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211adventures reportsSpring Baikal for two

Spring Baikal for two

The task

To organize an individual trip for two, to show the most interesting places of the spring Baikal with sum limit of 5,000 dollars.

Aina Paisley


We, a company of two people (one of whom is an American), are looking for interesting tours to Baikal during the period from 7 to 13 March. We noticed your site quite long time ago, though now it's on reconstruction, but still I'm writing to you — probably you can offer us something. I would be grateful if you can orient on the cost.

Aina Paisley

7 days before the start

Preparation of the program and estimate

We received the application on February 27, there was a week for preparation. We phoned Aina and sketched out a preliminary travel plan.

Day 1, March 7 Arrival in Irkutsk, transfer to the Ethnographic Museum Taltsy, guided tour, lunch, climb to the Observation Platform Kamen Cherskogo, visit the show with a trained seal, check into the Hotel Anastasia, dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Day 2, March 8 Breakfast at the hotel restaurant, transfer to the biosphere reserve by snowmobile on the ice of Lake Baikal, lunch, walk through the reserve with a guide, transfer to the Park-Hotel Beliy Sobol, dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Day 3, March 9 Breakfast at the hotel restaurant, transfer to the Sobolinaya Mountain Ski Resort, skiing, lunch at the restaurant Klukva, return to the hotel, a banya with a swimming in the ice-hole, dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Day 4, March 10 Breakfast at the hotel restaurant, SUVs safari on the ice of Lake Baikal to the island of Olkhon, inspection of the sections of clean ice, grottoes and Ogoi Island, lunch on ice, check-in at the Recreation Center Hadarta, dinner at the recreation center.
Day 5, March 11 Breakfast at the recreation center, continuation of the SUVs safari, inspection of the ice bubbles and caves of Olkhon Island, Cape Khoboy and Burkhan, lunch on ice, return to the recreation center, dinner.
Day 6, March 12 Breakfast at the recreation center, transfer to Irkutsk, lunch at the cafe, check-in at the Hotel Kupechesky Dvor, walk through the historic center of the city, dinner in the restaurant of your choice.
Day 7, March 13 Breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport, departure.

Before calculating and approving the program, we called to all the hotels and transport to make sure that they were available for the right dates. There were no rooms in the Hotel Beliy Sobol, snowmobiles were occupied, the biosphere reserve did not work — holidays on March 8.

To find an alternative to the Hotel Beliy Sobol we checked other hotels, in a radius of 3 kilometers — there were no places. We began looking for private offers on Booking.com, hoping to find a country cottage. Among different variants, we found a recreation center, 18 km from Baikalsk — Chalet Baikal Pearl. At first we thought that the wrong geopoint was indicated, because in this region there were no bases with this name.

To find the owner of the center we began to google its name — there was no site, profiles in social networks, too. We found it through the hashtags of the instagram. We called the administrator, it turned out that the base is really located near the Sobolinaya Mountain and they had available numbers.

At first we couldn't solve the problem with snowmobiles. We couldn't outbid— all have prepaid, bring from another place too — did not fit into the budget. We offered the customer to replace snowmobiles with ATVs, but we understood that they still wanted snowmobiles. To get out of the situation we found those who booked snowmobiles before us and convinced them to change to ATVs.

For approval of the program it was necessary to agree with the Baikal Biosphere Reserve to cancel the day off. There we had planned an excursion and lunch in the visit center. Responsible for tourism couldn't do it. Deputy General Director Irina Lyasota took a break for a couple of days to find employees ready to work on the main women's day of the year.

Without the excursion, the program did not fall apart, and even if the reserve couldn't receive our guests, we would come up with an alternative. The next two days we made up a presentation and a travel estimate. To fit into the budget, we had to abandon our chef in favor of food in cafes and recreation centers. Here, as it turned out later, we made a mistake.

We sent the presentation of the trip to Aina on the 1st of March. Without adjustments, which was extremely rare, she approved the program and estimate.

After Aina got acquainted with the presentation, we phoned and again discussed everything. Replacement of accommodation arranged, kept within budget. We agreed that they can buy air tickets and make prepayment for hotels and transport.

Vladimir Nikolaev, General producer of the 211 Сompany

Since there were only two people in the group, I decided to abandon the guide and accompany the guests myself. On the same day, I left Krasnoyarsk to Irkutsk.

Vladimir Nikolaev, General producer of the 211 Сompany 

4 days before the start

Revision of locations

I arrived in Irkutsk, took a car and went to the Village Listvyanka. I went to the Hotel Anastasia, looked at the room and booked a table with a view of Baikal for dinner on the first day.

211 Company
211 Company

At 9 am I arrived at the base of snowmobilers. We drank tea with the owners and looked at the equipment. Then I drove to the pool with Baikal seals and the cable car to make sure that they did not disappear and work on March 7. At 12:00 I got a call from the reserve saying that they are ready to conduct an excursion and provide a place for lunch. But in connection with the holiday calculation would be made at a double rate. By lunch I came to the Ethnographic Museum Taltsy. I met with the guide, looked at the new expositions and agreed on the time of the excursion.

Also, at that day I managed to pick up a SUV for crossing Lake Baikal on the ice and approved the lunch menu in the reserve.

  • Siberian pickles (cucumbers and tomatoes salted with spices)
  • Fern stewed with sour cream and garlic
  • Sagudai (fresh fish with onions, lemon and spices)
  • Baked pies with mushrooms and herbs
  • Shashlyk of venison with spicy sauce of tomatoes and pepper
  • Baked stuffed pike
  • Boiled potatoes with greens
  • Siberian cheesecake with blueberries
  • Jam, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry
  • Sea-buckthorn tea on the fire

3 days before the start

Searching for a hotel in the taiga

Early in the morning I went to Baikalsk to see the recreation center Chalet Baikal Pearl. 30 minutes I drove around to find the right turn. I called the owner and tried to orient with the names of rivers and streams from road signs. The road was shown to me by a man who froze at a bus stop at 25 °C.

I turned into the forest, it was snowing, I was not sure that it was the right way. After 10 minutes of slow progress deep into the taiga, I get stuck in the track left by the tractor Belarus. I put some branches, dug up with a shovel — jumped out. “Colorful of course, wildly, but for the entrance to the hotel is not good,” I thought. At the moment when before the next snowdrift I was ready to stop and go on foot, a fence of recreation center appeared.

The recreation center is worth digging in winter in the snow and in summer in the mud. It is better to go by SUV. It is secluded here, the territory borders the shore of Lake Baikal, only seven cozy chalets, two banyas and a cafe.

Day 1


Aina and William arrived by Aeroflot flight at 8:30 in the morning. We got the luggage and left the airport building. To move around Irkutsk and Listvyanka we took Toyota Camry, it is convenient, quick and optimally for the cost.

After arrival at the Taltsy Museum, I gave the guests to the guide. On this day it was frosty, the temperature was getting to 25 degrees. Light jeans and boots of our guests were not ready to warm in such weather. Therefore, the guide accelerated the excursion, and Aina and William spent their free time in the tavern.

The last two years, we do not feed our guests in the museum's public catering. More and more often we bring catering. This is due to the fact that in the presence of our own catering we can offer the client any menu, choose the appropriate dishes and design.

Before we go to the pool with Baikal seals and go up to the observation platform, we stopped at the hotel. The guests changed into warm clothes. They went by cable car to the Kamen Cherskogo and drank tincture on juniper with a golden root. Then we went to the show with a trained seal. Around four o'clock in the afternoon the guests returned to the hotel to relax after the flight.

I gave them information, about a table booked for dinner in the restaurant, and I went to the city of Baikalsk. We agreed to meet with them tomorrow in the biosphere reserve, after a snowmobile safari.

Day 2

Snowmobile safari and cedar alley

After breakfast the driver drove the guests to the snowmobile base in Listvyanka. They were given helmets, gloves, warm overalls and instructed on safety on the ice. For three hours Aina and William, accompanied by instructors, crossed Baikal from the West Bank to the East. On the way they stopped to drink hot tea with cranberry pies.

At 13:00 the group arrived at the visitor center of the biosphere reserve. Tired Aina threw off her heavy overalls and exhaled. William looked happy, it was evident that he had not ridden enough.

After lunch, the guests walked through the exhibition of the visitor center accompanied by a guide. An hour later we went for a walk along the cedar alley and went into the taxidermy museum with stuffed bear, lynx and various birds. By dinner we reached the recreation center, made banya and cut out the lane for bathing in the ice.

Day 3

Skiing with a view of Lake Baikal

On that day we were not in a hurry. After breakfast, the driver took the guests to the slope and together we went to the rental to choose the skis. Aina was only learning to ski, but we decided not to take the instructor, William took care of her.

On the Sobolinaya Mountain, there are about ten rentals of ski equipment. In addition to skis, snowboards and boots, here you can found pants, jackets and gloves. Even if you come to Baikalsk in jeans and a fur coat, you can rent everything you need here.

Around two o'clock in the afternoon, guests went down to the foot and went for lunch at the restaurant Klukva. I can't advise other places — the quality of food and service does not match the stated price. And in my opinion in Klukva there is the most pleasant interior.

With accommodation in the area of Sobolinaya Mountain is slightly better than with cafes and restaurants, but you need to book rooms in advance. The most successful options are:

  • Park-Hotel Beliy Sobol
  • Hotel Grand Baikal
  • Hotel Ski-Let

In addition, there is a new hostel in the center of Baikalsk — BaikalSki, and 15–20 good guest houses, which are rented by local residents.

In the evening, Aina and William returned to the hotel and spent time at the restaurant.

Day 4

Off-road safari, clear ice and Ogoi Island

We had to drive about 500 km, so the departure was planned at 7 am. Previously, I took snacks from the restaurant for the road. Taking into account that the next two days the movement would be on ice, where there are snow outlines up to a meter deep, ice hummocks and cracks, we moved to prepared Nissan Safari. It is not safe to drive a car in such conditions.

We left the hotel and drove along the federal highway first to Irkutsk, and then to the Village of Elantsy. A total of 370 km along the asphalt. In such trips, there is another option — just go on the ice, and directly, without arrival in Irkutsk, go to the area of Olkhon Island. The distance in this case will be reduced to 280 km. But in fact, 370 km on the asphalt, we drove for 5.5 hours, and on the ice for 280 km would take at least 13–16 hours.

The day before departure we were informed that there was a blizzard in the area of Maloye More. All the pure ice covered with snow. It happens. When planning a winter-spring trip to Lake Baikal you need to include more interactive. Snowmobiles, sauna, swimming in the lane, cooking classes, visiting hot springs — the more the better. The ice should only be a decoration. In this case, it will not be so sad if it suddenly covered with snow or it becomes cloudy.

I do not remember why, but on the way we decided to have lunch at the road cafe-yurt. Although in the car we had snacks from the restaurant: sandwiches with chicken, rolls and chops from omul, pancakes with salmon and strudels with cherries. In the yurt we ordered a buhler, bouzas, chebureks, Buryat tea with milk. All that is unprepared for a powerful dose of fat stomach, you can not eat.

There is a proved way to maximally level the effects of eating, in which you are not sure. Fat, fried, stale, unhygienic — helps with everything. Before you start eating, drink a glass of strong alcohol. It is best to use vodka or samogon. After eating another one or two to fix the result. The probability that you will have problems with the stomach is reduced at times.

After lunch we went on the ice. We found a couple of clean areas for photographing, but most of the surface of the lake was under the snow. A strong icy wind was blowing. To show guests the thickness of the ice, we drilled a hole — almost 1,5 meters. We decided not to stay in one place for a long time and move to the Island of Ogoi.

Moving along the ice to the Island of Ogoi, we made several stops for photographing the grottoes. By the end of the day, Aina was tired and only William and I climbed to the top of Ogoy, to the Buddhist stupa. At the top wind was blowing even stronger. William quickly ran around the stupa, took a couple of pictures and said, “Damn cold! Let's go to the hotel!”

By seven in the evening we checked-in at the Recreation Center Hadarta. We didn't want to have dinner because of the filthy dinner that was still coming up to the throat. We drank a glass of samogon infused on cedar nuts and after half an hour we felt better. Spend money on a personal chef and do not eat in untested cafes and restaurants. If you spend the whole trip in the toilet, it will be much more expensive.

Now for each trip our chef is developing a personal menu. We offer Siberian, Baikal and Buryat cuisine adapted to the modern man. You can read the report about our first gastro-trip on Lake Baikal. Also on this topic we wrote an article in our blog.

At nine in the evening, the guests had dinner and went to have rest before tomorrow.

Day 5

Ice grottoes of Baikal and Olkhon Island

Over the past few years, winter Baikal has become much more popular. It was visited by many top bloggers, 1st Channel and Friday film crews. Thousands of photos and videos with transparent ice, ice bubbles and grottoes have appeared on the Internet. Skiers, skaters, snowmobilers, off-road rally participants and tens of thousands of people, inspired by pictures of the icebound shell of the lake, come here. Our guests were no exception.

Ivan Chudakov
Ivan Chudakov
Ivan Chudakov
Ivan Chudakov
Ivan Chudakov

After breakfast with an omelet with bacon and pancakes with strawberry jam, we sat into an SUV. Today we had to drive 60 km along the ice to the northern extremity of the island of Olkhon — Cape Khoboy. Go to the shore of Olkhon, visit the capital of the island — the Village of Khuzhir, take pictures of Cape Burkhan and return to the hotel.

Due to a budget limit, we decided to act in an old-fashioned way. Just go to the ice, move towards the planned attractions, get out of the car, inspect it, and go to the next point. 99.9% of tourists travel in such a way and there is nothing wrong with this, but there are nuances:

  • The first is long distances. From one sight to the other, you can drive an hour or two.
  • The second is the lack of toilets around Olkhon Island. On average, a trip on the ice around Olkhon takes 6–8 hours, few people are able to endure so much time.
  • The third there are no good places to eat.
  • The fourth — a lot of traffic. Some days on the Island of Olkhon can come a few thousand tourists. Because of the lack of infrastructure, everyone is crowding in the same places.
  • The fifth is the noise, garbage, lack of culture. Olkhon is in demand among the Chinese from the province. They speak loudly, poke in the face of cameras, go to the toilet in grottoes or directly on the ice.

In general, this all falls short of any level, we can not talk about comfort here. Usually, on such trips on the ice, we take with us a trailer-toilet, a house on wheels, camping equipment and chefs. Then you can exist autonomously, without clamping the bladder and rumbling in the stomach. Also, there is an opportunity to come off from places of a mass congestion of tourists.

In the case of Aina and William, everything went well. They had a car with a driver and pre-cooked food. We tried to plan the route so that to come to key points either before the arrival of large groups, or after. But exhaustion from the road and inconvenience with the toilet could not be avoided.

If you have a minimum budget, don't aim to see everything. Believe me, a two-hour lunch on clear ice and swimming in the ice hole will remain emotionally brighter and longer in memory. But about ten hours away you will be reminded only by a tired back. Ice, ice, ice — all around one ice. It is better to include more interactive, and use ice as a decoration.

Long trips on the ice are relevant only if this is the purpose of travel. We went around the lake for a few years by SUVs. For 10 days we drove 2,034 km along the ice. More on this can be read in the report “The course to the North” or on the site of the magazine Men's Health.

By dinner, we returned to the hotel. The omul baked with cream sauce, hot shower and white dry leveled the emotions received for the day.

Day 6

Return to Irkutsk. Departure

On this day, according to plan there was breakfast and return to Irkutsk. We returned to the city on the asphalt. The guests did not hurry anywhere — flight to Moscow only the next morning. When we passed by roadside cafes, someone turned away, someone just closed their eyes. All we decided on was ice cream and coffee at the gas station.

In Irkutsk, we accommodate the guests in the Hotel Kupechesky Dvor, and for lunch, we sent them to a well-checked restaurant, with a clear for the gastrointestinal tract cuisine. The next morning, they flew home.

Aina Paisley

We really enjoyed the trip! Vladimir was always there, if there were any questions, problems, wishes he instantly reacted. He made a great program: we rode snowmobiles and drove SUV, and went to the museums, and looked at the seals. The only thing we didn't quite like in the trip is the food, but it doesn't depend on the organizers, it's all the problem of tourist bases and hotels, which do not pay attention to it. However, a couple of times we were fed really tasty. But it's all nonsense, the most important are impressions that were extremely positive.

Aina Paisley


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