Join us for an exciting and exclusive new horse riding holiday to Baikal Lake in the wilds of Siberia. Starting with a tour of Moscow, you then board the world-famous Trans-Siberian Railway to travel to Irkutsk close to the lake.
From Irkustsk we drive to the lake shore near Orkhon Island. The horseback trail has been specially designed to include all the best natural and cultural sights of the area and the locally bred Orlov and cross horses make easy work of the rolling grassy terrain, and unlike SUVs and ATVs, leave no lasting impact on this remarkable environment. Accommodation is in twin person tents for most of the trail, with a few nights in local guesthouses at the beginning and end.
Ride along the Tazheran forest-steppes which rise up from shores of Baikal Lake to cover picturesque hills and cliffs, and even the peaks of the Baikal Mountains. The ride takes you through this endemic Godlevsky Larch and up in to the Tazheran Massif. Try to spot some of the 150 different minerals present between Orso Bay and Ulan-Nur bay, or simply marvel at the ancient caves and mineral lakes that can be discovered on this ride. Locals believe the lakes have medicinal properties and will bathe in the waters to cure all manner of ailments. Explore Orkhon Island and swin with freshwater seals. See buddhist, Buryat and shamanist sites in incredible locations along the shores of the sacred sea.
The locals used to call Baikal Lake a place of power, and it is easy to see why. Formed 25-30 million years ago, the largest freshwater lake in the world contains 22-23% of the world’s fresh surface water . The water is also unbelievably clear and clean.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from AH of Carmarthan on 11/10/2018
You will be met at the airport at about 17:30 and transferred to the very heart of Moscow (approx. 1.5 hours). Take a rest after your flight in the hotel. In the evening: taste amazing Russian Cuisine in a wonderful restaurant decorated in Russian Style.
Accommodation: Veliy Hotel 3* in the heart of Moscow, very close to Kremlin, or Kempinski Hotel 5* (not included).
Breakfast. At 10 o’clock you will start a walking and driving tour of Moscow . A walking tour will include sights such as Kremlin, Tverskaya Street, the Bolshoi Theatre, the former KGB building, Alexander's Gardens and Arbat Street. During the driving tour we will visit sights such as Lover’s Bridge, Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Victory Park, Novodevichy convent and Moscow State University, a stunning example of Stalinist architecture, and Sparrow Hills, the highest point in the city where you get an incredible panoramic view.
The afternoon is at leisure:explore the city further, or to shop for souvenirs and enjoy the city on your own.
21:30 Transfer to the train station where you board the world-famous Trans-Siberian railway (please note tickets are not included in the ride cost, we can help you buy these separately). The exact train departure will depend on ticket availability. You may take a late train, at 23:45, and set off across the vast Russian landscape.
Day 3,4 and 5
You will spend the next 3 days on the train, but don’t worry, you won’t get bored. Watching the incredible panoramas slide past you begin get a feeling for the immensity of this country. The taiga becomes pretty mesmerising as you pass through forests of larch, silver fir, pine and birch. In the clearings you will spot villages that could be straight out of a Levitan painting. Life in these little pockets must be completely different to the city you have left behind. It is strongly recommended that you book 1st or 2nd class tickets for the train and not 3rd class. A first class ticket is not available on all trains but when available will give you a closed compartment with 2 bunk beds giving you some privacy and a quiet space when you want one. Second class tickets are in a compartment with 4 berths, here the lower berths (a little more) are the best. Third class tickets gives triple layer berths in an open common area, where the beds are folded into seats during the day. Food is not included withany tickets but there is a restaurant car on board and you can often buy food at the stations when the train stops along the way. Make sure you know how long the stop is though and don’t walk too far – you don’t want the train to leave without you!
On the way to Irkutsk the train crosses the Ural Mountains, the natural divide between Europe and Asia. Keep an eye out for the white obelisk which marks this boundary. The train snakes it’s way through the heavily logged Sayan Mountains as you chat to your fellow travellers, play cards, and generally rediscover life without the internet.
Day 5 (for those not on the Trans Siberian)
We suggest you arrive in Irkutsk today. Check into a hotel (not included), get over any jet lag and tour Irkutsk, which is very worth while. We can book accommodation for you.
The train arrives in Irkutsk in the early morning local time (the trains always operate on Moscow time). From the train we all meet up and take a car journey to get to the lake itself.
The trip to Baikal, to the area of the Small Sea will take about 4 hours with stops for rest. You will arrive at your accommodation at a tourist base where there will be time to have a stretch, relax, enjoy the fresh air, and have some lunch. In the afternoon you will receive a briefing and set out for your first ride to Mount Shebiet. It is a scenic introduction to your tour with sights of the Small Sea: the Camel and the Sleeping Dog, the remains of the walls of the ancient Cuirkan hillfort, the picturesque coves of the Kurkutsk Gulf and the beautiful panorama of Lake Baikal, which opens from the top of Cape Shabite.
Once back at the accommodation the horses and riders go for their dinner. After dinner and organisational meeting with maps to explain the coming week on more detail.
07.00 early breakfast. Drive to the Olkhon island.
The itinerary of the trip: the island is accessed by ferry across the "Olkhon gates" strait. The day’s programme takes you to Khodai mountain and on to Khuzhir village. Here you can do a bit of souvenir shopping and visit a museum of the history of the island. There are some incredible views of Cape Burhan to enjoy before carrying on to the beaches of Peschanaya bay.
A picnic lunch is served on the shores of Baikal, then it is back in the car to Cape Sagan-Khushun (Three Brothers) and Cape Khoboy. This is the northernmost point of the island from which you can see the picturesque view of Baikal ridge, Svyatoi Nos peninsula and the Ushkanii islands.
After seeing all this beauty you will take the ferry back to your accommodation for a late dinner at 20:00.
Useful things: warm clothes; headwear; sport shoes; money for souvenirs, for fish and for the museum.
*In 2019 there will be restrictions from the national park on the route to the cape of Khoboy for conservation and safety reasons. If visiting Khoboy in the north is not possible we will see more detail in the southern part of the island with a stop at the rookery of the only freshwater seals in the world and the cape "Kobylia Golova".
10.00- 13.00. We take and incredibly informative boat trip along the islands of the Small Sea and learn about the unique ecology and geology of Lake Baikal.
14.30 We set of on our riding route. The first afternoon is a good warmup: about 15km. We ride from the inhabited area along secluded small and warm bays of the Small Sea (sheltered by Ohlkon Island), to the open shores along the spacious and uninhabited Baikal. Be prepared to spend some time without Internet.
The road will lead us first through hills, then through larch forest, where it is sometimes possible to meet a fox, a musk-deer or a wild goat. Then the road leads us to steep and precipitous shores of the Great Baikal.
19.00 We will spend the night in a tent camping on the shore of Lake Baikal in the quiet and cozy Arso cove (descent to the bay along the horse trail, takes about 30 minutes, we go down the route leading our horses). Here you can rest and bathe in Baikal lake.
20.00 Dinner is served and you have the evening to relax by the fire.
10.30 Today we set of on a radial ride of about 18-20km. We will admire the mountain plateau "Valley of Sleeping Spirits". The route is saturated with interesting objects, which worth our attention. And so we will dismount more often, than usual. First we go up to the top of the cult mountain "Tan-khan" (height 970 m, height difference is 500 m), we will admire the view from the top. Then we move along the shore of Lake Baikal to “Mechta” (Dream) cave (if you want you can go underground and examine the settlement of the primitive man in the Badin caves.
After lunch you will walk along the Valley of Sleeping Spirits to the boulders of "Gate of Tazheran", "Two Shamans", and "Heart of the Steppe". On the way we will find the Organa tract. There is a traditional summer Buryat family farm where cows, yaks and sarlyks are bred ("sarlyk" is a Buryat name for the Yak and cows). During the day we will often come across cows, yaks and horses herds. Local people prefer to lead the ancient, archaic mode of cattle breeding, when animals live freely, as in the wild. People never prepare special feed for animals, do not build shelter, do not graze them. Herds are being looked after and treated only once a year.
18.00 Dinner and time for rest.
From "Arso bay to the Salt Lakes of the Tazheran steppe" The journey length is 15-20 km. Personal things are delivered by car.
For the most part the trail is comfortable and smooth, so it will be possible to move at a faster pace. En route we will take a rest and have lunch. By the end of the route we will get to the beautiful valley, where cascade of therapeutic salt lakes lie among the hills and larch groves
Reference: There are salted, radon, and sulphide-sodium lakes. The therapeutic mud of lakes can have a noticeable smell of hydrogen sulphide. It is useful in case of disease. It has an excellent cosmetic effect as well. Radon baths equalize blood pressure, improve skin condition, have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.
Camping is organized far from the highest lake. There is a spring there. The water in the spring is fresh, tasty, very cold and clean. It is suitable for drinking. There is also an archaeological monument (the remnants of the primeval dam and the village of cattlemen of the ancient Cuerkan tribe (the people who inhabited these lands before the Buryats)). If you want you can make an inspection of the cult mountain and the ancient burial site. But very carefully- archaeological research has not been conducted here yet. All the artefacts are preserved untouched; they were not opened and looted in antiquity. A big luck for scientists.
19.00 Dinner. Free time.
From "Salt Lakes to Aya Bay - the mouth of the Anga River". The journey length: 35 km. Personal belonginigs are delivered by car.
Today is your longest day of riding, so make sure you have a good breakfast before setting out. However, for the most part the going is comfortable and smooth, so it will be possible to move at a faster pace.
10.00 Starting the route. We return from the steppes to the shores of Lake Baikal. The road stretches at the foot of the Pribaikalsky ridge along the valley of the Tonta River. The places are pretty wild near the taiga.
We have lunch and rest near the hill with the monument of the soaring eagle which is an ancient totem of Olkhon Buryats. This day we will admire Buryat village with wooden eight-walled yurts. If you want, we'll take a look at antiquity. Let's take a look at the bay of Aya - there is a beautiful beach, and there is a bay and beautiful caves. Please, be informed, that descent to the cave without special equipment or climbing skills is not possible because the entrance to the ground is the vertical, well type. But the view from this place is great.
We will spend the night again on the shore of Lake Baikal, at the mouth of the Anga River. The descent to the camping is quite steep, but it is not necessary to dismount from the horse here. The bay is not deep, the beach is sandy and big. For those who wish,there is the opportunity to swim with the horses.
20.00 Dinner and time for rest.
From "Mouth of the Anga River via mountain Yord to Bay Berkhin (black sands)" The length of the route - 25-30 km, your personal belongings will be delivered by car.
9.00 Breakfast. After breakfast - start the route. Crossing the Anga River, a small ford. Further we move along the valley of this river. The path lies next to the Erd mountain, which hosts the legendary Erdynian games. This is an important ritual festival of local residents. It takes place once in 3 years and gathers different peoples and tribal shamans of the Baikal region. During the "Erdynsky" dance, people joined hands and closed the ring around the mountain. It is believed that the more rings will be collected, the more successful the future time will become.
13.00 lunch will be done on the shore of the Begul Bay, but the ultimate goal of today's path is Berkhin Bay (Black Sands). We'll get there by the evening. From this day, the terrain will change gradually, the mountain forest steppe will be replaced by forest. Basically this will be light dry pine forests.
We have to warn you that the movement along forest roads will be not too fast, as you can find recumbent trees, ditches or low branches here.
19.00 dinner, evening by the fire. Accommodation in a tent camping in Birkhin Bay. Free time.
From "Berkhin Bay via Sagan-Zaba Bay to recreation centre in Krestovaya Bay" Route length 25 km. Your personal belongings are delivered by car.
After breakfast you will set out for your last day of riding around Baikal. The terrain starts changing as you approach the taiga. You will make a stop not far from the famous sacred place of Baikal - the White marble cliff of Sagan-Zaba where you will have lunch. The cliff was discovered by the researcher Okladnikov and became known due to the large number of rock paintings, the petroglyphs of Sagan-Forza, depicting dancing shamans crowned with horns, running deer and swans.
We continue on and finally descend to cross a very large bay, Krestovskaya Bay which is protected by rocks from the Baikal winds from all sides. There are usually no tourists. Sometimes fishermen come from a distant village, they keep their boats ashore. Part of the territory is occupied by a farm and a recreation center which is our final destination and overnight location. We should arrive by 3pm giving us enough time to enjoy the location and on-site Russian sauna. Enjoy a farewell dinner with your fellow riders before bed.
6.30 Early breakfast.
7.00 Departure to Irkutsk. Distance to the city - 200km, earliest flight departures 1pm.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses used on this trek are locally bred Baikal horses perfectly adapted to the terrain and climate. Horses range from 1.55m (15.1hh) to 1.70m (16.3hh) and have a range of temperaments to suit different riders.
The riding is mixed paces of walk, trot and canter over a variety of terrain. The trails include riding through forests and across mountainous terrain. On occasion it may be necessary to dismount and lead the horses across rocky terrain or over steep ground.
For this exploratory programme riders must be experienced and have a good sense of adventure. Riders should be confident in walk, trot and canter, and be able to mount/dismount unaided. A good level of general fitness is advisable. There may be occasions where riders have to lead the horses and walk alongside them for up to an hour depending on conditions. The minimum age for the exploratory ride is 18 years. Please note that riding helmets are compulsory and you must take your own.
The weight limit for this ride is 17 st/242 lb/110 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
This programme has a mix of accommodation with the first 3 nights being in bunk beds on the train, 2 nights in a local 'homestead' accommodation with double and triple rooms and shared bathrooms. Along the trail accommodation is in 2-man tents with a bio-toilet, bio-shower and hot water available. Sleeping bags and blankets can be provided if requested in advance. Most camps will be close to the lake or a river for swimming in.
Meals will be Russian or Asian cuisine, if you have any preferences please let us know before the tour. A typical breakfast would be porridge, bread, butter, omelette, yoghurt, chocolate and nuts. Lunch will be brought by one of the support vehicles and will include sandwiches, meats, cheeses, salad, nuts, tea and coffee. Dinner will be cooked in camp and will usually consist of traditional Russian dishes such as borsch and dumplings with salad, water, tea and coffee.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request. Almont Visas also provide information and services to assist visa applications http://almontvisas.co.uk/
Visas are required for most nationalities to enter Russia. Make sure you apply for the correct type and duration of visa and that you abide by the conditions of your visa.
All applicants over the age of 12 will need to visit a visa application centre to submit biometric data (scanned fingerprints). For further information see the Russian embassy website and the website of VFS Global who manage Russian visa applications, they have offices in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. Tourist visas usually take 10 working days to issue, but during periods of high demand, for example during the summer holidays, you should apply for your visa well in advance. The Embassy in London can normally process visas in 10 working days. If you want to get a visa more quickly it is possible to queue in person and pay an extra fee, though the numbers processed in this way per day are limited.
You should complete the application form (found on line) electronically, then print it out, and take that to the VFS Global office, along with your official invitation and two passport photos.
Before you travel to Russia ensure that you are aware of the terms and conditions attached to your visa and check that the dates and details which have been entered on your visa are correct. If you intend to stay longer, you should arrange an extension of your visa before it expires. If your passport has been lost/stolen while ashore and a replacement Emergency Travel Document is issued, or you plan to continue your journey by air or land, you must get a visa to leave Russia.
Overstaying your visa without authorisation from the Russian migration authorities can result in a delay to your departure from Russia, as well as possible, fines, court hearings, deportation and a ban from re-entry. Presenting documentation which contains incorrect information to immigration officials can lead to severe inconvenience and in some cases could result in refusal of entry.
If you’re staying for more than 7 working days you must register with the local branch of the Main Department for Migration Issues of the Ministry of Interior. Most major hotels will do this automatically. If you’re staying in private accommodation the owner of the property must do this for you.
If your passport has less than six months to run, you may be refused entry to Russia. You are advised to get a replacement passport before travelling. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months after the expiry date of your visa.
If you’re travelling on a British passport issued since January 2017, you should make sure you’ve signed your passport before you travel. Some British nationals who haven’t signed their new passports have been denied entry into Russia.
On entering Russia you must sign a migration card, which is produced electronically at passport control in the major airports. Some airports may still require you to complete the migration card manually. You must complete a new migration card each time you enter Russia, even if you have a multiple entry visa.
The card is in two identical parts. One part will be retained by the Immigration Officer on arrival. You should keep the other part with your passport. You will need it when you leave Russia as well as if you’re stopped by the police for an ID check during your stay. There are many hotels and hostels that will not check in guests if they don’t have the immigration card with them. If you lose the second part of the card you’ll be fined and your departure from the country could be delayed.
The Russian Embassy in London can be found at: 6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QP; Tel: + 44 (0)207-229-3628, + 44 (0)207-229-6412; Fax: +44(0)207-727-8625; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Official website:www.great-britain.mid.ru (Embassy), www.rusemblon.org(Consular section of the Embassy).
The British Embassy in Moscow can be found at: Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya 10, Moscow 121099; Tel: (7) (495) 956 7200; Fax: (7) (495) 956 7201; Website: http://www.britaininrussia.ru.
Dialling code for Russia is 7 and the time is between 3 and 12 hours ahead of GMT depending on location.
Because large bodies of water retain heat longer than land, the climate around Lake Baikal is much milder than in the rest of southern Siberia. Even in the depths of winter the average air temperature is -21°C, compared with minimum temperatures of -90°C elsewhere in Siberia. However, it is only warm enough to ride during the central summer months. Temperatures are warm in the day often reaching the mid-20s, although it can cool off at night and take some time to warm up in the mornings. The lake freezes over from January until May, but its surface temperature in August can reach up to 15°C but if you do plan to go swimming it is best to check the water temperature and enter the water slowly to avoid shock.
Since June 2016, foreign citizens can bring medication for personal use with them, as long as they don’t contain narcotic or psychoactive substances. All these drugs are listed on the Rossiyskaya Gazeta website (in Russian).
If your medication does contain highly potent or narcotic poisonous substances and you wish to bring it with you, you’ll need to provide a prescription in your name which has been translated into Russian, and then notarised (notarisation services in the UK are available from a Notary Public).
If you’re unsure whether you need to provide a prescription and notarised translation to bring your medicines into the country, you should check with the Russian Embassy in London or Consulate General in Edinburgh.
The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Russia terminated with effect from 1 January 2016. You should make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance. You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date. NHS Direct (0845 46 47) can provide you advice on vaccination requirements for Russia. Tap water is not drinkable anywhere in Russia. Caution should be exercised and local advice sought. Bottled mineral water is widely available.
Electricity: 220V 50HzHz. Electric Plug Details: European plug with two circular metal pins.
There will be no electricity available on most nights so spare batteries and/or power packs to recharge cameras are a very good idea. Mobile phone and WiFi signal will only be available in the towns/cities.
Boots suitable for riding and walking in.
Rain/wind proof gear are needed.
This is a 13 day/12 night exploratory programme with 7 days riding. You can choose to miss the Moscow tour and Trans-Siberian journey, flying direct to Irkutsk for a 9 day/8 night programme with 7 days riding (price remains the same).
2019: 14 or 19 June to 27 June; 10 or 15 August to 23 August; 24 or 29 August to 6 September.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019||9d/8n||7||Single Supplement pp for 2 nights in Irkutsk.||75|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019||9d/8n||7||Single Supplement pp for 2 nights in Irkutsk.||86|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019||9d/8n||7||Single Supplement pp for 2 nights in Irkutsk.||97|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019||9d/8n||7||Single Supplement pp for 2 nights in Irkutsk.||919|
The Trans-Siberian Handbook has a kilometre-by-kilometre account of the sights to look out for from the train. Highly recommended, as this helps you get the most from your journey. You can tell where you are from the black and white kilometre posts all along the line, usually on the south side of the tracks.
Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia by Peter Matthiessen and Boyd Norton
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Lonely Planet Olkhon Island
Lonely Planet Russia
Lonely Planet Trans Siberian Railway
The Year of Miracle and Grief by Leonid Borodin
There are a number of other activities based on and around the lake including kayaking and cycling. Irkutsk is on the Trans-Siberian rail line which gives access all across Russia, Mongolia and in to China.
There are about 65 fish species in the lake and more than half of these are endemic. A wide range of land mammals can be found around the lake including brown bears, wolves, red foxes, sable, stoat, moose, Siberian red deer, reindeer, Siberian roe deer, Siberian musk deer, wild boar, red squirrel, Siberian chipmunk, marmot, lemming and alpine hare.
Russia is the largest country in the world, spanning 11 time zones. The landscape varies widely, from vast open tracts in the European heartlands and the taiga and tundra of Siberia, to mountainous terrain. Churchill's 'riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma' remains an apt description of Russia; most outsiders have only a hazy idea of its realities. A composite of the extravagant glories of old Russia and the drab legacies of the Soviet era, it's a country that both befuddles and beguiles. This is a land of snow and deadly winters, but also of rivers that meander across meadows and a midsummer sun that never sets. It has an area of 17,075,400 square kilometres and a population of 143,500,000 (2005). The capital city is Moscow.