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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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