Travel in Siberia

Olkhon

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You can visit this sight on tour:

  • Active-excursion tour - "The Road To The Heart Of Baikal"
  • Excursion-ethnographical tour - "The Gaeser Land"
  • Olkhon, the most significant island of Lake Baikal is situated on the north-western coast of the lake separating from it by Olkhon Gate Strait and Maloye More. Olkhon Island (72 kilometers in length and 15 to 25 Km in width) is the largest island on Lake Baikal. Geologically the island is very old and Lake Baikal's deepest point (1,637 m) is located near the island. The climate here is different being dry in summer with not too much snow in winter. The average temperature in Summer is +20- to 23C, and about –20C in winter. The channel between the island and the mainland is one of the few places around Lake Baikal where the water is warm enough for swimming!

    Olkhon is a natural extension of the southern part of the Primorsky Baikal Mountains interrupted by a transverse valley of Olkhon Gate Strait. Olkhon is a mountainous ridge with the gentle north-western and abruptly steeping south-eastern slopes near which there are highest peaks of the ridge like an uninterrupted crest with rounded or blunt angular contours. This crest near Olkhon Gate Strait reaches 1182 feet above lake level. Then it gradually rises to the northwest and at Mount Izhimey reaches its highest point, 2407 feet above Lake Baikal level, decreasing then to 790 feet in the north-eastern part of the island in a form of terraces. The north-western shore of Olkhon is gentle. There are a lot of bays the bottom of which is sandy. Forest vegetation is very poor on Olkhon, three fifths of the length of the highest crest of the ridge is covered with it, whereas the rest part of the island surface is covered with scant grass. The surface is stony or sandy. Forests, nevertheless, occupy rather vast areas consisting of coniferous trees, poplar, aspen, and birch. Some bushes such as willow, bird cherry tree, dwarf (Arctic) birch, alder, dog rose, ledum, golden rod, meadowsweet, mountain cranberry, and blueberry may be referred to wood species. Woodless areas resemble steppes of Zabaikalye. There are small areas near the shores of Maloye More between settlement Kharansa and Nyurgene suitable for farming where the soil is black earth. About 60 dessiatinas of crops are sown which do not always ripen. Manchurian deer, chamois, fox, wolf, polecat, ermine, and hare, as well as ground squirrel and vole are found on the island. There are a lot of birds on the island, particularly aquatic birds which build their nests in abundance on the island rocky coasts – cormorant, seagull, scoter and others. Near the shores of Olkhon a lot of fishes are caught, especially in Maloye More (omul and grayling), on the eastern shore seals lie in abundance.

    The South Western half of the island is steppe landscape, with the Eastern side featuring extensive forest cover. Olkhon Island has several archaeological sites, beginning with the remains of Iron Age forts and stone slab tombs built by the mysterious Kurykans, an ancient Turkish people who lived here between AD 500 and AD 1000. Artifacts from ancient fishermen and hunters have also been found along the shores. There are good walking and cycling opportunities. The landscape of Olkhon Island is variable ranging from sandy beaches to taiga style forests with the interior being home to 6 lakes and the 1300m high Zhima Peak. At the northern end of Olkhon Island you find one of the better places to see the famed Baikal seals. The Island is also famous as one of the centres of Shamanism being an ancient type of religion practiced by the local Buryat people. Many of the sacred shamanistic sites and rock paintings are still found here.

    The Olkon island which unites variety of landscapes, indented coastline, magnificent Baikal views with favourable climate conditions is very good for active tourism, rafting and hiking, cycling as well.

    There are 3 main features about Olkhon:

    • in several parts of Olkhon there is a problem with drinking water;
    • in a steppe part it's a lack of firewood;
    • the western coast of Olkhon is steppe and slightly sloping, on the contrary with the eastern coast which is mountainous and woody.

     

    Olkhon Strait >

    South-western part of Olkhon, the Baikal biggest island, is separated from the mainland by a narrow strait called Olkhon Gates. The strait connects south-western part of Maloye More with the Great Baikal. The strait opens to the Maloye More with the capes Ulan and Horse's Head, in this place the strait reaches the highest width – about 2.7 km. The depth is about 30-40 km. Olkhon Gates coasts are indented by deep bays.

    On the north there is a canyon of river Sarma, where the strongest Baikal wind is blowing from which is called Sarma. The strait is considered to be the most dangerous place for navigation. There is a ferry shipping from the mainland to the island according to schedule.

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