Zabaikalsky Krai is situated in the south-east of Siberia, in Zabaikalye. Its territory is about 430000 sq. km. Zabaikalye is located far away from the big economic centres of the West of the country, but it’s close to the Russian Far East.
Krai is a mountainous country. There are some plateaus, hills and mountain ranges: the Argynsky and Nerchinsky chains. The ranges Kodar, Udokan and Kalar are also well-known.
Zabaikalsky Krai is rich in natural resources: there are a lot of rives in the Krai. flowing The Shilka and the Argun rivers flowing over the territory are the in-flows of the Amur river. The Shilka, in its turn, has the tributaries – the Ingoda and the Onon. Such rivers as the Khilok and the Chikoi flow into the Lena River basin. Zabaikalsky Krai has a lot of lakes such as Leprindo, Leprindokan in the North and the group of Ivano-Arakhlei lakes in the central part. Rivers and lakes are abundant in fish: pike, salmon, trout, grayling, perch and others.
Zabaikalye is originally a land of vast forests, mainly pine, birch and larch. They are the most common trees in the Krai. Besides, in taiga tourists can find elm, asp, alder. There are evergreen trees such as pines, fir-trees, silver fir trees, Siberian cedar.
Fauna is very diverse in the Krai. Many different animals live in forests and woods, fields and meadows: bears, wolves, foxes, hares, elks, lynxes, sables, squirrels, chipmunks, red deer, musk deer, north deer. When spring comes our woods and forests are filled with the songs of the birds. Among birds the most numerous are sparrows, ravens, magpies, tits, pigeons, woodpeckers. They are not migrated birds, they live here all the year round, some birds such as swallows, swifts, wagtails, cranes, herons, larks fly away to warm lands in autumn and come back again in spring. The world of wild flowers, medical herb is various. The first spring flowers are blue crocuses, primroses and violets, then we can see butter cups, king cups, forget-me-nots, dandelions, bluebells, pinks, lilies and foxgloves. Zabaikalsky krai is rich in berries: cowberries and blueberries.
The climate of Zabaikalsky Krai is subcontinental, that is winter is long and severe, with little snow and sunny dry weather, summer is short and warm. But these rigorous climatic conditions in winter are rather tolerable for the reasons of low wind, dry clear air and a long period of insolation.
Zabaikalsky Krai is proud of its culture. Cultural life is filled with various contests and holidays. Pagan customs, fervent shakedowns and humor harmonically interlace holidays. The krai develops keeping its people’s traditions, welcomes guests offering the very best and modern things. Municipal folk theatre "Zabaikalje" (more known as "Zabuzory") takes part in various perfomances as in the krai as in other countries. There is a philarmony in the Chita city, organizing literary soiree, concerts, musical competitions.
Aginsko-Buryatsky District is not big, with the total area of 19,6 thousand square km. And this is its main feature: it’s impossible to envelop everything in a large Zabaikalsky krai, but you can discover every detail within a small one. And there is no need in hurry as there is a rare opportunity to get inside the Krai’s world with heart and soul.
They say, man discovers himself while discovering the world. And as far as a trip around Buryatia is concerned, it can be compared to looking into the deepest of your heart. Aginsko-Buryatsky district's area is a hidden, far, and small land with unique culture and nature. If you come to Buryatia, go straight to Malyj Botor. It is an exceptional nature monument: eight granite weird-shaped relicts are situated circle-wise on a square of 300 meters among mountains, birch-trees and relict Daurian apricot. This is a house-stone, a camel-stone; a heart-stone…The most interesting is a boiler-stone – Togoon-shuluun. It looks like a gigantic dosser. Storied, it is a bogatyr’s (the main character of ancient Russian folk.) boiler, and it is called the Chingiskhan bowl. According to the most popular legend, the great chieftain was born in Buryatia, in Dalyuun – Boldog.
Mountainous relief prevails in Transbaikalia. But it is the peculiar places, where mountains argue with steppe about superiority. The highest peak is Alkhanaj Mountain. The only unit of Buddhist and nature monuments is located here. This is a saint place, where health-giving springs, blessed by Dalai Lama XIV, run over. There are 45 one and only springs, called arshan, in the Krai. Medical centers are located nearby. The most popular arshans are Ugsahaj, Zymka, Sugunduj, Alkhanaj and lake Gorbunka and Krasnoyarovo peloid.
The Buddhist centres – Datsany: Tsugolskij and Aginskij-, are the main and brightest historical and cultural features of the Krai. They are about 200 years old. A new cathedral zokchen-dugan building, an old two-stored temple, numerous bajpurs (fragrance censer), “lion-keepers”, stelae and prayerful tablae arouse great interest. Visiting a temple during the service is a really never-to-be-forgotten impression. There are a lot of fads in datsan: thirty painted columns spaced in five rows, ‘white old man’ Tsagan-Ubugun’s marble relief, Dalai Lama’s house.
Amazingly, how such a small piece of land can be so multifarious: coniferous forests with larch trees (Larix) and cedar (Cedrus), broadleaf forests with birch, aspen (Populus tremula) and poplar (Populus), mountains, rivers and sheep fescue (Festuca sulcata), mat-grass (Stipa) and sagebrush (Artemisia gen) steppe alongside. Hunting (bear, hare, elk, fox, boar, roe and especially wolf) and fishing are very promising tourism trends due to wildlife rich in species. The rivers are full of gudgeon, minnow, luce, goldilocks, etc. The longest and best-known river is the Onon river.
Transbaikalia attracts with its flora as well: many local plants are used in official and famous Tibetan medicine: barberry, Scullcap, bergenia, lily, snowdon rose.
There are rare birds in Buryatia as well: black stork(Ciconia nigra), whooper swan, golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), duck hawk (Falco peregrinus) and long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus).
Even a most sophisticated traveler can be interested in centuries-long culture and living of Buryat people during, for instance, celebrating Sagaalgan (New lunar year) and Surharban (Summer games). It is either engrossing to visit a Buryat yourt. It is like being out in-space….because, in Buryats’ opinion; a house is a symbol of the universe. For example, the yourt’s roof matches up with the star-studded sky.
If you happen to visit a Buryat house, you will be welcomed with a cup of milk – it is such a tradition. This product is a symbol of pure soul. As for national dish, a chain of road cafes “Buza” is a Buryatia’s carte-de-visite. “Buzy” is a local name for “poz”, tastes like manty – round open pines with mutton cooked on steam (eastern dish).
Folk crafts: coinage, appliqué work on leather and fabric, Transbaikalian stones and surely a national headdress –a steeple-roof crown of a cap with an obligatory red tassel, which symbolizes the sun, and the cap’s blue colour is a sky-symbol – are souvenirs for the tourists.
Zabaikalsky krai is also exceptional because there have existed several religions: buddhism, Orthodoxy and shamanism. The latter is the original Buryat religion. There are about twenty practicing shamans in the Zabaikalsky krai now.
Those, who are courage enough to visit shaman’s residence, should attend buried treasure-competitions. This is combined events of broken ground running, pneumatically shooting and seeking buried treasures. These tournaments are based on ancient legends. And Zabaikalsky krai is legendary rich.
Banks of the lake Nozhij are covered with long and plain fragments of slate, rolled by salty laky water. Exotic plants still grow in steppe and alkali soils around the lake: Ural licorice, bladder frern. Watered with first summer rains salt marshes speckle with purple Stukov’s oxytrope (Oxytropis) and yellowish blossom clusters of Varlakov’s oxytrope grow near. You are unlikely to know these bizarre names.
An attentive traveler, and you can be the one, may find fragments of stone tools, earthen figured sharps on cuspate, sandy blows alongside the lake’s beach. These common findings rpove that Nozhy Lake has been atrracting people for centuries.
The lake is remarkable for its paleontological monuments. For instance, millenary deposits of Mongolic ground toad's bones. These toads affect the territory of the lake up to date.
The set of monuments Alkhanaj was established in 1891 and made up from 53 stony buildings of 2 types. The first one is obo or muhan (a chapel). This is stony, oval groups made from stones covered in white lime. The second type is bajpurs, which are located around muhans on the cardinal points. These buildings are destined for ritual fires. Lamas from Agintskij datsan conduct a ceremony of hural on the thirteenth day of the middle summer month (the lunar year) every year. Its aim is to gather local spirits in one place.
Another holy place is maanin-shulun. It is a kilometer far from Obo.
Traditionally, folks’ festival and fighters’ contests are held after the ceremony. Another sanctuary maanin-shuluun is located 1 km away from the obo. This is a bleached-out stella with carved mantra words. A research station of Aginsky Buddhist University is located in Alkhanay Mountain. A tibetologist works there. He performs massage and sphygmic diagnosis services, advise on herbs and plants as medical treatment. Black shamans’ burials are located 800 km away from the station. This monument of nature represents a stony wall behind which spirits of the shamans are supposed to be.
A valley of Sukhy-Ubzhogoe arshan (spring) is very picturesque. Believers assume that arshans are healing and remedial. There are green-houses, places for rest and walking in the valley. There is a holy stony where Glaznoy brook starts. The brook heals various eye diseases. You can have a night-stay in a yurt or tent camp there. There are two paths running to cultic places of Alkhanay in the valley of the arshan.
Alkhanay is mountains, caves covered in legends and a place of spirits and gods’ hosts. Alkhanay Mountain is one of the five holy peaks of northern Buddhism.
A temple of Great Wealth stands at its foot. A natural grotto with a split, where water is weeping and is thought to be remedial, is the most interesting attraction there. Believers drink the water and bring offerings. Two kilometers up and you will reach Sandama cliff. It represents Buddhism and Yin.
Temple Gate cliff is a pearl of Alkhanay. It stands 1100 meters a.s.l. This is a natural arch formed by weathering process. Its internal radius is 6 meters. There is suburgan in the arch. The place is wonderful, when you enter the natural arch as if a window – this is magnificent! No wonder that this place is cultic and probably even pre-Buddhism. Another cultic place is 200 meter away from the arch. This is Dorzhi-Pagman (Diamond Princess) – a relic of 12 meters high. There is a natural bowl in the south; believers treat it as an altar. A rocky ridge is a bit further up; a scissure of Sinners is at the foot of the ridge. This is a natural rocky pile up.