Summer Siberia Combo Tour: Buryatia, Baikal and Magadan
Make the most of the splendor of Siberia! In this tour you will visit three of the most lush parts of the mighty Siberia. It wouldn’t be a YPT trip however, if we didn’t spice it up with a hefty dose of soviet wonders so we’ll take you from Stalin’s fish gulags to the best-preserved Siberian gulag, in Magadan.
In this tour, we will see some of Russia’s most beautiful sceneries and meet the Buryats an ethnicity of Russia which shares common ancestors with the Mongols. as we make our way from Ulan-Ude, capital of Buryatia by train to Irkutsk and the stunning Lake Baikal. This section of the Transsiberian railway is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful so we’ll take the day train to see it properly. Train enthusiasts will rejoice! We’ll be exploring the city of Irkutsk, Siberia’s second city after Vladivostok, and one with an amazing history and culture of St Petersburg exiles and local ethnic groups.
We’ll be spending 3 nights in and around Lake Baikal on Olkhon Island, the biggest lake island in the world, its various villages and islands, including a visit to Stalin’s ‘fish gulag’ at Peshchanaya village, and a bonfire meal and drinks with the local Shamanistic Buryat people! We’ll ride around untouched sceneries of extreme beauty on the world’s biggest lake island. Hiking on scenic coasts and climbing up the dramatic Burkhan Cape.
From there, we’ll visit the inherently dark regions of Magadan and the Kolyma. As a hub for gulags during the most terrifying years of Soviet Rule, it became home to ‘’the Road of Bones’’, a highway stretching thousands of miles and costing thousands of lives. Prisoners who died simply buried on the spot and became part of the road. To this day, the area is still littered with remote gulags, ghost towns and other Soviet relics left abandoned during the collapse of the USSR.
Tour meeting at Hotel Marrakesh at 10am. Your tour guide will go through our itinerary before we head off in the city of Ulan-Ude
We go check out Ulan Ude’s world famous Lenin Head Statue. It is three-story high!
We then head to Victory Park, the biggest park of Ulan-Ude, filled with soviet statues and the best place to people-watch in Ulan-Ude
Lunch at restaurant Tengis, specialised in Buryat fare.
We take a taxi and head north to Ulan Ude Ethnographic Museum. This open-air museum is one of the biggest in Russia, with over 11,000 exhibits. It will help us get an idea of the history of the land and the Buryat people.
We head back to town for dinner, this time at restaurant Buryatia. Every night, they put on a special buryat performance.
Walk around town to check out the cathedrals, statues and the Selenge statues
Stop by a classic soviet era bar to quench our thirst reasonably. We’re taking an early train tomorrow!
Overnight at our hotel
Monday 19th July – Train/Irkutsk
Early morning check-out as we board train 069Я to Irkutsk. Along the way, we will pass some of Russia’s most magnificent sceneries. If you wanted to see the best of the transsiberian railway without actually doing the whole ride, this is it!
Arrival in Irkutsk at 16:20 local time.
Walking Tour of the 130th Quarter, we go to churches and monasteries, the planetarium and public observatory, the Eksperimentary Museum of Science, the ‘Window to Asia’ exhibition and the House of Folk Arts, all built to celebrate Irkutsk’s 350th anniversary
Head out for dinner at Rassolnik, a restaurant serving local recipes in a nostalgic soviet décor and drinks to find out what goes for a night out in Russia’s Far East!
Overnight in Irkutsk
Tuesday 20th July – Listvyanka
Breakfast at the Hotel
We drive to the nearby village of Listvyanka to have our first look at Baikal Lake.
Drive out to Listvyanka village at Lake Baikal and check out the fish market and then scour the souvenirs market for Soviet kitsch. We get the opportunity to swim in the lake.
Picnic using local produces and Baikal, a local vodka famed all around Russia.
Visit Baikal Museum where huge aquariums are refilled with water from the lake and head on to the Under the Open Sky Museum
Drive back to Irkutsk
Dinner at a Nomad Restaurant. Those of us who were in Mongolia previously will reminisce on the taste of that wild land.
Evening walk around town, as this is a YPT tour, we’ll make our compulsory visit to a statue of Lenin
Overnight in Irkutsk
Wednesday 21st July – Olkhon Island
Early breakfast in the hotel
Depart for Olkhon Island, one of the largest lake islands in the world. It’s a 5-6 hour journey by bus and ferry but the scenery we pass through means it feels like a short trip!
Check in to our accommodation on the island
Lunch at the hotel Baikalov Ostrog styled after building built during the conquest of Siberia.
Visit Khuzhir village, the main settlement on the island and home to mostly Buryats, the native ethnic group
We’ll head on a trek to Burkhan Cape.
Dinner and overnight in Khuzhir
Thursday 22nd July – Olkhon Island
Head out after breakfast up to the northernmost point of the island – Khoboy using 4X4 to get there off-road!
We enjoy a traditional Buryat lunch cooked on an open fire of barbecued slated fish and ukha – traditional fisherman’s soup
We stop by Uzury a quaint and pleasant hamlet isolated from the rest of the world to understand how people live around here.
Head back to Khuzir and relax in a banya bath house (optional extra)
Dinner and overnight in Khuzir, we’ll keep warm with the help of an old friend – vodka!
Friday 23rd July – Olkhon Island
Today, we’ll head to the southern part of Olkhon for most of the day. We will first take a boat to island Ogoy.
We will be Island Hopping around the Islet of the Small Sea.
We finally reach Ogoy Island where the stupa of enlightenment, a holy site for the Buddhist Buryat, can be found.
It is hard to believe that we are still in the middle of a lake, as we will pass through steppes, sandy beaches and taiga.
We make our way to Khuzhir, stopping on the way in many of the abandoned villages, including Peschanaya, that used to form Stalin’s Fish gulags. While its history has been darkened, it remains a place of serene beauty.
Saturday 24th July – Olkhon/Irkutsk
Breakfast at the hotel
Today, we have to cross all the way back to Irkutsk by bus, but the road ahead of us is certainly one of the most beautiful in the world.
Arrival in Irkutsk in the evening.
Dinner in the 130th Quarter followed by a pub crawl of the many bars in the surroundings. After all, we have to celebrate our last day!
Sunday 25th July – Irkutsk/Magadan
Breakfast in the hotel before we head out to catch our flight to Magadan. We recommend taking S7 direct flight from Irkutsk to Magadan (flight not included in the price of the tour)
Arrival in our comfortable soviet hotel in Magadan.
We’ll take in the rustic, to say the least, nightlife of Magadan, the main settlement in this faraway and off-the-beaten path region.
Monday 26th July – Magadan
Enjoy a lay-in today or go out to explore the wilderness surrounding Magadan.
In the evening, you’ll meet the rest of the group, joining for the Magadan part of the trip before heading out for some traditional Siberian fare and get to know each other.
Overnight in the hotel
Tuesday 27th July – Magadan
After a hearty Siberian breakfast, we meet our local guides and start the day nice and early with a trip to the Regional History Museum and its 5 halls dedicated to the region’s dark Gulag past.
We’ll then hike up to the Mask of Sorrow, a monument perched on a hill above Magadan in memory of the countless prisoners who suffered and died in the Gulag prison camps in the area during the Soviet Union.
After lunch, we’ll pay a visit to the Geological Museum which documents the gold discovered in the region. This was a principal reason for the forced labour in the area.
We’ll see the memorial museum of Vadim Kozin – In 1944, shortly before the birthday of Stalin, KGB chief Beria called Kozin and asked why his songs didn’t involve Stalin. Kozin famously replied that songs about Stalin were not suited for tenor voices. In late 1944, Kozin was sentenced to five years in jail as part of the repression campaign against prominent Soviet performers and was sent to the Magadan Gulag.
Visit the Memory Node monument, dedicated to the Soviet troops from the area who perished during the Second World War.
Of course, it’s not a Soviet trip unless you see a giant statue of Vladimir Lenin, so we head for sunset selfies with the original Bolshevik to wind down our first action packed day!
We’ll head for dinner and drinks in Magadan.
Overnight in the hotel.
Wednesday 28th July – Magadan Gulag
Today we make an early start for the big reason for coming here! After grabbing our supplies, we begin an epic 320km road trip to the Dniprovsky tin mine – the infamous Soviet Prison camp which operated between 1941 and 1954 and was operated through the forced labour of political prisoners, criminals and Nazi POWs from across all of the Soviet Republics.
Normal cars do not fare well in this extreme terrain, so we will likely need to switch to the vehicle which is the workhorse of the Russian Far East, the Kamaz truck!
Due to it’s remote location, much of the infrastructure used when it was a gulag including the watchtowers, huts and barbed wire fences are still intact. We spend most of the day here exploring the gigantic abandoned camp.
Depending on the situation we will visit a number of ghost villages either before, or after our trip to the mine as well as stop offs at Soviet monuments and weird relics on the side of the road.
At night, we camp out in the countryside near the mine. Your YPT guide and local team will prepare a BBQ and dish out some vodka for those who wish.
Embedded within our local team will be a true man of the Russian Taiga, in camouflage bearing a high powered rifle and a machete. He is there to keep us safe from any bears.
Overnight camping at the Gulag.
Thursday 29th July – Magadan
We’ll enjoy breakfast in the Gulag and take in the pristine nature.
After putting our tents away, we head for another day of exploring this massive mine complex ably led by our expert local guides. The gulag is one of the most preserved in Russia, so you will be able to find countless relics left strewn across the area.
Lunch in the Siberian wilderness, cooked by our local team, miles away from civilization.
We take the leisurely drive back to Magadan stopping on the way for various picture opportunities and rest stops.
On arrival back in Magadan, we check back into our hotel and freshen up after our time in the wild.
Dinner and drinks in Magadan.
Overnight in the hotel.
Friday 30th July – Magadan
Today we make an early start as our local team drive us to the sea of Okhotsk on Russia’s East coast. This is an extremely scenic drive with us taking the opportunities to stop for pictures where possible.
Legal fishing here starts on June 20th, and the Sea of Okhotsk is one of the most biologically productive of the world’s seas with over 600 species found there. So we will take the opportunity for a day of sea fishing (trying to catch Salmon and Sockeye), should we fail to catch anything our local Russian professionals will pick up the slack!
BBQ lunch by the sea, where our freshly caught fish can be cooked on a bonfire.
The Sea of Okhotsk is the coldest sea of East Asia, so those brave enough can take a dip!
In the evening we take the slow drive back to Magadan.
Dinner and drinks in Magadan
Overnight in the hotel.
Saturday 31st July – Magadan
Today we’ll start a trip to the scenic village of Ola located in the hills above Magadan.
On the way, we’ll see Nukli with it’s stunning chapel and monument in the rock.
Visit the monument to the Tsaregradsky and Bilibin, the men who arrived here on an expedition to this inhospitable region many years ago.
We’ll visit the Sleeping Dragon cliffs, with an observation deck and stunning views over the bay offering the chance to see birds and wildlife of the region. From here you can see the entire coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, from the Nyuklenskaya Spit to the Koni Peninsula.
After lunch, we will drive to see the Magadan Megaliths. Natural equal blocks formed by millions of years of unforgiving weather.
To round off the day, we’ll visit the Salt Lake of Magadan where you can take a relaxing swim if you like. In summer the water is very warm.
Return to Magadan in the evening.
At night, we head out for our last group dinner.
Although Magadan might not be renowned for its thriving nightlife, we still make the most of our last night by heading to Magadan’s Okean Bar for a YPT style last night party.
Overnight in the hotel.
Sunday 1st August – Magadan
Free morning in Magadan for last minute shopping, walking or relaxation.
We bid farewell to each other and we reach the end of the tour.
YPT can arrange any onward extension you wish, take the Trans-Siberian to Moscow or Beijing or explore more of the biggest country on earth. We can assist you with anything.
– YPT tour leader and English-speaking local tour guides
– Russian letter of invitation
– All land transportation to complete the tour
– Accommodation in twin-share basis
– All breakfasts and camping meals