Baikal tourism

Olkhon Island (Baikal): How to Reach It, Where to Stay, and What to Do

constant readers remember that Olkhon island became one of our greatest impressions from Baikal. Today we tell how to organize the trip to the island as effectively as possible to fully enjoy it.

How to get and where to stay.

Marshrutkas (small buses) and buses to Olkhon island start from Irkutsk bus station every hour from 7 AM, and become less frequent after the lunchtime. In summer 2016, the prices for marshrutka ticket was 800 rubles, for the bus ticket – 600 rubles. The buses are slower and the tickets for them are sold out faster due to being cheaper. The price includes the ferry crossing: don’t forget that Olkhon is an island.
ferry to Olkhon

In summer, you may reach Olkhon island by the ships from Irkutsk to Ust-Barguzin and Irkutsk to Severobajkalsk both stopping at Olkhon. Yet, this possibility may be less interesting for the budget travelers because of the high cost of the ticket.
It takes five to seven hours to reach the island depending on the queue and the timetable of the ferry (sometimes you may get into the break time). Do not believe in three to four hours promised at some internet websites: this is not possible. Remember that the drivers also stop for lunch in the café, which takes a lot of time. Get ready to meet the local population: one of the passengers of our marshrutka was a drunk Buryat who outraged both locals and tourists. He nicknamed the German travelers Müller and Steffi Graf (German football and tennis player), the Chinese was nicknamed Jackie Chan, Russians became Commander and Bro.
When we finally reached Olkhon main town Khuzhir, the driver dropped us at the tourist information center. Here you may immediately find the hostel, book tours, or buy the tickets back to the mainland. The routes and prices for the guided tours:
tours in Olkhon

We had the contacts of Nadia and Sasha (+79086685611, kachubai@mail.ru) from our friends with us, and we called them after reaching Khuzhir. You may stay at the guest houses at their territory, at their beach, or in the tent in their yard. We chose the latter, because their beach was occupied with the Mongol tourists. The price of camping is 100 rubles a person a day, this includes using sauna and toilet; since the guest houses were empty, we also used the kitchen at the veranda. Sasha and Nadia was our great luck: the next day we went for a guided tour around the north of the island with Sasha about which we will write a separate post. Also, we learned a lot from good evenings at fire drinking beer with them.
with tent

Khuzhir.

After arriving and finding the accommodation, we went out to explore Khuzhir. There is a lot to see there and the first thing is certainly the sea. One of the beaches has a haunted fishing base, which will certainly make your photos of the sea special.
Khuzhir

Khuzhir

Baikal

Khuzhir

Khuzhir

The next day we went to Burkhan cape with its Shamanka rock. The rock also has a cave with the archaeological site of ancient people, and the rock is considered to be sacred. At Shamanka, we completed the mission of swimming in Baikal, which is a bit hard to call swimming, since we just ran into and out of the ice cold Baikal. Only kids were playing in the water with the ball. Actually Shamanka has two beaches, we were swimming at the one to the left, while the right is said to be a bit warmer.
Shamanka rock

swim im Baikal

Khuzhir is unpaved and quite small for the town, it has several shops and even something like a supermarket.
Khuzhir infrostructure

Khuzhir infrostructure

We suggest to eat in Khuzhirnaya right in front of the house of Nadia and Sasha. Make sure you try buzy (pozy) and zagudai (fast salted omul fish). The smoked fish may also be bought here and at the kiosks at the main road.
Baikal food

Olkhon island.

You may move around Olkhon on foot, on 4WD (or Russian jeep UAZ) and by bicycle. We walked on foot on our own, Sasha gave us a drive to the north of the island, and we took a bicycle for rent on the next day. To be honest, the latter turned out to be very hard. The rented bikes are far not the best, the road is sandy is hilly. You have to be experienced in such trips to fully enjoy them.
We rented bicycles for 400 rubles a day each, left a document and 1000 rubles for a deposit. They advised us to go to Elga lake, separated from Baikal with a thin spit of land; it may be reached through the observation point and fields. The bike rent employees gave us a small map and wished good luck. The start was optimistic: the forest, the lonely road, the beauty!
Olkhon

This was followed by the fields, the terrible heat, and unreachable heights. The hills took a lot of energy. Perhaps, the quad bikes could be a better option, but their rent price is 2000 rubles an hour.
Olkhon

quad bikes rent

Then we drove up and down, worn out by the heat, stopping more and more often to have some rest and drink some water. We remembered one of the TV programs on Olkhon we had watched before our departure: its anchorwoman who did not know how to shift gears and use breaks on the bike as if drove it for 20 kilometers to the dried like in the center of Olkhon. As usually, we urge you against believing the TV programs and Lonely Planets too much.
bicycles

The trip took a while and we risked being late for the last bus at 5 pm to Irkutsk. Yet, the second part of the trip was mainly down the road, and we reached Elga village where we bought water and got to the lake after a kilometer. Several meters before the lake, Nastya bumped into the stone and fell from the bike.
bicycles

When seeing the lake, we decided not to swim in it. This was not only because of the cows coming here for drinking water and shitting. The place is also visited by pigs, i.e. people. The lake is polluted with garbage: bottles, sanitary napkins, etc.
dirty

On the way back we drove on the thin path along the main road (since the main road was in the very bad condition too). There were about five larger hills on the way, so we drove up and down. Finally, we reached Khuzhir and were happy to finally get rid of the bicycles. In total, we cycled 28 kilometers in 5.5 hours. To be honest, we were not ready for such a road: in Estonia, we easily make 50 kilometers with less energy and time spent (because it has less sun and hills). Yet, we manage to reach Khuzhir on time before the bus departure. The bus was very hot too, and at some point of time, Victor decided to change his seat to the front one, next to the driver, to sleep.

Back to Irkutsk.

Yet, he could not sleep seeing from the front seat how the bus driver and other drivers on the road drive. The old bus far not in the best condition went with the speed of 110 km/h up and down the hills; it turned with the speed of 90 km/h. Yet, with such a speed, the bus was overtaken by the cars passing by. The traffic like that does not let you sleep. It was funny when the driver asked Victor to throw a belt over: it was not possible to fasten because of being broken, yet, the driver risked being caught by the police with the passenger belt being unfasted. This reminded us of Africa, where the drivers also understand the rules in a strange way: it is ok to drive with the red traffic lights, but not ok to drop passengers at the places other than bus stops.
We arrived in Irkutsk at 11 pm to depart for the new adventures and meeting ticks in Arshan on the next day.
Pikachu