buryat republic – республика бурятия

Ulan-Ude - the capital of the Buryat republic - was founded in 1666. Today Ulan-Ude is a pleasant green city. A one day stay is sufficient to see the city and to taste traditional Buryat cuisine.

The main square is dominated by the world`s largest Lenin head.

The opera and ballet theatre.

The pedestrian part of the Lenin street.

The 1785 Odigitria Cathedral.

The Mongolian consulate.

Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan is a recently built Buddhist temple that sits high above the city in its northern outskirts.

ivolginsk datsan – иволгинский дацан

The well known Ivolginsk Datsan the center of Siberian Buddhism is just 35 km from central Ulan-Ude. Admission is free but donation boxes abound. Once inside you can light a butter candle (zula) and fill in wish slips. The more you pay, the better the chances of your wish come true.

Getting ready to sin?

Within the datsan is the beautiful wooden Etigel Khambin Temple honouring the 12th Khambo Lama (his passport name was Dorzho Itigelov). His body was exhumed 70 years after his death and inexplicably his flesh had not decomposed completely. For many years the revered body was displayed only on special occasions in a refrigerated glass box attracting pilgrims from across the Buddhist world. Recently the rules have changed. A 250-ruble ticket opens the door to the temple where the body is kept. Although no photos are allowed.

Visitors are queuing to see the 12th Khambo Lama.

The exhumed body of the 12th Khambo Lama on display.

A wax copy of the 12th Khambo Lama.

lake baikal – озеро байкал

A traveler can easily explore Lake Baikal from the Buryat side. The road runs right along the shore for quite some time offering a good view of the lake. Beaches are long, clean and sandy. Camping is allowed almost everywhere.

There is a cozy hotel in the village of Maksimikha where you can stay with comfort.

The lake is shallow here and in August the Baikal water is warm enough for swimming which you can hardly afford on the other side of the lake.

A good time to visit Baikal is March. This month the lake is still solidly frozen and one can drive across the ice from Listvyanka in the south to Severobaikalsk in the north, from Severobaikalsk to Maksimikha on the eastern side and so on. Air temperatures are below zero C but rather balmy.

posolskoe – посольское

The village of Posolskoe stands right on the Baikal shore and is home to the 17th century Saviour-Transfiguration Monastery. The lakeside location and recent renovation make the monastery worth seeing. Watch for the following direction indicator when driving from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude or vice versa.

novoselenginsk – новоселенгинск

The small town of Novoselenginsk is about halfway from Ulan-Ude to Kyakhta on the Mongolian border. When driving from/to Mongolia it is advisable to drop at the local Decembrist Museum, Decembrist Memorial and enjoy views over the Selenga River.

The ruins of the 18th century Saviour Church which can be seen across the river are the only reminders of the original settlement called Selenginsk. It was abandoned due to frequent floods in early 19th century. The new town was built on the opposite higher bank of the Selenga River.

A humble obelisk commemorates Martha Cowie a Scottish woman from Glasgow who died in 1827 having lived here for 22 years with her husband trying to convert Buryat-Mongols to Christianity.

The Decembrist Memorial is about 6 km east of the town. It was unveiled in 1975 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1825 December uprising in Saint Petersburg. The uprising marked the first attempt to eliminate the arbitrary tsarist rule in Russia.

Seven kilometers north of Novoselenginsk there is a small roadside datsan that marks the place where the first Khambo Lama of Russia Mr. Damba Zayaev went into nirvana in the year 1775. The legend has it that he promised to come back but so far never did.

alternative road via romanovka (романовка)

If you travel by road which is by far the best way of traveling, you have a choice when driving between Ulan-Ude and Chita. The main road M-55 (aka P-258) is paved and maintained in good condition all the year round. If you prefer being the only driver for miles around then you'd better take 81P-002 road via Romanovka. There are long stretches of dirt road. A 4WD vehicle is required in rainy and snowy weather.

Entering Buryatia from Zabaikalsky Krai towards Romanovka. The road is paved on the Chita side.

On Buryat side the road is dirt most of the way.