in length.

A group of big cliffs standing in a row in the southern part of the cape is named Tri Brata that is translated as “Three (tri) Brothers (brata)”. The composition includes three picturesque pyramid-shaped rocks with a cave and grottos, one of which is large enough to enter by boat. The cave, some 8 ft (2.5 m) by 19.5 ft (6 m), is rather high for a man to pass through it. Pottery shards were found in the sandy deposits on the floor of the cave. There are 2 entrances in the cave, one of which blocked by a huge stone.

The legend says that a wizard turned his sons into eagles to give them unlimited freedom. He made only one caution that by no means they should eat carrion. Once the sons didn’t resist and broke the promise. As soon as the father found out what his sons had done he was furious and turned them into three rocks.

The cape looks wonderful in winter when every rock is thick covered with ice.

Lake Shara-Nur

Longitude: 107°15’17”E
Latitude: 53°06’18”N

The lake is located in the mountains 750 m above the sea level. In the Buryat language “Shara-Nur” means “Yellow /Shara/ Lake /Nur/”. According to one version the lake is called “yellow” because it is surrounded by buttercups, yellow flowers prevalent in the area. Shara-Nur Lake is one of the biggest lakes on Olkhon Island and is the only lake with mineralized water. Its water has healing properties due to various mineral salts which tinge skin red after bathing. Shara-Nur mud is believed to heal arthritis.

Two factors, depth and location, make the lake a great place for swimming. The lake is pretty shallow so in summer waters of Shara-Nur warm up fast. There are no strong Baikal winds because the lake is surrounded by a forest and hills.

Lake Nuku-Nur

Longitude: 106°56’14”E
Latitude: 53°04’29”N

It is located in the south-western part of Olkhon Island, on the Horse’s head peninsula, a few hundred feet from the Baikal, and separated from it by a rock massif. The small heart-shaped lake is about 330 ft by 500 ft (100 m by 150 m). Its water is very warm and inhabited by a great amount of aquatic organisms.

Lake and bay Khankhoy

Longitude: 107°10’11”E
Latitude: 53°09’11”N

Lake and bay Khankhoy (also known as Elgai or Yalga) are located on Olkhon’s western coast. The lake has a Buryat name – Kholoy-Nur (“kholoy” means throat and “nur” means lake).  In the past Lake Khankhoy was a bay of the Baikal. Now it is separated by a narrow sand bar and only a small channel connects the Baikal with the Lake.  In spring, fish gets into the Lake from the Baikal through the channel. The lake is almost 2600 ft (800 m) by 1600 ft (500 m) and 10-13 ft deep (3-4 m). Much of the lake bottom is covered with algae, which almost reach the surface. The lake is inhabited by perch, roach and pike. At times it is possible to catch a pike over 10 kg.

A few archaeological monuments were discovered nearby: ruins of more than 20 ancient stone structures forming a religious complex, stones “Obo”, which is a place of worship spirits (a pyramid-shaped pile of stones), and an ancient burial. The religious complex and Obo are not far from the western end of the lake and the burial is at its northern end at the top of the ridge, separating the lake and the Maloye Morye strait.

In summer the water temperature is comfortable for swimming. Also the place is good for fishing and camping.

Saraiskiy bay

Longitude: 107°22’42”E
Latitude: 53°12’39”N

The bay is about a 15 minute walk from Khuzhir settlement. A sandy beach of Saraiskiy Bay is a nice place for swimming and sunbathing. The beach stretches almost 2 miles (3 km) from Cape Burkhan to the settlement Kharantsy. A pine forest extends along the entire bay. Despite the fact that the beach is a favourite tourist destination, it is not overcrowded even in summer. The beach offers spectacular views over the Maloye Morye strait and Pribaykalskiy ridge.

Ancient sites of the Neolithic and the Iron Age were found in the Bay and surrounding areas. Pottery fragments and arrowheads were discovered during excavations.

Nyurganskaya Bay

Longitude: 107°36’04”E
Latitude: 53°17’33”N

Nyurganskaya Bay is located in the middle of the west coast of the island 12 mi (20 km) from Khuzhir. The bay is notable for a sandy beach with high dunes 4 miles (6.5 km) long stretching deep into the island. This area is also known as Urochishe Peschanoye or Peschanka. The dunes formed as a result of winds blowing from the lake and moving sand from the shore area.  On the edge of a forest where the dunes finish, “trees on stilts” or “walking trees” can be found.  Larches and pines stand on their bare roots rising 12 in (30 cm) above ground.

After World War II there was a camp for prisoners in the bay. The number of prisoners, on different data, came to 1,200 people. Now there are only a few abandoned houses in Peschanka.

Astragalus olchonensis, an endemic of Peschanka, grows on the sand dunes and is not found anywhere else in the world.

Uzury bay, Uzury valley

Longitude: 107,737
Latitude: 53,3221

“Uzury” translates from Buryat as “mouth”. A wide flat valley Uzury is located in the northern part of the eastern coast of Olkhon near Uzury bay. The Bay is also known as Sennaya bay or Hagai-Aman bay. There is a village Uzury in the Bay. It is the only settlement of the eastern coast of Olkhon Island. It hosts a meteorological station and a research centre of the Siberian Earth Crust Institute.

Traces of prehistoric man were discovered in the Cave of Tolgoi Mountain located in the northern part of the Bay. The mountain is called Tolgoi (is translated as “Head”) because its outline reminds a head of a man. Approximate dimensions of the cave: 16 x 5 x 6.5 ft (5 x 1.5 x 2 m). Some archaeological finds show that people have lived in the Bay since the Paleolithic age.

Mount Zhima

Longitude: 107°42’41”E
Latitude: 53°14’18”N

Mount Zhima, the highest point of Olkhon Island, is located on the eastern coast of the island near Izhimey cape. The peak of the mountain is 4180 ft (1274 m) above the sea level. According to the legend, numerous spirits live on the sacred mountain. Besides, locals believe that Zhima is a residence of a Master of Olkhon.

There is a relic spruce forest on the western slope of Zhima. Its area is 840 ac (340 ha). High humidity provides favourable condition for the forest to have been preserved since the ice age. Its density is so high that other species can’t survive there.

A walking tour to the mountain takes a full day. A path to the top is quite long and difficult because there is no trail through the dense forest. It is possible to start a hike at both western and eastern shore of Olkhon. The view from the top of this mountain is fantastic.

 

 


Other Baikal attractions:

 

The Circum-Baikal Railway is truly the main Baikal man-made landmark. This unique achievement in architecture and engineering is a section of the Trans-Siberian Railway and one of the most beautiful places of Lake Baikal.

Barguzinsky bay, the largest bay of the Baikal. The Baikal’s longest sand beach stretches 12.5 mi (20 km) along the bay.

Chivyrkuysky Bay, one of the most wildest and thinly populated areas of Lake Baikal.

Listvyanka is the best place to get to know the unique nature of the Baikal. This settlement is a starting point for many Baikal routes including the Circum-Baikal Railway.

Bolshiye Koty settlement, is located close to Irkutsk and Listvyanka, yet far enough to preserve the beauty of a landscape. One of the section of the Great Baikal Trail passes through the village.


 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Olkhon Island

  1. margie

    Hi i am going to Olkhon on September 27-30.
    Can you suggest some tours for me? Im coming from Irkutsk on the 27th.

    thank you so much. hoping for your kind response.

    margie

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hello Margie!

      Could you please indicate the exact dates of your arrival to Irkutsk and departure from it.
      How many persons will go with you?

      Reply

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