Day 1: Welcome to Irkutsk - “Paris of Siberia”, capital of its great Eastern part – Siberia’s Microcosm and the gateway to “Siberia’s” Pearl - Lake Baikal! Upon arrival transfer to your hotel. After having settled in, and some time at leisure, you will depart for an interesting sightseeing tour of the city. During the tour you'll visit the city's historical center and its most visually attracted sights, including the Znamenskaya Orthodox Cathedral, noted for its historical grave of the so-called "Russian Columbus" Grigory Shelekhov who was an early Russian explorer of Alaska. You also observe the graves of the Decembrists-revolutionaries who were named to Siberia after an ill-fated attempt in 1825 to overthrow the Russian tzar. While exploring the city you have the opportunity to take many pictures of the richly carved old-style wooden houses, see the Monument to Russian Pioneers of Siberia topped by the bronze figure of Alexander-the 3rd. Lunch will be on the way. Dinner and overnight in the hotel.
Day 2: After breakfast we check out from the hotel for departure by coach from Irkutsk to the Listvyanka settlement, located on Lake Baikal in the mouth of the Angara river (the lake’s only outlet). In Listvyanka we visit the Baikal Ecology Museum which has one-of-a-kind collection of exhibits about flora and fauna of Baikal, see recently constructed Aquarium with Baikal fresh water seals. Afterwards we drive to the boat station to board our vessel, home for the next seven days. When boarding the vessel enjoy “One for the Road” Captain’s Welcome Drink. We shall be served lunch on board while on the way to the Peschanaya (meaning “Sandy”) Bay (80 km, 5.5 hour boat ride), often referred to as the Siberian Riviera due to the great number of sunshine observed here (mid annual temperature here is positive - +0.4 Celsius). Upon arrival in Peschanaya Bay we enjoy a guided walk to the Babushka Bay, the Small Bell tower Craig to take pictures of panoramic evening views on the taiga-woods of the Cedar Pass and other natural settings (in particular here you will observe one of the lake’s natural wonders – the so-called “Wandering Trees”). Dinner will feature some of the famous Baikal specialties served back on board. Overnight on board.
Day 3: We continue further along our cruise to the Khuzhir settlement on Olkhon Island (the biggest and only permanently inhabited Island on the lake). En route stop to see famous Tsagan Zaba White Marble Cliffs and observe the rock drawings petrogliphs, more than 2500 years old which depict the scenes from the lives of shamanistic believers. These petrogliphs were called by a famous Russian anthropologist Okladnikov “the Pearls of ancient art.” We shall disembark here to get close to the rock drawings and to be able to take pictures.
After lunch on board we reach Olkhon Island and enjoy its stunning scenery. Our boat will take us to the so-called Small Sea which is the part of Lake Baikal enclosed by the mainland shore and the island’s eastern shore. Before we reach the central settlement of Khuzhir on the island we will come to the small island of Ogoy – the place of the only Buddhist stupa placed on the lake. Later in the evening we shall reach by boat Khuzhir settlement featuring another holy place of Lake Baikal - the famous Shamanka Craig which we walk to through Khuzhir village. The Shaman Craig well-known for the so-called “Buddha Rock of Altar” is one of Holy of Hollies of shamanists and Buddhist alike. Here we shall be met by the local famous practicing “White Shaman”. He will perform the rite of purification for you and involve you in the ritual of offerings to the deities of lake Baikal and the Island’s major spirits. After the ceremony we’ll have a discussion on the Shamanism of Siberia, its philosophy and outlook. Then – enjoy a Siberian Banya (steam sauna). Dinner shall be served on board to be followed by the Baikal Songs Lesson.
Day 4: Today we proceed to the Ushkanyi Islands where you will have a chance to observe the lake’s only mammals and mystery of Baikal – the fresh water seals – locally called “nerpas”. After lunch served on board we get to the Ushkanyi Island to disembark here and escorted by local forest ranger we sneak to the Island’s flat underwater rocks where seals like to stay most of their time while they are near here. After seeing the seals we get back on the boat to continue another 50 km to the Zavorotnaya Bay. Then and after a brief lecture on know-how’s of local fishing techniques we go for the evening fishing to catch Baikal black grayling and, perhaps, omul-fish. Overnight on the boat.
Day 5: After breakfast we’ll be already approaching the so-called “Coast of Brown Bears” in the premises of Baikalo-Lensky Nature Preserve. Here, especially in June, one can often observe the brown bears that come out from the taiga-woods to feed on the water - flies- (Baikal sedge) - the bears’ early summer delicacy. This day we shall cover over 90 km. Following the shore that is covered by the Great Baikal Trail We shall proceed to the Cape of Kotelnikovsky famed for the thermal springs and beautiful scenery. Upon reaching them – enjoy the warm springs before dinner and after dinner – another chance to have a good catch of Baikal fish shall be provided for you by the crew.
Day 6: We continue to Severobaikalsk (70 km) to enjoy the sights of northern Baikal shores. After lunch on board and then arrival in the town of Severobaikalsk we check out from the boat and drive by van to the tour the city. We shall have a guided tour the Museum of BAM-construction (Baikal-Amur Railway) and local picture gallery. After a short walk to explore the down town of Severobaikalsk we will have dinner at the local “Russ’” pub famous for its own brewery – here the Baikal northernmost beer is made. During the dinner you will be welcome to take part in “The Baikal Best Singing Duet of The Trip” followed by award. After dinner – transfer to the railway station to board the train to Irkutsk. Overnight on the train. Total train riding time from Severobaikalsk to Irkutsk is 32 and a half hours.
Day 7: Full-day trip on along the rails of famous BAM railroad – the feast of the Soviet railway engineering passing by stations of Kunerma, Ulkan, Lena, Ust-Kut, Bratsk, Chuna, Taishet and Zima on the way to Irkutsk while your informative guide will tell you many interesting and fabulous facts about the places you go by. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and overnight on the train.
Day 8: Early morning arrival in Irkutsk. Meeting and assistance at the railway station. Transfer to the airport to take flight to Moscow.
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