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Tunkinsky district

Source:  Tourist Buryatia. - 2009. - . 49-61.

The major advantage of Tunkinskii District is its vicinity to big cities of Southern Siberia that contributes to time and money saving on trips to vacation and recreation areas which provide for rather comfortable and neat places for staying.

The distance between Irkutsk and Tunkinskii Valley is no further than 150 km, popular resorts Arshan and NilovaPustyn are no further than 200-270 km. Ulan-Ude, the capital city of the Buryat Republic, is located at 490 km from Tunkinskii District. It is worth mentioning that the cities and towns of the Irkutsk area (that stands on the Angara River), Buryatia and Trans-Baikal Region are connected with Tunkinskii Valley by a network of good-quality paved roads. In 3-4 hours these roads will drive visitors from Lake Baikal to the Mongolian border offering a majestic view of the Tunkinskii Alps, glaciers and snow-covered highest peak of the Eastern Sayans — Munku-Sradyk, and the Irkut River valley that cuts through all of the Tunkinskii basin.

The District occupies the Sayan-Baikal territory of the Buryat Republic; the northern border touches the tops of the Eastern Sayan mountains, the southern part of which is known for the highest peak of the Eastern Sayans — Munku Sardyk (3,491 m). One of the slopes of the mountain range, Tunkinskie Goltsy (barrens), which is 2 km long, "falls" into the Tunkinskii basin, and further on the Khamar-Daban mountain range initiates. The Tunkinskie Goltsy, forming an inaccessible wall that rises above the Tunkinskii basin, are tremendously picturesque. Some mountain tops exceed the height of 3,200 m; the range spines in several locations are higher than 3,000 m. Moreover, the Goltsy are distinguished by a variety of pure craggy forms: the solids, blocks, stoops (pillars), sharp "saws".

The Tunkinskii Valley itself is rightly considered to be one of the Buryat natural pearls. It extends over 200 km and forms a natural continuation of the Baikal Basin. According to one of the versions, it got its name from the word "tunken" known since the 13th century. That was the name of one of the kerait-tunkait tribes who lived in Mongolia along the Selenga and Irkut Rivers. By a number of sunny days a year, the Valley is far beyond the southern coast of the Crimea peninsular. It is rather wide, and it has masses of picturesque landscapes. It is also marked by a relatively mild and warm micro-climate, fertile soils and a big number of cultural and natural landmarks. In 1991 on May27 there was founded a Tunkinskii National Park, the first park in Russia whose borders coincided with the borders of the whole district.

TheTunkinskii National Park is a forested area where the main tree species are coniferous trees including Siberian pine (cedar), larch and pine. On the territory of the park one can find more than 10 species of rare and endangered plants listed in Russia's Red Book. Besides, more than 40 kinds of mammals and 200 bird species inhabit the park's territory.

The district is also rich in lakes. The Nurkutul lakes are located in picturesque glacial-moraine landscapes The lakes, surrounded by tall forests, are abundant in fish. The largest lake has an area of 2.5 sq. km. The lakes, which are of scientific and recreational value, can be found at the elevation of 1,050 m. To the north-west of the National park there is Koimorskaya system of lakes and wetlands. The lakes are also rich in fish, waterfowl and can be used as a nursery for water rats (ondatras, muskrats). Their area is about 4.06 sq km. At the footo1 the Tunkinskie Goltsy, upstream of the River Khobok (Ulyabory Village) one can see Khobokskoe Lake, aver) beautiful lake of an almost ideal round shape.

The Park's area is also special because of its rivers the largest of which are Kyngyrga and Irkut.

The Kyngyrga River originates from the southerf slopes of the Tunkinskie Goltsy at the height of 2,960 m The upstream river flow is about 1.5 m per second. The river bed, for a significant distance, is covered with water-polished Archaean marble of a pinkish-yellow color. The river forms a series of rifts and two exceptionally beautiful waterfalls: the one is 8 m high, the other is wider and its height is 5 m. The view of the picturesque Kyngyrga River with its waterfalls serves a source of true aesthetic pleasure for visitors. According to some reputable resort experts, the view of falling water and its special noise have a healing effect on people's nervous system.

The Irkut River is 448 km long, and its area is 15,000 sq km. In July the river waters reach their highest temperature of 15°C. This water can be used for drinking after certain cleaning (treatment). The river is suitable for different kinds of water tourism (with regards to a specially-developed system of danger classes). The river is a habitat for 18 fish species that compose 9 families — taimen, pike, grayling, etc.

The Ekhe-Ugun river starts at the elevation of 2,400 m in the Tunkinskie Goltsy. Its water flow is 1.2 m per second. In the area of a Nilova Pustyn Resort, for about 2 km, it flows in a mountain gorge. This site attracts tourists interested in rafting into the Irkut.

Special attention is given to conservation of local (native) traditions and rituals that make a harmonious combination of shamanism and Buddhism. The National Park hosts several datsans (Buddhist temples) and sacred places for worshipping. The most famous prayer and worship sites are "Burkhan-Baabai", "Tamkhi-Bary-aasha", "Bukha-Noion".

In front of the entrance sign "Tunkinskii District — National Park" there is a stupa (Buddhist monumental construction) Dashi Gama which in translation from Tibetan means "a great number of doors". Stone steps, guarded by two stone lions, lead visitors from the main road to the Buddhist complex that includes a stupa, a summer-house, and young cedars (Siberian pines). A prototype of the stupa was erected in ancient India to commemorate Buddha's triple explanation of his learning. The stupa Dashi Gama was consecrated by Eshi Lodo Rinpoche, the Venerable, on August 14, 2004.

On entering Tory Village, one can clearly see a white spot on the range slope. This is one of the sacred places of the Tunkinskaya Valley — Bukha Noyon. Bukha-noyon baabai ("ox, master, father") is a character from Buryat mythology. He has a special meaning in myths of bulagats and ekhirits because he is considered by those peoples to be their ancestor. On the sacred place at the elevation of 1,050 m there is a picturesque cliff of white marble, on the top of which one can find a Buddhist joss house. By its shape the cliff truly resembles a lying ox (bull). The marble constantly erodes, thus, a big white tongue crawls down from the top of the mountain along the slope.

For centuries people have been worshipping this site, and it has preserved its significance through times. To prove its importance in the spiritual life of the Buryat people it is worth mentioning that at a certain point in history some sort of competition among priests of different religions was recorded there. To reach the site visitors should go through Dalakhai Village which is 4 km from Tory Village and cross a narrow bridge overthe Irkut River. At Dalakhai the road splits into two smaller roads. In fact both of them lead to the sacred site, though, it is recommended to take a local guide because the roads dodge in agricultural fields in between wetlands. As soon as visitors reach the foot of the mountain they should continue their way on foot for about 2 km. From the road on the right there starts a trail. According to the rules on how to behave oneself in sacred places, it is important not to make noise, to be calm and quiet and always to leave Bukha-Noyon a gift. From the opposite slope there is a magnificent view of the sacred mountain against the background of Tunkinskaya Valley, so visitors will have a unique opportunity to take great pictures.

"Tamkhi-Baryasha" is a sacred place by the main road, not far from Shimki Village. An original sculpture group in shape of a smoking pipe can be found at the site. In translation from Buryat Tamkhi-Baryasha means "to treat somebody to tobacco". It is usual to stop at the site, sit for a while in peace, think over your life, smoke a cigarette and ask for a blessing for a long trip. It is considered that it brings luck to travelers.


In 1817 in the environs of Kyren Village the first Buddhist temple "Dechinravzhalin" (today's name isTushita), which followed traditions of northern Buddhism, was built. In exactly 100 years later after the first datsan, at the foot of the sacred mountain Altan Mundarga, there was founded a second Buddhist temple, then known as Khandagtaiskii(Khoimorskii). Its construction was highly supported by a famous Buddhist scientist, diplomat (envoy), mentor of Dalai Lama XIII and a founder of a datsan in St Petersburg, Tsanit Khambo-lama, Agvan Dorzhiev. That was a refurbished and renovated datsan. At the temple Tsanit Kambo made a rule (tradition) to conduct a service, Maidari-Khural (a service in honor of Buddha to Come), at the full moon of the 15th day of a lunar summer month instead of a widely accepted in Buryatia the 4th day of the month. Besides, the ritual of a solemn procession was led by Buddha Maidari on the White elephant (in other Buddhist temples Buddha was riding a green horse). Agvan Dorzhiev, honored to be a professor of Buddhist philosophy, also was a talented envoy and politician and successfully performed talks with Tsar Nikolai II and other Russian scientists and politicians. In the Soviet times, the datsan was abolished. Its restoration and new life as datsan started in the beginning of the 1990s.

At the foot of the Tunkinskie Goltsy, at the elevation of 900 m above the sea level, in Arshan resort, there is Arshanskii Datsan "Bodkhidkharma" that inherited its traditions from Khoimorskii Datsan.

Monks of Buddhist temples in Sayan plateau conducted special ceremonies in honor of the sites like Munku-Sardyk, Shumak (mountain peaks), Burkhan-Baaibai, Tamkhi-Baryasha, Genghis' Throne and arshans 9mineral water springs). Emchi-lamas (datsan's healers/physicians) developed a unique method of defining medicinal properties of mineral water springs. Before the Soviets, they provided each spring with an explanatory note what diseases it cures for, and how mineral water should be used for baths, etc.


The unique nature and rare beauty of the Tunkinskii National Park, and abundance of mineral water springs presuppose an opportunity for many people to visit the park to get acquainted with its natural and cultural sights, to spend time outside in the natural environment and at hot springs, widely known for their outstanding medicinal properties.

The park's personnel offers their visitors bus and walking tours to mineral water springs of the Tunkins-kaya Valley: water-cure resort "Zhemchug" ('pearl'), "Khongor-Uula", resort areas Arshan and NilovaPustyn. As part of the tour there is a visit to an old Buddhist architectural complex — a sacred place Burkhan-Baabai (Datsan'Tushita"), Buryat village Khoitogol and a unique ethnographic museum of rural history and life. On the way to the complex, visitors may enjoy a splendid view of inactive volcanoes (volcano Kovrizhka, at the foot of the Tunkinskie Goltsy; a magnificent volcanic creation Talskaya Mount, to the north-east of Koimorskie lakes rich in fish and game, at Sagaan-Nur Village; a volcanic conical creation of a semi-oval shape Khara Boldok, or Volcano Cherskii; Khurai-Kholdok at the foot of the Tunkinskie Goltsy, in Khurai-Khobok village) and a picturesque fast river Ekhe-Ugun that cuts the mountain and forms a deep gorge.

What is more, visitors are invited to join an exciting walking tour — upstream of the Kyngyrga River in the environs of Arshan resort that includes accommodation in tents on the bank of the fast Kyngyrga river which means "drum" in Buryat. Sightseeing of unique waterfalls is also part of a walking tour. The most exciting sight is the first waterfall, which is 8 m high. It is remarkable that the air in the river gorge is extremely fresh and pure.

A chance to get touch of wild life and acquaint with rich history of Tunka turns park's visitors into its true friends and environmental activists. It should be added that there is an entrance fee to the park.


Taking into consideration a great positive effect on a person's health, Tunkinskii District is as medicinal and efficient as resorts of the Caucasus and Carpathians. Mineral waters with healing properties found on the territory of Tunkinskii National Park have been known to local people since old times. It is scientifically proved that, by their essential medicinal characteristics, mineral waters of the Tunkinskii National Park are no less effective and useful as mineral waters of widely known resorts of the Caucasian region: Kislovodsk, Pyatigorsk, Zheleznovodsk, Matsesta, Tskhaltubo; and of the Carpathian region: Morshin, Truskavets.

For example, hot mineral waters of a resort "Zhemchug", Khongorulskie hot springs (more than 10 mineral spring outlets), are located at the foothills of Gurga-Daban range, in the River Kharagun valley, which is a right tributary of the Irkut river, 9 km from Zhemchug Village.

According to their characteristics, waters of these springs contain iron, sulfate-hydrocarbon, sodium-calcium-magnesium, and they are of low mineralization. Their temperature varies between 39 and 560C. This is medicinal drinking water that contains silicon, hydrocarbon-sodium, and it is of low alkalinity with different amount of organic carbon. This water is a perfect cure for such diseases as osteochondrosis, radiculitis, rheumatism, osteomyelitis, chondrosis, arthritis, polyarthritis, lumbago, eczemas, cutaneous ulcers, neurodermititis, furunculosis, thrombophlebitis, phlebitis, tonsillitis, genyantritis and others. It is also good for treatment for gynecological inflammatory diseases, infertility, cerebral arteriosclerosis that are not burdened with a stroke. A range of mineral water medicinal properties is impressive, although their effects in curing for other diseases are not well studied yet. Mineral waters have a slight smell of hydrogen sulfide; and among gases, methane prevails.

The resorts are located in a picturesque mountain area surrounded by impressive masses of forest. Here one can find several newly-built lodgings, a canteen and bath house to where water from wells is transported by a wooden channel; the water is further warmed up. Besides, there is a local sanitary unit on the mineral resort area, bath complex for 10 people, accommodation facilities, mainly for summer, for about 100 people.

In 1894 they opened a resort Arshan (Arshan is also the nameof the place where mineral springs were found), which means "healing water" in Buryat, and which was discovered to be highly rich in microelements. Presently, there are about 60 resort complexes, and a network of guest houses is being developed. At a resort complex "Priyut Alpinista" (Mountain Climber's Shelter) one can find a public office of Russia's safety and security services, Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia. Local people also offer visitors horse-riding tours. In the resort's vicinity there are several sights that include waterfalls, marble bottom (riverbed) of the Kyngyrga river, Crystal Lake, craters (cones) of inactive volcanoes and mineral water springs Suburga and Papiin Arshan.

Papiin Arshan is a source of low mineralized water in picturesque surroundings at the foot of the Tunkinskie Goltsy. It is a sacred place. The spring looks like a lake of about 5 m in diameter. The hot spring water flows into handmade wooden channels and enters a self-made metallic container for heating; then, the warmed up water fills baths for visitors. For centuries spring water mixed with medicinal herbs has been used by local people for treatment for different illnesses.

Suburga is a spring that branches heavily; it contains water of low mineralization, presumably cavern (karst) water on the forested slope of Tunkinskie Goltsy. At the spring outlet lamas of the Khandagataiskii Datsan built a stone suburgan (monument), from which the spring got its name Suburgyn Arshan, and it is now a sacred place. Arshan is good for curing for leg and hand diseases, lameness and other illnesses.

In the village there are two active datsans and a Christian Orthodox church. At datsan "Dechen Ravzha-lin", located right opposite the "Sayany" resort complex, one can consult a lama who is also a Doctor of Tibetan medicine and astrologist. At the resort there starts a trail that leads to the mountains across the Arshanskii pereval (pass) to Shumakarea. On the way to the resort from Tunka Village, one can take a road to Badary Village where two solar observatories are located. In 2004 at Badary a very powerful new telescope was installed.

Nilova Pustyn is a locally significant resort which is, in fact, a water-cure complex. It is situated in the gorge of the River Ekhe-Ugun valley. Mineral water springs were found here long time ago, and their description dates back to 1830. The resort got its name from archbishop Nil IssakovichStolbenskii of Irkutskand Nerchinsk whoorganized amissionary colony for men, Nil's (Nilovskaya) Pustyn. Stolbenskii gathered an extremely rich collection of minerals which is now kept in the ethnographic department of St Petersburg University. One of the springs is distinguished by a high concentration ol silver ions. In 1851 Russian Emperor Nikolai II issued a Regulation on the Pustyn. The resort was visited by many famous people including Decembrists Volkonskii, Trubetskoi, brothers Bestuzhevs, Podgio, Wolf, Puschin, and Raevskii.

From the resort a road goes to the sacred site "Burkhan-Baabai" (before it was known under the name Shargan-Noyon a legendary hero, god, that came down from Heaven to fight Mongol invaders). In 1867 they built a prayer house. During the times of Buddhism dissemination over Tunkinskaya Valley, the site got its current name Burkhan-Baabai. In 1919 a special constructor was erected which was the only one of its kind — "Zhal-san" a high pole with a barrel on top which is filled witt Buddhist religion attributes. This is a unique religious specimen, a symbol of Buddhism, that can be fount nowhere else in Russia's Buddhist temples. Currently,! hosts Shaman's sacred site and a Buddhist datsan.

In 2003 they built a Buddhist stupa "Namzhal",a monument of long life. This is one of the eight tradition al stupas, dedicated to Buddha, that has already hac 2500 years of history. The stupa was consecrated bi Dalai-Lama's XIV representative, Eshi-Lodoi Rinpoche the Venerable. Then the road leads to Khoitogol village where visitors are welcomed to see an historic-ethnographic museum. The resort is 7 km from the main (central) road "Kultuk-Mondy", and it is also connected with village Turan by a local road.


The largest resort—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. In the mountains one can see Alpine fields lavishly decorated with flowers like poppers, lilies, and others, all in magnificent blossom. In spring all mountain slopes become light pinkish because of Siberian rhododendrons, bagulnik, that blossoms with pink flowers.

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. Visitors may also take excursions and tours to the resort environs and choose various entertainment and sport activities. Besides, they will have different consumer services at their disposal.

The resort waters are especially helpful for treating for:

     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.

Complex resort treatment includes Arshan water drinking, balneology (baths, healing/medicinal showers, ablution), mud curing, climate curing, diet therapy, physiotherapy, wax-ozokeritotherapy, movement therapy, massage, inhalation, halo-therapy, psychotherapy, acupuncture, evacuation of bowels, modern methods of medical diagnostics.

Natural medicinal factor and hot springs: Resort mineral waters are of a wide temperature range: from cool (11-130C) to hot(45°C). Bytheirchemical composition, Arshan's mineral waters refer to the 1st class/category (V.A. Alexandrov's classification) because they are carbonate with high gas contents. Arshan's mineral waters have a complex chemical composition and are abundant in microelements; by their physical and chemical properties the waters are analogous to Kislovodsk's narzan (a well-known type of mineral water), though they much exceed it by their mineralization. These waters are widely used for drinking, taking baths and showers.

The mineral water is capped by wells (985 m3/day) and transported by pipelines to drinking stations and bath house. Drinking stations are open between 7:30 am and 9:30 am, from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and then between 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm. There are two drinking stations with taps of cold and warm water. 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.

Resort Complex "Sagaan-Dali" is located at the entrance to Arshan Town and is suitable to all who want to relax, improve their health and get acquainted with nature of "Siberian Switzerland".

The resort complex can accommodate up to 140 people at once. The canteen offers four meals a day, and it is also possible to order meals in a cafe of a restaurant type.

Visitors are offered accommodation in comfortable two— and three bedrooms with all modern conveniences. Each room is equipped with a bath, water closet, cold and hot water. Rooms (2 and 3-bedrooms) for families (couples) are bettered and equipped with a fridge, TV set and a telephone line. There are also bedrooms for newlyweds.

Besides, visitors are welcomed to try our bar, sauna with a swimming pool, billiards, tennis, volley ball and a parking lot. In picturesque natural environment one can find lodging units and summer houses where visitors may have a lunch or dinner or make barbeque in summer when the weather is fine.

The resort waters are especially helpful for treating for:

     Diseases of the genitor-urinary system (except for female genital diseases)

     Diseases of the nervous system

     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

Address: Arshan Resort, Tunkinskii District, 671023 Buryat Republic, Russia

A camp for children "Edelweiss" is located in a picturesque valley very close to the Sayan mountains in Arshan village.

The camp is always filled with children's merry and clear voices all year round. Children between 7 and 15 years old relax there with great pleasure, improve their health and study during a school year at the resort in two-bedroom suites with all conveniences. Lots of sun, fresh air and medical treatment prevent diseases and complications. Children are offered 5 meals a day that consist of healthy food rich in vitamins.

At the camp children are always attended by teachers, educators and medical doctors. Children spend time getting involved into various entertainment activities like tours, contests, quizzes and sports competitions.

The resort waters are especially helpful for treating for:

     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

Sanatoriums (resorts) are well provided with modem equipment for medical-diagnostics.

Address: Arshan Resort, Tunkinskii District, 671023 Buryat Republic, Russia

Resort complex "Energetik" is a new modem medical center located in Nilova Pustyn village which is 265 km from Irkutsk. The location of the complex is truly exceptional. First and foremost, it is because of the fact that it is situated in a strikingly beautiful place, at the bank of a mountain river Ekhe-Ugun in a deep picturesque gorge of the Tunkinskii National Park.

Resort complex "Energetik" offers its visitors accommodation in single and double rooms and three-bedroom suites with all conveniences including TV sets and telephone lines.

The resort waters are especially helpful for treating for:

     Diseases of bone and muscle system and connective tissue

     Diseases of the nervous system

     Diseases of the respiratory system

     Diseases of the digestive apparatus

     Diseases of the blood circulation system

In resort complex "Energetik" visitors are offered bath treatment with radon waters. It is possible to purchase a 2-day stay in the resort complex, though it is worth mentioning that medical services are available to those who plan to stay at the resort for no less than 15 days.

Besides thermal hot springs of Nilova Pustyn, visitors are also attracted by thermal springs and healing muds of the Shumak Valley which is situated in the close vicinity of the resort complex. In the valley there are over 100 medicinal mineral water springs which are famous for curing for certain (marked on the special signs at each spring) diseases.

Thermal waters of Nilova Pustyn are of low mineralization and contain silicon acid and radon; the water temperature is 420C. Thermal waters are especially effective for curing for certain diseases including diseases of the locomotive, peripheral and nervous systems, skin and chronic inflammatory diseases.

In the resort complex treatment for diseases is mainly based on taking healing baths. Radon baths (mineral water that contains inert gas, radon) have a positive effect on the blood system: it improves metabolic processes in the myocardium, the heart functional state; the recovery processes in bone and muscle tissues and nerve fibers become faster. These waters also have an anti-inflammation effect and normalize metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The radioactivity level in Nilova Pustyn is closer to such resorts as Belokurikha and Tskhaltubo.

Address: Nilova Pustyn, Tunkinskii District, 671023 Buryat Republic, Russia.



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