Island Olkhon

Page - 9 April, 2003
Olkhon with its Baikal-shaped coastline is the largest isle among others in Baikal region. It is 71 km long, 12 km wide and its square amounts to 730 km2. In the neighborhood of Olkhon there are Baikal deepest cavity (1637 m deep) and Olkhon Gate Strait with contiguous Small Sea that separates the isle from the western part of Lake Baikal.

vv: 20/Lake Baikal - Olkhon Island

Olkhon embraces all sorts of Baikal landscape diversity. A place of seductiveness among them chiefly belongs to the steppe with running deep inland bays that are thoroughly warmed up in summer. It is not only this that makes Olkhon so alluring. Here one may admire Baltic-looking sand beaches bordering with dunes, hills, coniferous and deciduous groves or deep relict fur-woods, stern marble red-mossed rocks. It is for its virgin magnificent luxurious and landscapes that makes Olkhon so attractive for artists and photographers.

In their myths Buryats consider Olkhon as an above of Baikal redoubtable spirits. The legend says that Olkhon witnessed the khan Khoto-bai (supreme gods' messenger) descending from up the sky and his son Khan-Khubu, white-haired gold-eagle, who was the first to get the gift of shaman. The isle of Olkhon has always been sacral place of the northern shaman world. Nowadays near Cope (the rock Shamanka) on the lakeside close to the village of Khuzir the tourists still may see the ribbons quivering in the wind. This is the place of theolatry, Burkhan. The ancient legend narrates that in the cave of the rock Shamanka lived the ruler of the isle and its outskirts, Ezin, or Burkhan. Olkhon loftiest peak, Izimei, that is nearly 1300 high, is said to be another sacral place. Somewhere at the foot of Izimei was once chained the immortal Bear.

The upper head (Olkhon northern peak), Khoboi, falls steeply into the cool Baikal waters. Khoboi means a 'fang'. A high, fang-shaped rock that soars upward serves as a direct proof and justification of its name. Southern contours of this rock remind of an imposing famine body with a clear-cut head, a nose and a chin.

Olkhon population numbers approximately 1500 persons. There are two relatively dense-populated villages, Khuzir and Kharantsy, and one smaller, Yzyri with just few houses. The overwhelming population is Russians and Buryats engaged in fishing. In summer they put to sea in the boats, in winter fishermen go out on the ice and set up canvas tents over the holes with the aim to catch Baikal silver omul whose price in 2001 averaged 2 rubles per head. Siberians are hospitable, that's why they treat tourists well. The village of Yzyri disposes of two grocery stores; the foodstuffs very from groats to vodka (manufactured from pure Baikal water). Certainly, any inhabited locality can't do without an 'obligatory' hotel, so imagine a rather dismal two-storied barrack with outdoor water supplies and WC. This is an Olkhon hotel. Summer tourists arrive mainly from Irkutsk because Olkhon gives boundless opportunities - starting with picturesque bights where vacationists may pitch tents. The water warms up to 18 above zero in August. There are no any dangerous animals or encephalitic ticks. The officials have acknowledged the isle being a reserve, but on the other hand nobody force tourists out.

In winter Bencharov's county estate proves to be the only tourist spot though in winter Olkhon and Baikal are not less fascinating than summer ones. Fairy-tale ice castles on the rocks, lake Baikal sparkling and glittering in the red sunset, astonishingly clear crystal ice-hummocks shimmering blue. Our photo album enables to get sight and indulge in viewing just fractions of winter fairy-tale, to be more exact beauties of Siberian nature. No doubt you'd better do it with your own eyes.

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