Siberia: A Winter Escapade

City of Irkutsk, the start of the tour.
City of Irkutsk, the start of the tour.

A Unique Chance to Tour Siberia

By Stephanie DiCarlo

Dogsled Across Lake Baikal on the Siberian Winter Escapade
Dogsled Across Lake Baikal on the Siberian Winter Escapade

When you think of Siberia, what comes to mind?

Exile, perhaps. Ice and political prisoners and criminals, freezing temperatures and snow. Siberia’s bleak history may invoke wariness into the thought of visiting, but you’re not going for punishment, you’re going for travel!

Siberia is for the adventurous, the inquisitive and brave-at-heart, and those who aren’t afraid to fright the icy weather.

Siberia counts for over three-fourths of Russia’s land mass, which is an enormous chunk of the world’s land to be explored. It’s a challenge that any willing traveler should consider.

So! Ready to go to Siberia?

Take a hovercraft across Lake Baikal. MIRs photos.
Take a hovercraft across Lake Baikal. MIRs photos.

The Siberian Winter Escapade is an ideal tour to lead you on your Siberian adventure. It’s hosted by Mir Corporation, which has been named twice as one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth,”and is a highly regarded travel corporation that specializes in Russian travels.

I talked to Adam York, a representative of the tours, who said, “MIR is the only company offering the Siberian Winter Escapade tour. It is their custom made tour. It is designed for an active traveler who wants to immerse themselves in the culture and nature.”

And an active immersion in culture and nature you’ll get! A look at the itinerary of the trip gave me the full grasp of just how jam-packed this trip is of things to do. You’ll never be bored. The tour is set for February 2015, and if you like culture, nature, history, and adventurous activity, you’ll find this tour to be more than satisfactory. This is one of those places unlike anywhere else on Earth!

A traveler’s testimonial stated, “We don’t know where to start – a perfect itinerary which satisfied all of our needs, excellent accomodations superbly located, flawless execution of all aspects including visas, vouchers, theatre tickets, etc., and…truly outstanding professional guides and drivers.”

Basically, MIR will guide you on a fantastic tour through Siberia.

Start the Tour!

The tour lasts for eight full days, and you start in Irkutsk, a “celebrated stop on the old Tea Road from China to Moscow.” It’s a cozy city found right in the middle of the scenic wilderness. Here, you can explore the city, discover it’s history as a place of exile when Genghis Khan offered it to captives as a alternative to death in the thirteenth century.

Today, the city is a cultural, pleasant city, noted for its museums, universities, and pre-revolutionary churches. All set far, far away from the rest of the world.

This tour is scheduled so that it specifically lines up with the New Year, when Irkutsk natives carve amazing sculptures into the Baikal ice, turning the city square into a “winter playground.” In Irkutsk, rather than escaping the bleak winter weather, locals embrace the ice and “feel that if you live in Siberia, you may as well learn to enjoy winter.”

The “Sacred Sea”

Ancient Lake Baikal
Ancient Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is the most ancient lake in the world, and you can cross this 25 million year old body of water by the most modern means available—hovercraft! The hovercraft will take you all along the lake, to the peaks of Primorsky range. Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in the winter it freezes over to become accessible for nearly anything. It’s used as a playground, an ice-fishing area, and even a highway. Yes, trucks cross this giant lake in the winter!

When you reach Sibirskaya Zaimka, you will be given the chance to travel on the frozen river on a troika ride, which is a sleigh pulled by horses. This tour also includes rides on snowmobiles and dogsleds.

Take Some Time to Relax

With so much activity in the frigid outdoors, you’ll find yourself tired and ready to relax somewhere warm. You will be given time for yourself in your hotels, to make use of their spa areas to warm up and wind down.

There are also scheduled times for visiting museums, such as Listvyanka’s Baikal Limnological Museum (the study of life in freshwater), or the outdoor Museum of Wooden Architecture, where you will see authentic Russian houses and community buildings. You can also take a ski lift to the top of Chersky Mount.

You'll visit the beautiful Olkhon Island.
You’ll visit the beautiful Olkhon Island.

Olkhon Island

Later in the tour, you will find yourself at Olkhon Island. “The steep hills along its east coast plunge into the deepest part of the deepest lake in the world.” The island has a sacred reputation, and has so for centuries. You will have a chance to visit the Islands villages, get to know the culture the people, where you will be treated to food and picnic lunches. You will also investigate the nature of the island and visit “caves, cliffs, and ice formations.”

Siberian Culture

You will get to know some of Siberian people’s spiritual beleifs as you are hosted at a ceremony at a Buddhist monastery. You will awaken early for a “sunrise shaman ceremony” at Shaman Rock, where natives believe the gods of Baikal are said to have lived.

So, when can I go?

Take a troika ride!
Take a troika ride!

This tour is set for the week of February 21-28, 2015, and February 20-27 in 2016. The price is $4,696 per person, but well worth it for its action and culture packed itinerary, that allows you to see Siberia in a way that is not available through any other tour company.

Why are MIR’s Siberia tours different? They have “over 25 years of Russia travel experience” and programs such as Princeton and Harvard Museum of Natural history have selected MIR to show them through Russia. MIR also has affiliate offices in the Siberian cities of Irkutsk and Ulan Ude, and they give you “personalized travel from start to finish.”

MIRs works to guarantee you a unique and amazing experience in Siberia. One traveler said, “We only wish that MIR provided tours everywhere, in which case we would never use another tour company again.”

A Rigorous Tour

The Siberian Winter Escapade is an adventurous tour
The Siberian Winter Escapade is an adventurous tour

It’s important to note that this Siberian Winter Escapade tour is in fact a very demanding tour. It guides you through “cold temperatures and icy surfaces,” which include daily walking, steep stair climbing, and some hiking. Hovercraft rides and dogsleds and driving over rough, unpaved roads are involved. Every effort is made to make sure this is a comfortable and enjoyable trip, and with friendly tour guides and interesting locations, this trip is sure to be worth it. MIRs is sure to give you nothing but the best on your tour of Siberia.

If you’re itching for adventure, sign up for this tour this coming February, and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Siberia, a truly unique place that has so much more to offer than the reputation that preceeds it.

For more information, visit their website where you can download a detailed itinerary, contact them through email, or call them at 800-424-7289.

Stephanie DiCarlo

Stephanie DiCarlo is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and has a Bachelor’s degree in English and History, as well as a specialization in creative writing. She also writes for the young adult literature magazine Ultimate YA and she likes to travel and eat good food. You can follow her on Twitter at @ccioSteph

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