Arshan - The Start of Sayan Mountains

Author: Dmitry Paranyushkin (on 02 Jun 2015)
​Arshan is a village about 3 hours by bus (or 2 hours by car) from Baikal lake, and it is a start of Sayan mountains. In fact, it is a famous (among Russians) thermal waters resort, so it is quite touristique and there are a lot of souvenir shops, organized hot springs, and buses daily to Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude.
Arshan in located in Buryatia and most of the people who live there are Buryatians.
 
A babushka from Arshan, photo by WayToRussia.Net

You can start exploring Sayan mountain range from Arshan, and get as far as Mongolia (which is quite near, in fact). Also, you can do a few short day trekking walks there or swim in the mountain river. There is also a meditation and yoga camp, they can rent you a tent, so you will be able to enjoy the nature (without necessarily involving in the activities they do in the camp).
 
 

Transport to Arshan and Back

Getting there: Arshan is about 200 km south from Slyudyanka (which is at the southern point of Baikal lake - see the map). There are many ways to get to Arshan. You can take a bus from Irkutsk (1 daily in the morning, takes about 4-5 hours, costs $10), or from Ulan-Ude (1 daily, in the morning, takes about 5-6 hours, costs $12). Also, there is a bus from Slyudyanka, which is a stop along the Trans-Siberian. There are two buses to Arshan: one at 9.00 and the other one around 14.00. It takes 2 hours, and costs about $5 one way.
 
A bus station in Arshan village, photo by WayToRussia.Net
Getting back is also easy. There's a bus station, located in the “heart” of Arshan village, on the main square. The bus tickets are sold either 1 hour before the departure (if any are left), in case you want to buy them beforehand (recommended), you can do it every day from 14.00 to 16.00.
The bus Arshan – Ulan-Ude departs daily at 7.30 arrives 5 hours later; Arshan – Irkutsk departs daily at 8.00 and sometimes at 15.30 arrives 4 hours later; Arshan – Slyudanka (that’s where the Circum Baikal starts) departs daily at 7.30 and 14.00 arrives 2 hours later (schedule may be not up-to-date).
 
 

Accommodation in Arshan

It’s very easy to find accommodation in Arshan. Almost all local people who live on the main Traktovaya street offer a room for rent at their houses. Usually it costs from 60 to 200 R ($2 to $7) a day for a person. You can recognize the “landlords” very easily: they have a sign with “Zhilye” written on it. You can find them hanging around the bus station and other places where there are many tourists or just selling food, herbs and souvenirs on the street.
 
Arshan yoga camp near Baikal, photo by WayToRussia.Net

A very good alternative to a homestay is a tent camp on Kynryga river, in a 15 minutes walk from the bus station. The camp is located in a very nice and quiet place just next to the river and can really make you feel the nature of the area. One very nice thing about this camp is that there’s a daily meditation and hatha yoga practices for those, who’re interested (for free).
You can either come there with your own tent and pay 90 R ($4) a day for a place, or rent a tent, a mat, and a sleeping bag for 190 R ($6) all together.
You can also pay 55 R ($2) and be fed twice a day with a nice vegetarian meal cooked from the local stuff.
 
 

What to Do in Arshan

The best activity you can find in Arshan is to walk around the hills (it is a start of Sayan range mountains). There's a river Kynryga, which goes far in teh mountains, you can walk along this river, and that's what most of the people do. There are a few waterfalls along the way, and most people stop at the first waterfall and swim there, but if you walk about 20 minutes more you'll get to the place (along the river), where there are hardly any people. There are a few spots to camp also. It gets dark around 7 in the evening, so it's better to come back before that time.

A pony from Arshan, photo by WayToRussia.Net

Sayan mountains are great for hiking, horseriding, or rafting. There are no travel agencies directly in Arshan, but in the yoga camp we talked of above, they propose some trips like that. However, when we were there, everything was booked and the nearest trip was going to be in a week. Usually, it costs about $30-$50 a day per person.

Celine is swimming in a river at Arshan, photo by WayToRussia.Net


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If you want to make sure you'll be able to try some of these activities, we recommend you to book them beforehand with the tour operators presented on our site in Baikal / Activities section. They have really good inexpensive offers, or otherwise, you can book a 10-day rafting trip.

A river at Arshan, photo by WayToRussia.Net

 

Some Practical Information:

The shops are located on the main square, next to the bus stop. There are all kinds of products available, ice-creams, smoked fish, and beers in open-air cafes. There are also two cantines that serve very cheap food, but it's not of a good quality. It's better to eat in the yoga camp, where they can feed you with vegeterian (and non-vegeterian stuff) for $2 only.
In the mornings, from 10 to 2, there's a market, where the local people sell veggies, milk, cottage cheese.

A cantine at Arshan, photo by WayToRussia.Net

There's a post office, that's located on the main square, it's open: 9.00-17.00, closed 13.00-14.00, days off: sat and sun. There's also an international phone office, which is always crowded (you'll have to wait 2 hours in the line), it's opened every day, from 9.00 until 21.00.
 




 

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