After a few days in the Baikal lake and more than 5000 km, we change to the transmongolian train. Leaving Russia was a bit tiring as with the time change our visas where expired for a few hours and we had to pay an adicional 15€ in local currency in order to leave the country.
Ulan Bator train station
Once we entered in Mongolia the landscape changed drastically. The trees disappear little by little leaving a big extension of grass exposed. The land was flattening shortly and we found ourselves in a big plain. From the train you could see small spots in the green canvas of the landscape that were the famous yurts. This tents made with wood and felt with a protective layer outside are the way of living for many Mongolians. Despite they are not as nomads as they used to be, the Yurt can be set up in about 3 hours by 3 experienced people.
Mongolia landscape with Yurts
Ulan Bator it is another big city with a big change between the city center and the surrounding area, big urban agglomeration of basic buildings and Yurts gather around the city. The people there are quite warming and kind and you can feel the nomadic attitude around every corner. As soon as you leave the city, the landscape change and families campsites, yurts and nomad farms flourish everywhere.
In the city, you can find lots of interesting activity apart of sightseeing. There are many museums and I specially recommend the Mongolian museum of history where you can get an idea of the country and culture which I found very interesting. You can also visit their national theatre show where you can watch among traditional dances and music the very especial contortionist show or the Mongol chant, also called diphonic singing.
In the countryside are many activities but camping in the nature I would say it is the most important. It does not matter if it is in the dessert, in a valley, in a river or in a mountain, you may see people with their tents preparing a fire or setting up the tent. On top of that you have the Yurts, that spread along the whole country dispersed in the landscape. Many natural places are to be seen in the countryside but if you are passing by Mongolia, the top 3 touristic places out there are the Gengis Kahn statue, the ottoman empire rocks and the yurts situated all over the country.
Gengis Kahn statue
In my opinion, Mongolia it is a must see within Asia countries and specially if you are a nature lover. It is a place to visit and not to pass by, it is a place to interact with the culture and with the people.
One of the rail hotspots of the trans-siberian train it is the city of Irkust which is approximately half of the way toVladivostok, the last stop of the train. Being half way does not make this place special but being the detour for the transmongolian train going to Beijing and having the Baikal lake as one of its main attractions make it a good stopover.
We arrived of course with a little bit of time hangover due to the multiple changes in time zones and we headed directly to the Baikal lake. Our first stop was the museam of the lake where we found very interesting information of the lake for a reasonable price. I totally recomend to go there and inform yourself about the lake. Some curious facts of the lake
- Biggest fresh water reservoir in the world with about 20% of the whole fresh water on earth.
- Deepest lake in the world, 1668 m deep.
- 630km long and 80km in its wider part.
- Many unique spices lives in it
- More than 330 rivers flow into the lake
The lake sourrandings are also very beautiful, covered with a green layer of pine trees and valleys that make such a nice environment. The main town in the lake is Listvyanka which is a very touristic place with lots of restaurants, boats companies and a local market. The activities that you can do there goes from hiking arround the lake (there is a Baikal great trail that surround the lake) taking boats of any kind from fast boats to slow ones or even overdrafts, you can take a lift from a ski station to go up a close mountain to get a good sight, there are camping areas arround the lake and you can also walk through town.
The lake it is quite cold as the water comes from the surrounding montains which melts their ice and snow into the lake. The average surface temperature is 4 degrees and in summertime can get up to 11 degrees depending on many factors as the deep or the kind of lake bed in that part. We went in the lake twice and we could experiment the difference in temperature as the first day we guess that the water was arround 6 degrees and the second time arround 11 degrees.
One of the activities that we liked the most was to cross the Angara river in the local ferry to port Baikal. There was a local train still running on steam locomotive and a nice town not affected by the tourism which gave us a great sight of the "real" Rusia. Also we found warmer waters than in Listvyanka.
The city of Irkust it is as well very nice, many beautiful churches and a very interesting museum of the history of the place, the Krayevedcheskiy muzey. It has a lot of nice places arround the river and lots of history. The capital of the siberian Rusia it is a place to visit.