Today we’re going to travel 3500 miles away from Moscow and to a very fascinating part of Siberian Russia!
Many of our readers have heard about Lake Baikal because but often don’t associate the east Asian city of Ulan-Ude (Улан-Удэ) with the world’s largest lake. For most Western tourists, Irkutsk is the more recognizable city along Baikal but it is just an 8 hour train ride further to reach Ulan-Ude on the eastern side of Baikal.
If travelers on the Trans Siberian have some time to spare we recommend a couple of days in Irkutsk to see the local sights, one day being a trip on the Circum-Baikal railway which is a train that makes a daily run along the lower reaches of that area of the lake. It provides access to Irkutsk for the locals and gives tourists some of the most dramatic views along the lake. The other day spent in Irkutsk could be used to see the sights and to visit the village of Listvyanka which is a must-see for foreign visitors.
Way To Russia has some helpful info also for travelers to Ulan-Ude: http://www.waytorussia.net/Siberia/UlanUde/Practicalities.html
Ulan-Ude is very interesting culturally. It is part of Asian Russia (51% of Asia lies within Russia’s borders), the capital of the Buryatia Republic, a centre of practicing Buddhism in Russia and home to the largest Tibetan school for monks outside Mongolia. Buryats are traced to the Mongols and in addition to Russian speak Buryat, a Mongol language. Buryatia is also a centre for oriental medicine.
At Ulan-Ude one can connect to the Trans-Mongolian railway to several China via Mongolia. It is also possible to enter China much further east before Vladivostok on the Trans Manchurian railway.