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Olkhon Island

63There are 26 islands on Lake Baikal, Olkhon Island is considered to be the biggest one. It is 72 km long and 15 km wide, the territory of the island is 730 square kilometers. 

Baikal is often called the blue heart of Siberia and Olkhon Island is the heart of Baikal. It is separated from the western lake side by the strait of Olkhon Gates and by the Smaller Sea. The length of the strait is 7 km, its width at the narrowest part is 1 km. The waves in the strait are rather high and may reach 5 meters.

The name of the island originates from the Buryat word “oy – khon” which is translated “having little wood”. And that’s true, there is wood only in the central part of the island, there is steppe the north and the south of the island. 

The climate on Olkhon differs from the climate on the mainland: winter is milder and the summer is cool. The characteristic feature of the climate is low rainfall amount and a lot of sunny days (about 300 days a year). 

Olkhon Island is the only inhabited island on Baikal. At present 1500 people live on the island, 1200 live in the biggest community of the island village Khouzhir, other inhabitants of the island live in villages Kharantsy and Ouzoury. There is a local country study museum in Khouzhir with an exposition of objects showing the life of islanders. You can see breastplates of Genghis Khan warriers and hear legends about their stay at the island. There is the largest Baikal’s fish-factory in Khouzhir. The annual catch makes up 500-600 tons of fish. 

64Most local people are Buryats. Their main activities are fishing and sheep breeding. Olkhon Island is famous for its historic monuments: burial grounds, sites of ancient settlements, remnants of stone walls. There were found 143 archaeological objects (1993). One of the walls called Kourykanskaya has survived to this day; its length is 220 m. 

The nature of Olkhon Island is famous for the variety of wonderful landscapes demonstrating all the beauty of the island and Lake Baikal. There you can see steppes, deciduous and fir woods, rocks, bays and beaches. The western part of the island is covered by steppe and the eastern part is woody. 

Cape Khoboy

Cape Khoboy is the most northern part of Olkhon Island. It is a rock very similar to a woman’s head and breast. There is a Buryat legend according to which this petrified figure is a Buryat woman who envied her husband and asked God the same palace as he had. God decided to punish the woman for this wish and turned her into stone. This is a very picturesque place attracting most tourists who come to the island. You can take wonderful photos here and, if the weather is good, see Oushkanyi Islands and Svyatoy Nos Peninsular. 

Cape Burkhan and RockShamanka

The cape is situated near settlement Khouzhir. A double-peak rock consists of crystalline limestone (marble), covered by bright red lichens. In Rock Shamanka there is a through cave especially revered by Buryats. There used to take place shaman rituals and now a Buddha’s Altar has been established in it. In ancient times women were not allowed into the cave. Now the entrance is open for everybody but you shouldn’t forget that the spell of ancient shamans has always been effective. You shouldn’t profane the rocks with graffiti and broken bottle glass, bad words and thoughts. 

Lake Sharan Nour

Lake Sharan Nour is the only lake situated in the island’s mountains. It is known for its therapeutic muds. You can bathe here as the lake is shallow and the water warms up very well in summer months. 

Lake Khankhoy (or Yalginskoye)

This lake is separated from Baikal by a sand scythe. This is a good place for fishing and bathing. 

65Mount Zhima

It is the highest point of Olkhon Island (1267 Ð№Ñ—Ð….). According to the legend the mountain was a home of spirits so the mountain is considered sacred by the local people. The deepest place of Lake Baikal (1637 meters) is situated between capes Izhimay and Khaara-Khoushin 10 km to the north-east from the shore.

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