Olkhon, Russia


Olkhon (Bur. Oykhon Aral) is the largest island of Lake Baikal. The length of the island is 73.5 km, width - up to 15 km, area - 730 km². The permanent population is 1682 people. (for 2017), 1744 people (2019). Distance from Irkutsk by road - 256 km. It is separated from the mainland by the Maloye More and Olkhonskie Vorota straits. To the east of the island is the deepest place of Lake Baikal - 1642 meters. The territory of Olkhon, together with the adjacent islets, is included in the Pribaikalsky National Park.

The Russified name Olkhon comes from the Buryat word "oikhon" - "little forest" or "slightly wooded", since forests occupy more than a third of the island's territory.



On Olkhon, there is a variety of landscapes: there is also a steppe with deeply cut into the land, well warmed up in summer bays; "Baltic" sandy beaches with dunes, hills and coniferous larch groves along the coast; dense forests with areas of rarely growing larches (and almost absent cedars), relict spruce forest; rugged marble cliffs decorated with thick red moss; swamps lushly overgrown with various aquatic plants.

The Baikal region is distinguished by a large total duration of sunshine - there are only 48 cloudy days a year on Olkhon Island. The amount of precipitation per year does not exceed 140 mm on average. According to this indicator, Olkhon can be compared only with some very arid regions of Central Asia. Local residents use artificial irrigation for garden crops and hayfields. One more feature of Olkhon is the almost ubiquitous soil erosion. Weak, easily decaying soil and vegetation layer and frequent winds contribute to the rapid removal of humus and transfer of sand, which makes it difficult for agriculture and can lead to the appearance of desert landscapes. On the island you can observe in some places the "procession of the sands". So, near the village of Khuzhir, there is a zone covered with sand, and formerly a former forest.

Baikal water influences the climate of the coastal area. Winter is milder here and summer is cooler. The onset of spring on Lake Baikal is delayed by 10-15 days in comparison with the adjacent areas, autumn is often quite long.


Tourism and transport

In summer, the island is visited by many tourists from different regions of Russia and abroad. In picturesque bays, you can get up with a tent, the water in them warms up best by August (up to +18 ° C). On the western shore in the middle part of the island, 10 kilometers from the village of Khuzhir, there is Lake Khankhoi, which is popular with tourists, near which the tourist base of the same name is located. There are almost no dangerous animals and encephalitis ticks on the island. The territory of Olkhon is a nature reserve and to stay here you must obtain a permit from the island forestry.

Entry to the island is carried out by ferry crossing "MRS - Olkhon Island" from the village of Sakhyurta. Currently, there are three ferries operating - the small Dorozhnik (accepts 5-6 cars) and the large ones, the Olkhonskiye Vorota and Semyon Batagaev, each receiving about 17 cars. In summer, the ferry operates all daylight hours with an interval of about an hour. At the entrance to the crossing, many hours of queues of motorists accumulate. The average queue time is about 3 hours, but in unforeseen situations (breakdown of one of the ferries) it can take up to a day. In winter, an ice road functions instead of a ferry crossing.

During the freeze-up period, people are crossed by the Khivus hovercraft. Also in the summer, the island can be reached by regular ships Irkutsk - Severobaikalsk (motor ship "Kometa", stop on the island - in the Zagli Bay) and Irkutsk - Ust-Barguzin (motor ship "Barguzin", stop on the island - on the beach south of Cape Burkhan ).

Since 2018, regular small aircraft flights on the Irkutsk-Khuzhir route have been resumed to Olkhon, which are operated by SiLA on An-28 and L-410 aircraft. This airline also owns a landing site on the island.

Environmental problems
On Olkhon, the number of tourists visiting the island increases from year to year, which creates problems not only of a municipal, but also of an environmental nature: there are no treatment facilities on the island, there are no good roads, the amount of garbage and household waste is increasing, new tourist sites are growing on protected lands, the number is decreasing. certain species of rare animals and plants. The Ministry of Natural Resources engages the Public Chamber and specialists to carry out work and improve legislation in the field of protected areas.

In the myths and legends of the Buryats, Olkhon is the abode of the formidable spirits of Lake Baikal. According to legend, Khan-Khoto Babai, sent to Earth by the highest gods, descended here from Heaven. Here, in the form of a bald eagle-golden eagle, his son Khan-Khubuu Noyon lives, who was the first to receive a shamanic gift from Tengri.

Olkhon Island is considered the sacred center of the northern shamanic world, and until now at Cape Burkhan (Shamanka rock), above the lake shore near the village of Khuzhir, ribbons on the trees flutter in the wind: this is a place of worship for spirits. According to ancient legends, the ruler of these places and the whole of Olkhon, Ezhin, or Burkhan, lived in the Shamanka rock cave.

The same sacred place for the Buryats is the highest mountain of the island - Izhimey (1274 m). Somewhere at the foot of this mountain, an immortal bear is allegedly chained.

Olkhon is the pseudonym of the famous Russian Soviet poet Anatoly Sergeevich Pestyukhin.



In the bays on the northwestern slope of the island in 1921-1924. the sites of people of the New Stone Age were discovered.
On Olkhon Island, near the Cape "Mare's Head" (the local Buryat name is Khorin-Irgi), a mouth of an ancient extinct volcano was discovered. Fused volcanic rocks are still found everywhere today. One of them, weighing about 15 kg, was found in 2013 by Leonid Malinovsky on the shore of Lake Baikal near the village of Kharantsy.
In the middle of the purest freshwater lake Baikal there is a lake Shara-Nur with salty mineral water and curative mud, it is located in the Olkhon mountains, 6 kilometers southeast of the village of Yalga.
The Association of Buryat Shamans declared Olkhon "the main sanctuary, a cult center of the common Mongolian and Central Asian significance, personifying the sacred ancestral home of the Buryats", and in 1990 the first Olkhon Tailgan was held on Olkhon - a special prayer in which all shamans of the island, the Olkhon region and the city took part Ulan-Ude. Since then, the tilegun has been held annually in a large open place in front of the entrance to Khuzhir.
In 2005, a power line was installed on Olkhon. The very laying of the underwater electrical cable was a unique operation for Russian specialists. To protect the ecology of Lake Baikal from negative influences, the cable on land was enclosed in a polyethylene pipe with a diameter of over 320 mm with a wall thickness of 20 mm, the pipe was sealed and connected to others. The lash was transported by ships by swimming to the design place of laying. Then water was fed into the pipe, and the whole structure was laid to the bottom, where it was fixed with anchors, and also protected from possible damage by bags of cement. The cost of the entire volume of work on the electrification of Olkhon Island amounted to 464.2 million rubles, the project will be recouped in 50 years.