By car to Baikal

By car to Baikal

My dad had a lifelong dream – to go to Baikal. I’ve heard about this a lot over the past few years. Well, the time has come to get into a car one day, drive through half the country and see everything with your own eyes: the roads, people and cities of our vast Motherland.

For me personally, it was also a kind of experiment – I have never been anywhere east of Sukhoi Log – and this is about only 100 km from Yekaterinburg.

I devoted a lot of time to the route: I calculated the mileage, selected stops, looked at the map of the city through which we would pass. In reality, everything turned out to be completely different than I imagined looking at other people’s photographs.

We decided to go to Olkhon Island – the tourist “Mecca” of Lake Baikal. Yes, Baikal is beautiful in many places, you can find many photos on the net. And to get to know its unique nature and features, you need to spend a lot of time there.

Suburbs of the city of Tatarsk

So, there is essentially only one road by car from Yekaterinburg there: Yekaterinburg – Tyumen – Omsk – Novosibirsk – Kemerovo – Krasnoyarsk – Irkutsk – Sakhyurta – ferry – Khuzhir.

Ferry crossing in Sakhyurt

I took a bike computer on the trip, which can measure the average speed without taking into account stops. Following the results of two days, the average speed was approximately 84 km / h. That is, the mileage traveled depends on how many hours you are willing to spend behind the wheel of your car.

It is also necessary to remember about changing time zones – on the way to Baikal, time will decrease, and in the opposite direction, it will be added.

Briefly about the roads – out of 6 regions through which we traveled, the Sverdlovsk region has the worst roads. Yes, in general they seem to be nothing. Until, for example, you enter the Novosibirsk region. Everything, as they say, is learned by comparison.

Roads, of course, differ in quality from region to region: in the Kemerovo region they are not very good either, but there are a lot of repairs there. But the “rut” and the lack of repairs – this is only our, the Ural theme. In the cities themselves, in which we were passing or which were bypassed from the edge, the roads are also worse than the highways: a large number of cars, sloppiness of local authorities and (or) lack of money affect. But the route itself to Baikal, including the 120-kilometer section to Sakhyurta, is in very good condition.

Overnight stays on the way towards Baikal: Tatarsk (1220 km of the way), Achinsk (1083 km of the way) and Usolye-Sibirskoye (1146 km of the way).

We ate on the highway in roadside cafes, although we had some supply of food and canned food with us – it turns out faster than stopping in the field and cooking something ourselves.

On the fourth day in the afternoon we got to Sakhyurta, (another 339 km) there is a small queue, about 25 minutes, to get on the free ferry, which takes us to Olkhon Island.

The road from Khuzhir to the ferry crossing to Sakhyurt

On Olkhon itself, it is about 35 km to Khuzhir along a dirt road, not very good after the asphalt; for those who value the car’s suspension, the travel time will be about one hour and forty minutes.

Typical street of Khuzhir

Although, of course, it all depends on what car you go there. All the locals drive UAZs, “loaves”, although the correct term for such speeds is “chase”.

Local transport on Olkhon

Khuzhir is a village in the north of Olkhon Island, the largest on the island.

A variety of housing for vacationers in Khuzhir for every taste and budget: from 700 rubles per person per day from private traders to renting a whole house 25 thousand per house (per day, of course).

This is how the housing that locals rent out to visiting tourists looks like – a small room with a window and several beds.

This is how the housing looks like, which local residents rent out to visitors - 700 rubles per person

Typically, these houses have a vegetable garden, greenhouses and trees. But this is not about Khuzhir. Sandy soils and strong winds make it impossible to grow anything here except some small grass. Along the edges of the road leading to Khuzhir, there is a thyme, which we picked a little with us to brew into tea.

Blooming thyme on the way to Khuzhir

The whole life of Khuzhir is focused on visiting tourists – accommodation, meals, excursions. There are a lot of tourists, especially from July 15 to the end of summer – the hot season. And in August, the water in Lake Baikal in some places warms up to such temperatures that even tourists who are pampered by the warm Mediterranean sea can swim. And the locals swim even at the beginning of July, but the water is very cold until August, the temperature is not higher than 16 degrees. I tried to go in, but my legs cramped almost immediately.

View of Khuzhir from a hill near Shamanka rock

On the ferry we met Oleg, a guide from Irkutsk, who helped us with housing and told us about the excursions that are in use on the island. He himself came to work a little as a guide for English-speaking tourists – he speaks very good English. Foreign tourism on the island is blooming, especially Chinese. There are a lot of Chinese and after them it is very dirty.

Near Khuzhir there is the Pribaikalsky National Park, which comes to clean volunteers both from Russia and from European countries – here is vacation, tourism and work in one bottle. I would not say that the park is littered, but plastic inevitably seeps even into such remote corners of our planet.

Shamanka rock, Olkhon island

What can you do on Baikal? Firstly, these are excursions – there are many of them and they are all different. You can go on a boat excursion on a boat to the three islands, feed the seals with fish, you can ride horses or shoot a bow, you can go to the northern part of the island (Cape Khoboy) in a UAZ. You can try the local ethnic cuisine, you can just wander around the island, go to the local Museum of Local Lore, or rent a bike. The bicycles, however, are not of that great quality, but it is quite good to ride in the vicinity of the village.

In Khuzhir itself there is a small port, from where small boats carry tourists around Lake Baikal. The port is very picturesque – there are rusty vessels on the shore:

Khuzhir port

There is a stunning Olkhonia coffee house near the port. Very stylish design, there is a signature tea and a varied coffee list:

Olkhonia cafe

I rented a bike and went on a short trip around the island. There was an idea to get to Cape Khoboy, where very beautiful views of the rocks and the lake also open. But unfortunately the soils of the island are mostly loose sands, which are very difficult and slow to drive, so I only reached the small settlement of Khalgay. The total route was just under 40 km. On the way, amazing views of nature and lakes open up:

Olkhon island

Olkhon Island

By car to Baikal

The main tourist place of Khuzhir is still Shamanka rock with a hill where 13 serge are located – these are such ritual pillars and trees among the Buryats. Serge means that the area where it is installed has a master.

13 serge near Shamanka

According to local beliefs, the Shamanka must be left before sunset, so as not to incur trouble from evil spirits.

Shaman at sunset

For those wishing to swim in the cold lake, sandy beaches are abundant. And if you suddenly suddenly freeze up, you can bask on the shore in a warm barrel:

Warm barrel for frozen bathers

I would also like to tell you about the peculiarities of the local cuisine. Firstly, the prices: they are much higher than anywhere else before, although the high price is explained by the fact that we were still on the island, it is quite expensive to transport here. Secondly, there is a wide variety of fish – omul, cheese, peled of different sizes and degrees of salinity and smoked meats. It’s also expensive – a small cold smoked omul fish will cost 500 rubles.

If we talk about some local cuisine, then the most popular dish in Khuzhir is poses – they very much resemble manti, only with a hole on top; minced meat: Chebureks and fried noodles with beef in a pan are also abundant. The portions are huge.

They bring all the same fish from Lake Baikal, local amulets – tangons, birch bark products, magnets, jewelry made of semiprecious stones – on the border of the Irkutsk region with Yakutia, there is the only charoite deposit. In my presence, one of the tourists bought home a bear paw with claws – 3000 rubles.

The return journey is also almost 4 days, only overnight stays in other places. In the morning we stopped only in Novosibirsk to change the engine oil.

The most beautiful landscapes on the Sakhyurta-Irkutsk road, the whole area is in the mountains and small beautiful hills:

On the way to Irkustk

We all really enjoyed it. Russia is great and majestic, the roads are good, the people are too.

All photos from the trip to Lake Baikal can be viewed here

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