Thursday, November 4, 2010

Going Baikal

Due North
Heading northward anywhere in Asia and you'll end up in Russia. And in Russia the hot soaks keep on coming; there's no better way to brave the chill and cold than enjoying a hot spring!

 I'll start off this journey by going north of Mongolia.

Often travelled, often used as a lay-over on the Trans-Sib / Trans-Mongolian, there's quite a bit of information on the internet about hot springs in the Baikal region. What's more the quality of information is better, less blog reports more tourist and/or other official info.

Getting acquainted with the area is not an issue. It starts off with this general
'Baikal area is still seismically active. There are 35 hot springs around the lake, mostly located in the north-east of Baikal and in Tunka valley'.
That's quite a lot for such an area. Even as this web entry claims:
'The Baikal basin nature is rich in medicinal mineral springs, there are more than 300 mineral springs-arshans on the territory of Buryatia. The word arshan means “holy water” in the Buryat language. In such a way the people highlight the medicinal force of the natural springs. According to the Buryat traditions, having come to the arshan it is necessary to pay tribute to the “holy water” and worship it. Each arshan has got a special place for sacrifice. The rite is started with fastening a band-zalaa to a tree with the request of giving health, t hen some milk is sprinkled about, some sweet things and coins are placed under the tree. Only after that the arshan is tasted and medical treatment is started'.
Saint Spring?
The mention of Arshan leads us to the first soak site of the Baikal region. Another
link adds to our understanding:
'From a language of Buryat people the name of the settlement «Arshan» is translated as «Saint spring». This place was called so because of numerous natural mineral water springs appearing right from the ground'
According to wikitravel Arshan
'... is a small hot spring resort located at the foot of the Sayan Mountains in Buryatia'.
Which means to the west of Irkutsk and the Baikal lake. The following is all derived from
'Arshan is balneological, with a mountain climate, of a total capacity 895 bed places. It includes resorts "Sayany", "Arshan" and a camp for children, which is run all year round, "Edelweiss". The resort is situated in Tunkinskaya Valley at the foot of the Sayan Mountains, on the banks of the purest mountain river Kyngyrga, known for its cascade of gorgeous wa­terfalls.
The main natural medicinal properties of Arshan's waters are carbonate thermal waters of low mineraliza­tion and acidity that contain silicon, sulfate, hydrocar­bon, magnesium, calcium and sulfide silt muds.
Visitors are offered to use a swimming pool, gyms, sauna, library with a reading room, club, dance and sports facilities (grounds), concert hall, caf, sports equipment rental services, playroom for children, res­taurant, drug-store, parking lot, hairdresser and place for Terrainkur [?]'.
It continues to list why Arshan's water are curative:
'Cutaneous (skin) diseases and hypoderm, Diseases of the genitor-urinary system (except for female genital diseases), Diseases of the respiratory system, Diseases of the digestive apparatus, Diseases of the blood circulation system, Diseases of the endocrine system, eating and metabolic disorders'.
'To take warm mineral water baths one should agree upon with the re­sort administration. The only natural mineral spring out­let, so called eye spring, has been preserved at one place which is easy to find as it is situated in a sacred grove (with ribbons on trees). The eye spring contains iron, up to 600 mg/l'.
Less serious is the following article promoting Arshan and it's environ:
'Arshan is not quiet even at nights, as bright discos and dance parties welcome everybody who wants to join in. The “Miss Arshan” contest is held there. You will be unforgettably impressed, once seeing this show. Majestic ladies in evening dresses are doing their best to win the crown, waiting for wonderful time to begin. Well, think of your wardrobe carefully when going to Arshan! And don’t forget your bathing costume!
Few minutes spent in car – and you are in Zhemchug village (~38km), where a geyser, gushing forth from 766m slit, makes you forget about rheumatism! Not far from it a small pool invites people to get dirty head over heels with healing mud. Not everyone can overcome this temptation!
So, as you can see, there are many different ways to have a really good time in Arshan !'
Closeby is another hot spring Nilova Pustyn. The information on internet is quite similar to the above with the same reference, More info is available from

Another hot spring in this locality is Shumak. Shumak, the more remoter of the hot springs in this area, is also more folksy, witness this
'One such sacred spot is Shumak, a fairy-tale like collection of medicinal hot springs and shaman shrines nestled high in the Sayan Mountains to the south of Baikal. Shumak, as the legend goes, was a valley merchant who fell in love with a beautiful woman in the mountains. When he went back to claim his bride, he learned that she and her entire tribe had been wiped out by fever. Heartbroken, Shumak threw away the jewels he had carried as a wedding gift. As he did so, dozens of healing springs are said to have appeared where each of the jewels landed'.
Access info plus more:
'It is necessary to walk 70 km and get over the Shumak mountain pass which is exclusively difficult to access (2,932 m), on foot, on horseback or by helicopter. But the beauty of the mountain landscape, the air and the medicinal springs are worth of it. The thermal carbonaceous waters of Shumak are displayed on the surface in three groups looking as numerous griffins [=body of a lion + head/wings of an eagle according to wikipedia]'.
There is an actually visitor experience from Shumak:
'The springs themselves are a scattering of cottages built around the 80+ separate fountains. The Russians are very sure that each line exudes a separate mineral and comes from a unique source. There's probably a bit of truth to it. The big thing is to take a cup around to each spring and drink from each one to build up your health...It's amazing, people hike in with sick children etc...just to feed them this water..C'est La Vie. At most I'd expect 100 people to be in the valley at one time. We saw perhaps 40 during our stay. There is also one spring that is big enough to sit in..they actually built a house around it. It is NOT a hot spring...more of a lukewarm spring...I'd guess about 80 deg F'.

'The warm spring (NOT HOT)'.
From tjschmidty

On all 3 hot springs mentioned above, the Freiburg Technical University, Germany, has extensive geological info. See for instance their entries on

Muddy waters 
The above mentioned Uni has put a lot of effort into geologically mapping the various hot springs in this region.More of this effort can be found in and around the Baikal lake. The Zhemchug hot springs (geo. info) are not only known for their water but as well as for their mud.
'They are situated in the Tunka district on the right bank of the Irkut river. The medicinal hot springs and mud baths are popular with people'. (source)
Not everybody understands the mud:
'There was a place you could go which was basically a big hot tub, fed by water from the hot springs. It was nice, but the whole village was extremely muddy (the rain the previous night didn't help) and the mud came all the way up to the pool, which made for everything being a bit messy'.
'Daniel and I made our way to the hot springs of Zhemchug, a ghost town after the arrival of the winter season. We drank vodka with our Russia friends, and hopped back and forth between the freezing pool to the right and sulfur scented waters of the hot spring'. (source)
Little more background to Dawsha hot spring (geo. info) but there is more on Zmeinayay (Zmeiny or Snake spring; geo. info) There's a nice old-fashioned photo (at least I hope so) as well as what follows:
'The Zmeiny spring is one of the most popular thermal springs of Lake Baikal. The water of the spring runs both on the ground surface and under water. The spring is similar to famous Pyatigorsk springs by the composition of its water. It is rich in hydrogen sulfide, fluorine and sodium. Temperature of the water fluctuates between +28ºC (+82ºF) and +34ºC (+93ºF). The spring itself corresponds to two wooden blockhouses each is for four persons. The Zmeiny spring that means spring “of snakes” in Russian got its name because of a big population of grass snakes lived in this bay in former times'.
Kotelnikovsky hot spring (geo. info) is the hottest spring by the Baikal (source). The local (Severobaikalsk) tourist site uses this to attract visitors:
'Kotelnikovsky Cape hot springs are situated 70 km from the city [?], western coast of the lake, multiple outlets of hot mineral water, (one can dig a bathtub in any place of the pebble and shingle beach which will get filled with hot water pretty soon). Part of its territory is a resort area with cottages, inside and outside pools'.
Another photo is obtainable from Iain Masterton.

Free speech
Then there is Goryachinsk (geo. info) which someone on LP's Thorn Tree describes as
'... hospital like sanatorium'.
Closer to the city of Ulan Ude, this web site describes getting to Goryachinsk:
'If you follow the first path, it’ll take you under pine trees, along a stream, until two pretty wooden sheds built on the special stream. In the center of the shed is a fountain of Hot Springs. Along the stream are benches where people sit and dip their feet in the mixed hot and cold waters. It’s supposed to purify, bring health and happiness! What it surely brings is people together, they meet on the benches and talk about where they come from, where it’s best to buy fish in the village…'.
Dzelinda hot springs:
'Dzelinda hot springs are located 92 km. to the east from Severobaikalsk. They have train and automobile connection with the town. Here a tourist can find pools with hot water, a bar, a small hotel, sauna. Not far from the location they are building a resort area for railroad employees for 50 visits a day'. (source).
There are some photo's on picasa taken by north. He is also the only person mentioning Kurkala hot springs; again via a photographic record.

 'After returning to Severobaikalsk, we went from warm to hot springs lake Dzelinda'.
 (source, translated)

Seemingly more popular is the hot spring of Goudzhekit. One soaker (When I was twenty I lived in Russia for a year) discovered and experienced the following:
'... two pools: one pleasantly hot, like a hot tub, and the other painfully hot'.
A similar experience befell this visitor which also includes photo's.
More photo's are available via
Darren and Jo, as well as aforementioned north.

Khakussy hot spring is another popular place. LP thorn tree states it's a holiday camp. More info:
'Khakusy is a name for a bay, hot springs and a resort. The hot springs are located in a picturesque miniature valley 1 km. away from the shore. "Akushi" means hot from the Evenk language. The water temperature at the outlet is 47 C over. The cottages of the resort which belongs to the Nizhneangarsk medical service are spread around the valley'.
An experience:
'It was snowing heavily when Albert decided the holes were dry. We packed up our gear, snapped a few photos of our catch and headed for Khakusy to relax in a hot spring. By the time we arrived, Albert told me it might be too risky to return to the other side of the lake. The fresh snow cover left it impossible to find our way home.
A little confused and fretting over whether I’d make my train west to Novosibirsk the next day, I trudged ahead of Albert toward the springs, hoping the nearly 50-degree C water would calm me down.
The pool was in a dimly lit cabin. Intricate snow stalactites formed by the frozen steam hung from the roof. Inside, we bathed naked, sucking in the sulfuric air and forgetting the subzero cold a metre away. Our frustrations with the weather and our catch quickly faded; we scrambled back into our long johns and snow pants and stepped outside to clear skies, a late afternoon drive now ahead of us.
We followed a fresh set of tire tracks back to Severobaikalsk, a fiery orange and mauve sunset blazing over the forested peaks in the distance'.

Further more
On another less known hot spring, Khoito-gol:

'It is in the middle part of the Khoito-gol river (the Oka district). The sources spout from under the boulders on the bank of the stream. The water temperature is 29-30˚C. There are about a dozen of springs with baths by them. The springs are hydrocarbon-sodium-calcium, they have been known since ancient times with the Mongolians and the Tuvinians. The waters are used to treat rheumatic and nervous diseases'. (source)
Other hot springs mentioned are Kuchigersky (source), Chivyrkuisky, Allinsky and the Garginsky (source) while this link adds more on the prior with Seyuisky and Umheisky.

To top it all off there is this from

'... Xakysa seemed to be a resort town, it was pretty much deserted and we were the only ones there. But the purpose of the trip was another soak in the hot springs. Here they had a hot bath separated by gender, and the captain of the boat decided to go in his birthday suit which is what is normally done, but the squeamish Americans all went in bathing suits. There were 3 outdoor pools that ranged in temperatures, and we found one that was like a warm back. Just perfect. And ended up soaking there for the next couple of hours'.
No idea where Xakysa is located other than on the lake ...

Latecomers to the party:
'Solnechnoye [near Severobaikal], a spot with some natural hot springs – I’m not sure what exactly I’d been expecting, but something a little more natural than the hot tub with a pipe running, supposedly, from the hot spring, I suppose…'. (source)
Hoyto-Gol (or Hoito-Gol or Khoito-Gol? (see above)), a picture on panoramio. Or the picture below, looks like a fantastic place to soak:

'Hoito-Gol has hot springs and baths! Springs well out from under big stones on the stream shore. The temperature of springs is +29...+33 C. There are about ten springs. Springs are hydrocarbonate-natrium-calcium with predominance of natrium. They known to Mongolians and Tuvinians as medical treatment of rheumatism and nervous diseases'.
[Updated August 2012]

No comments:

Post a Comment