Ulan Ude is the capital of Buryatia republic. Originally the city was called Verkhneudinsk, the current name was given to the city in 1934 and means “red Uda” or “red gate” in Buryat language reflecting the communist ideology of the Soviet Union.
The city is located in a valley formed by the Selenga and Uda rivers, approximately 120 km from Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal tourism is very important to the economy of Ulan Ude and the city is tourist-friendly.
The settlement was officially founded in 1666 by Russian Cossacks as a fortress. Due to its location on trade routes between Russia, China and Mongolia, it developed into a prosperous trading town. It grew further when it became a hub for the Trans Siberian Railway in 1900 and the locomotive manufacturing industry dominated the economy. The city was closed to foreigners before 1991.
Buryat Mongols make up over 20% of the population of Ulan Ude, and the Mongolian cultural influence on the city is very noticeable. However, much of the original Buryat culture and religious buildings were destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s. Shamanism, Buddhism, and Orthodox Christianity are all commonly practiced in Ulan Ude. There are approximately 400,000 inhabitants.
In summer it may be very hot, and in winter it may be freezing. The months of January to March are the coldest, with temperature reaching as low as -27°C in January. April and May are also cold, but usually it is above freezing. June to August are the most pleasant months with lots of sunshine and temperatures rising to the low 20s.
The historical center of Ulan Ude located along the river banks like a fancy amphitheater with its 1- and 2-storey houses that belonged to merchants of the 18th-19th century, the main square with the most extravagant monument to Lenin, the Holy Trinity and the Hodigitria Cathedrals, the Buryat Opera and Ballet Theater and other historical monuments.
Lenin Head Ulan ude: On the main square sculptured in 1971 is quite possibly the largest in the world. It is one of the city’s symbols and one of the most popular post card objects.
Buryat State Opera and Ballet Theater: This is possibly one of the greatest bargains you will find on your trip. Recently performed ballets and operas include Faust, Swan Lake, Carmen, Barber of Seville, 1001 Nights and Madame Butterfly. Built on a hill by Moscow and Buryat architects, the theater looks very attractive with its beautiful exterior decorations and ornate interiors.
Cathedral of Hodigitria: This old Russian church is the first stone building of Verkhneudinsk (1741). Now the church is visited by believers.
Great Merchants’ Rows: An architectural monument of the early 19th century decorated with wood and stone carvings is a beautiful example of Russian classicism.
The Ulan-Ude Region is a land with unique wildlife and unspoiled nature, endless steppes and taiga, Buddhist temples, nomads and shamans. Often tourists visit the main Buddhist temple in Russia – the Ivolginsky Datsan in Ulan Ude. Experience the traditional culture of the Old Believers, explore the old Siberian architecture and meet the city’s friendly residents. The ethnic and cultural diversity of Ulan Ude and Buryatia makes this region a unique place.