Sayan (Siberia)

The Sayan mountains extend almost 1000 km along the Mongolian border, from Altai in the west to Baikal Lake in the east. The region is distinctly separated in two areas -- Western and Eastern Sayan -- of which Eastern Sayan is of most interest to the whitewater paddler (easier logistics and steeper rivers). Expedition style multi-day paddling with difficult logistics and in general trek-ins and flat paddle-in/out required.

When to go

Rivers are rain-fed and the weather is unpredictable with periods of long heavy rains in the summer. Best chance of suitable water levels is in July/August.

How to get there

Fly into the Irkutsk, the biggest city of Baikal region.


Logistics are difficult: hiring a 4x4 for the duration of your trip is possible but due to the nature of the paddling (longer multiday trips) it will sit around un-used most of the time. A better option is plan a few missions and arrange local drop-off/pick-up as required. You can hire a helicopter directly in Irkutsk, which may be economic for the remote runs in the area.


Wet and cold; most of rivers are between 500-1200m but come prepared for lower temperatures than the altitude would indicate.