Ulan-Ude is the capital of the Republic of Buryatia and homeland of the Buryat people, who are closely related to Mongolians. After years of repression during the Soviet era, Buryat traditions and religions (shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism) have seen a revival, and you’ll notice how the city is an ethnic and spiritual mix of Euro-Russian, Mongolia, and Buryat cultures. The future of Buryatia is directly connected with development of the Lake Baikal area as a tourism zone. By coming here with our groups, respecting environmental issues and with rational use of the area's rich cultural and historic legacy, we aim to contribute to the development of sustainable tourism in Eastern Siberia. The area is fabulously beautiful, Ulan Ude is surrounded by vast, wild nature, boundless steppes, alpine and taiga forests.
You'll arrive at Ulan Ude around 6am in the morning, and head to Lake Baikal (approx. 3 hours), the deepest lake in the world with 20% of the world's fresh water. Please note that the breakfast this morning is included in the guesthouse, so it'll be a late one and it's best for you to have some snacks in case you get hungry. Today and tomorrow will be free days to enjoy your surroundings. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from here, including hiking, swimming, boat trips, or simply enjoy the sun and the magnificent scenery as this part of the lake has beautiful, long sandy beaches and some smaller and warmer lakes. Don't miss out on experiencing a banya, the Russian version of a sauna. Locals swear by the cleansing, healing and meditative properties of having a steam and a wash in the banya, and it can also be quite the social occasion. Be sure to avail yourself of some birch twigs and slap yourself (and others) over the shoulders for a traditional Siberian 'massage' to get the true banya experience. The banya here gives you a chance to cool off from the steam by jumping straight into the lake, before you go back in and do it all again.
Your accommodation tonight is multi-share. Full board is included, with plenty of tasty Russian staples like salads, soups, black bread, pancakes and pies. You'll also get a chance to try the local fish from Baikal – omul – which taste even better when roasted over a camp fire on the lake shore.