Eastern Siberia : Buryatia
The republic was founded in 1923 with the joining of two territories and it currently has the status of a republic within the Russian Federation. Russians constitute the majority of the republic's one million inhabitants, although the native Tibetan Buddhist and Shamanist Buryats (a race of Mongolian descent) remain a large minority (about 30% of the population); indeed, the Buryats constitute Siberia's largest ethnic group after Russians.
Aside from its cultural attractions and capital, Buryatia is a nature lover's paradise. Almost 80% of the territory is covered by mountains, and more than half the shore-line of Lake Baikal falls under Buryatia's jurisdiction. Outside the capital Ulan Ude, the major tourist attractions include hot springs, Lake Baikal and Mongolian style Buddhist monasteries.
Due to several long-standing factors such as the lack of adequate natural resources, political inefficiency, etc, much of Buryatia's infrastructure still remains in a desperate need of repair. Nontheless, with the largest Lenin-Head and beautiful scenery, there is plenty to do in Buryatia.
The indigenous Buryat language is widely spoken by the Buryat minority. Nonetheless, everyone understands Russian.
Much of Buryatia's infrastructure still remains mostly poorly developed by Russian standards, and getting around can be quite tough for the average traveller. Railways are mostly absent, and Roads are very confusing and very winding, especially in Ulan-Ude.
Travelling around plane is also disrecommended due to airplanes and local airports wear.
Commercial bus lines will take you from Ulan Ude to most locations within the region. To get to the Oka region and Orlik, however, you will need to hire or rent a jeep to make it down the long dirt road.
Buryatia in general is an extremely safe place, compared to regions such as Moscow, St. Petersburg and the North Caucasus. However, crime does exist, but on a little scale. Avoid coming in contact with drunks; just like in most of Russia, they are responsible for numerous fights.
It is also advised to take registered taxis - some illegal taxis may try to rip you off, by asking for foolish prices. Illegal taxis are common around the Trans-Siberian station.
If you decide to camp in the forest, be sure to bring mosquito repellent, since ticks and mosquitos are widespread in the area.
Even though the economic conditions are improving, the health care system is still somewhat far from western-standards.