You could spend a week making day trips out of Ulan-Ude with Buddhist temples, Old Believer villages and forgotten border settlements to explore. The main routes south are the scenic Ulan-Ude–Kyakhta road, which hugs the Selenga River for much of the way, and the Trans-Mongolian Railway, which crosses the border at the unremarkable railway town of Naushki.
Kyakhta lacks the cinemascope landscapes of Novoselenginsk but retains three once-grand churches, a great museum and a surprisingly good hotel. Formerly called Troitskosavsk, Kyakhta was a town of tea-trade millionaires whose grandiose cath- edral was reputed to have had solid silver doors embedded with diamonds.
Stockades and wooden houses on broad dust-blown roads give this small, 19th-century town of ten thousand souls a memorable ‘Wild East’ feel. The town’s top attraction is its Decembrist Museum, which is housed in an unmissable 200-year-old colonnaded mini-mansion in the town’s centre.