Russia banja’s are famous, and you’ll see them everywhere throughout the country. Is sort of a sauna, but just a little different. In the week we travelled through towards the easy we had to turn a banjo down several times; it often takes more than 4 hours to heat up. So when we where at the east coast of Baikal, and saw some hot springs; we had our chance! How does a remote Russian hot spring look like? We deceided to find out ourselves.
The coast is dotted with hot springs, and ‘hot lakes’. In our travels we’ve visited a few springs: Iceland, Chile, Taiwan, to name a few. So what to expect in Russia? We didn’t know. So
In the morning we met Moritz, he’s the owners of the new Taiga Pitch Offroad camp near Ulan Ude, where we were staying. And he gave us several good tips for the east coast of Baikal and the Bargain Valley. We marked everything on our GPS, and off we went.
In Russia hot springs are public property, so although some resorts pop up next to the springs, you’re still allowed to enjoy the spring itself.We set our eyes on the little town Alla, it’s in the northern part of the Barguzin Valley. We knew it was a hot spring, and we knew there was a camp around it. And it was in a beautiful part of the valley. The road towards Alla itself was fine, we visited several Datsan’s, some nice quint villages, drove through thick taiga forrest and had amazing views over the mountains and lake Baikal.
From Alla it was a 8 kilometer dirt road, through the fields and forest. We got lost and ended up in a logging camp, all because we followed the wrong dirt tracks. So we went back and tried again and around 19:00 we finally arrived at the hot springs. We were welcomed by Tanja and Vasily, two guests that were staying there as well. Before our journey we had a few Russian sessions, and after weeks of traveling we could have a conversation – in Russian / English with ease. The couple was from the east-Siberian city Chita (pronounce Chi-tá). We drank some Thea, vodka and had bread and salad.
So, the hot springs! After a long days drive we couldn’t wait. The views over the mountains were amazing: we we’re ready to swim. We met Dima, he worked at the hot springs itself, and he showed us around. We got down to the river and he pointed at 3 separate little streams, all marked with a huge arrow – so little where the streams. It that it, we thought.. no swimming for us. But later he showed us a small wooden building, no lights whatsoever, so it was completely dark inside. It was a natural banjo, with a small pool filled with hot water from the spring. Yes!
We hopped into our swimsuits and enjoyed the banjo and spring. But the pool felt weird; it was 2 x 2 meters, but we had no clue how deep, and since it was pitch dark, we couldn’t see the bottom. Everything felt very, very Russian, but we had a great evening and morning in the hot springs.