Lake Baikal, beside being the deepest lake on Earth and containing four fifth of all sweet waters on the planet, it’s especially relevant to shamanism because of the island called Olkhon, one of Earth’s five most important energetic places. The whole lake is stunning beautiful, waters are so clear that you can see the bottom, and so clean that you can even drink them. But the magic of this place doesn’t get you only through what you see: there is something that can almost be felt, maybe that shamanic energy I told you about!
Olkhon is the gem enriching the already fabulous lake Baikal. Cape Burkhan, just behind Khuzhir, the island’s main town, could well fit on a postcard and gives you a feeling of absolute peace. The rest of the island is beautiful as well and offers many different landscapes: steppe, woods, valleys, bays and gulfs all over the coastline, several beaches and crystal clear water. Of course, streets in Olkhon aren’t of the most comfortable kind and sometimes the many tourists may break somehow the feeling of inner peace, but for such an incredible view it is worth to take some minor risks.
Irkutsk is the main town in the area around lake Baikal. Its siberian soul combines with an asiatic one, but sometimes they appear both hidden behind the wanna-be European town. In any case, Irkutsk is a pleasant place to stay: there are few attractions, which also allows to take it easy and relax.
Not far from Irkutsk there are Taltsy – an open air museum of traditional architectures definitely worth a visit – and Listvyanka. The latter is kind of a trap for tourists, it is comfortably located on the lake shore where many boat trips are made available for visitors. Grey buildings and a sad zoo hosting Baikal seals (or nerpas, the only sweet water seals) did not help in bettering my opinion towards this place.
The one thing making Listvyanka a worth stop is the beginning of a panoramic trekking route through a forest on a hilltop and around Baikal’s coastline, ending in an unknown little village called Bolshie Koty – about 100 residents and reached just by this trekking route or by ferry.
After getting back to Irkutsk, I was ready to board the train to Ulan Ude, for my last fare on the Trans-Siberian Railway. In my way towards Mongolia, I realized how surprising my journey in Russia and Siberia has been. Of my whole journey, this was the part I was less enthusiastic about, but I found many good reasons to change my mind. Now I hope the high expectations I have for Mongolia are going to find confirmation.
See you soon!