Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Thu December 17 2015

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  • Nick and Dariece | December 17, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Olkhon Island: A Must-Visit On the Trans-Siberian Railroad

    Olkhon Island: A Must-Visit On the Trans-Siberian Railroad

    Photos by Goats on the Road

    The Trans-Siberian Railroad is one of the most famous train journeys in the world. This line runs from Moscow, Russia in the west, to the Japan Sea in the east.

    There are various intersecting railway lines as well, with the Trans-Mongolian being a popular route, which runs from Moscow in the west to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and Beijing, China. You could choose to stay on the train for the entire journey, and use this route as strictly a form of transportation from point “A” to point “B,” but most (if not all) travelers opt to get off at many of the cities along the way.

    Irkutsk, Russia is one of those must-see stops, it's also the jumping off point for Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal. When you envision Russia or Siberia, you probably picture the ground being covered snow and people huddling in front of a fire to stay warm. While this may be true in the winter months, the summer in Russia is like that in Canada: warm and beautiful. Stopping off at Lake Baikal for a swim is definitely possible!

    lake baikal russia

    After a seven-hour bus ride from the city of Irkutsk, you will arrive at the shores of Lake Baikal, which (at a depth of a little over 5,000 feet) is the deepest lake in the world. A ferryboat will take you across the lake and over the clear waters to Olkhon Island. The clarity of the lake is incredible, and many people say that you can drink the water directly from the shoreline.

    The island is quite large (45 miles long), but the population is very low — there are only 1,500 people living here! The denizens of Olkhon Island are predominantly Buryats, who are the aboriginals. They believe in Shamanism and that the island is a very spiritual place.

    You'll notice near to the town of Khuzhir that there is a special shrine, which is Lake Baikal's most famous landmark. It's called Shaman's Rock and the Natives believe that Burkhan (who is a modern religious cult figure of the Altai people) lives in the cave in this rock.

    Olkhon isn't your average, everyday island!

    olkhon island russia

    Finding your accommodation here will be easy, as there is one main town on the island — Khuzhir. Here you'll find cows roaming the dusty streets and just a few shops available to stock up on food.

    Nikita Bencharov's Homestead is an excellent place to sleep, and is where most travelers choose to stay. The rooms are beautiful, delicious food is available and you are given 25 minutes of banya time (a Russian sauna).

    If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, you can set up your tent and spend the night sleeping along the lake's shore at Burkhan Cape! Camping is legal here and many Russians go to the lake to do just that. They'll be camping with you, either in tents, or in their vehicles. Expect loud music, lots of food and never-ending vodka if they are around!

    There are many spots where you can set up camp, so if you prefer to have a quiet night, just keep walking along the beach until you find somewhere more secluded.

    lake baikal russia

    During the day you can either swim in the beautiful (but often chilly) lake, or you can get some exercise by taking a day excursion to the northern reaches of the island. This is a must-do on your trip to Olkhon Island as it's a great way to see all that this incredible place has to offer.

    You'll pass through the small village of Kharantsiy, make your way through the forest and arrive at Cape Khoboi, which is one of the island's most sacred spots. During the trip, you'll enjoy a fresh lunch as well. Other activities available include hiking to waterfalls, exploring the rocky coastline, visiting ancient Serbian sites, or taking a boat and visiting some of the other islands on Lake Baikal. Whether you're interested in spirituality, the great outdoors or relaxing lakeside, Olkhon Island has something to offer everyone.

    Lake Baikal Backpacking

    Taking the Trans-Siberian/Trans-Mongolian Railway is the journey of the lifetime, but part of what makes this trip epic are all of the stops along the way. Getting off at Irkutsk before making your way to Olkhon Island on Lake Baikal is a definite must. Get off of the train and stretch your legs, you'll love what you see!

    Have you ever been on this train journey? Did you choose to stay on, or get off at various stops? Share with us below!

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Nick and Dariece Notes from the Goats

Nick and Dariece Nick and Dariece are the couple behind Goats On The Road, a website designed to inspire others to live a financially sustainable, location independent lifestyle. Masters at making money abroad and turning their travels into a way of life, they've been on the road since 2008 and have explored some of the least visited places on earth, finding adventure wherever they go. They are also full time contributors at Credit Walk where they share their expertise of making money and travelling forever. Check them out at Goats On The and follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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