Lake Baikal as side trip from Mongolia?

Jan 10th, 2013, 07:18 AM
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Lake Baikal as side trip from Mongolia?

I'm starting to plan a trip to Mongolia for 2014 and wondering if going into Russia to see Lake Baikal would be a good idea. Since our time away is limited (to around 2 weeks total including travel time) it would mean we'd see less of Mongolia so I'd only do it if Lake Baikal is really worth it. Also it would be a not-cheap side trip on top of an already not-cheap there's that.

I don't know that we'd ever take another trip to that part of the world so it's definitely a now-or-never kind of thing.

I've searched online for info from people's trips and haven't found a whole lot to help me decide. Has anyone here been to Lake Baikal and would you give me your opinion on spending a few days there? Thanks.

I'll also post this on the Europe/Russia forum.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jan 13th, 2013, 08:05 PM
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I can't directly answer your question, but let me throw out another option. Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia.övsgöl_Nuur

It's just south of Siberia and incredibly beautiful. We visited there in May 2008. When we were there, the last ice of the season was still hanging around. So it was cool in the evenings, but was quite pleasant during the day.

The lake was so huge, you really couldn't see the end of it. We flew into Moron, and drove the rest of the way on an old Russian van. Quite the trip!
SavTrav is offline  
Jan 14th, 2013, 02:32 AM
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I agree with SavTrav, having been to both Lake Baikal and Khovsgol, they are very similar - in fact the two lakes are linked by the Egiin river which flows into the Selenge river into Lake Baikal. Khovsgol is not as large as Baikal but it is huge, the deepest lake in Central Asia and surrounded by beautiful alpine scenery.
Of course, the cultural aspects are different - being in Russia is very different to being in Mongolia but if you are interested in the nature rather than seeing the cultural side of Russian Siberia vs Mongolia, then I would recommend staying in Mongolia. 2 Weeks isn't very long to cover this vast country and I would spend more time in Mongolia than time travelling between places.
Hope this helps
Kath from Panoramic Journeys
PanoramicJourneys is offline  
Jan 15th, 2013, 06:12 AM
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Thanks so much to both of you for your replies. Since I'm planning this for summer 2014 I've really only just started researching and greatly appreciate advice from people who've been to Mongolia and especially from someone who's been to Lake Baikal also.

The 2 week limit we have is making me lean towards just staying in Mongolia the whole time. If we add Lake Baikal that would consume half of the trip and I think even if it's spectacular it's not worth missing a week in Mongolia for. Like you said Kath it just doesn't make sense to travel between the 2 places when there's so much to see in Mongolia.

I'll keep Lake Khovsgol in mind.

Do you guys think experiencing a Naadam festival should be part of our trip - is it a highlight or maybe slightly hyped up by tour operators?

And also, with only 2 weeks would you consider focusing solely on the desert and spending time in the Yol Valley, Gyalaan Valley, Hongoryn Els, Tugrugiin Shiree, Flaming Cliffs, for example -- or do you think that's too limited and we should make sure to also see Kharakhorum or Lake Khovsgol?
Leslie_S is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 11:26 AM
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We didn't see the Naadam festival, and we didn't feel cheated. Actually one thing we loved about Mongolia is that seemed so empty of people, we couldn't imagine have a huge crowd around us for the festival.

Although at our camp in Lake Hovsgol, there was a group of wrestlers visiting and it was very cool to watch them practice and play around with each other while they were on holiday.

We were there around 2 and a half weeks. We hit 3 major spots, the 1) North at Lake Hovsgol, 2) the middle - Kharakourm (including Hongoryn Els) and 3) the South - the Gobi (Yol Valley, Flaming Cliffs)

I'm sure I'm mis-spelling some of these things.....

Although our time was tight, we did manage to fit it all in. We went with Nomadic Expeditions and they did all the planning for us.

I would recommend hooking up with some tour operation, Mongolia is not the place where you can just hop in a taxi on your own - especially with tight time restrictions, you will want to have someone set up all the transportation and logistics.

If you are heading to the Gobi, definitely stay at the Three Camel Lodge - best place we stayed in Mongolia, and make sure to upgrade to a ger with an attached bathroom. It's just a short drive from the Flaming Cliffs.
SavTrav is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 01:56 PM
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Hi SavTrav-
Nomadic Expeditions is the operator I've been looking at. I'm glad to hear you recommend them. Did you go on one of their pre-scheduled trips or customize your own?

We'll have at most 2 weeks -- I guess hitting those 3 main areas is possible. I don't want to spend much time in UB and I don't feel the need to fit a Naadam festival into the itinerary.

I definitely want to stay several days at the Three Camel Lodge - it does look pretty wonderful!
Leslie_S is offline  
Jan 20th, 2013, 08:13 PM
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We used one of their pre-packaged trips. We don't usually like group travel, but they had a fairly low maximum count - I think it was around 8 to 10 people. And it was guaranteed to go regardless of the number of people signed up. We ended up with a group of about 7 people. We were on a budget, so the group travel was what we choose and we didn't regret it at all.

We met up with several other groups using Nomadic Expeditions in some of the camps that were on a private tour - just them and a guide and driver.

We really got great service from everyone that we dealt with at Nomadic Expeditions and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them.

Here's one tip, I know you are pressed for time, but try to get over there at least a day early, mainly to catch up on your sleep. We stopped over in Beijing for a couple days, then flew to UB. There's a couple ways to get to UB (if it hasn't changed) Beijing, Tokyo, and Moscow (?) May want to think about Visa requirements before planning your route.

It is a trip of a lifetime and I still think about going back - the country is just so different than everywhere else we have been. Don't fret too much about planning - where ever you go will be amazing!
SavTrav is offline  
Jan 21st, 2013, 07:50 AM
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Thanks for the assurances on NE. Having the guarantee that the trip will go regardless of the number who sign up is great. Our preferred way to travel would be on our own with a guide/driver in certain areas but we've also had good experiences the times we've traveled with groups so I'm not anti-group like a lot of people on fodors are. I can see the benefits and often the camaraderie can add to the fun vs. it just being the 2 of us.

I've noted your point about trying to have a day to get over jetlag. We usually don't have that luxury and just push through the pain!

Just from a quick search it seems flying through Japan might be best, visa-wise.

Thanks again for the advice!
Leslie_S is offline  
Feb 15th, 2013, 09:01 AM
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Just a quick note -
Beijing have just introduced a special visa system where tourists can stay for 72hrs in Beijing without a visa. It really depends where you are flying from. My favourite way to arrive in Mongolia is on the train from Beijing - You take the 1st day of the transiberian train from Beijing to UB - normally it runs on a tuesday and saturday in the summer, so I guess it depends on your time available. I've done this journey several times now and it's always magical waking up to the emptiness of the Gobi after the chaos of Beijing.
PanoramicJourneys is offline  
Feb 21st, 2013, 07:55 PM
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wow, so glad to read positive and light things about Mongolia. I am Mongolian and have worked as tour operator for russian people. They also said it was life changing trip. I guess there is so much changing in spiritual side. You could spend night in frozen tents or you may feel so far from contemporary, technologized world, but oneness with Nature and with everything else. Would be glad to help you and inform you. Ulziibileg Dugarsuren,
Ulzi is offline  
Feb 25th, 2013, 12:45 PM
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thanks for the additional info and food for thought - interesting about being able to be in Beijing without a visa
Leslie_S is offline  
Feb 25th, 2013, 06:32 PM
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In all of our travels, our two weeks in Lake Baikal and Buryatia rank as one of the best experiences ever. I would not miss it if you can get some time there. One problem though is that most folks pretty much stop before even getting to Olkhon Island...and that is a pity. Now if that's all you can do, so be it - still go for it. But the best way to see the lake is get a Yaroslavet Boat and cruise the lake as we did in this trip report below:

It ain't cheap but it will be an amazing experience! The wildlife, nature, unmatchable scenery and plain old solitude will be experience you will never forget.

Go for it!


cokesmith is offline  
Feb 27th, 2013, 05:55 AM
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great pictures and advice, Coke, thanks for sharing!
Leslie_S is offline  
Feb 27th, 2013, 07:23 PM
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Hi Leslie - I'd also put in a vote for Lake Baikal - and Irkutsk, especially if you can take the train round the lake in daylight and stop off in Ulan Ude. It's very different in Siberia from Mongolia, and Ulan Ude is different from Irkutsk. Of course I'm a train fan, but I think the train trip is worthwhile even for those who aren't (does take a long time at the border, though).
thursdaysd is offline  
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