Olkhon Island and Khuzhir village are the fondest memories of our trip to Lake Baikal in winter. Very beautiful moments. I’m going to talk here about what we saw in Olkhon and in the village, how to get to the island, where to stay, what to do there.
How to visit Olkhon Island from Irkutsk in winter?
In winter, Lake Baikal is frozen over. Mini buses and cars run on the lake. There are even “roads” and markers stuck on the ice to help drivers find their way back. Riding on ice with all these landscapes around, it’s already impressive!
Khuzhir is “the capital” of Olkhon Island. This is where most of the island’s housing is located. In winter, if you take the bus, you will arrive in Khoujir. In summer, you will arrive at a port, then take a boat to Khoujir. In any case, in order to visit Olkhon, your destination is Khuzhir. The population of Khuzhir is less than 2000 people.
From Irkutsk. To go to Olkhon Island and Khuzhir from Irkutsk, you can either take a bus or book a tour with a guide. We chose the 2nd option. I think in the summer we might have chosen to go on our own, but in the winter it was the best option for us.
From Listvyanka. It is possible to go to Olkhon Island from Listvyanka. We even saw day trips. For example, you can book them from an office not far from Listvyanka market.
What we chose: a 3-day guided tour
What to choose? We took a long time to find a guided tour that we liked. First of all, because it was at least March and it was high tourist season. But also because we didn’t want to take a 7 day trip around the lake. The big plus point about going with a guide is that we stopped on the path a few times, especially to see a large eagle statue of shamanism.
Long stays. In general, agencies offer long all-inclusive stays from Irkutsk. These are stays in groups of at least 10 people. Rather, they are suitable for people arriving in Irkutsk by plane and who do not have much time. We were doing the Trans-Siberian and had plenty of time to see Lake Baikal in winter at our own pace.
With a guide. We took a 3 day guided tour including transportation, meals and accommodation. Another person joined us, which brought the total price down to around 300 euros per person. So we spent 2 nights on Olkhon Island, staying with the locals in Khoujir village. Here are the contact details of our guide Oleg: firstname.lastname@example.org. He is English speaking.
Where to sleep in Khuzhir and on Olkhon Island?
Khuzhir was a fishing village that grew during Soviet times. Today, it is still a village, but the inhabitants no longer make a living from fishing (because mass fishing is now prohibited in Lake Baikal). From now on, it is rather tourism that brings Khoujir to life. So there are a lot of guest rooms. You can even book them on Booking.
Overall, the rooms at the inhabitant are simple. But there is everything you need to live well. During our stay, all meals were prepared by the family with whom we were staying: simple and good Russian home cooking.
What to visit on Olkhon Island? And how?
There are plenty of places to see on Olkhon Island, but also in Khoujir village.
Our experience. Our guide took us around several places up to Mys Khoboy which is located at the end of the island (about 40km from Khuzhir). In winter, it was very convenient to explore them by car. We also had lunch on the ice: an incredible memory! In summer, it’s possible to do everything on foot by camping on the path, but it takes quite a while. Even in summer, we would have taken a guide with a vehicle in order to see more landscapes.
Here are some examples of places to visit at Lake Baikal in winter in photos.
Shamanka Rock or Shamanka Rock in Khoujir
We spent two nights in a row on Shamanka Rock to see unforgettable sunsets. The energy of this place is exceptional.
Shamanism at Lake Baikal
We cannot talk about Lake Baikal without talking about shamanism. Some believe that this is where shamanism was born. There is a lot to say on the subject, but here are two things to know.
Spirits. You will see sacred places of shamans throughout your journey. To describe it more bluntly, they are trees or wooden poles surrounded by colored ribbons. These are places where shamans feel a particular energy, that is to say also places where one can communicate with shamanic spirits. When you present yourself to one of these eyes, you have to bring something (example: food).
Ribbons. Ribbons are requests made to the spirits. Each color has a meaning. For example, green for health, red for love. You can buy ribbons in a store in Khuzhir.
Mys Khoboy, Mys Drakon, Mys Khorgoy
On video. We made a 3 minute montage of what we saw: Video on Lake Baikal. The images are mainly taken on and around Olkhon Island.
As you can see, even in winter the landscapes are different. This trip clearly made us want to come back to Lake Baikal in summer by taking more time there. The village of Khoujir also reminded us of the Solovki Islands. You feel isolated from the world, far from civilization. It is a real pleasure to be able to visit such places where you can find nature in this pure state.
Little advice. Prefer Olkhon Island rather than Listvyanka village, if you want to experience peaceful moments with nature.