The Small Sea is also known as Narin-Dalai, which means “narrow sea” in Buryat. This place is a tourist magnet, especially for people who can stifle their love for comfort in favor of having some affordable outdoors fun.
During the summer, the shallow straight between the northwestern Baikal shore and Olkhon Island turns into a center of beach life. You can swim all day long or take sunbaths on sand or pebble beaches, only moving to change your lying position. The Small Sea is a sunny place. The water in the bays warms up to +21 °C, sometimes up to +24 °C. Moreover, water temperature may differ by up to ten degrees every ten meters.
Kurkutski and Mukhor Gulfs are the warmest and most popular places of the Small Sea. Their popularity means that these gulfs are crowded as a beehive during the peak season. Don’t expect to find a quiet place there. However, if you like loud companies and enjoy making new friends, stay at these gulfs and have fun.
If you want to have less people and more wildlife around you, travel a bit further. The coastline of the strait stretches from Sakhyurta village to the borders of the Baikal-Lena Reserve. This is almost 100 kilometers of territory for you to do what you like, from trekking and biking to kayaking and sailing on catamarans and yachts.
Should you come here even if it isn’t summer? Absolutely! The fall at the Small Sea is breathtakingly golden. In winter, you can enjoy exciting ice-fishing or exotic Baikal ice golf. And rock paintings at local caves, ancient towns and uninhabited islands can be seen all year round. Their beauty doesn’t depend on the season.
How to get to the Small Sea from Irkutsk
Take a bus, a car, a minibus or a hydrofoil. You can also drive a car or take a boat ride from Olkhon Island. The road will take 2-5 hours, depending on the remoteness of the place.
Go like this: drive the Kachugski highway through Oek, Ust’Orda, Bayanday, Kosaya Step’ and Elantsy. Make sure to refuel in Elantsy, as you won’t see any gas stations after passing that village.
Five kilometers before the MRS, you’ll see a fork in the road. The turn to the right is for those who need to get to Olkhon. The road to the left leads to the Mukhor Gulf. Turn left for another 6 kilometers of the way, and then drive the soil and gravel road along the Small Sea coast.
Minibus route 507 departs from the Irkutsk bus station every 30 minutes from 8:30 to 11:00. The minibus goes to Khuzhir, so you’ll need to get off at the MRS bus stop in the Sakhyurta village. The road will take 3.5 hours. One-way ride will cost 420 rubles plus 105 rubles for luggage. Minibuses and buses from Irkutsk to MRS (Sakhyurta) also depart from Angara hotel. You can board any of them any day of the week at 9:00.
Please note that this kind of transport will only take you to the ferry port. If you want to go directly to your turbaza, call +7 39-52 70-70-17 and book a bus seat a day or two in advance. These buses depart daily from the Trud stadium (48, Lenin St.) at 9:00 and 12:00, and you can arrange for an evening departure. One-way ride will cost 900–1 000 rubles, and the road will take 4-5 hours.
Irkutsk — Ust’-Barguzin and Irkutsk-Nizhneangarsk hydrofoils make stops in the Zagli Gulf on Olkhon Island. Both depart from Raketa pier in the Solnechni microdistrict.
The first route sails on Mondays from July 6 to August 24. “Barguzin” hydrofoil departs from the pier at 9:15 and arrives to the gulf at 16:10. One-way trip costs 3 200 rubles.
The second route sails from June 19 to August 28. The hydrofoil departs on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8:30 and gets to Zagli Gulf at 14:00. One-way trip costs 3 200 rubles, too.
To get to the Small Sea from Zagli Gulf, get to the opposite shore.
This is how you can do it:
- book a transfer from your turbaza;
- walk 1.5 kilometers from the gulf to the ferry, get to the MRS and board a minibus that travels to your destination;
- book a motorboat from a travel agency or a private owner.
Where to stay
In summer, most tourists come to the Small Sea with tents and settle to form an entire tent city, cheerful and loud. If you want to have less people around you, travel further to the north along the coastline. Pack up everything you might need, from food to a first-aid kit with meds. The Small Sea area doesn’t have many shops. Only turbazas have first-aid stations, and the closest hospital is in Elantsy.
Recreation centers provide the most comfortable housing at this coastline. Some of them are simpler; they have wooden toilets outdoors, and the guests prepare their food themselves. Others are more interesting. They have indoors showers and toilets, canteens and thought-out entertainment options.
If you plan on taking your family or friends to the Small Sea, don’t book individual rooms. Book an entire house. Almost all turbazas provide an option to do so. The minimum price for a low-end local house is 500 rubles per person. Mid-range houses cost 1 000–1 400 rubles. Houses with all amenities cost 2 000–3 000 rubles per person.