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Siberian BAM Guide: rail, rivers & road

Siberian BAM Guide: rail, rivers & road


Contents list | Introduction | Planning your trip | Itineraries | Sample route guide

A straight trip from Moscow over the BAM to the Pacific takes 8-1/2 days; 5-1/2 days from Moscow to Tynda direct, a day-time stopover at Tynda, two days to Komsomolsk-na-Amure and one night to Vanino.

Most tours of the BAM start or end at either Khabarovsk or Irkutsk, where there are direct Trans-Siberian trains from Moscow in the west and Vladivostok in the east and a good air service.

Six-day tour of the BAM
This route takes you from Khabarovsk to Irkutsk, through the BAM highlights, with only minimal stops.

Day 1 Take the hydrofoil or a shared taxi from Khabarovsk to Komsomolsk-na-Amure. Arrive in the afternoon. (If you take the train, you arrive in the evening). Leave in the evening on the Komsomolsk-na-Amure�Tynda train.

Day 2 Pass through the Dusse-Alin tunnel early in the morning. Stop at Novy Urgal and Urgal-1. Change time-zone early afternoon. Stop at Fevralsk early afternoon and Verkhnezeisk after midnight.

Day 3 Arrive Tynda in the morning. Leave on the Tynda�Moscow train in the afternoon. Reach Yuktali by evening and Khani after midnight.

Day 4 Cross the Udokan range by night and reach Novaya Chara early in the morning, pass the Leprindo lakes and the Kodar tunnel. Change time zone. Stop at Taksimo late morning. Cross the Severomuisk pass after midday. Stop at Novy Uoyan in the afternoon and arrive at Severobaikalsk by evening. At Severobaikalsk you can stay overnight and take the hydrofoil down Lake Baikal to Irkutsk in one day.

Alternatively continue on the BAM. Head into the Baikal mountains and pass through the Baikal Mountain Tunnel late in the evening.

Day 5 Cross the Lena river during the night and stop at Korshunikha-Angarskaya early in the morning. Cross the Bratsk dam in the middle of the day. Arrive at Taishet on the Trans-Siberian in the evening. According to the timetable you can catch the west-east Trans-Siberian express ‘Rossiya’ with 11 minutes to spare.

Day 6 Arrive at Irkutsk early in the morning. From here you can catch a direct train to Moscow, Vladivostok, Ulaanbaator, or Beijing.

Stops on the BAM
There are many excursions and side-trips that can be added to the main trip, for one to six days, for example:
Severobaikalsk Swimming, sailing, canoeing, cruising on Lake Baikal; fishing and ice-fishing; seal-watching and seal-hunts; visit hot springs and spas; climb and hike; visit gulag sites in the mountains; trek with horses or reindeer; float trips; white-water river running on the Lena.
Taksimo Run the Parama Rapids, long-distance rafting.
Kuanda Fishing, mountain and glacier climbing, hiking and swimming on the lakes.
Novaya Chara Visit the sand dunes, hiking and mountaineering, expedition to the Marble Canyon Gulag.
Yuktali Visit Ust-Nyukzha, ancient town, ethnographical museum, and reindeer breeding farm; river camping.
Tynda Indigenous village, long-distance river trips.
Fevralsk Rafting, hot springs, gold mining.
Komsomolsk-na-Amure War and repression memorials; the aircraft factory and museum; the Pivan BAM tunnel; rafting, floating, and white-water; extreme skiing; the Komsomolsk Nature Reserve; indigenous villages; hydrofoil down the Amur river to the ocean; cruising to the Shantar islands.
Vanino and Sovetskaya Gavan Tour the Pacific coast and the 1930s anti-Japanese fortifications; see spawning fish runs (August and September); wilderness safari. Another option is to catch the ferry to Sakhalin Island.

Tour of the Lena and Yakutsk
A trip down the 4,400km Lena river, using available transport and allowing minimal stops, takes 11 days. (It could take longer, depending on connections). Upstream against the current the entire journey takes four more days.

Here is a sample, starting from Irkutsk.
Day 1 Bus, Irkutsk�Zhigalovo. Stay overnight.
Day 2 Hydrofoil, Zhigalovo�Ust-Kut, Osetrovo River Station. Stay overnight.
Day 3 In the morning take the river steamer from Ust-Kut, Osetrovo River Station downstream to Yakutsk.
Day 4 Early in the morning stop at Kirensk. Late at night stop at Vizirny.
Day 5 Stop at Vitim in the middle of the night, and Peledui early in the morning. Major stop at Lensk in the afternoon. Stop on demand at many small villages through the evening and night.
Day 6 Major stop at Olekminsk in the morning.
Stop on demand at many small villages through the evening and night.
Day 7 Afternoon, pass through the Lena Pillars.
Arrive Yakutsk late in the evening.
Days 8-11 Take the river steamer downstream from Yakutsk to the Lena delta and the Arctic Ocean port of Tiksi.

Stops on the Lena and around Yakutsk
Excursions and side-trips on the Lena and around Yakutsk, for one to six days, include:
The source of the Lena Boat in from Lake Baikal, climb the Baikal Range and camp at the source of the Lena.
White water on the Lena Face Class 3 rapids in the first 150km of the Lena.
Kachug to Verkholensk Expedition to the Paleolithic and Neolithic petroglyphs and rock drawings.
Ust-Kut and Lena Explore the busiest port on the river and stay at the famous spa.
Kirensk Old wooden-built river town.
Lensk Trip to the diamond town of Mirny.

In and around Yakutsk there are many possible trips:
Tour the old and new city, the Regional Museum and the Permafrost Institute.
Take the river trip to the Druzhba Historical Park, with original Russian and Evenk buildings on the site of the first settlement.
De luxe cruise down the Lena to the ocean with picnics, barbecues, sing-songs, fish feasts, visits to native villages, and visit the International Biological Station for bird-watching in the delta park preserve.
De luxe cruise to the Lenskie Stolby (�Lena Pillars�).
Residential visit to the Bakaldyn Evenk ethnographic complex – stay in a nomad tent or an indigenous log building, trek with reindeer and ski or canoe, squirrel hunt, Evenk ceremonies.
Take the hydrofoil down to the mouth of the Aldan river and up to the gold and coal region of Khandyga.
Take the river steamer down to the mouth of the Vilyui river and up to the diamond regions beyond Nyurba.
Visit the ‘pole of cold’ between Tomtor and Oimyakon with the northern hemisphere's lowest winter temperature – -71C.

Along the AyaAD and AYaM from Yakutsk to Tynda
From Yakutsk you can return on the AYaAD highway and the AYaM railway due south to join the main line of the BAM at Tynda:
Day 1 Leave Yakutsk by bus or shared taxi. Cross the Lena river by ferry or ice-road. Arrive Aldan.
Day 2 Bus Aldan�Neryungri. Train Neryungri�Tynda.

Excursions and side-trips along the way include the gold mines and gold factories of Aldan, the Vasilevka gulag, the gigantic open-pit coal-mine at Neryungri, rafting and canoeing on the Iengra river and the precipitous crossing of the Stanovoi range.

Siberian BAM Guide: rail, rivers & road