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Beyond the initial connotations of the word “Siberia”—which may call to mind vast lonely spaces and icy climes—there lie deep riches of nature and culture. We delight in introducing you to these remote reaches of the globe. According to geographical convention, Siberia extends all the way from Russia’s Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Kazakh, Mongolian, and Chinese borders in the south. It accounts for 77 percent of Russia’s landmass, but only 27 percent of its people.
In the midst of this vast wilderness lies one of the most beautiful lakes in the world: Baikal. The word Baikal comes from the Mongolian for “nature,” and it’s an apt moniker. Baikal is not only abundant (and varied) in wildlife, it’s also the largest, deepest, and oldest freshwater lake on the planet, containing an astonishing 20 percent of the world’s fresh water (more volume than all the Great Lakes combined). To better illustrate the prodigious volume of this body of water, if all of Baikal’s 336 inlets were to stop flowing and its sole outlet, the Angara River, were to continue draining, it would take about 400 years to empty Lake Baikal’s basin. And all the major rivers in the world—the Amazon, Ganges, Mississippi, Nile, and Congo, together with all the other rivers and streams on earth—would have to flow an entire year or more just to refill it.
On this journey, we travel through the heart of Buryatia, starting with the jaw-droppingly beautiful Barguzin Valley. Then it’s on to the lovely Chivirkuysky Bay and the “Holy Nose” peninsula. We’ll charter a boat to cross Lake Baikal to Olkhon Island, stopping en route at Ushkanyi Island to see the nerpa seals, the world’s only freshwater seals which are only found in the waters of Lake Baikal. Olkhon Island’s stunning coastline offers some of the most spectacular views of the lake. We’ll explore the far north of the island before heading to Irkutsk, often described as one of the most beautiful cities in Russia.
Itinerary at a Glance
- Day 1: arrive in Ulan Ude
- Day 2: drive to Ust-Barguzin
- Day 3: explore Barguzin Valley
- Day 4: hike in Alla Gorge, visit Buryat Evenk villages
- Day 5: return to Ust-Barguzin
- Day 6: explore “Holy Nose” Peninsula Chivirkuy Bay
- Day 7: boat across Lake Baikal to Olkhon Island, visit Ushkanyi Island and nerpa seals
- Day 8: explore Olkhon Island
- Day 9: drive to Irkutsk
- Day 10: depart Irkutsk.