About Olkhon Island
Olkhon island is the only populated out of 26 islands of lake Baikal. It’s also the second popular destination at Lake Baikal among the tourists after Listvyanka settlement. The island occupies a part of Pribailkalsky national park and has a number of very rare animals and plants. Some people call Olkhon island the heart of the lake – it lies in the middle depression of Baikal and the shorelines of the island and the lake look the same. The island can also be righteously called the heart of old man Baikal because it can boast of the whole range of landscapes on the territory of just 730 sq. km – from endless spaces of step on the south to dark coniferous forests on the north-eastern part of the island.
Olkhon island is the sunniest place of the lake during short Siberian summers. Its biggest settlement Khuzhir accounts for only 1.5 thousand people but due to a considerable afflux of tourists in warm seasons the population may double. With the electricity being introduced into the region this beautiful land has become a more desirable place for rest. More and more holiday camps and even comfortable hotels are being built.
You can reach the island during 7-8 hour trip from Irkutsk. Route buses regularly bring tourist to a ferry that goes back and forth from the mainland to the island.
Many people prefer to stay here for the whole week – there are many sights to see and many places to visit.
Khuzir settlement has a very good regional studies museum established by a local teacher and researcher Mr. Revyakin. Every morning at 10 o’clock minibusses take tourists to excursions to different parts of the island. More independent travelers may organize their own program renting a bike. If you are lucky enough, you may even visit some theatrical or music performances that occasionally take place in Khuzir. Horse riding and even yoga lessons may also be interesting. Russian sauna and healthy Russian cuisine complete the list of pleasant experience you can get here.
Olkhon island is famous for many picturesque places. Most of them are considered sacred among the Buriats - Shamanism believers. The Buriats think that spirits of nature live in rocks and hills, trees and rivers. Olkhon island has one of the most worshipped sites on the lake – Burkhan Cape. From remote ages local people believed that the spirit of old man Baikal inhabits Shaman rock that rises on the very end of Burkhan cape. Only man could approach this place, while women could not even take a look at it. Shamans were those few mortals who could conduct mysterious rituals in a small through cave of Shaman rock. Later the rock has become a Buddhist shrine. This enigmatic place depicted on many postcards is a calling card of lake Baikal.
Khuzhir Local Lore Museum
The main and nowadays the only small town of Olkhon island lies next to Burkhan cape. It gives residence to 1.5 thousand people. This small settlement has a very interesting local lore museum. The museum appeared owing to the efforts of a local enthusiastic teacher Mr. Revyakin. The museum has a rich collection of minerals, numerous archeological finds of the time of ancient men, samples of Baikal flora and fauna, household utensils traditionally used by local people and many other interesting exhibits. Now the keeper of the museum is Mr. Revyakin’s daughter Ñapitolina Nikolaevna.
The very northern tip of Olkhon island ends with Khoboi Cape. It is located near the widest place of lake Baikal, about 80 km (50 mi). In the Buryat language «Khoboi» means «Cheek tooth». The cape has the second name «Maid» due to resemblance of the rock to a woman’s figure if looked from the waterside. According to the legend this poor woman was turned by Gods into a stone for its envy.
Shara Nur Lake
Another widely visited place on the island is the only mountainous and the only salty lake Shara-Hur. It is surrounded by forests and hills. The lake is famous for its healing mud. An unusual thing about the lake is that your body under water seems red. The lake’s name, however translated from the Buriat language, means «yellow».