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Olkhon Island – A Lake Baikal Treasure

Located in Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia, Olkhon Island covers an area of 730 square kilometers of rich diversity of terrain and geological landmarks. Olkhon is the largest island in Lake Baikal, as well as being rated as the third largest lake island in the world. The varied terrain, and even different climate zones, found on Olkhon make it a fascinating attraction to visit. The island is separated from the mainland by a deep strait and the steep slopes of the mountains on the edge of the island facing the mainland are evidence of tectonic movement over millions of years, resulting in the separation the two land masses.

While being located in a lake, Olkhon Island has some picturesque lakes of its own. Other geological features of the island include a small desert area, and a coniferous forest, or taiga region, as well as grasslands, or steppes. Jagged rocks and steep cliffs are another feature of this beautiful island. Of the steep mountains lining the island’s eastern shore, Mount Zhima, at a height of 1276 meters above sea level and 818 meters above the level of the lake, is the highest point on the island.

Although up to 1500 people live on Olkhon Island, its facilities may be considered quite primitive by modern standards – and that’s the way the inhabitants and visitors like it. Electricity is produced by generators, and there are no phone or power lines to mar the natural beauty of the landscape. The main settlement of the island is Khuzhir, where a number of shops and cafés are found. Guesthouse accommodation is offered by some of the local people and camping sites are available. Activities available include hiking and mountain biking, which are both excellent ways of exploring the less populated areas of the island.

In the summer months particularly, Olkhon Island is popular for spiritual gatherings of followers of Shamanism, as well as for other cultural and music events. The island is reached by ferry, and it is estimated that around 50,000 people visit each year, mainly to camp, hike and enjoy the natural, unspoiled beauty of this Lake Baikal treasure.

 



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