OLKHON ISLAND - the biggest island of Lake Baikal
Olkhon is a beautiful nude land that seems to have emerged from the fresh waters of Baikal. The surface of the island is green and smooth like meadows, and crumbles down in Baikal in rocky cliffs on the edges. Olkhon Island is covered by grass and aromatic plants on the side facing the coast (steppe), and by small pine trees (taiga) on the side facing the middle of the lake. It’s about 70 km long and 15 km wide.
Olkhon is a great place to get away from civilization, to feel the nature, to live right next to Baikal lake, and to enjoy the magnificent energy of the lake.
It’s possible to rent mountain bicycles, motorbikes or even off-road cars from the locals. There are also kayaks for rent as well as some water activities available. You can also make trekking walks and make tours to the parts of the island that are not populated.
The main settlement is Khuzhir, located in the middle of the island. 1200 people permanently reside in Khuzhir. A long sand beach extends along the village.
Olkhon's main natural monuments
There are a number of natural monuments on the island protected by the state, though, in truth, it is time that the whole island be declared a natural monument and real protection began.
Cape Shaman (Burkhan).
The best known natural monument of Lake Baikal is Cape Burkhan, or Cape Shaman (Shaman Rock), considered a natural-historical monument. Burkhan is situation in the central part of the north-western coast of the island, at the edge of the settlement of Khuzhir. The image of this cape has almost become the visiting card of Baikal.
No less impressive are the natural monument-landscapes of Cape Sagan-Khushun - a wonderful white marble promontory in the northern part of the island, and Cape Khoboy, crowning Olkhon's northern tip.
How to get to Olkhon
Olkhon island is located about 250 km north-east from Irkutsk and is reachable overland or by the sea. It takes 6-8 hours from Irkutsk by land depending on weather condition.
In summer Olkhon is linked with the mainland by a ferry service, usually working from May till December, so if you travel within those dates you will be able to reach Olkhon quite easily.
The ferry crosses the Olkhonskiye Vorota Straits from Malaya Kurkutskaya bay on the mainland to Perevoznaya bay on the island. When the straits freeze over, a natural over-ice crossing is formed. From November to January and April to May there is no link with Olkhon.