What to do at the Baikal’s only island?

What to do at the Baikal’s only island?

2 minutes to read

Although the deepest in the world, Baikal Lake has only one island located inside of its vast territory. Resembling the outline of the lake itself, the Olkhon Island is known as the heart of the Baikal. A truly historical, geographical and sacred center of the lake, it is fraught with ancient legends and mysterious traditions. Thus, it's believed that glorious Genghis Khan was buried here, too. Besides, the island welcomes you with the Dutch-flat steppes, spectacular cliffs and impetuous wind. Stand by and find out what you can do at the Baikal's only island. 

The Olkhon Island
The Olkhon Island
Хужир, Иркутская обл., Россия

Visit the local history museum 

Reachable both from Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude by ferries, the Olkhon Island though has only one inhabited village. Known as Khuzhir, this small settlement was originally founded as a working unit for a nearby Fish Factory. Today, it mainly lives from the tourism activities. To see how the village has developed in the last 50 years, you can visit a local history museum. Its collection includes more than 5 000 objects that tell the story of this beautiful though rigorous lonely island. Visitors can also evidence the traditional household items of Buryats, collections of coins, minerals, rock formations, and occulted attributes of Shamanism. The museum is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm except for Mondays. 

Picture © credits to iStock/saiko3p
Picture © credits to iStock/saiko3p
Khuzhir Village, Siberia
Khuzhir Village, Siberia
Хужир, Иркутская обл., Россия
Local history museum at Khuzhir Village
Local history museum at Khuzhir Village

Rub shoulders with the shaman

Whilst traveling to this part of the world, you should keep in mind that locals here still actively practice Shamanism. If prior to this you only come across these religious practices through works of Carlos Castaneda, be prepared to face the real Siberian Shamanism. According to many legends, the Olkhon Island was the birthplace of Buryat people. Not only it symbolised the soul and protector of its nation but also really served as a shelter for many Buryat shamans. The latter were prosecuted by the adherents of different faiths at various times. Hence, after many centuries, Buryats paid the tribute and recognised the island as the main sanctuary and the cultic center of all-Mongolian and Central Asian significance. 

Picture © credits to iStock/Irina Krolevetc
Picture © credits to iStock/Irina Krolevetc

Today, many places around the Olkhon Island are considered sacred. It’s believed not all of them should be visited by outsiders. However, you can still rub shoulders with the shamans. Through such a session, you can delve deeper into the Buryat shamanism culture and evidence some of the most pronounced rituals.

Get a photo at the Shamanka Rock

Although the entire Baikal Lake can be considered a true Mecca for photographers, there are still some must-visit places anyone who travels that far should check. By saying that, I mean the Shamanka rock that is located in the western part of the Olkhon Island. Covered in beautiful Baikal waves, the ensemble of two intimate rocks stretches out through the Shamanka Bay. As a natural wonder located at the territory of the Pribaikalsky National Park, this sight is only several minutes away of walking from Khuzhir. Apart from terrific shots you get here, you can also feel the strong wattage of the place itself. 

Picture © credits to iStock/klug-photo
Picture © credits to iStock/klug-photo
Shamanka Rock at Baikal Lake, Southern Siberia
Shamanka Rock at Baikal Lake, Southern Siberia
Pribaikalsky National Park
Pribaikalsky National Park

As a true religious and natural pearl, the Olkhon always would remain a must-visit place whilst traveling in this neck of the woods. Be prepared and know in advance what you can do at the Baikal's only island. 

Cover Photo © Credits to iStock/kaikups

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The author

Elena Bubeeva

Elena Bubeeva

Hi, I am Elena. 28 years old, from Siberia. Communications enthusiast and nature lover, I spend much time talking about sustainable tourism, trails, and places for a good pizza. Join me for some tips and tricks around the coldest region in the world aka Siberia.

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