Why Your Next Holiday Should Be to Buryatia

PHOTO by Depositphotos
There is a place in Russia where llamas speak to Buddhist pilgrims in datsans, where images of dancing goddesses miraculously appear on cliff sides, where underground cave walls are covered with petroglyphic drawings

On the paths around Lake Baikal, there are rookeries of possibly the cutest animals in the world – ringed seals. And on the main square in Ulan-Ude, the capital city of this wonderland, there is a six-metre tall bust of Vladimir Lenin. Rambler.Travel presents a selection of Buryatia’s main attractions.

Travellers will see the remnants of Hun settlements, Old Believer villages, Buddhist sacred mountains, medicinal muds and mineral water springs, as well as nature reserves of such incredible beauty that travelling to Buryatia without a camera would be something to regret for the rest of your life.

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Ivolginsky Datsan, Russia’s main Buddhist monastery, is not too far from Buryatia’s capital city. This strange mixture of Russian wooden houses and Tibetan temples is home to the leader of Buddhism in Russia, Pandito Khambo Lama Damba Ayusheev, and several hundred monks.

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Here you can perform a kora around the monastery, spin the prayer wheels, and even see a real Bodhi tree.

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In addition to Buddhists, these lands have long been a refuge for other religions. Old Believers moved here to escape persecution from the Russian Orthodox Church and serfdom. Many of them still practise their old ways: you can witness their lifestyle in the village of Tarbagatay.

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The Eastern Sayan Mountains, a mountain chain with young volcanoes, picturesque canyons and waterfalls, is located in the western part of Buryatia. Climbers and hikers will find the Stolby, unique column-like rocks, especially attractive.

You can even pitch a tent and stay overnight, in the valley of the Shumak River, by the medicinal springs and a picturesque Buddhist temple.

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Attempts to revive the yak population began in the 1980s, and, not too long ago, researchers were able to create a new breed. These long-haired animals are perfectly adapted to the severe mountain climate and not too picky about food or living conditions.

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Buryatia and the Irkutsk Region share Russia’s largest fresh water treasure, Lake Baikal. The Buryatian side of the lake, through which the lake's largest tributary, the Selenge, runs, is the furthest removed from civilisation and the most authentic. Almost the entire stretch of shoreline is a protected area, with national parks and nature reserves.

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Buuz (or Buryatian poz) are steamed dumplings filled with mince meat and onions. The locals usually eat them by hand: after taking a small bite, they drink the broth from inside the dumpling, and then eat the rest.

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The Sayan Mountains are a popular spot for rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and catamaraning. The season lasts from the end of May until September.

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Lake Baikal is great for wind and kitesurfing. Posolsky Sor Bay is the most popular surfing spot, but you can also enjoy the sport in Baykalsky Priboy, Lemasovo, Barguzinsky and Chivyrkuisky Bays. The surfing season begins in June and ends in September.

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All photos by Depositphotos