Back in September we spent four nights at Nikita’s Homestead, our base for exploring the beautiful Olkhon island on Lake Baikal. We didn’t have much of an idea what to expect, but our time here far surpassed our expectations and we ended up wishing we had longer there! Towering cliff faces, lush green expanses, rough forest, dirt tracks for miles and of course… the bright blue waters of Lake Baikal for as far as the eye can see. We both agreed it was our favourite place out of our travels through Europe and Russia!
A big part of us enjoying our stay on the island so much was our choice of accommodation. After researching the best places to stay on the island, we discovered most people mentioned Nikita’s as the place to stay. We made a reservation months in advance and paid a deposit to secure our room. It’s worth booking in advance, it’s nearly always fully booked and we saw a few people turned away when we were there because they hadn’t pre-booked.
There are a few places you can stay on Olkhon Island, but most will opt to stay in Khuzhir, a tiny village on Baikal’s shores containing not much more than a handful of grocery shops, a couple of bars and a place to hire bikes. Nikita’s is based in Khuzhir, just a few minutes walk from the main street, and is like a mini village in itself! The complex contains a bunch of log cabin style rooms, multiple dining rooms (you are allocated one based on your room location), a cafe, restaurant, bike hire, reception block and tour desk.
Just at the back of Nikita’s is a clifftop walk looking down on to the beach with amazing views across Baikal. Two minutes of walking and you find yourself on Cape Burkhan, one of the top places to visit on the whole island.. right on your doorstep. It’s perfect for sunset too as the sun sets directly in front of the Cape. There also a small beach you can walk down to which offers pedalos and rowing boats. We hired a kayak and launched from this little beach.
There are a range of different rooms with different prices available at Nikita’s. It’s worth noting that ALL room prices are inclusive of breakfast and dinner and this can’t be changed – I talk more about food below!). Most are double or twin rooms and you can opt to have a private or shared bathroom which is cheaper. When we booked, there were no double rooms available so we booked a twin room with a shared bathroom. The bathroom was actually just outside our room, which was great as it kind of felt like a private bathroom! The rooms are set out like traditional log cabins, with wooden panelling, traditional Russian crafted beds and local decorations. Ours also had a sink in one corner, a small table and chair set and a portable heater for chilly evenings! They are so well insulated, the rooms heat up super quickly and stay warm for hours, which I imagine is great for the frosty Winter evenings!
You can see a full list of rooms with prices on Nikita’s website – you can click on the room names to see photos. If you see a room you particularly like, make a note and you can request it when making your reservation.
As I’ve already mentioned, all room prices are inclusive of breakfast and dinner – lunch is an extra 250 rubles. You cannot remove food from your booking but I wouldn’t advise this anyway.. food is scarce on the island! The grocery shops are VERY limited – a few Russian snacks, bread if you are lucky/ get there in time and strange flavoured crisps (think crab/ squid/ hot pot flavour….).
The breakfast consisted of cereal, milk, oats and fruit with a selection of hot foods such as eggs, pancakes, french toast etc which changed daily. Dinners also changed each day and always had two meat or fish options and a vegetarian choice. Two soups were available every day and these were nearly always both vegetarian. There were also a selection of sides including rice, potatoes, vegetables, Russian pies, salads and bread. More than enough to refuel after a day of exploring the island!
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN OPTIONS
On the whole, staff were very helpful when I asked about vegan options each day, The breakfast was always a write-off as everything contained eggs or milk but I came prepared and had some oats with me which I made up with some hot water and enjoyed with some of the free tea/ coffee.
Dinners were generally pretty good. On the first night there was beetroot soup, vegetable soup, vegetable stew, buckwheat, potato bread/ pies, and a bunch of salads. Another night there was a veggie patty and noodle salad. One night the options looked pretty slim, only really soup and buckwheat as the salads all had mayo in. The staff realised and asked if I liked cabbage, when I answered yes they rushed into the kitchen and made me a big bowl of cabbage and cucumber salad!
Food is served from 7pm and I would advise getting there early. We were there for 7pm on the first night and had no problems. On our second night, we had gone out to watch the sunset, so we didn’t get to the restaurant until 7.45. We arrived to find most of the food gone. Gary was given a tiny portion of beef stew and when I asked about the vegetarian option, the lady just pointed to a bowl of plain white rice. That was it! All salads were gone and when we asked if we could have some more, the lady said that there was a certain amount of food and when it was gone, it was gone! They serve food until 9pm so this seemed ridiculous. We spoke to reception who were lovely about it, and directed us to another restaurant where we could get some more food.
TOURS & FACILITIES
If you want to explore the island on your own, you can hire bikes from outside the cafe at Nikita’s, or you can rent from a local shop on the main street (we only saw one shop for hiring bikes/ quad bikes. If you want to get out a bit further, you can book tours through Nikita’s travel desk. Despite a long list of excursions on their website, they actually only offer three day tours which are around £10/ $12. We decided to do two of them. All tours involve being bundled into an old Soviet van and driven around to some of the island’s highlights over some very bumpy dirt tracks!
The first tour we did took us to Cape Khoboi with a few photo stops on the way. You can read more about my experiences on this tour here. The second tour took us to Idiba Valley and Elga Bay and allowed for more chill-out time. You can read about my experiences and see more photos of this tour here!
We thought the tours were very reasonably priced for a full day out exploring the island, with lunch included. It wasn’t particular exciting for vegetarians (bread and salad) but I still think it was great value for money!
You can also rent a kayak for a few hours/ a whole day from one of the guys who works there (it’s his own kayak!). He was super helpful and laid back – let us reserve the kayak in advance without paying, helped us carry it down to the beach and back again and only charged us around $5 for the four hours we had it. It was a lot of fun exploring the nearby, much smaller, beaches but hard work! I didn’t realise how exhausting it would be – napping on the beach between journeys definitely helped!