Arshan Resort and around (Baikal)
How to get.
Minibuses (marshrutkas) depart to Arshan from Irkutsk railway and bus stations, yet, the information on its departure on the internet was very different. The railway station was closer to where we were located, which is why we decided to depart from there. At the cashier desk, the information was not clear as well: it was closed and several banners with timetables of departures to Arshan gave contradictory information: one said that the first departure was at 8.00 AM, the other – at 8.30 AM. The latter turned out to be the right one. Yet, up to 8.20 when the minibus finally arrived, neither of the waiting passengers had been sure.
At first, the driver let people who had the tickets at hand go, then the queue of those who did not have the ticket followed. In the end, everyone except for two people fit in: they had been 10 minutes late and their tickets had been sold to other passengers. It took three hours to get to Arshan by the serpentine road (including the stop for a snack).
Accommodation and food.
In Arshan, people with signs «Жилье» (accommodation) meet every arriving bus, offering rooms starting with 400 rubles per person; we got the place for the tent for 200 rubles in someone’s yard. We threw our bags under the roof (in case it rained) and went out to get to know Arshan. As it usually happens, our acquaintance started with food. In the end, we tried food from three places and were happy about all of them. The café at the nightclub opens at 9 AM which makes it more suitable for breakfast. Nearby, there is Poznaya serving traditional pozy and chebureki with meat. Aian café in front of the Mongolian market offered great chebureki with cottage cheese and khushury. At the bus station, there is a tiny fruit shop where they may cut watermelons or melons for you.
After having some food and buying tickets back to Irkutsk, we bought the guided tour excursion to the solar radars (400 rubles per person for a half a day tour), and set off for a walk. There are several old Soviet sanatoriums in Arshan, yet, to get some treatment, or even basic activities (like healing baths) there you will have to consult the doctor first.
One of the major points of interest in Arshan in Mongolian Market, which seems more touristic than Mongolian.
It is also interesting to walk around the central sanatorium: on the one hand, there is an old resort, on the other hand, there is an amusement park.
In Arshan, there are multiple mineral springs which are said to be good to cure eyes (washing them with the spring water) or make a wish at the sacred tree next to the spring.
Next, there is a park with an entrance fee of 50 rubles. The park trail along the mountain river leads to the first waterfall.
If you are lucky, you may feed chipmunks. We did not know that such an activity is possible, which is why some other tourists shared nuts for feeding animals with us.
Next, there is another waterfall and the Peak of Love mountain, but the route is much more complicated then, it requires good shoes and some time. We decided to relax, walk around the sanatorium, buy pine nuts and eat them watching the tourists and their kids at Mongolian Market buying all kinds of stuff and riding poor deer (or taking a photo with the deer for 100 rubles).
At night we heard a thunderstorm, but it passed by, only scaring us with little rain and a distant rumble of thunder. Also, some dog came and was snarling until Victor turned on the torch – it ran away then.
In the morning, we started for a sacred glade to Choimorski Datsan. We entered when the monk was praying, which is why we did not take any pictures.
Here, you may turn the drums and make a wish. It is said that before you ask for what is of your interest, you should remember about the world problems, then there are more chances for your wish to come true.
Having turned the drums, we went on to find the Suburga, or White Elephant Spring. This is how it was described on one of the internet websites:
Suburga is a mineral karst spring. 150-200 meters up from the spring there should be an artificial platform with suburgan or obo (sacred shrine). Suburgan is about 3 meters high, it was built in 1986 at the place of older spring. Obo is a pile of large stones, tree brunches, and pieces of cloths. This is a place for various rituals and sacrifices to the patron spirit protecting the spring. This mineral spring is also called “The Kingdom of White Elephant Calf”.
The road was obvious till the river and kept moving up. The slope was not steep, but it was quite long (in addition, the sun was quite strong). It is hard to lose your way: just make sure you turn right at the road fork (we missed it and had to cut the way after about 200 meters). On the way, we met this bird.
We crossed the river by the tree.
After that, everything became more complicated: our GPS did not know the hiking trails. We found another old forest trail which kept turning away from our point of destination. We had only GPS coordinates at hand, which is why every time we had to wait for the road forks and choose the right turn.
At some point we turned at what was hardly a path, then – to another road. At the end, we got to the platform where the road finished. We continued through the bushes for about 300 meters and reached the dry river. Neither water spring nor elephant was there…
We kept looking for a while, in vain though. When we returned to Arshan, the tour guide told us that the spring had dried up, and the elephant was not there anymore. Yet, we enjoyed our walk and, on the same day, also made it to the solar telescope of Badary observatory. It was only the next day that we realized that the walk to non-existent spring had been a mistake: when we came back to Irkutsk, Victor went to the shower to discover the tick at his side. And then another tick at the other side… This is a completely different story to tell though…
— READ ALSO —
After having some rest from Pamir adventures, in Kyrgyz Osh, we departed for new adventures: to the famous Sary-Chalek lake. The entrance fee for tourists is 400 soms, but we passed to 200 soms for two of us referring to Nastya’s Kyrgyz roots 🙂 It takes 8 kilometers to get from the gates to the lake, half of this is climbing up the hills through the bushes, yet, enjoying the scenery.
After visiting Doi Inthanon Mountain with its stupas dedicated to the king and the queen, we drove to the small village Mae Sariang, not far from the Burmese border. We spent the whole day driving around Mae Sariang then, as there is a lot to see there.
The region around Elbrus – one of the seven summits of the world – is a paradise for hiking and trekking. It really deserves at least a week, even in case you are not a mountain-climber. There are a lot of places to walk to, not only Elbrus. It is great to breathe fresh mountain air, collect mushrooms (which nobody collects here as everywhere in Caucasus) and tea herbs. Here we will tell what to see around Elbrus, how to get there, and where to stay.