Buryatia Shore of Baikal Lake: Goryachinsk, Gremyachinsk, Svyatoy Nos
Even though there are probably as many destinations on the eastern shore of Baikal as there are on the western Irkutsk side, the density of tourist hotspots is much less, so it feels very relaxing, quiet and somewhat more authentic. You can find basic accommodation in one of the resort villages near the lake or just camp on the shore. It might also make sense to rent a car for the journey if you have have the intention to come back to Ulan-Ude. Otherwise, you can also go all the way up to Ust-Barguzin (read below about it), in the middle of the lake, and then take a boat to Olkhon island, stay there for some days and then go back to Irkutsk with a bus.
Map, Location & How to Get There:
The best point to start exploring this part of the lake is Ulan-Ude — the capital of Buryatia and a stop along the Trans-Siberian (7 hours from Irkutsk to the East).
The best way to get to the eastern shore of Baikal is by car or by bus. There are about 4 buses departing daily from Ulan-Ude main bus terminal (Korabelnaya st, 32), the first starting at 7.00 and the last at about 17.00. The whole trip to Goryachinsk takes about 3 hours and costs about €10. You can also get a private car or a van, but expect to pay at least €80 for the trip (which is OK if you're 4 people or more). There are also about 4 buses a day back from Goryachinsk to Ulan-Ude, the first one departing at 11.30 and the last one at about 21.00.
If you would like to travel further, there are two buses daily, at 7.00 and 15.00 from Ulan-Ude to Ust-Barguzin, from where you can travel to Svyatoy Nos secluded bay. The bus takes 4 to 5 hours and costs about €10 one way. A car would cost about €100.
It's also possible to hitchhike along the way but the Russian drivers are spoiled and always want some money, so expect to pay for your trip (count €20 per 1 hour of driving), unless you arrange otherwise before you jump in.
During the summer there is also a weekly ferry connecting Ust-Barguzin (6 hours drive north from Ulan-Ude along Baikal) to the Western shore (Olkhon island, Listvyanka and Irkutsk). It takes about 2 hours to Olkhon island and about 9 hours to Irkutsk. Check out the up-to-date schedules on
Stop #1: Gremyachinsk — Meet the Locals
Gremyachinsk is the first sight you will have of Baikal lake if you start your trip from the big Buryat capital Ulan Ude.
The ride to Gremyachinsk: To get to Gremyachinsk you’ll need to get a bus or for a more comfortable option, rent a jeep with a driver. The 3-hour ride through the high hills, forests and dust is hard and tiring. There’s a turn just before a long slope where it’s the tradition to throw coins through the window. It’s supposed to bring luck for the rest of the route. Many people do it, out of superstition.
What is it like: Gremyachinsk is the first village on the shore of the lake on the Buryat side, and is a calm peaceful place where cows, horses, pigs and goats grass freely next to the beach. The lake is like a sea, it can look calm some days and seem like an ocean dechaine other days. Sometimes one can see the Island Olkhon from the village, but the weather is not always clear enough.
In fact Gremyachinsk is not as popular among Russians, but there was a whole French school coming there for Summer (accommodated by local people), and there's a rumor that Putin likes the Kotokel lake, which is 5 km away.
What to do in Gremyachinsk? It is very interesting to stay with a family for a few days, and taste the local way of life.
• You can take a Russian bagna, practise Russian, live in a little wooden house, meet the hosts, taste specialities such as home made Varenik: jam, vodka and salted fish freshly fished.
• Many men are fishermen and it’s possible to accompany them on a trip on the lake, in the day time or for a night fishing party. They fish Omul, an endemic specie. The fishing is regulated, but there are enough of Omuls to feed locals and summer visitors.
• You can walk along the shore of the lake.
• You can swim! And even drink the water. Locals say it’s pure. You can even swim very far, as the water there is warmer than at other places on the shore of Baikal.
• You can sunbathe, walk in the pine forests.
• There’s also a tropical lake, just outside the vilage, where th etemperature is 20 degrees celcius.
• You can watch the sun set on Baikal waters from Gremyachinsk. It’s on the sunsetting shore of the lake.
• In winter, you can walk on the water of Baikal or even drive north to Severiobaikalsk on a special road on the frozen lake. You can see how fishermen make holes in the ice and catch winter fish.
Where to live and where to eat? Gremyachinsk was the first place where we swam at the lake Baikal on our trip in summer 2002. We stopped with a family, who is friends of Dan's relatives and it was a very nice experience. We ate delicious local meals (mostly, fish), did some Russian steam-sauna (banya), swam in the lake, walked around a lot, and were enjoying the hospitality of local people (most of them grow things of their own, so you can get some fresh veggies and milk from them).
There are also two cantines in the village, but the food isn't nice. We recommend you staying with locals and enjoying the home-made food better.
Stop #2: Goryachinsk — Sandy Beaches, Sun, and "Seven Bays" Area
Goryachinsk is a village just a short stroll from a sandy shore of Lake Baikal. Goryachinsk is a weekend destination for people from Ulan Ude. It’s also and foremost a cure thermal. The village was named Goryachinsk (goryachi means hot) because it was built around natural ‘hot’ springs.
The ride to Goryachinsk: The road from Ulan Ude reaches the lake Baikal at Gremyachinsk, then it follows the shore of the clear lake, and only a thin line of forest separates it from the shore. Through the trees, you’ll see colored tents and dirt paths just large enough for a car. Many campers drive to here, the first spot on the lake, for a few days in the summer: families with small children come with their car and tents, elder people come to fish, friends gather together and spend a wild time.
It’s worth to go a bit further, through Goryachinsk to reach more remote beaches. The road leaves the shore and when you arrive at the turn on the road for Goryachinsk an old handmade wooden soviet sign welcomes you.
Goryachinsk village: A large dirt road boarded with wooden colored houses reaches in the depth of the village. There’s a central place, with a few food shops, a path that leads to Hot Springs and to a Thermal Hospital, and a second path, which leads through a humid forest to sand dunes.
Goryachie Kluchi Guesthouse
For those who like a bit more conventional accommodation this guesthouse offers nice wooden houses with simple, but really well-designed rooms. Prices start at €60 for a double but you can also rent a whole house for about €100 per night. The guesthouse is located about 800 m from the lake.
Komsomolskaya ulitsa 5, 671275 Goryachinsk
Комсомольская ул, 5, Горячинск
book online: www.bit.lu/gorkluch
Yurt Camping Alan Goa in Goryachinsk
Just before Goryachinsk, near Turka settlement thereís a very nice small "Alan Goa" yurt camp on the shore of the lake. It's very comfortable, has all the amenities including electricity, beds, working spaces, and water. There's also a nice terrace to enjoy the lake. The yurts cost €50 for a double and €80 for a 4-bed yurt thatís 32 sq meters big (about 6 meters in diameter).
If you want a safe place to stay before exploring the lake this is probably your best choice.
Alan Goa, poselok Turka, 670000 Goryachinsk
Алан Гоа, поселок Турка
book online: www.bit.ly/alangoa
If you follow the first path, it’ll take you under pine trees, along a stream, until two pretty wooden sheds built on the special stream. In the center of the shed is a fountain of Hot Springs. Along the stream are benches where people sit and dip their feet in the mixed hot and cold waters. It’s supposed to purify, bring health and happiness! What it surely brings is people together, they meet on the benches and talk about where they come from, where it’s best to buy fish in the village….
Dunes and remote beaches: The path leading to the dunes is green and humid. Cows grass near the village, squirrels climb the trees near the dunes, and in the middle, mosquitoes bite you if you forget to cover your head.
The sand dune landscape reminds the Landes on the shore of the ocean in France. Small pine trees give some shade in some places. The view from the top of the Dunes is beautiful, a blue lake, like a sea, no sign of cities, or beach bars, only the sand, the lake, pine trees, rocks, the sun, and people.
People who stay in sanatorium or elsewhere in the village, often come on the beach for the day, they install themselves just outside of the path. The ones who like remoteness walk towards the right. A 5-km path along the shore takes you through 7 bays and different wild landscapes until a river, then until a next village. If you feel like camping there are beautiful places to set a tent, away from the crowd, just on the beach.
Stop #3: Svyatoy Nos, Snake Bay, and Chevrkushinsky Bay — The End of The World
Have you read the book "Beach" or seen the movie with the same name starring Dicaprio? Not that it was exceptional, but I liked the feeling when the travelers arrived to an island far in the ocean, hoping to be alone there, and then found the community of people like them.
This is exactly what happened to us, when we went further from Goryachinsk to Ust-Barguzin and then to Svyatoy Nos Peninsula. We came there just because we heard that it's possible to hitchhike a boat from Svyatoy Nos to Olkhon (which is only 8 hours across the lake). It was a strenuous trip: 1 hour by the broken road along Baikal shore in a military van — and we are in Monakhovo — the first village on Svyatoy Nos peninsula. People there told us that no, you can't get to Olkhon from Monakhovo, but if you walk to Korbulik, which is just 5 km away, there are a lot of tourist boats stopping there, and you will be able to find something.
We came to Korbulik at 7 in the evening. It was a fishermen's village with only one shop that opens occasionally in the afternoon, and no roads further. So, it seemed like the end of the world. Surprisingly, we saw a tent just on the shore of the lake, and met two Austrian guys, who got there the same way as us: people told them they can get a boat to Olkhon from there. So, all of us (6 people by that time) started to think how we can get further. Local fisherment said we can go to Snake Bay, which is 30 minutes by boat away, and there certainly we will find a boat. It seemed like Snake Bay is a secluded place, and only a few tourist ships stop there a few times per week to show the Barguzinsky National Park to its passengers.
The next day, we tried to hitchhike a tourist boat that stopped for a few minutes in Korbulik to Olkhon Island, but at the last moment Swiss tourists refused to accept us. So, we hired fishermen's boat to the Snake Bay (30 mins, $10 for all), and arranged they will come back for us 3 days after.
When we were approaching the Snake Bay we were really surprised to see a lot of tents on the shore. You can only get by boat to that place, and that's what local tourists do: they hire a boat, go there with their families, and enjoy life on the beach. We camped on the shore as well, met a lot of interesting people, and had great time. But, were unable to get a ship to Olkhon (everybody was refusing). So, we got on our fishermen boat that came for us, and went back to Monahovo (1 hour, $20). From there, we hired a van for $25, that took six of us to Ust-Barguzin, where we took a van to Ulan-Ude for $70.
Some practicalities: First of all, remember, that it's hardly possible to get a lift for free in this region. Russian drivers are spoiled, and they always want money for their services. Normally, it is about $20 per hour, and you'll need to pay more, if the driver knows you don't have other choice.
The last place where local buses go is Ust-Barguzin, which is on the shore of Baikal. There are a few shops there, and if you cross a small river by ferry (it's just 50 meters wide), there is always a small market with fresh berries, nuts, fish, and cookies. Also, just as you are entering Ust-Barguzin, there's a great and cheap cafe on the road, where you can eat a nice dinner (open 24 hours).
Ust-Barguzin is not interesting to stay in, so you should go further to Svyatoy Nos peninsula, which is a mecca for independent travelers (mostly Russians and Polish).
There is a weekly ferry to the opposite side of the lake - Olkhon island and then on to Irkutsk. You should check the latest schedule on www.bit.ly/vsrpbaikal to know for sure when the boats depart exactly, but usually it's every Tuesday at 8.30 am (the trip to Olkhon takes 2 hours and costs about $60 one way, the whole ride to Irkutsk is about 12 hours and costs about $100). The boat comes from Olkhon to Ust-Barguzin on Monday evening at 20.30 so it might be more convenient to travel that way as you can then take a car and continue to Ulan-Ude.
It's better to hitchhike next to where the bus dropped you. Normally, a ride to Svyatoy Nos peninsula costs about $25 for a car, and it takes strenuous 1 hour. You will arrive to Monakhovo, that's where the road ends. In Monakhovo, there are a lot of Russian tourists camping on the shore, and a few tourist boat, proposing their services. A ride to Olkhon Island will cost you about $400 US and lasts around 8-10 hours. Needless to say, it is really expensive, and there's a little chance to bring the price down.
So, you can hire a boat just to Snake Bay (which is 1 hour, and costs about $20-$30), alternatively, walk to Korbulik (it's a hard 2-hour walk), and get a fish boat to Snake Bay from there (30 mins, $10).
There's a shop in Korbulik that is opened occasionally in the afternoon, especially when tourist boats stop by.
There are no shops in Monakhovo.
Snake Bay is a wild place, but if you walk 1 hour to a small hotel on the lake, they have a cafe and a little shop there too.
I really want to make the point that this place is not civilized at all, and some traces of people can be explained only with the weirdness of Russian life. So, if you are not sure about your ability to make all this by your own, you can still get a tour from a travel agency and observe these places from a boat.
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