Olkhon island

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Olkhon, the biggest island on Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia, stretches more than one hundred kilometers as if dividing the lake into the smaller and larger parts. The island's comparatively small territory is a combination of taiga, steppe and even a small desert. Its flora and fauna are unusual too. Olkhon is the home of many tribes and peoples of Central Asia: the bellicose….. One of the legends connected with the island says Olkhon is where the "conqueror of the Universe" was buried. That was how contemporaries used to call Genghis Khan, the great Mongol conqueror of the early 13th century.
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. The capital of Olkhon is a tiny village called Khuzhir, the lake's defender were rewarded in April, 1987, when the Soviet government issued a comprehensive decree protecting Lake Baikal.

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     Welcome to Olkhon Island, the biggest island in Baikal, with steep
mountains on the Eastern shore. The western shore ends with the many bays of
the Maloye More. The island is 72 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide
with a population of 1500 people. The major occupations are fishing and
cattle herding. The Island's aboriginal people are Buryats. The "capital" of
the island is Khuzhir. Scientists still debate whether "Olkhon" translates
as "little forest" or "dry" as both names fit well. The amount of
precipitation is extremely low here- about 240 mm per year.
     Olkhon has a great combination of landscapes and is rich with
archeolog-ical landmarks. It was the first place on Baikal where Russian
explorers visited during the 17th century). Olkhon is the geographical,
historical and sacred center of Baikal, the heart of many legends and fairy
tales and is believed to be the home of many Baikal spirits. Legends say
that Khan Gutababai came here and was sent by high spirits from the Heavens.
He was the head of all khans. His son Shubunkua still lives here as a white
 Olkhon has many beautiful places, and everyone discovers his or her own
beautiful place on Olkhon. Below are     descriptions of some of the most
popular tourist locations. We love our island, and want to preserve it as
is. Please remember: do not cut wild flowers or kill animals. If you come to
Olkhon in a car, please, use old roads, as it takes fragile soil of Olkhon
long to recover.
     Please, watch the campfires to prevent forest fires. Do not bury your
garbage, save sacred places. If you want to learn more about Olkhon, visit
the local history museum in Khuzhir. There is a rich collection of artifacts
that tell the story of many traditions, as well as the daily life of people
of Olkhon.

     Zalgi Bay - the sunniest place in the Irkutsk region. The number of
sunny days per year is more than at the coast of the Black Sea.

     Kobylia Golova Cape (Horse Head, Khorin-lrgi) - resembles a horse,
drinking water from the lake. This is the first cape you see when you cross
the channel by ferry. Legends say that warriors of Ghengis-Khan stayed here.
Sarma, the most ferocious wind on Baikal blows here, and the name comes from
the river and valley that lay across the Maloye More.

     Khaday Mountain - the highest pass between the ferry dock and Khuzhir.
Shamanists pray here and give offerings to the spirits.

     Khargoy Cape - attracts tourists with its simple beauty. Here one finds
remains of an ancient Kurykan's wall. (Kurykan is the name of nation that
lived here). Scientists still argue if this wall served as a sacred place or
a hiding place.

     Lake (bay) Khankhoy (Elgai, Yalga)- the most popular tourist location
for those who want to stay in tents. During the summer, the water gets
pleasantly warm and people are able to go swimming and fishing. It is
isolated from Baikal (by a thin, natural sand bar). There is no wood
available for campfires in this area.

     Burkhan Cape (Shaman Rock) - known as one of the palaces of Heaven's
gods, tengrii, and one of Asia's most sacred places. This is the most famous
of Olkhon's capes. Here, many testimonies of ancient people's lives were
found. The strongest of heavenly tengiies (gods) chose Shaman Rock to be his
home, and people were not allowed to go there. Many years ago people used to
cover hooves of their horses so as not to disturb the great spirit and
master of the rock. Now people are not supposed to think negatively or
behave badly here.

     Saraysky Bay Beach - goes for 3 km from Burkhan Cape to Kharantsy
village. It is a place where in summer one can relax on hot sand and listen
to the music of the waves and contemplate the great panorama of the
mountains across the Maloye More.

     Sandy Beach of Ulan-Khushin Bay - and its surroundings greet you with
blossoming thyme and larch trees, and appears as if it comes from a fairy
tale. It is said that it keeps it's own spirits and secrets.

     Peschanka Bay - another unique place with sand dunes that move as the
time passes. There are heaps of flowers on each of the dunes and many trees
with open roots. Recently here were the demolished buildings of the Maloye
More fishery, where prisoners worked shortly after the 2nd World War. The
only places that keep memories of that time are the peer and fragments of
the buildings. The old, abandoned cemetery in the nearby forest is difficult
to find.

     Sagan-Khushun, White Cape, or Three Brothers - is made of light marbles
which are covered with red lichen. The beauty of this place was described by
the famous Russia writer, Valentin Rasputin: "l would choose this place as a
grave for Ghengis-Khan. And I would bring here people with different sins to
show them what they are fighting against; I wish poor souls found here
relief, ill people - health, and people with big egos - humility".

     Khoboy - the most northern cape of Olkhon, when looked at from the
water, it resembles a woman's profile. You can hear multi-voiced echoes
reflected by a great boulder and meet rare plants. From the cape you can
overlook the great panoramic view of Maloye and Bolshoye More, and if the
weather is good - Ushkanii Islands and Svyatoy Nos ( Eastern Shore of the
lake). Someone once said that Khoboy seems to be the end of the Earth - as
it is surrounded by water. "Khoboy" means "tusk". If you are lucky, you can
see seals that come to sun bathe on the rocks below. It is one of the sacred
places on Baikal.

     Uzury - is a valley that brings you to the Bolshoye More, where there
is a great panoramic view of Baikal. It is the only valley with easy access
to the water in the north of the island. Here is a little settlement with a
few research centers from The Russian Academy of Science including the
Institute of the Earth's Crust.

     Shara-Nury Lake - the so-called "salted lake". Mud from the lake is
believed to heal different illnesses, including arthritis. In summer it is
pleasantly warm and is good for swimming.

     Tashkiney (Teshkine) Valley - is a great valley with a creek flowing
into Baikal. It is bordered by huge rocks and is rich with life. Many wild
currents, flowers and various plants are found here.

     Idebe (Yagiba) Valley - a valley with a great natural world, where
flowers change quickly all summer, coloring it blue, pink and lilac. August
brings many mushrooms here. A rock called "Warrior Shushke-Bukha" stands in
the forest nearby.

     Zhima - is the highest mountain on Olkhon. It is a sacred place where,
as legends say, lived the Master of Olkhon. Here, fragments of Bhuddist hut
called "mankhos" are found. On the western side, relicts of spruce trees
grow that were found by Nikolai Reviakin, a teacher from the local school,
in 1963. Traditionally, women were not allowed to go up the mountain.

    Special thanks to Litvinova Kapitolina Nikolaevna, who helped to gather
the information needed to publish this pamphlet.

Tourist information office: 8, Kirpitchnaya str., Khuzir, Olkhonsky ditrict,
Irkutsk region, 666137, Russia.
e-mail: nikita@olkhon.info


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