Ulan Ude is the capital of Buryatia, a Republic located in Eastern Siberia and named after the nomadic Buryat Mongols that first settled in the area. Although Russians make up the majority of the city’s population, the native Tibetan Buddhist and Shamanist Buryats (a race of Mongolian descent), which remain a minority, have influenced its lifestyle and culture quite noticeably. While most of the original Buryat religious building got destroyed by the Soviets, Shamanism, Buddhism and Orthodox Christianity are all commonly practiced in Ulan Ude.
Why you should stop there
Beeecause, hello, biggest Lenin head statue in the world?! Isn’t that reason enough?!
Still, Lenin aside, Ulan Ude is a pretty fascinating city in itself. Its mixture of Russian and Buryat culture makes it a very interesting place, that has its own special atmosphere, and, unlike other Siberian cities, it does make you feel like hey, you are in Asia. Buryat people, with their almondly-shaped eyes and their strong Mongolian features are immediately recognizable and what’s most charming about them is their love toward nature, and their peaceful and calm attitude, probably due to their strongly animistic beliefs.
The time zone is GMT +8 or Moscow +5.
How to get around
What to see
- The world’s biggest Lenin Head, in Ploshchad Sovietov, the main city square. The head is more than 7 meters tall and it was unveiled in honor of Lenin’s 100th birthday in 1970.
- Lenin’s street, the main pedestrian street.
- The Ethnographic Museum, (to reach it take bus 37 from the Baikal Plaza Hotel bus stop, on the south corner of Ploshchad Sovietov), it’s an open air museum with old yurts and cossack houses, where you can learn about the history and traditions of Buryats and Evenks native tribes. There’s also a zoo but whe don’t recommend visiting it as it was probably one of the saddest places we’ve ever seen.
- The Selenga river bank, near the main bus station.
- Rimpoche bagsha buddhist center (Take bus 97 from the Baikal Plaza hotel to the last stop), it’s a new lama temple with a panoramic view on the whole city.
- Ivolginsky Datsan, located some 30 km from the city (bus 130 from the bus station to Ivoginsky village and then take a marshutka to the monastery), it is the centre of Buddhism in Russia (with permission from Stalin), and it was visited by the Dalai Lama several times.
Eat, Drink and Sleep
Eat: local buryat food, such as “buuzi” (meat dumplings), “pozi” (bigger steamed dumplings) and “Khushuur” (a sort of meat pastry).
Sleep: Ulan Ude Traveler’s House = best hostel in town, cheap, young and super friendly, plus it’s right on a corner of ploshchad’ Sovietov.
Drink: Churchill pub on Ploshchad’ Sovietov, the prices were a bit on the expensive side for Siberian standards, but it’s located right in front of Lenin’s Head and the atmosphere is pretty nice.