Olkhon – is the biggest island and the most popular destination on Lake Baikal. The nature of the relief on the island is mountainous. All the east side of it breaks to Baikal and is full of rocky cliffs 80 meters height, while the west one slopes gently to the bays of the Short Sea.
Here in this post, I’ll tell you more information about Olkhon Island, such as the ways of getting to Olkhon, it’s climate and places to visit on the island. Should definitely be useful for those of you who are planning to travel to Lake Baikal in the near future.
I also recommend you to take a look at my other post – “Where to go on Lake Baikal“.
The population of the island does not exceed 1500, the greater part lives in the only large village around – Khuzhir. It is a place where you will most likely stay while visiting Olkhon. According to Priceline, there are 26 hotels/guest houses in Khuzhir available for bookings.
Something to keep in mind: the territory of Olkhon belongs to the Pribaikalsky National Park. The attendance of the park is paid (it’s cheap) and the access to some areas of the island might be limited.
The visitors must have the permission to follow the route which they can get at the Olkhon forestry or at the administration of the Pribaikalsky National Park, which is located in Khuzhir.
Why visit Olkhon island – you may ask? It’s the heart of Baikal, you simply can’t miss this place. It’s peaceful, stunning and unique.
How to Get to Olkhon Island?
We will look at the options of getting to Olkhon island from Irkutsk. First off, there is no communication and it’s not possible to get to Olkhon from the mainland during the months November-January and April-May.
During the cold months when Lake Baikal freezes (February-March) there is a way to get to Olkhon on an ice road. To learn more about visiting Lake Baikal in the winter check out this post.
To get from Irkutsk to Olkhon during the summer you might have the following options:
- by bus + ferry + bus from the bus station in Irkutsk. It will take 4 hours (almost 300 km of a drive from Irkutsk) to get to the lake, then half an hour on the ferry (it’s free) to Zagli bay and then another 39 km of a drive to Khuzhir. It will take approx. 7 hours to get to Khuzhir from Irkutsk by bus and it will cost 450-500 Rubles.
- by taxi – the same route as if you taking a bus, but it will probably cost around 1500 Rubles.
- by ferry from Irkutsk river port, they operate by the Eastern-Siberian Inland Navigation Company (check out their website). There are 2 ferries that will get you to Olkhon:
- ferry “Irkutsk — Ust-Barguzin”. It runs one or two times a week (always on Monday’s) and in 2016 it’s available from July, 1 till August, 19. It will take you all the way from Irkutsk to Khuzhir. It departs Irkutsk at 09:15 am and arrives in Khuzhir village at 5 pm (the total travel time is approx. 8 hours). A one-way ticket from Irkutsk to Khuzhir on this ferry costs 3800 Rubles.
- ferry “Irkutsk – Nizhneangarsk”. It runs from Irkutsk twice a week on Tuesday and Friday; in 2016 it’s available from June,17 till August, 26. It will take you to Zagli bay on Olkhon island, which is 39 km from Kuzhir village. From there you will be on your own :).
- by car – not the best option of getting to Olkhon island, because you’ll have to wait in a very long line to get on the ferry. Not recommended.
The 10 Places to Visit on Olkhon Island
The area of the island is rich in archaeological monuments; there is no place around where could be more of them: there are 143 archeological objects counted. These are the repositories, ancient settlements and the remains of the stone walls.
1. The Shamanka Rock (The Cape Burkhan)
The Shamanka Rock is the most famous landmark on Olkhon island. It’s located very close to Khuzhir, which makes it very accessible.
This landmark is so popular because it’s one of 9 most sacred places in Asia. Natives of the island believe that there is a spirit of Olkhon (Burkhan) lives in the cave in this rock. This cave has a length of about 12 m, a width of 3 to 4.5 m, and a height of 6 m. It was a place of the pilgrimage and sacrifices for locals years ago.
Take a look at the 360° panoramic view of the Shamanka Rock on Olkhon. Breathtaking scenery!
2. The Khorin-Irgi Cape (The Mare’s Head)
A cape resembles a head of a horse from the distance. It is the most western point of Olkhon island. An edge of the cape is like an isolated rock which is separated from the island by a few meters wide aisle.
The Khorin-Irgi Cape is an awesome place to visit in the winter when Lake Baikal freezes.
Take a look at the 360° panoramic view of the Khorin-Irgi Cape on Olkhon.
3. The Hoboy Cape
The Hoboy Cape is located in the north of the island near the widest point of Lake Baikal (79.5 km). When the weather is good there is a chance to see its eastern shore – a mountainous outline of the Holy Nose peninsula.
The Hoboy Cape is an awesome spot to watch the sunrise.
Take a look at the 360° panoramic tour of the Hoboy Cape on Olkhon.
4. The Shunte-Leviy Cape
This place is also called as “the Cape of Love”; it’s located nearby the Hoboy Cape. Check out the virtual tour of the Shunte-Leviy Cape here.
5. The Buddhist Stupa, Ogoy Island
Ogoy is an uninhabited island located 1 km away from the west coast of Olkhon. Ogoy is 2.9 km (1.8 mi) in length and 0.6 km (0.37 mi) in width.
In 2005 at the highest point on the island there was built an eight meters high Buddhist Stupa. Such stupa is meant to rule out all negative obstacles in the world.
6. Zagli Bay
It’s the sunniest place on Lake Baikal – over 300 days a year is sunny here. Zagli bay is the place that you’ll first meet on the island when you get to Olkhon from the mainland.
7. The beach of Sarayskiy Bay
The beach of Sarayskiy Bay is 3 km long and it’s located not far away from Khuzhir village. It’s a must-go place on the island for those who wants to swim in rarely warm waters of Lake Baikal ^_^.
8. Urochishe Peschanoye sand dunes
Urochishe Peschanoye is located 20 km north from Khuzhir. It’s the biggest sand area on the western shore of Lake Baikal.
9. The Sagan-Khushun Cape
Another name of it is the White Cape – it looks like a white marble massive, steeply breaking into the water. It’s located on the western side of Olkhon, 5 km southwest of the Khoboy cape.
There is a small karst cave 9 meters long and 2.5 meters high, and several grottos under the cliff at the water-level. The biggest one is called “The Middle brother” – you can even get inside of it on the boat. Another deep grotto is located east of the cliff and is known as “The Younger brother”. It can only be accessible in the winter.
Take a look at the 360° panoramic tour of the Sagan-Khushun Cape.
10. Lake Khankhoy
This lake is located in the northern part of Olkhon and is separated from Lake Baikal by a narrow sandy dune. It is famous for its warm water and lots of fish – a paradise for the wild nature lovers.
I hope that you enjoyed this post as I enjoyed doing a research about this amazing place! I’ve personally never been to Olkhon, but I hope one day I’ll get there. If you have any other questions about Olkhon you are always welcome to ask in the comments below this post.
Enjoy your visit to Olkhon Island and take care!