Olkhon

Ol'khonskiy rayon, Siberian Federal District, Russia
Est. 99.6km / 2 hrs 35 mins / Map

Olkhon - Cya On The Road

Olkhon is the biggest island in Baikal. It is separated from the mainland by the channels of Maloe More and Gates of Plkhon (Olkhinskie Vorota). The deepest spot of the Lake is located to the east of the Island, its depth is 1642 meters. The shores of Baikal are formed with the ancient bedrocks, its age reaching up to 2.5 billion years. This is the very first solid land on our planet. The lake was formed because of the clash of Siberian and Asian platforms. Millions of years were passing by and the Baikal Fault was becoming broader and broader. It got filled with water. The movement of lithospheric plates has been going on until now, which is why earthquakes are very frequent in this area. During the forming of the Baikal Fault, Olkhon Island was formed. Before the first Ice Age, the island was not an island. When the glaciers started to melt the Lake water level was higher at 45 meters. Academic Crest became hidden underwater and the Island of Olkhon acquired its modern shape. People inhabited Olkhon as early as the Neolithic era. Many archeological founds prove that. There are rock drawings in caves and carvings that are traces that people worked with the stone tools here. Researchers found burials, sacred cities, and ruins of stonewalls. Historians suppose that ancient tribes of Kurykane created those constructions. These tribes were the ancestors of Yakuts and Buryats. Russian pioneers headed by Kurbat Ivanov set foot on the island in the 17th century for the first time. The Cossacks wanted to conquer the islanders but the tribe that lived there – the khorints, now they are known as khory – did not want to be conquered and just went beyond Lake Baikal. Nikolai Spafary in 1675 telling about his trip around Baikal stated that the Island became desolate after the fight with the Cossacks. The Khorints came back later but the Island was also occupied with another tribe – the ehirites. Russians came to the Island in the 20th century.Nowadays more than one and a half thousand people live in nine local communities.The village of Khuzhir is the capital of Olkhon. 90% of the population is located here. Their main occupation is fishing, cattle breeding and working in tourism.It is thought that the name of the island derives from a Buryat word of “oikhon” which means a small forest. Forests occupied more than one-third of the island. The landscapes, however, vary. There are unhospitable marble rocks and steppes. Dunes grab your imagination because you will not find them in Siberia. There are only 48 rainy days in Olkhon. It is a challenge to catch bad weather on the island. There is little precipitation. However, there are winds, the most popular of them have names, Kultuk, Barguzin, Sarma, Verkhovik are just a small number of the winds that affect the life of the locals. Baikal creates a special climate, winters are not that cold, and summers are cooler than on the mainland. One can only swim in the shallow water that gets warmer in the sun. Tourists are on the island all year round which is not surprising because there are many archeological and natural monuments on the Island. You will not have the time to visit all the landmarks in one visit. While traveling around the island bear in mind that nature is very fragile, it needs your attention but also it needs to stay clean. The whole territory of the island is included in Pribaikalsky National Park. If you break the laws of the park, you will pay fines. Moreover, the island is sacred for Buryat people who live on Olkhon, it is a place of pilgrimage for them and their spiritual center. Sacred rocks Shamanka and Zhima (Izhimei) for this tribe are situated here as well as the preservation forest of shamans.

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