Lake Baikal: Two Shores, Four Cultures

Experience cultural immersion in the Baikal region of Siberia
©Photo by Ilya Pitalev
Look beyond the surface of Lake Baikal and discover the unique melting pot of cultures that call this beautiful region home

One of the world’s oldest geographical features formed 25 to 30 million years ago, magnificent Lake Baikal, which is the highlight of Eastern Siberia, Russia. Ancient and mysterious, Baikal holds deep spiritual and historical significance for the four indigenous cultures that inhabit its shores. On this 9 day Lake Baikal tour, you’ll get acquainted with these long-surviving cultures as we visit the region’s most famous and picturesque places, both overland and across this majestic "inland sea".


  • Cruise to Olkhon Island, the largest of Lake Baikal’s islands and the “capital” of shamanistic culture. On a day tour of Olkhon’s natural wonders, discover untouched Siberian forests, soaring capes and cliffs, pristine sandy beaches and jaw-dropping sunsets
  • Visit Ust-Orda village to experience the ancient customs of the Buryat people first hand. Feast on Buryati noodle soup and dumplings, hear extraordinary throat singers and participate in traditional games and dances
  • Explore Siberia's ancient links to Asian culture in the city of Ulan-Ude and journey to the epicentre of Russian Buddhism. Ivolginsky Datsan is the most revered Buddhist monastery in the country, with colourful stupas and a spectacularly wild setting in the foothills of eastern Baikal
  • Spend the day with the Old Believers of Tarbagatai, a tight-knit community that preserves three centuries of faith and tradition since their split from the Russian Orthodox Church. Enjoy a festive folk performance and a sumptuous feast washed down with lashings of Siberian vodka

The Buryatia and Baikal regions of Siberia are remarkable in that many of their indigenous inhabitants have maintained a largely traditional way of life. Here, differing cultures not only co-exist but complement each other, as Russian customs and traditions merge with both modernity and age-old Buryat foundations.

We will explore both shores of Lake Baikal, beginning our journey in the primarily European Irkutsk region before moving on to Ulan-Ude and the Asiatic Buryat Republic, which shares ethnic ties with neighbouring Mongolia. As we travel from west to east, you’ll be amazed at how things continually transform around you, from faces, food and languages to natural landmarks and landscapes.

This Lake Baikal tour is a truly immersive cultural experience. You’ll be welcomed into rural villages and invited to learn local customs and taste traditional cuisine. We’ll visit some of Russia’s oldest Buddhist stupas, discover one of the last refuges of the Old Believers and open the curtain on the shamanistic lore behind Lake Baikal’s most sacred sites.

Of course, in the Baikal region, there’s rarely a moment when the scenery doesn’t steal the show. Baikal is a paradise of biodiversity. Expect gobsmacking vistas across the deepest blue waters and soaring mountain ranges on the opposite shore. We’ll explore the world's deepest lake by boat, visiting some of its remote, rugged islets including the breathtakingly beautiful Olkhon Island.

With wonderfully welcoming people and extraordinary nature, experiencing Siberian culture simply doesn’t get better than this.

9 days
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Trip style



3* hotels, guest houses

Culture, nature


Action rating

Group size

Type of tour

9 days / 8 nights


2-15 people

Private tour

Itinerary View map

Day 1:Irkutsk

Arrival to Irkutsk, "the Paris of Siberia". Meet your guide at the airport for a transfer to the centrally located hotel. After short rest, we embark on the city centre tour with visiting main sites.

Day 2:Irkutsk > Ust-Orda > Sakhyurta

After breakfast in the hotel we embark on a long drive north. En route we will stop at Ust-Orda village, where we get acquaintance with the local Buryat people culture, try their cuisine and participate in traditional games and dances. In the evening we will arrive to Sakhyurta village on the Small Sea strait.

Day 3:Ogoy and Olkhon Islands

Today we learn about the 2 cultures of Lake Baikal - Shamanism and Buddhism. After breakfast at the hotel, we board a boat for a mini cruise to Olkhon Island - the shamanistic "capital".

On the route to Olkhon, we will make a stop on Ogoy island, where the Stupa of Enlightenment is located - the Buddhists sacred place. In the evening upon arrival to Olkhon, you will check-in at the hotel and will learn about the shamanistic culture of Lake Baikal. We will enjoy the sunset close to Shaman Rock - one of the most sacred shamanistic places of Baikal.

Day 4:Khoboy Cape

This day will be dedicated to the beautiful nature of the Olkhon Island.
We board a mini-bus for a drive to the northern part of the island - Khoboy Cape. We will visit the most beautiful spots of Olkhon, and will enojy a picnic lunch at on the shores of Baikal.

Day 5:Ushkan Islands > Maksimikha

Today we leave the sacred Olkhon Island and move east to the opposite shore of Baikal, located in Buryatia village. We board a boat for a mini cruise to Maksimikha village.

En route we make a stop at Ushkan Islands, where if we're lucky enough we meet the Baikal freshwater seals, called Nerpas. After picnic lunch at the bay, we board a bus for a drive to Maksimikha village, where we stay for the night.

Day 6:Barguzin valley

This day we will spend travelling along Barguzin Valley. Here we visit the Yanzhima Palace, where women from all around the globe come to ask gods for babies.

We also take a short hike to the cliffs, from where we enjoy the amazing views of Baikal. Before heading back to Maksimikha, we will visit the Barguzin village, where time has stopped and different cultures co-exist together.

Day 7:Ulan-Ude

Today we are leaving Baikal and heading to the capital of Buryatia - Ulan-Ude. After hotel check-in, we embark on a comprehensive city tour, including visiting the Ivolginsky Datsan, where you will learn about buddhism in Siberia.

Day 8:Tarabagatai

This day we spend with the old-believers in the village of the Tarabagatai. You will learn the story of the Old Believers, see their traditional clothes and try the family cuisine.

Day 9:Departure

It's time to say goodbye to Lake Baikal and its cultures. After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport of Ulan-Ude.



3* hotels in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude

Guesthouses in Sakhyurta, Khuzhir and Maksimikha villages


All meals during the program (B,L,D)


Airport transfers

Transportation according to the itinerary (coach, 4wd cars, boat)


Local professional English-speaking guide

Activities and sights

All activities and sights indicated in the program


Nature reserve fees

Russian visa support documents

*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Not included

Flights, travel insurance, visa, optional excursions, individual transfers, tips

Dates & Prices

DatesAvailabilityPriceSingle sup. 
Private departures from Jul to Sep
Private Tour
Available US $on request TBA Reserve
9 days
Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude
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9 days
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If you have any urgent questions or enquiries, please give us a call +61 2 9388 9816

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