ROAD TO LAKE BAIKAL

February 24th – March 6th

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Expedition Overview

 Motoring Expedition Across the Largest Frozen Fresh Water Lake on the Planet

Driving on a lake sounds like an idea that defies all logic, however in the middle of a cold Siberian winter, it is a totally plausible concept especially in Lake Baikal. Tucked into the subcontinent of Eastern Siberia and just north of the Mongolian border is abundant with wildlife and vistas of unparalleled beauty. On a map, the lake looks small, but only because it’s surrounded by Russia. A slice of blue deep in southern Siberia, the lake is actually a place of superlatives. It’s the largest lake by volume in the world, holding around 20 percent of the planet’s unfrozen freshwater supply. It’s the deepest lake in the world, a rift that plunges down more than 5,000 feet. It’s thought to be the world’s oldest lake too, formed 25 million years ago from a riverbed torn apart by fractures in the Earth’s crust. During the brutal Siberian winters’, the lake freezes completely making it a perfect adventure playground. The ice caves, wild taiga and pristine waters of Lake Baikal is the kind of beauty that’s hard to find anywhere else on the planet. When practically every inch of the globe has been mapped, accessing the Siberian wilderness through our motoring expedition, proves – freedom of travel is the true sign of luxury.

What to Expect

Motor Across Challenging Routes That Only Our Legendary 4×4s Can Travel.

Expedition Details

Country Russia
Duration 11 days
Expedition Vehicle Toyota Landcruiser
Group Size 12 Pax
Terrain Frozen Lake, Dirt Roads & Paved Roads
Weather Max -10°C and Min -25°C
Drive 1800 kms
Ideal for : Solo Travelers | Couples | Friends
(All travelers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult).

What We've Seen ...

We Have Seen Some of the Most Breathtaking Views During Our Lake Baikal Expeditions.

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Expedition Itinerary

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DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT IRKUTSK

Driving Distance: NA (~1 Hr. from Airport) | Route: NA
Accommodation: Courtyard by Marriott Irkutsk or Similar

Our expedition will begin from the de facto capital of Eastern Siberia – Irkutsk, a pleasantly historic and by far the most popular stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Moscow and all points east. With Lake Baikal a mere 70km away, the city is the best base from which to strike out for the western shoreline. The city is cropped with 19th century architecture, revived churches and an entire neighborhood given over to typical Siberian timber buildings that houses new restaurants, bars, cafes and odd museums.

Arriving into Irkutsk’s airport, you will be received by our team and a private transfer will take you to your hotel. Depending on the time of your arrival, you can plan your day accordingly. Either you can head out into the city for a tour of one of Siberia’s oldest settlements or explore the restored historical district, or enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, or visit the Museum of Decembrists, which details a failed 1825 rebellion against the emperor and the exile of rebel leaders to Siberia. Do take a stroll around the typical orthodox churches to enjoy the traditional Russian bell chime. 

We have planned an informal expedition briefing and a welcome dinner this evening and a wonderful opportunity to meet the fellow expedition members.

About the accommodation: Courtyard by Marriott Irkutsk is a wonderful hotel just a 3-minute walk from Kirov Square and the Angara River. Irkutsk is a city full of aging and rundown hotels, but thankfully the Courtyard by Marriott addressed this problem, offering modern and comfortable rooms alongside a range of facilities and amenities. Heralded as the best hotel in the city, this three-star hotel has a globally-recognized name that all travelers can trust.

This accommodation has been personally vetted by Nomadic Road team and is the best available in the area.

Our recommendation: Fly into Irkutsk a day earlier if you would like to acclimate and explore this interesting city.

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DAY 2: Olkhon Island

Accommodation: Baikal Khan Hotel or Similar

Distance: 300 km | Drive Time: 6 hours | Terrain: Tarmac | Frozen Lake | Dirt Roads

You have an early morning start today. After breakfast you will be introduced to your expedition vehicles and a detailed walk through to familiarize you with the machines. And post that, you will get behind the wheels to begin your journey by heading out of the city towards Olkhon Island. We have planned this day with a simple tarmac route so that you can get familiar with the vehicles and the last 40 odd kms will be on the frozen lake. Don’t Panic! We will be there to guide and teach you how to drive on the frozen lake which is completely different from any other terrain you would have driven. Driving on Ice needs special driving skills and especially on a frozen lake. Braking, safety, etc. Once you have got the hang of driving on Ice, we will head to Olkhon Island – the largest island in Lake Baikal.

Olkhon is the fourth-largest lake-bound island in the world. It has a dramatic combination of terrain and is rich in archeological landmarks. Considered as one of the five global poles of shamanic energy by the Buryat people. The Buryats are an ethnic group that predates Russian Siberia and their folkloric traditions are still going strong. This 72km-long island’s ‘capital’ is the unlovely village of Khuzhir where we will be spending the night. There are no paved roads on this island. Once you have settled in, we can head out to some of the interesting spots around the island and soak in the dramatic views of the lake.

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DAY 3: Holynose Peninsula

Accommodation: Yurt Camps on the lake

Distance: Approx. 100 km | Drive Time: Approx. 4 hours | Terrain: Frozen Lake 

After breakfast, we start our epic drive heading towards the shores of the island to find a suitable entry point onto the lake. Once we are on the lake, then from here on we are pretty much going to be on the lake for the next couple of days. For motoring enthusiasts, this is a paradise. You will be having one of the best time of your life. This day, we will be exploring the northernmost point of Olkhon Island, witnessing frozen sculptures, interesting ice grottoes and ice cave formations on the lake. We will also be crossing over the deepest point of lake. Though the total driving distance for today is less, but we may have to navigate through crevices (Huge Cracks formed on the lake) which at times can run for kilometres and we have to find the right place to crossover. Hence the driving hours on ice are always tentative and approximate. Today you will have an amazing experience of staying on the lake in typical Mongolian Yurts.

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DAY 4: Kotelnikovsky cape

Accommodation: Kotelnikovskiy Hot Spring Resort

Distance: Approx. 200 km | Drive Time: Approx. 6 hours | Terrain: Frozen Lake 

Another day of driving on the lake heading northwest towards Kotelnikovskiy cape which is known for its hot springs. No tourists dare to come this far north of the lake, and some have not even heard of it, thus making this place perfect for those who like nature and calm rest away from the crowds. On the way you will see the house built by the parisian adventurer who spent half a year in a weather-battered cabin, located at North Cedar Cape in the northern sector of the Baikal-Lena nature preserve, alone against the all-powerful elements of nature. His book “Consolations of the Forest” (winner of the 2011 Prix Médicis for non-fiction) is a philosophical and companionable account of his time in the remote Siberian wilderness. And from here we continue our journey further north driving on the lake, zigzagging through crevices, sometimes even jumping across the cracks. We then will reach the most luxurious and most beautifully situation resort which would be our base for 2 days. What can be more relaxing than bathing in a natural hot spring on a cold winter day? The surrounding scenery is soothing while you soak your body in the rejuvenating warmth of the hot springs. According to Russain fairytales, the these hot springs are known as the “Elixir of Life”. Some claim that the waters can cure rheumatism, radiculitis, diseases of joints and bones, nervous disorder, and skin diseases.

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DAY 5:  Kotelnikovsky cape

Accommodation: Kotelnikovskiy Hot Spring Resort

Distance: Approx. 150 km | Drive Time: Approx. 4 hours | Terrain: Frozen Lake + Tarmac

Today morning we will head further north on the lake and then eventually hit the shores and get into the Siberian Taiga forests and drive towards the incredibly remote Siberian village of Baikalskoye. An ancient Siberian fishing village situated on the territory of Buryatia. This place is considered to be the original home of the Evenki, formerly known as the Tungus, where all the ancient Tungusic groups originated. The anthropological features of the Evenki, are evident in the early Neolithic people around the shores of Lake Baikal. The Evenkis are one of the indigenous peoples of the Baikal region with a long and glorious history. Though most of the Evenkis’ have moved further north of Siberia, we will be able to experience a bit of their way of life. We will be able to see their traditional dwelling – called a Chum and also witness a Shaman ritual. From there we head towards Severobaikalsk – a small town located on the northern edge of the lake. The town grew out of the untouched wilderness when the BAM railway passed through this part of Siberia couple of decades back. What remains now is a mixture of rickety wooden shacks, concrete fishing village with charming log cabins. Frankly there is nothing to see here but we have to enter the town to refuel our vehicles. After that we trace our way back to Kotelnikovskiy and call it a day.

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DAY 6: Ust-Barguzin

Accommodation: Guest House of a Local Fisherman

Distance: Approx. 200 km | Drive Time: Approx. 7 hours | Terrain: Frozen Lake 

We have a long day ahead of us driving on the frozen lake heading towards the south eastern shores of the lake. After spending days on the lake, we will spend the next couple of days along the shores of the Baikal. Our destination for today is Ust-Barguzin – an ordinary Buryat town at the mouth of the Barguzin River. It is dotted with standard wooden buildings, occasionally decorated with intricate carvings, wide unpaved streets, little vegetation. Surrounded by taiga and is the last inhabited and lived-in village at the boundary of an immense conservation area called Barguzin Valley that stretches from the northernmost village near Severobaikalsk. We have planned a wonderful driving trail into the valley the next day. But today we will be staying in traditional Wooden houses of local fisherman. Depending on when we reach the place and if we reach early, we can spend time on the lake fishing and spending a wonderful evening with the fisherman family.

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DAY 7: Barguzin Valley

Accommodation: Guest House of a Local Fisherman

Distance: Approx. 200 km | Drive Time: Approx. 5 hours | Terrain: Paved & Dirt Roads

For those who are interested in doing more than experiencing the frozen lake, we have planned for a beautiful drive into the Barguzin Valley. This remote valley is an expanse of open steppe punctuated by salt lakes, small Evenk and Buryat villages, and shamanic sites situated against the backdrop of the craggy Barguzinsky Mountain range. It is the eastern and the least accessible of Baikal’s shores. During winter it’s full of sparkling snow. With a frontier feel, it rewards the adventurous and the undaunted. This place is steeped in ancient legends and tales, and its nature is striking in its originality and greatness. The Mongols of the Empire of Genghis Khan believed that the valley was so far, that they called it Bargudzhin-Tokum – “The edge of the world”. Evenk and Buryat tribes who lived here professed shamanism and worshiped spirits. Today this place is known as “the Land of a thousand spirits”. After we have explored the valley, we return back to Ust-Barguzin for a wonderful dinner. If we couldn’t do fishing the previous day, we will reach the village early so that we can spend some time fishing and experiencing the life of a local fisherman.

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DAY 8: Ulan Ude

Accommodation: Hotel Mergen Bator or Similar

Distance: Approx. 270 km | Drive Time: Approx. 4 hours | Terrain: Dirt & Paved Roads

We will head south towards Ulan-Ude – the capital of Buryat republic. The drive today is a mix of dirt roads and paved roads. A simple, short drive will lead us into this important city. Ulan Ude is not just home to the impressive Datsan Buddhist temple, but also a village of the Old Believers. This centuries-old sect was banished to wild Siberia for not accepting various Russian religious reforms. The city has very interesting architecture and a unique style. The city prospered as a major stop on the tea-caravan route from China. From a typical tourist point of view, you will find the world’s largest head of Lenin that is situated on a massive plinth in the center of the City Square. And another one is the Ulan-Ude Opera House – a surreal construction around the corner from the City Square. Only the USSR could dream of bringing grand opera to a nation of shepherding nomads. Once you done with exploring the town, we will regroup in the evening for a traditional Buryat dinner.

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DAY 9: Mamay Valley

Accommodation: Mountain Huts

Distance: Approx. 270 km | Drive Time: Approx. 4 to 5 hours | Terrain: Paved Roads + Snowmobiling

We bid adieu to the capital of Buryat republic and continue our drive further south of the lake. We will be driving along the south eastern shores of the lake until a place called Vydrino. This is the place where your 4×4 driving ends, but the adventure continues. You will hop into snowmobiles instead. Each teach gets a snowmobile, you will load your luggage onto a sledge and then drive up the Siberian snow forests through the most picturesque and one of the best powder spots in Siberia – Mamay Valley. There is nothing superfluous, a backcountry in its pure form. Tons of snow, snow-covered forest, challenging terrain, harmony with nature and Siberian flavor. After an hour of driving up, we will reach the mountain huts where you will be spending the evening. Depending on how long it takes to reach the huts, we have planned some interesting activities around the mountains. You can hike into the mountains or take the snowmobiles for a spin into the wilderness. From top, the views of the lake are far more mesmerizing. After we have spent enough time on the snow, we will head back to our cozy mountain huts and bring the day to an end with a wonderful campfire dinner.

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DAY 10: Listvyanka

Accommodation: Private Cottage

Distance: Approx. 50 km | Drive Time: Approx. 4 to 5 hours | Terrain: Snowmobiling on Lake

We wake up amidst the beautiful mountains that offers splendid views of the valley and the lake below. After a wonderful breakfast, you will get on the snowmobiles and start your journey heading down the mountain towards Vydrino and then find a right entry onto the lake and continue driving the snowmobiles on the lake. A different driving experience on the frozen lake that will bring you to the town of Listvyanka which is located exactly at the Angara riverhead. This small town is where we will be ending our epic adventure. As the closest lakeside village to Irkutsk, Listvyanka – aka the ‘Baikal Riviera’ – is where most travelers come to experience Baikal’s pure waters. Many years ago, the cargoes of tea, salt, meat, fish and furs were transferred through the port of Listvyanka. In the not so distant past, Listvyanka’s only street was occupied by fish sellers. We will be staying in a beautiful located property overlooking the lake. You can spend the day exploring the small town by visiting the museum, the tiny local market and walk around the streets to see the typical wooden houses that fit naturally into the surroundings, with occasional flashes of color in the shape of church spires or dacha turrets. Later in the evening, we will celebrate the successful completion of our expedition with a wonderful farewell dinner.

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DAY 11: depart Irkutsk

Accommodation: NA

Distance: Approx. 70 km | Drive Time: Approx. 1 hour | Terrain: Paved Roads

Depending on the time of your flight, you will be transferred to the Irkutsk airport and bid adieu to Lake Baikal and the great Siberian Wilderness.

Au Revoir.

What Our Clients Say ...

Your Expedition Vehicle

TOYOTA LANDCRUISER

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Dates & Prices

Dates Price per Person Interested?
February 24th – March 6th $7,125 INQUIRE TODAY

The quoted price is per person on double occupancy basis unless otherwise noted, and are subject to change without notice. Families travelling with kids are requested to contact us for exclusive family prices. Solo travelers and groups with more than 2 members and those who need single supplement are requested to contact us for the differential pricing. Optional activities are at an additional cost. All prices are quoted in U.S. dollars.

What's Covered & What's Not

  • Exclusive Expedition Photographer and Filmmaker throughout the trip
  • Local cultural expert and hospitality staff throughout the trip
  • 4x4 support vehicle that will carry essential tools for the entire duration of the trip 
  • Use of snowmobiles at Mamay Mountains 
  • Accommodation on twin share
  • Field Chef & Technical Crew throughout the expedition
  • Specially prepared meals throughout the expedition. The Lunch & Dinner will be prepared on all days based on your preference keeping in mind your food restrictions if any. And almost all our lunch will be a picnic lunch (cold food) somewhere in the middle of the lake or some scenic location possible and dinners will be private expedition style setup.
  • Bottled water and refreshments.
  • Welcome & Farewell Dinner
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Third party liability insurance for the expedition vehicle
  • Comprehensive pre-departure documentation including invite letters for Schengen VISA application
  • All taxes as imposed by the local government
  • All excursions, entrance fees, and visits as described in the itinerary
  • International Flights & Visa
  • International Driving Permit
  • Breakfast and Lunch on the day of Arrival
  • Lunch and Dinner on the day of Departure
  • Excursions/activities not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Comprehensive Personal Insurance & Trip Cancellation Insurance
  • Personal medication
  • Extras like room service & items of personal nature like laundry, tips, etc.

Come explore some of the least accessible places in Lake Baikal.

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