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Olkhon Island

Olkhon Island is located on the west side of Lake Baikal ( in eastern Siberia, Russia ) The island of Oljon is the third largest lake island in the world and  the largest of Lake Baikal, in eastern Siberia, with an area of 730 km2.
The island is part of the settlement area of  the Buryats, but today administratively belongs to the Olkhon district of Irkutsk oblast, located in the village of Jelanzy, 40 km from the southern end of the island on the mainland. From the Buryat comes the name Ol’chon. The exact translation is not known, sometimes the name is translated as “groves”, but sometimes also as “dry” or “dry”. Both translations are justified, because the island is extremely scenic and varied. The southwest of the island is covered by larch forests, while the northeast is dominated by the foothills of the Tageran steppe. The main town of the island, Chushir, is located on the west coast about in the middle of the island.
Olkhon is the historical and sacred center of Baikal. There are many holy places that attract pilgrims from all over the world. Every year in early August, shamans from different countries gather at Olkhon for a tailagan.
Olkhon Island  has a length of 71 km and a width of up to 12 km for a total area of 730 km2. Standing 816 meters above the waters of Lake Baikal, Olkhon Island also has one of the highest elevations in the world of an island over a lake. With the northwest shore and the island, the lake forms a shallow strait called the ‘Little Sea’ which narrows at the southern end of the island and is called Olkhon Gates. Here is the ferry that connects the island and the west coast of Baikal. Not far from the island, Lake Baikal reaches its maximum depth of 1,637 m2.
Olhon Island is rich in land diversity and archaeological sites and is home to taiga, steppe and small desert. The steep mountains are lined along the eastern coast of the island and the highest point is Jima Mountain, 818 meters above the lake level. The island is separated from the mainland by  the deepest point in Baikal – 1637 m.


  • In Buryat myths and legends, Olkhon is home to the terrible spirits of Baikal according to the legends the Khan Hoto Babai  descended from the sky on the island of Olkhon, sent on Earth by the superior Gods where he lives under the aspect of a golden-headed golden eagle. His son Khan Houbou Noion  is the first man to become a shaman. Since then, Olkhon Island is considered the sacred center of the world of shamans of the north, and the supreme center is represented by the rock of shamans. The bodies of shamans were once burned there.

Movies :

  • In 2016 released a film “In the Siberian Forests” 8 by director Safy Nebbou. The most important part was shot at Lake Baikal and Irkutsk. The film is about Teddy, who decides to settle alone in Siberia, in the middle of winter, in a cabin on Lake Baikal. After a first period of joy in front of the splendor and the magic of an intact nature, Teddy is soon confronted with the less brilliant side of things: loneliness, extreme cold, the need to find food, danger ..
  • The town became known to the general public in Germany mainly through the ZDF documentary “Star Whispers: The Siberian Adventure” (2004), in which two German families tried to live there like the locals for five months.

The population of the island consists of a minority of Russians and a majority of Buryats. Most of the inhabitants are fishermen or shepherds. There are isolated sheepfolds on the north coast for the transhumance of sheep, a large number of huts in the forest or near shores. In summer, the island is a popular holiday destination for tourists from Irkutsk and other parts of Siberia. There are also summer camps, especially a Nikita colony on Mala Moue Island.

Access : Coordinates: 53.156667107.383611 / The island is best reached from Irkutsk. To get to Olkhon from other places  you still have to get to Irkutsk first.  olkhon island By car : rout Irkutsk – Ust-Orda – Bayanday – Elantsy – MRS – Khuzhir. A ferry operates between MRS and Khuzhir. From May to December the ferry service is free.

By bus: By bus :  Regular buses and minibuses go to Khuzhir from Irkutsk from the bus station (October Revolution Street). Travel time is approximately 6 hours.

By boat: a boat service operates to Olkhon Island in the route Irkutsk – Nizhneangarsk (See boat timetable and fares). The boat following the rout Irkutsk – Nizhneangarsk stops in Zagly Bay which is located in the southern part of the island There is no regular public transport linking the bay and Khuzhir.

Attractions :

  • Cape Burhan – Shaman Rock : The most famous attraction of Olkhon is the sacred shaman rock not far north of Chushir, which is considered a holy place of the Buryats and was formerly used for shaman rituals. The island offers in the course to the north to some spectacular cliff sections that extend to the northern Cape Choboi. North of Chushir there are no paved roads anymore. This part of the island is therefore only passable with all-terrain vehicles, which are available for tourists but including drivers.
  • Khuzhir : The island’s main village with a population of about 1500 people,Khuzhir is a village with a small fishing port still active, with pontoon and landing stage for freight and tourists, near the picturesque rock shaman. The omul, abundant fish, is considered the “bread of Baikal”. In addition to logging, the village also has an agricultural vocation extending to hamlets and their fields, a market is held there, there are some grocery stores and some private hotels, but without water pipe neither sanitation.
  • Khuzhir Museum : One of the most visited places of Olkhon, more than 5 thousand exhibits. / Belenky Island. Bird Market / Kharantsy is a small village five kilometers along the road to the north of the island. /
  • Sandy beach of the Sarai Gulf : The picturesque clean sandy beach 2 km long begins immediately to the north-east of Cape Burhan and is surrounded by coniferous forest. In warm sunny weather, you can also sunbathe, and swimming in Lake Baikal is only available for seasoned ones: the water is expectedly cold.
  • Cape Khoboy : The northernmost point of Olkhon, one of the main sacred places of the island. The cape ends with a large rock resembling a sharp fang (“Khoboy” in translation from Buryat – “fang”, “molar”). With water, with the proper imagination, you can see the outlines of a woman.
  • Cape Sagan-Khushun (Rocks “Three Brothers”) / Cape Shunte / Mount Bench. The highest point of the island, 1276 meters. It is considered sacred / Uzury : A small village on the northeast coast of the island. The only gently sloping place in the north of Olkhon, where the road goes straight to the shore of Lake Baikal.
  • Sandy tract. Scenic area on the island with beaches and high dunes. On the sand, islands and individual specimens are larch and pine, often bizarre forms.
  • Cape Khorin Irgi (Mare’s Head). Wikidata element Sacred place of Tengrianism. / Lake Shara-Nur. Healing water and mud / Hanhui Lake Picturesque steppe landscape, fishing, tiled graves of Kurumchin culture / Fall of Tashkina. Picturesque mountain ranges, below – a stream.
  • Kurykan wall at Cape Horgoy / Cape Tashkai. / Island Ogoy : The largest island of the strait, about 3 kilometers long and up to half a kilometer wide, like all other islands, is uninhabited.
  • The Strait of Small Sea : The Strait of Small Sea contains several interesting and picturesque islands. In the summer, it is easiest to visit them with a water excursion (about 2000 rubles per person on a small boat, tours are sold on the central streets of the village of Khuzhir). The strait is not wide, so the islands can be admired from the shore with binoculars, and in winter walk on Baikal ice.
  • Baracchin Island. Another name is Oltrek Island. The shores of the island are rocky, you can only go ashore in one small bay. Seagulls equip their nests on the island. Here you can also find traces of the ancient burial places of Kurykans.
  • Izhilhey Island. The alternative name is Elenka Island. A small rock, chosen by cormorants and seagulls. / Lake Shara-Nur / Lake Nuku-Nur / Lake and bay Khankhoy /
  • Zamogaya Island. The second largest island of the Small Sea. At the top is an Orthodox cross. Legend has it that the leper colony in this place was in the past, but the reliability of this information is unclear. According to other information, the Baikal seal likes to bask on the stones of the island. But, comparing the timidity of this freshwater seal with the amount of tourist water transport that passes in the immediate vicinity of the island, this is hardly believed.

Permits and Fees :

  • Island forestry of the Pribaikalsky National Park, Khuzhir village, Baikalskaya street, 50. To visit some parts of the island (for example, the north), a forestry permit – or other representative office of the national park  is required. The work schedule, according to the workers of the park, is “floating”  , but during the tourist season July-August , permission can be obtained at almost any time.

Events : Every year in early August, shamans from different countries gather at Olkhon for a tailagan.

Activities : sightseeing / photo opportunities / trekking / island excursions / “Around the Baikal” tour / Winter tour to Maloye Morye and Olkhon Island / Beach time / Mountainbiking / ATVs or quads adventure / AK-47 Shooting tour / Hiking in the area /
Boat trips along the Small Sea along the island / Biking and horse riding / Wellness in Shara-Nur Lake / Archaeological excursions / Ethnographic Tours

Go next : Irkutsk / The Circum-Baikal Railway / Barguzinsky bay / Chivyrkuysky Bay / Listvyanka / Bolshiye Koty settlement

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