Siberian forest near Lake Baikal
Our winter activities at Lake Baikal include a ride in a traditional Russian troika (horse-drawn sleigh).
Photo by Roger Williams
Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Lodging:||10 nights hotels, 5 nights gers, 3 nights lodges|
|Meals:||All meals included|
|Activity:||Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures|
Cultural Exploration, Walking Tours, Rugged Road Travel, Railway Travel
- Thousand Camel Festival in the Gobi, a winter spectacle complete with camel polo
- Magical Lake Baikal, with troika rides, ice tours on the lake, and dogsled and snowmobile rides in Siberian forest
- Irkutsk, Siberia’s beautiful capital, with its traditional wooden architecture
- Ice Festival at Lake Hovsgol, with lively competitions in horse-drawn sledge races
- Ulaanbaatar and its noted monasteries and museums
Choosing the Right Trip
We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.
We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.
Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.
This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years. Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!
Mystical Lake Baikal, Mongolia’s Lake Hovsgol, and the legendary Gobi Desert are the extraordinary settings for this winter adventure. We begin in the winter wonderland of Lake Baikal, eternally spectacular in any season. In the crystalline white of winter, it evokes visions of Dr. Zhivago. We stay in traditional lodges at the lake and join the winter-loving Siberians in activities including troika rides (traditional horse-drawn sleigh), lakeshore hikes, ice fishing, and feasting our eyes on the spectacular and enchanting dream world that is Baikal in winter. In the land of Genghis Khan, we attend Lake Hovsgol’s Ice Festival, an engaging display of fiercely competitive events including horse-drawn sledge races, and cross the snow-dusted steppes of Mongolia’s southern Gobi Desert to attend the winter celebration called the Thousand Camel Festival, a colorful gathering of nomads complete with camel polo, races, and music performances.
Itinerary at a Glance
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia / Irkutsk, Siberia
In Mongolia’s capital, we explore Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia, and the famed dinosaur halls of the Natural History Museum, then fly to Irkutsk.
Irkutsk / Circumbaikal Railway / Listvyanka, Lake Baikal
We explore beautiful Irkutsk, with stops at the Gagarin Embankment and an area of old wooden houses with the intricate fretwork around brightly painted window frames typical of local Siberian architecture. In the evening we enjoy a classical music concert. The next day we board the 53-mile Circumbaikal Railway and enjoy spectacular views of Lake Baikal as we travel to the lakeside town of Listvyanka.
Listvyanka / Lake Baikal
Known for its clarity to depths of over 100 feet, Baikal is one of the natural wonders of the world, now protected as a national park and a World Heritage Site. Among our adventures here are ice touring on the lake, snowmobile rides through deep Siberian forests, dogsled rides, and ice fishing.
Irkutsk / Ulaanbaatar
We return to Irkutsk, with a stop en route to visit the outdoor Museum of Wooden Architecture, with its collection of authentic Russian, Buryat, Evenki, and Tafalar houses and buildings from the 17th to early 20th century. After a free day to explore, we fly to Ulaanbaatar for overnight.
Lake Hovsgol / Ice Festival
A flight and overland drive brings us to Lake Hovsgol, a crystal-clear alpine lake that is sacred to Mongolians and known as the “dark blue pearl.” Surrounded by 9,000-foot peaks, the lake freezes around December and remains covered with ice as late as early June. We spend these days attending the various games and competitions on the lake. The Ice Festival is one of the major holidays for the local nomads who relish the opportunity to race their horse-drawn sledges and compete in ice skating and tug-of-war contests. Our overnights are in gers, Mongolia’s traditional dome-sized felt tents heated by a wood stove.
Ulaanbaatar / Gorkhi Terelj National Park
Flying back to Ulaanbaatar, we head out to Terelj National Park, with its beautiful landscapes and rich bird and plant life, to explore on foot or on horseback.
Gobi Desert / Thousand Camel Festival / Flaming Cliffs
Flying south to the Gobi, we witness the spectacular Thousand Camel Festival, with its photogenic spectacle of camel races across the snow-dusted steppes. We also visit the legendary “Flaming Cliffs,” where in 1923, American paleontologist Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the first dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen. Overnights at the Three Camel Lodge, a traditional ger camp set in a stunning Gobi landscape.
Ulaanbaatar / Hustain Nuruu National Reserve
Back in Ulaanbaatar, we visit the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum and enjoy an excursion to Hustain Nuruu National Reserve to see the last remaining species of indigenous wild horse, the takhi, known as the Przewalski horse. Depart Ulaanbaatar on Day 19.
What the Trip is Like
The trip is Level 3, Moderate. The expedition travels to areas that have experienced very little tourism, and where the infrastructure is quite basic. While this trip is not expected to be physically strenuous, the cold weather, rustic accommodations, long travel days, and transportation conditions may be quite demanding. Conditions can be very basic, and services unpredictable. Overland travel is in minivans and small buses, depending upon the size of the group. Conditions can be very basic, and trip members should be prepared for some long drives due to remote locations. Accommodations are in good city hotels and in comfortable rustic lodges. Mongolia is cold in winter, with temperatures often as low as 5F to 15F, but there is very little snow and there are often sunny skies. The climate of Baikal is unique. The lake’s huge water mass moderates the extreme cold temperatures found in other parts of Siberia. Temperatures in winter around the lake are below freezing, not unlike the climate in Canada and the upper Great Lakes in winter. The snowfalls are light, and there are often days of blue skies. These conditions can be comfortable if you have the proper clothing and shoes for the climate.