Southern Buryatiya & Zabaikalsky Territory
Scenically magnificent, southern Buryatiya crouches on the Mongolian border like a cartographic crab squeezing Lake Baikal with its right pincer. Much of the Baikal region covered earlier also falls within the republic, including Severobaikalsk and the Tunka Valley. For the predeparture lowdown, check out Buryatiya’s official English-language tourism website (www.
Vast and beautiful, the Greenland-shaped Krasnoyarsk region (Красноярский Край) stretches all the way from the Arctic islands of Severnaya Zemlya to a mountainous tip at Mt Borus. Its capital is Krasnoyarsk, a buzzing, forward-looking metropolis and a popular stop for travellers riding the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Nominally independent before WWII, fascinating Tuva (Тува in Russian, Тыва in Tuvan) is culturally similar to neighbouring Mongolia but with an international cult following all its own. Philatelists remember Tannu Tuva’s curiously shaped 1930s postage stamps. World-music aficionados are mesmerised by Tuvan throat singers.
Khakassia Republic & Southern Krasnoyarsk Territory
Although a mysterious land of lake-dotted taiga (mountain pine) and vast, sparsely populated grasslands, the little-known Khakassia Republic (Хакассия) mostly lacks the show-stopping topography of neighbouring Altai or the cultural attractions of Tuva.
The official start of the 3100km-long Baikal–Amur Mainline (Baikalo–Amurskaya Magistral, BAM) is Tayshet, Siberia's busiest railway junction and a former gulag town. From there the BAM crosses almost virgin territory that is more impressively mountainous than anything along the Trans-Siberian main line.
South Baikal & the Tunka Valley
The windows of trans-Siberian trains passing between Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude frame attractive lake vistas along much of Baikal’s south coast. Few travellers are actually tempted off the train along this stretch but if they are, it’s usually at Slyudyanka, the starting point for the Circumbaikal train rides and a launch pad into the remotely scenic Tunka Valley.