Baikal

The Small Sea is also known as Narin-Dalai, which means “narrow sea” in Buryat. This place is a tourist magnet, especially for people who can stifle their love for comfort in favor of having some affordable outdoors fun.

During the summer, the shallow straight between the northwestern Baikal shore and Olkhon Island turns into a center of beach life. You can swim all day long or take sunbaths on sand or pebble beaches, only moving to change your lying position. The Small Sea is a sunny place. The water in the bays warms up to +21 °C, sometimes up to +24 °C. Moreover, water temperature may differ by up to ten degrees every ten meters.

Cape Uyuga
Cape Uyuga

Kurkutski and Mukhor Gulfs are the warmest and most popular places of the Small Sea. Their popularity means that these gulfs are crowded as a beehive during the peak season. Don’t expect to find a quiet place there. However, if you like loud companies and enjoy making new friends, stay at these gulfs and have fun.

If you want to have less people and more wildlife around you, travel a bit further. The coastline of the strait stretches from Sakhyurta village to the borders of the Baikal-Lena Reserve. This is almost 100 kilometers of territory for you to do what you like, from trekking and biking to kayaking and sailing on catamarans and yachts.

Should you come here even if it isn’t summer? Absolutely! The fall at the Small Sea is breathtakingly golden. In winter, you can enjoy exciting ice-fishing or exotic Baikal ice golf. And rock paintings at local caves, ancient towns and uninhabited islands can be seen all year round. Their beauty doesn’t depend on the season.

How to get to the Small Sea from Irkutsk

Take a bus, a car, a minibus or a hydrofoil. You can also drive a car or take a boat ride from Olkhon Island. The road will take 2-5 hours, depending on the remoteness of the place.

By car

Go like this: drive the Kachugski highway through Oek, Ust’Orda, Bayanday, Kosaya Step’ and Elantsy. Make sure to refuel in Elantsy, as you won’t see any gas stations after passing that village.

Five kilometers before the MRS, you’ll see a fork in the road. The turn to the right is for those who need to get to Olkhon. The road to the left leads to the Mukhor Gulf. Turn left for another 6 kilometers of the way, and then drive the soil and gravel road along the Small Sea coast.

By bus

Minibus route 507 departs from the Irkutsk bus station every 30 minutes from 8:30 to 11:00. The minibus goes to Khuzhir, so you’ll need to get off at the MRS bus stop in the Sakhyurta village. The road will take 3.5 hours. One-way ride will cost 420 rubles plus 105 rubles for luggage. Minibuses and buses from Irkutsk to MRS (Sakhyurta) also depart from Angara hotel. You can board any of them any day of the week at 9:00.

Please note that this kind of transport will only take you to the ferry port. If you want to go directly to your turbaza, call +7 39-52 70-70-17 and book a bus seat a day or two in advance. These buses depart daily from the Trud stadium (48, Lenin St.) at 9:00 and 12:00, and you can arrange for an evening departure. One-way ride will cost 900–1 000 rubles, and the road will take 4-5 hours.

By waterway

Irkutsk — Ust’-Barguzin and Irkutsk-Nizhneangarsk hydrofoils make stops in the Zagli Gulf on Olkhon Island. Both depart from Raketa pier in the Solnechni microdistrict.

The first route sails on Mondays from July 6 to August 24. “Barguzin” hydrofoil departs from the pier at 9:15 and arrives to the gulf at 16:10. One-way trip costs 3 200 rubles.

The second route sails from June 19 to August 28. The hydrofoil departs on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8:30 and gets to Zagli Gulf at 14:00. One-way trip costs 3 200 rubles, too.

To get to the Small Sea from Zagli Gulf, get to the opposite shore.

This is how you can do it:

  • book a transfer from your turbaza;
  • walk 1.5 kilometers from the gulf to the ferry, get to the MRS and board a minibus that travels to your destination;
  • book a motorboat from a travel agency or a private owner.

Where to stay

In summer, most tourists come to the Small Sea with tents and settle to form an entire tent city, cheerful and loud. If you want to have less people around you, travel further to the north along the coastline. Pack up everything you might need, from food to a first-aid kit with meds. The Small Sea area doesn’t have many shops. Only turbazas have first-aid stations, and the closest hospital is in Elantsy.

Recreation centers provide the most comfortable housing at this coastline. Some of them are simpler; they have wooden toilets outdoors, and the guests prepare their food themselves. Others are more interesting. They have indoors showers and toilets, canteens and thought-out entertainment options.

If you plan on taking your family or friends to the Small Sea, don’t book individual rooms. Book an entire house. Almost all turbazas provide an option to do so. The minimum price for a low-end local house is 500 rubles per person. Mid-range houses cost 1 000–1 400 rubles. Houses with all amenities cost 2 000–3 000 rubles per person.

Throughout all year, Arshan is a nice place for a brief respite from work, outdoor activities from morning to night, or a thorough treatment in a sanatorium. The resort stands at the foot of Tunka Mountains, 893 meters above the sea level. Breathe Arshan’s clear mountain air for a day, and you’ll be full of energy.

“Arshan” means “healing water” in Buryat. This water is what makes Arshan so popular. Local mineral water is similar to Kislovodsk narzan, and it can be used in different ways. People drink it, bathe in it, and bottle it to take home.

Минеральный источник возле курорта Аршан
Photo fanatbaikala.ru

Water falls from the wells into pump rooms and baths at 51,8 °F to 113 °F. However, Arshan also has springs that were preserved in their natural form. One of them is the eye spring. This spring is visible from large distances because of colorful ribbons tied to the tree branches. According to local customs, the ribbons should be tied twice. The first one is tied with a request for a healing, and the second is tied with gratitude for treatment before leaving the resort.

Getting health benefits on your holiday is great. But if you want some more excitement, add some of the more interesting landmarks to your list of things to see. Some of the landmarks stand within the resort, such as the 500-year-old larch tree. Others demand a long walk or a car drive. Pick the sights to see according to your wishes and capabilities.

How to get to Arshan from Irkutsk

Take a car, a bus or a taxi. Alternately, take a train to Slyudyanka and then take a bus, a minibus or a bike through the Tunka Valley.

By car

The journey will take 3—4 hours. First, drive 100 km to Kultuk village and another 110 km to Arshan on the Kultuk-Mondy highway. The best way to drive is like this: from the Kultuk highway to the M-55 highway, then taking the A-164 through Kultuk, Tibelti, Tory and Zun-Murino. Then, at the 182nd kilometer from Irkutsk, you’ll see a turn from the federal highway. Follow “Arshan” pointer to the right and then drive 28 km straight.

Arshan is located in the Tunka National Park. You’ll have to pay 100 rubles per person and car at the entrance.

By bus or taxi

Irkutsk-Arshan buses depart from the bus and train stations. Route 520 departs from the bus station at 8:00 and gets to Arshan at 11:45. The ride costs 385 rubles. Keep in mind the routes 523 and 723 — they go from Irkutsk to Arshan and then to Nilova Pustyn’. The former route travels on odd days, and the latter — on even days. Both depart at 8:45.

If you need to depart at a different time, choose a minibus route at the train station. Minibuses take the tourists to Arshan from 8:00 to 18:00 daily, with 30-minute intervals in the morning and 3-hour intervals in the evening. The tickets must be bought from the train station ticket window half an hour before the departure. Note that the last minibus that goes from Arshan to Irkutsk departs at 17:15. Don’t be late.

The longest route is combined, and best suited for those who want to visit Slyudyanka on the way to Arshan. First, you spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on a train from Irkutsk to Slyudyanka. One ticket will cost 105 rubles.

Then you pick the option that suits you best. Take a minibus from a train station or a bus from Slyudyanka bus station and travel another 1,5—2 hours. We recommend you to check the ticket prices and the schedule by calling +7 950 053-40-84, +7 950 139-63-70 for a minibus, and +7 950 055-11-07 for a bus ride.

Romantic and sporty people go on a biking route from Slyudyanka through the Tunka valley. 130 kilometers of the flowery scenic road take a day or two to travel, but the memories of this adventure will last a lifetime.

Where to stay at Arshan

Those who come on a purchased trip just stay in a sanatorium. For others, accommodation options run like this: a bed in a shabby private house with a street toilet; a room in a comfortable house with all facilities; or a hotel room.

Finding a place to spend a night is simple even during winter. House owners paste their phone numbers all over the village. Some of the owners meet the tourists at the bus station and offer to stay in their houses. A bed without amenities costs 300—500 rubles. Rooms with toilets and running water in the house cost 600 rubles a night and up.

For 1 000 rubles a night you can find a decent suite in a guest house with a toilet, a shower and satellite TV. Hotel suites are more expensive, costing 1 500—5 500 rubles. Better book them in advance, as the most comfortable suites are rarely unoccupied, especially in the summer.

On July 24-26, Baikalsk will turn into a berry kingdom as the time comes for the VII annual strawberry festival “Victoria”. The celebration will be accompanied by a youth music and arts festival “By pure waters”. Folk and rock bands from the Irkutsk region will perform there.

The festival will be held in and around the “Baikal” sports complex.

The festival will have:

  • “Baikal Arbat” shopping arcade and “Strawberry Festival 2008-2014” photography exhibition; “Miss Victoria 2015” pageant;
  • Workshops on blacksmithing, woodcarving and making flowers from balloons and satin ribbons;
  • Table tennis, minifootball, checkers, beach volleyball and weight-lifting competitions;
  • The opening of the strawberry festival forged sculpture at a quay in the Gagarin microdistrict/

And for dessert

Friday: color festival from 16:30 to 18:00, strawberry auction at 21:30 and a party until 01:00.

Saturday: eating a large strawberry pie at the official closing of “Victoria” festival from 19:00 to 20:00, opening of the “By pure waters” festival and a music concert from 20:00 to 01:00.

Sunday: the final concert on a sports complex stage from 16:00 until nightfall.

Participation is free, so come and get into the mood for some strawberries.

How to get to Baikalsk from Irkutsk

  • by car in 2.5 hours
  • by bus route number 544 that departs from the bus station. The bus departs at 09:30, and the ride will cost you 300 rubles.
  • by a minibus that departs from the parking lot near the Shopping Complex on Timiryazev Street. Book the tickets in advance before your trip by calling +7 (902) 560-35-36, +7 (902) 513-86-94.
  • by an evening train to Vydrino. The train departs from the Irkutsk-Sortirovochny station at 17:36. The ride will last for 4 hours and 7 minutes, costing you 150 rubles. The train back departs from Baikalsk at 05:08

Circum-Baikal Railway (CBR) is one of those things that leave a lasting impression once and for all. Dozens of tunnels and galleries, hundreds of bridges, viaducts and retaining walls blend together with natural monuments that can only be found here. The technical wonder of the XX century is a result of tremendous work on the edge of human possibilities.

Embodying the grandiose plan took almost 6 years. Construction work began in 1899, and the commissioned road was ready to use in October of 1905. The section of the road that connected the Trans-Siberian Railway had no equals in its cost, quantity and complexity of work per each kilometer. For this, Circum-Baikal Railway was called “the golden buckle of Russian steel belt” for a long time.

The road was fully functional until July 1956. After the construction of a hydroelectric power station on Angara River, water level of the lake rose by one meter. The road from Irkutsk to Baikal flooded. A new path was built, bypassing the lake by the mountains, but CBR became a dead-end section. In late 1970s, the road got a status of a historical and architectural monument, and came under state protection.

Today, this 94-kilometer long railway line from Baikal station to Slyudyanka is called a museum of engineering thought. The tourists travel thousands of kilometers to see the views of CBR at arm’s length. They ride the very edge of Baikal. They walk through the tunnels, where each step gives a resounding echo, where every meter of the road was nurtured by human hands. See how to travel here, where to stay and which safety tips to follow to make your meeting with the Circum-Baikal Railway truly memorable.

Getting to the CBR

You can get here by foot from Slydyanka, Temnaya Pad’, Kultuk and Port Baikal. You can ride a tourist train or go by a boat. In winter, you can go by skis, grab a ride on an amphibious vehicle or drive a car on lake ice. During other seasons, you can take passenger transport only to get to major train stations. Then, you’ll have to leave your car and take a long walk. Circum-Baikal Railway area has no highways.

By foot

Traveling the CBR alone by foot is wonderful. You alone decide on your route. You alone decide where to stay, and for how long. Nobody’s hurrying you, and there are no noisy tourist crowds nearby. Moreover, this type of travel is comfortable. Every five kilometers there are picnic and camping areas with tent sites and wooden tables.

The starting and finishing points of the route are usually Slyudyanka, Port Baikal and Kultuk. The reason for that is simple. Those places are easily accessible by train, bus, minibus or car. Port Baikal is also accessible by a ferry from Listvyanka.

Get to Slydyanka or Kultuk like this:

  1. By taking a train from Irkutsk-Passazhirski station.
  2. By taking a train to Zemlyanichnaya station, walking down Gornaya Street and taking 20 minutes to walk to Kultuk.
  3. By taking a bus from Irkutsk car station. Buses depart daily at 9:30. The ride takes 2 hours.
  4. By taking a minibus from Irkutsk train station from 9:00 to 22:00. Minibuses depart every 30–60 minutes. Rides at 20:30 and 21:30 must be booked in advance by calling +7 (950) 053-40-84, +7 (950) 139-63-70. You can also book a seat for another route by calling +7 (950) 066-62-71, +7 (904) 110-99-97.

An alternative way exists for those who aren’t used to lots of walking. A local train called “motanya” travels to any end station of CBR. “Motanya” departs from Slyudyanka on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays at 12:30, arriving to Port Baikal at 18:30. In summer, the last ferry to Listvyanka departs at 20:15. This way, you’ll manage both to cross the lake on time and to see the local wonders.

“Motanya” departs in the opposite direction on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 2:20. It gets to Slyudyanka at 7:45. Slyudyanka — Irkutsk train departs daily from that point.

All questions about railway rides can be asked at +7 800 775-00-00, the number of the Unified Information and Service Center of JSC “Russian Railways”. The center works 24/7, and all calls are free of charge.

Time

3–5 days, depending on route length

Expenses

  • Around 200 rubles for a bus ticket or 105 rubles for a train ride to Slyudyanka;
  • 80–100 rubles for a “Motanya” ride;
  • 58 rubles for a ferry ride for adults, 29 rubles for 5–10 year old children and 90 rubles for pets or bikes;
  • 103 rubles for a Listvyanka-Irkutsk minibus ride;
  • 400–600 rubles per person for an overnight stay;
  • Food.

Tips

If you don’t have much time on your hands, walk a simple one-day route from Temnaya Pad’ to Angasolka and back.

By train

To travel with comfort, choose the Circum-Baikal Express tourist train. Depart from Irkutsk in the morning and get to Slyudyanka by train or go to Listvyanka by bus, getting a ferry ride to Port Baikal. Port Baikal will be the starting point of your route in the latter case, and the finishing point in the former case.

During the ride, the guide will tell you about the construction of the road and outstanding engineering structures. The screen will show you movies about Lake Baikal and Siberian nature. The window will show you the views that will make you catch your breath in awe. The train makes 20–90 minute stops along the way to help you see this immense beauty up close, go on a short walk and take pictures.

The road back takes 2–3 hours. You can take a ferry to Listvyanka and then board a bus to Irkutsk, or ride a train from Slyudyanka to Irkutsk-Passazhirski station. The journey will end at about 22:00.

Time

1 day.

Expenses

From 2 800 (for children) to 4 500 rubles per person + meals.

Tips

Before you start planning your trip to CBR, call +7 (39-52) 20-29-73, 20-29-69, or write to prig_@list.ru. The train might not be working when you want it to, and it’s best to discover that in advance. If all goes well, reserve a seat that faces the engine. Those seats offer an amazing view of Baikal, and are immensely popular.

By waterway

Waterway tours along the Circum-Baikal Railway are available on weekends from May 30 to September 27. July and August offer additional rides on Thursdays and Fridays.

An air-cushioned “Barguzin” ship departs from Raketa, a pier in Irkutsk, at 10:30. Two hours later, it makes a first stop near the picturesque Tolsty Cape. You’ll have an entire hour to wander around the neighborhood, to walk through the #8 tunnel and make a selfie amid high rocky structures that resemble medieval castles. The second stop happens near Shumikha Cape, and this stop only lasts for 30 minutes. The ship makes a 2.5 hour stop at Polovinny Cape, though. You’ll have enough time both to enjoy some engineering masterpieces and to grab a lunch at a local café. The journey ends at 19:30 at Raketa pier.

Time

1 day.

Expenses

2 200 rubles + meals

Tips

Buy tickets in advance, preferably two weeks prior to your trip.

On ice

You can go on this journey from February to March. A winter road runs along the shores of Baikal, allowing you to get to the CBR and to go in both directions from there. To have a good trip, keep to well-travelled routes that are marked by special signs. Otherwise, you might get in trouble. If the car gets to a crack in the ice or a thin spot, it might sink.

On the way, pay attention to signs that say “No Stops”, “5 tonnes maximum” and “recommended speed 10 km/h.” Depart at no earlier than 9:00 and finish your trip at no later than 19:00. Total darkness is not your friend on a winter road. To be absolutely sure, hire an ice captain for a guide. The trip will be more expensive, but your security is worth it.

Time

1 day.

Expenses

Gas + food + guide services.

A tip

Khivus, an amphibious vehicle, is an interesting alternative for a journey on ice. Travel agencies in Irkutsk and some Baikal hotels both offer these tours. The price varies from 3000 to 7500 rubles per person for 3–10 hours of travel.

Where to stay

There are no luxury hotels around the CBR. However, there are a good number of affordable accommodation options. Turbazas, hostels and mini-hotels at Ulanovo and Shumikha stations, in Slyudyanka, Angasolka and Baikal villages offer a variety of rooms for 400–600 rubles per day. If you plan to just spend a night or a couple of hours, your stay will be even cheaper.

You can also stay for a night in Listvyanka if you’re traveling there by ferry from Port Baikal or returning from a day-long trip on the Circum-Baikal Express and want to spend some time to admire the deepest lake in the world. Listvyanka is a major tourist center, and so it offers a variety of accommodation options. You can find anything from low-comfort houses with street toilets to luxury hotels suites.

Important details

  • Wear sturdy-soled boots for hiking. You’ll be walking on heaps of crushed rubble, which serves as pavement for the railway. Other types of footwear will not handle it.
  • Don’t attempt to climb up every rock and every slope. Better yet, avoid them when traveling alone and unsure of yourself. The Circum-Baikal Railway is a dangerous area with lots of unstable, crumbling rocks. For the same reason, only take well-traveled routes to get down to the beaches.
  • Leave your headphones out when walking on the railway tracks. Listen to the sounds of nature and approaching trains. The railway is sometimes used by local trains and trolleys, and you’ll have to step aside to let them pass.
  • When examining the tunnels and galleries, always hold a working flashlight in your hand. Watch your feet. Tripping over a railroad tie or falling into a pit is much more unpleasant than meeting a harmless local ghost.
  • From April to August, be sure to pack a tick repellent in your backpack. Always keep an individual first aid kit with you. Keep in mind that only Kultuk, Slyudyanka and Baikal villages have aid stations.
  • If you’re not planning to stay in a turbaza, pack up a supply of your usual food and drinks. You’ll have a chance to refill your supplies only at the major railway stations and in some villages between them. The car-shop attached to the “Motanya” train also sells water, bread, canned food, pasta and cereals. Avoid homemade alcohol – there’s a high risk of poisoning.

Arshan is a source of infinite joy for active and curious travelers. Soft climate without deafening heat or heavy rains and chilly winds is perfect for those who love taking long walks, climbing the mountains and exploring new trails and routes. Natural attractions, scattered throughout the Tunka Valley, inspire the travelers. We captured them all in one article to make your days at Arshan full of movement and fresh impressions.

Waterfalls and the marble floor of Kyngarga River

Kyngarga River
Kyngarga River
Waterfalls are the undisputed hit of Arshan. According to different sources, Kyngarga has from 12 to 20 waterfalls. The first one gets most attention, as it is located in 1.5 kilometers from the resort. A wide furnished trail leads to the waterfall, almost never empty. Follow the tourists who walk the trail, and you won’t get lost.
If you walk another 500 meters up the trail, you’ll see the Kyngarga ravine, adorned by high walls of stone. Its bottom is covered with water-polished and shiny pink and yellow marble — hence the “marble floor” name. In 3 kilometers from the first waterfall stands the Veerny waterfall, the most beautiful of them all. The road to Veerny is much more difficult. If you decide to climb the dangerous cliff, be extremely cautious and wear shoes with slip-resistant soles.

Panoramic Plateau

The view of the Arshan resort and the Tunka valley
The view of the Arshan resort and the Tunka valley (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
You don’t need to climb high to see Arshan from a bird’s eye view. For this, the resort has a comfortable viewing platform near the drinking pavilion over the white staircase.

If the view from the plateau isn’t impressive enough for you, walk 600–700 meters further up the ridge. You will not be able to feign indifference here. The already picturesque Tunka Valley seems breath-catchingly beautiful from above.

The Mongolian market

Mongolian market
Mongolian market (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
People come here for unique souvenirs and other curiosities, such as pine nuts or juniper bath brooms. The tourists especially like clothes made of yak, goat and camel wool. No matter how cold it is outside, a warm jumper, vest, socks and mittens from Mongolia will make it bearable. Buy them if you’re planning to travel around Lake Baikal in winter.

Since many come to Arshan for health benefits, the market sells a variety of health products. Bring home some of the local herbs to strengthen your immune system and avoid sickness. And for a snow-white smile, try some sera, conifer resin gum that is a healthy alternative for chewing gum and whitening toothpaste. The market is located at the park entrance. The working hours are from 9:00 to 19:00.

Museums and an art gallery

Forest Fairy tale
“Forest Fairy tale”, root décor museum (photo by baikalrb.ru)
Arshan doesn’t have many museums, and you can see them all in one day. Start with the resort history museum, which stands on the main avenue of the park. Afterwards, stop by “Forest Fairy Tale” root décor museum which holds more than 500 root sculptures. The “Forest Fairy Tale” is in house 12. Check the working hours and ticket price by calling +7 (950) 137-73-78.

To get a feel of the local culture, visit the private art gallery in an authentic Buryat yurt. The yurt is called “The yurt of the two wise men”. The gallery is behind the Kyngarga Bridge, on 8a, Veresov St. A stream rumbles near the museum, and an Uzbek cuisine café stands open nearby. Interesting tours with Sayan medicinal herb tea tasting happen inside of the yurt. The ticket costs 100 rubles per adult and 30 rubles per child. “The yurt of the two wise men” is open daily from 10:00 to 20:00.

Old and new datsans

Datsan at Arshan
Datsan at Arshan (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)

“Bodhidharma”, the first datsan, is a corner of peace with a pleasant mountain view. “Maidar”, the central temple of a Buryat religious association, is surrounded by a century-old pine forest. This place is perfect for walking, breathing grace-filled air and thinking of nothing.

“Dechen Ravzhalin”, the new Hoymor datsan, is located in the center of Arshan, across the “Sayany” sanatorium. The entrance is free of charge. Stop by to see the Buddhist services and purchase Tibetan medicine.

Virgins’ bowl

Virgins’ bowl
Virgins’ bowl (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
This stone bowl filled with clear water got its poetic name due to Buryat customs. The night before the wedding, a bride and her bridesmaids went to a secret place where they did a ritual bath and gave offerings to ongons, family spirits. Near Arshan, this ritual was held in the upper reaches of Buhota River.

Nowadays, anyone can take a swim in the bowl after walking 3 kilometers from the village. Locals and guides always say that the waters of this bowl will grant strength to your body, beauty to your soul and love to your heart.

Love Peak

The view from the heights of the Love Peak
The view from the heights of the Love Peak (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
This is the most attractive place of Arshan for those daredevils who are ready to travel a 3–5 hour long road for a breathtaking view from the peak. The legend attracts even more, saying that this place will uncover the truth about the visitor and his or her companion. According to this legend, a man and a woman from a single ulus were closely related, and therefore forbidden to enter a close relationship. To enlist help from powerful spirits, the couple climbed to the top and saw each other with their hearts.

The woman saw another man, her true future husband whom she had yet to meet. And the man was pierced by a pain of a mother who suffered for her family, reflected in the woman’s face. The mountain showed the lovers that they aren’t meant to be together, and that each one will find happiness alone. And so it happened. If you want to test yourself and your feelings, walk the trail from the end of the main alley up to the peak.

Suburgan spring

Suburgan spring
Suburgan spring (photo by baikal-blog.ru)
Buryats have used this place of strength and positive energy for healing since the ancient times. The spring has many names. Suburgan, Old Arshan, Small Arshan, Baruun Arshan and The Kingdom of a White Elephant Calf are among those names.

This spring is 5 kilometers away from the resort. Follow the trail from the datsan that stands near the souvenir market. The trail is simple. The route is straight and takes about an hour. A white stupa, interesting from all sides, stands near the spring. A steep path leads to this stupa. To be safe, hold the ropes strapped to the trees.

Extinct volcanoes

Extinct volcanoes near the village of Arshan
Extinct volcanoes near the village of Arshan (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
Hard to imagine but true: traces of volcanic activity from the end of the Ice Age can be found near Arshan. The oldest of Tunka volcanoes is Kovrizhka. It stands about 10 kilometers to the east from the Tunka-Arshan highway, between Khobok and Khurai-Khobok rivers. The volcanic cone can be seen from the right side of the road. The pedestal over Yelovski plateau is Kovrizhka.

Another notable volcano is the wooded Khara-Bolok, also called Ulyaborski or Cherski volcano. This one is 7 kilometers from Arshan, between Taloy and Ulyabory villages. The diameter of this volcano almost equals to its height, which are 80–100 meters and 100–120 meters respectively. A spring flows at the foot of the volcano, not freezing even for winter.

Unusual lakes

Koymorskie lakes
Koymorskie lakes (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
When asked about what to see at Arshan, all tour guides exclaim as one: “Go see the Crystal Lake!”. The tourists are not so unanimous. Some love it, some pass by. The lake is famous for not having any kind of fish or other living creatures, for which the locals call it a dead lake. However, the area around the lake is beautiful and absolutely worth its 4–5 hours of walking down well-trodden mountain trails with steep descents.

Further away, 10 kilometers from Arshan, stand the Koymorski lakes. These lakes are an entire group of ponds, connected with each other by water channels. These lakes are home to many rare plants and animals that are a part of a list of Endangered Species of the Buryat Republic. This place is perfect for swimming, fishing, boating or discovering healing mud in Shirshonka and Butakovskoe lakes. Or, alternatively, you could just lie down on the meadow and enjoy the perfection of wildlife.

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Tourists who went to the CBR often confess that they never expected to see so much beauty here. They also promise to come back one day, either to take a tourist train ride, to go on a cruise or, even better, to travel the route on feet. The latter option is especially tempting. You, too, can see all of the notable places if you know what to look for. Check out our review of circum-Baikal miracles if you don’t want to miss out.

Museum and a marble train station in Slyudyanka

Marble train station in Slyudyanka
Marble train station in Slyudyanka (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
Slyudyanka-1 train station is a spectacular point of CBR. Ever since the early XX century, not only the locals are proud of it. The world has only one train station that is built entirely of Baikal white-pink marble. The building is unique. You’ll definitely see it if you include Slydyanka in your travel route or go on a tour of the Circum-Baikal Express.

Valery Zhigalov manor is another curious place of the town. The manor hosts the first private mineralogical museum in Russia. The museum is called “Gems of Russia”. Here, you’ll find a magnificent collection of minerals or, if you want to stay longer, a cozy place to spend a night or two.

Old Angasolka

Old Angasolka
Old Angasolka (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
This modest village on the shores of Lake Baikal sees more tourists than local villagers. This is where the most interesting part of CBR starts, having especially many architectural and engineering objects here. Just when you think that this viaduct or tunnel is the most beautiful you’ve ever seen, another one appears, even more spectacular and monumental.

If you can walk a little further, go see Ptichi Bazaar, the only nesting place of herring gulls on Baikal. Some of the more daring tourists climb up the rocks from the tunnel exit to get a more thrilling experience. Fans of calmer travels enjoy the view during any season. The locals say that when the gulls flock back, Lake Baikal begins to thaw.

Kirkireyski complex

Kirkireyski complex
Kirkireyski complex (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
This place is notable for the amount of work spent on it. At first, the workers paved a tunnel through the narrow part of the cliff. However, frequent rockfalls and a rapid flow of Kirkirey threatened a disaster. They had to pave a parallel way through the 636 meter long rock. The work was meticulous. Different-sized rocks were chosen and carved to fit like a puzzle. This unique cyclopean masonry impresses even those who have seen many architectural wonders before.

The taming of the stubborn Kirkirey went like this. The workers built a dam at a height of 66 meters. The river poured a powerful stream right over the tunnel, but without any possibility of flooding it. This waterfall and the tunnels can be seen today if you go on the Circum-Baikal Express trip or walk the road to the 123rd kilometer.

The longest and the shortest CBR tunnels

Tunnels of the Circum-Baikal Railway
Tunnels of the Circum-Baikal Railway (photo by kbzd.transsib.ru)
Both stand near Polovinnaya village, where the Circum-Baikal express makes a 1.5 hour stop and the Barguzin ship stops for 2.5 hours. The longest tunnel is notable not only for its size. This long tunnel is also absolutely straight. So, here, you can literally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In addition to these landmarks you will also find the biggest CBR bridge and an arch viaduct. Both stand side by side. And at the depth of 1300 meters, not far from Polovinniy Cape, runs the Baikal neutrino telescope. The scientists call it the eyes of the Earth. The telescope captures neutrinos, cosmic elementary particles. Professionals study the captured particles and discover what is going on inside the stars, study black holes and the climate of our planet.

Italian wall

Italian wall on the Circum-Baikal Railway
Italian wall on the Circum-Baikal Railway (photo by fanatbaikala.ru)
The retaining wall of Shumikha cape got its name because of its similarity to the Italian arches. The resemblance isn’t coincidental. Ferrari, an Italian with a notable name, designed it. The wall was initially built to protect the road from rockfalls. Nowadays, this beautiful construction that resembles an alpine bridge has a purpose of attracting and delighting the tourists.

Along with the Italian Wall, go see the Big Shumikhinkaya Gallery and the bridges over Malaya and Bolshaya Shumikha Rivers at the 101–103 kilometers. If you enjoy the view and want to stay there for a couple of days, stay at the turbaza near the picturesque three-house fishing village.

The White Recess

The White Recess on the Circum-Baikal Railway
The White Recess on the Circum-Baikal Railway
Imagine a kilometer and a half space filled with 70 kinds of minerals, from spinel to zircon to blindingly shimmery marble. This is how the White Recess looks like. This is not just a geological section, but an entire museum of geology and mineralogy under an open sky.

The recess stands at the base of Ivanovo Cape, at 103–105 kilometers of CBR. You can walk here from the nearest local train stations at 102nd and 107th kilometers.

CBR museum and the old lighthouse at the Baikal village

CBR museum
CBR museum
This small village with a working port has two notable landmarks. The first one is the Circum-Baikal Railway museum in the station building. Stop by if you like looking at old photographs and strange machinery gears, immersing in another era and learning many interesting things about new places.

And if you’re not afraid of the height, visit the second landmark, a lighthouse build at the top of Baranchik Mountain in the early XX century. You’ll get a panoramic view of the southern Baikal, Tolstoy Cape, Listvyanka and Angara River. That view is too beautiful for words. You can travel to the Port Baikal station by train or Circum-Baikal Express from Irkutsk. You can also ride the local train from the other parts of CBR.

Learn more about the Circum-Baikal Railway, its routes and traveling peculiarities here.

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The summer air of Lake Baikal makes people dizzy, especially those who come from large cities. Sleeping less than 12 hours a day is almost impossible during the first days of your stay here. This is how human organism handles the overabundance of oxygen and fresh air. In July, the lake is still warming up from the ice drift. But from July to mid-August, the weather is warm and stable. Air temperature may reach up to +30 °C, and shallow-water temperature might get up to +25 °C.

The summer at Lake Baikal is the time for swimming, mountain-climbing, scuba-diving, quad-biking, quiet fishing, dancing at festivals, kayaking and just having a good time. Anyone will have something fun to do. We assembled a list of the most popular activities.

Build new trails

Building new trails is a great way to spend two weeks in the most beautiful places and hidden corners of Lake Baikal. You’ll get to meet new friends from all over the world and discover new places. An experienced team leader will help you out with adjustment to camp life and field work. An interpreter will remove the language barrier and take care of your entertainment.

A trail built by volunteers (Big Ushkani Island)
A trail built by volunteers (Big Ushkani Island). Photo source – greatbaikaltrail.org

Duties will vary from building new bridges to partaking in litter removal. You’ll work 5-6 hours a day for 5 days a week. Most programs last 2 weeks and cost about 9000 rubles. This price includes administrative expenses, meals and cultural programs. Book a part in a project in advance, or else you’ll be at risk of finding all spots already booked. For details about the project, visit the website of the organization.

Get creative

The summer at Lake Baikal is a time of poetry and theater, yoga and dancing. Festivals happen all over the area, ranging from small concerts, conferences and workshops to international events.

Baikal-Live Art Festival
Baikal-Live Art Festival. Photo source — fanatbaikala.livejournal.com

For example, late July is the time when the annual theater festival is held at Olkhon island. Best amateur theaters from Russia and other countries come to the island to perform and learn from each other. August is when the time comes for shamanic dances, jazz improvisations, fiery rock-n-roll and poetry slam of the Baikal-Live festival. See what to expect this year at the biggest music festival in Irkutsk region at the website of the event.

Tan, sunbathe and chill

Due to the unique transparency of the lake, Baikal tan latches onto your skin in mere minutes, and holds up for a long time. Irkutsk scientists believe that just a half a day of sunbathing on a Baikal beach will result in a tan that will last up to Christmas holidays.

Baikal beaches
Baikal beaches

The western coast of Baikal is sunnier than Crimea, so don’t forget to stock up on sunscreen before pressing forward to Olkhon Island, Chivyrkuyski bay or Small Sea Strait. If you want to relax on the colorful beaches under scorching Baikal sun and to return home unrecognizably tanned, come to these places from mid-July to the late August. During the other months, the weather is not always stable.

Camping

Those who never sang praises to the wildlife of Baikal are those who have never been there. Landscapes vary from waterfalls to endless steppes, from taiga forests to alpine meadows. Both seasoned travelers and casual explorers will find places and trails to enjoy.

Shumak valleys
Shumak valleys. Photo source — fanatbaikala.livejournal.com

Test yourself by walking one of the most difficult trails to see the beauty of Baikal nature in all its glory. For example, a complex mountain path at the Eatern Sayans leads to Shumak, the only place on Earth with more than a hundred healing springs in just one valley. Or you can walk a casual route from Temnaya Pad’ to Angasolka with a camera at hand – even a child will have no difficulties with this trail.

Dive into the underwater world of Lake Baikal

Crystal clear waters, steep depth and golden sands make Baikal a unique place to dive. The bottom of Lake Baikal has no coral reefs or colorful fish, but it has its own treasured sights. Those who have seen Baikal from this side come here to dive again and again.

The underwater of Lake Baikal
The underwater of Lake Baikal

The colder the water the clearer it gets, and June is the best month for diving. People dive everywhere from the Circum-Baikal railway shores to Olkhon Island. Listvyanka has a diving center with professional instructors, equipment and rentable accessories.

Horseback riding

Just an hour of horseback riding is enough to make feel happy, and this activity is available to everyone. Newbies will be taught to sit in a saddle properly, and then sent off for a two-hour walk near the lake. Experienced riders will have an option of an equestrian tour with overnight camp stays.

Horseback tours on Lake Baikal
Horseback tours on Lake Baikal. Photo source — horsebaikaltour.com

One hour of horseback riding costs from 500 to 1000 rubles. The website of Baikal equestrian tourism center provides a list of horseback riding clubs that offer tours at Lake Baikal.

Try omul

One cannot simply visit Baikal without trying omul. Omul is a delicious fish that only lives in Baikal waters. The market of Listvyanka village is the best place to buy omul, as the fish is marinated or smoked and laid out on the stalls of the market immediately after the catch.

Omul at the central market of Listvyanka
Omul at the central market of Listvyanka

If you’re not averse to raw fish, try saguday. Saguday is a fillet of a freshly caught omul, lightly marinated in salt, pepper and onions. Proceed with hot-smoked or cold-smoked omul. Sit down at the shore with your lunch and enjoy the clear air, mouth-watering smell of smoked fish and a rhythmic rustle of the waves. Enjoy your summer at Lake Baikal.

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Imagine the Grand Canyon filled to the rim with crystal clear water. Imagine the height of five Eiffel Towers put one onto another. If you are able to imagine this, you already understand the miraculous magnitude of Lake Baikal. Rioting colors in the summer, royal crystals of thick clear ice during the winter and spiritual greatness throughout the whole year — Lake Baikal has always been alluringly close to Irkutsk.

Close proximity becomes an obstacle for those who travel to Baikal during the peak of a tourist season. Your timing and desired destination points are interdependent. Don’t choose a place that is easily accessible by car if you’re traveling during the tourist-magnet summer months, long weekends or national holidays. Don’t buy the tickets for the last-in-the-day tour ship, either.

Baikal (photo by photostranger.com)

Traveling by car

This means of transportation might seem most convenient. However, the realities of car travel usually disagree with tourists’ expectations. The usual destinations for car travelers are Listvyanka Village (70 km, one-hour drive) and Olkhon Island (300 km, five-hour drive, ferry wait and travel not counted). If you’re traveling to Listvyanka, expect traffic jam and lack of parking space — especially on the weekends. If you chose Olkhon Island, be prepared for a long wait in a queue for a ferry to take you to the island. The roads leading to Olkhon are not easy, too.

If you’re going to Olkhon by car, don’t forget to get advance permission for a visit to the Baikal National Park. You can get it either in Irkutsk or in a Khuzhir village on Olkhon Island. Note that traveling by car outside the public roads is forbidden on this territory.

Taking a bus

Most Irkutsk-to-Baikal buses depart from the main bus station. Buses to Listvyanka make six trips a day with one bus departing every two hours, usually from 8 AM to 6:30 PM. One ticket costs 103 rubles. The road to Listvyanka will take up about one hour of your time.

If you’re making a one-day visit, don’t forget to buy a return ticket to Irkutsk in advance, as returning back to the city might get difficult in the evening. If you forgot to get such a ticket, come to the Listvyanka ticket office — the one on the docks in front of “Mayak” hotel. Those who buy a ticket at a bus station can count on an assigned place. Board the bus in advance to avoid argument over the best bus seats. Many drivers allow the passengers without tickets to take up the “vacant” spots.

A bus trip from Irkutsk to Khuzhir, the largest village on the Olkhon Island, departs three times a day, one each two hours with the first bus departing at 8AM. One ticket costs 500 rubles, and you’ll spend about 6–7 hours in a bus to get from Irkutsk to Khuzhir. Buses, as opposed to private vehicles, don’t have to wait for their turn in a queue for a ferry. Purchase your return ticket at a tour desk in Khuzhir or at any of the local hotels. You won’t have to pay for a ferry, and the same bus can take you to the Maloye More bay.

In addition to the municipal buses, the bus station in Irkutsk also has privately held minibuses going on the same route. Minibus tickets cost about 30–100 rubles more than bus tickets for the same routes, but the driver will hit the road as soon as all seats are taken. Minibuses have no trip schedules. This means of transportation is popular among the tourists, but it’s better suited for those who love spontaneity and improvisation.

Returning to Irkutsk on a minibus is easier than taking the municipal bus back, as most drivers are always willing to pick up the tourists they meet on the road. You can find a minibus to Listvyanka on a car station between the shopping complex on Oktyabrskoy revolutsiy Street near the bus station.

Irkutsk Listvyanka bus

Irkutsk Listvyanka bus

Taking a train

Circum-Baikal Railway
Circum-Baikal Railway (photo by territoryengineering.ru)

The Circum-Baikal Railway is magnificent in its beauty and engineering elegance with its coastal landscape view. Take the train to the southern coast of Lake Baikal to see how it runs around the rocky ledges, dives into dark tunnels and flies over a wrought viaduct.

Today, the Circum-Baikal Railway goes from Slyudyanka to Port Baikal. Parts of the road became dead ends after the old railway was flooded during the construction of Irkutsk hydroelectric station. There are four trains to Slydyanka, and the earliest takes off at 9:28 AM. The road to Slyudyanka takes three hours, and a one-way ticket costs 105 rubles.

After you get to Slyudyanka and stop for a minute to admire the train station building and its marble forecourt, go for a hike or take a sightseeing train to Port Baikal. The train will make stops in some of the most interesting places. One of these stops is Angasolka, a small settlement where you can stop by Roerich’s museum. The railroad follows the coastline, allowing the passengers to enjoy the view of Lake Baikal from the train windows.

You can return back to the city by either taking the same train back or by going around the lake through Listvyanka. Listvyanka and Port Baikal are connected by a ferry which crosses Angara River twice a day. “Circum-Baikal Express” tourist train goes from Irkutsk to Port Baikal and then to Irkutsk again. The road around the lake on this train will take one day, and one ticket will cost from 4000 to 4500 rubles.

Take the train if you want to get to the eastern side of Baikal, to the Barguzinsky or Chivyrkuisky bays, Svyatoy Nos peninsula or Ushkani Islands. You can buy tickets to Ulan-Ude on rzd.ru website. The overnight train Irkutsk-Naushki is the most comfortable, as it takes off at 10:02 PM and brings you to the capital of the Republic of Buryatia at 7 AM of the next day. The cheapest ticket costs around 1500 rubles. In Ulan-Ude, you can take a minibus to Maksimikha or Ust’-Barguzin. These settlements are the closest ones to the beautiful places you’ll want to visit.

When you’re taking this train, you can also stop at the Tankhoi station which lies in between Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. You’ll see Baikal Nature Reserve, an amazing place that differs from all other landmarks and sightseeing spots. If you stay there for a day, you’ll also see one of the best eco-trails in the region.

Finally, the outskirts of another town, Severobaikalsk, are the best place for those who love the wilderness. Hot springs at Khakusy, Frolikha Lake, wild northern forests and mountains — all of these will be worth the two days spent getting there by train. Irkutsk-Severobaikalsk train departs on odd days. One ticket costs about 2 900 rubles.

Waterway transportation

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Baikal lake (photo by liveinternet.ru)

Irkutsk Waterway service offers a variety of routes, all departing from the Irkutsk pier “Raketa”. “Raketa” is located in Solnetchni microdistrict of Irkutsk — see more at vsrp.ru. A waterway trip to the most beautiful places on Lake Baikal is an unforgettable experience, available from the end of June to the end of August. Sailing the waves of Baikal Lake is a unique adventure that saves a lot of time. Though far from cheap, waterway transport allows access to some areas that you wouldn’t reach taking a bus or a car.

The “Kometa” hydrofoil connects Irkutsk to the Nizhneangarsk region, making stops at Olkhon Island and Severobaikalsk. This trip will take 12 hours, costing 4600 rubles. A trip by “Voskhod” will take you to the charming village Boltshie Koty, costing you 740 rubles and taking up 4 hours. You can then hike a scenic lakeside trail from Boltshie Koty, walking to Listvyanka for 4–7 hours. Two or three times a week, the “Barguzin” hydrofoil takes the tourists to Peschanaya bay (3 hours 45 minutes, 2600 rubles) and Chivyrkuiski bay (11 hours 15 minutes, 4800 rubles).

Despite the variety of available transport, constant vigilance will not hurt you. Check the schedule beforehand, double-check your information at the reception desk in your hotel and ask around for details. Communication provides for a successful trip.

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Baikal is a mystery even to those who have seen it many times and thought to know everything about it. But the secrets of the lake are innumerable, and it’s impossible to discover them all.

Озеро Байкал

Anton Chekhov, a famous Russian writer, said, «Baikal is wondrous, and Siberians unsurprisingly call it not a lake, but a sea». The surface area of the sea-like lake is equal to the whole of Belgium, and no other lake rivals Baikal in age or depth. Baikal is millions of years old, but it doesn’t seem to grow weak with age. Every year, its banks grow further apart by 2 cm. Nowadays scientists suspect that Baikal is an emerging ocean.

336 rivers flow into the lake, but only Angara flows out. The water in the lake is pure, oxygenated and clearer than tears. Drinking straight from the lake is safe. The weather, on the other side, is tricky and changeable. One day, it warms you up and calms you down. The next day, it blasts you with sharp icy windstorms. So, while preparing for a trip, reserve several sets of clothes. Light T-shirts, warm jackets and sunglasses will come in handy during any season.

Age

25–30 million years

Depth

1 642 m

Water surface area

31 722 km²

Water clarity

40 m

Things to do at Lake Baikal

Drink fresh air in big gulps, hike the trails, climb the mountains and descend into caves. Gain strength and health in the healing springs of Arshan, swim and sunbathe — and even half a year after your trip you’ll still look like you just returned from a vacation.

Promise yourself to see all 350 wonders of Baikal and stretch the fun for your entire life to make sure that none of the years you live are spent in vain. Learn the legends of the lake by heart but continue to listen to them again and again.

In winter, go ice-skating on sturdy ice or conquer it with a powerful SUV or an amphibious boat. Go on a snowmobile ride or have fun with friendly Huskies. Play ice golf. Go ice-fishing and catch a fish worthy of years of boasts.

In spring, listen to the music and dance to ethnic beats. Take pictures of blooming rhododendrons and purple snowdrops — the photographs will be great.

In summer, deny yourself nothing. Try our hiking trails, drive on Baikal roads and go on a waterway trip. Engage in kiting and discover the Baikal way of diving. Watch amateur theatres from around the world during the international theater festival on Olkhon Island and feel the harmony of words and rhymes at the poetry festival.

In autumn, marvel at the colors of nature during the velvet season, meditate and enjoy the silence.

You can find more options for recreation in the «Types of travel» section of the website.

How to get to Lake Baikal

The easiest way to get to the lake is to depart from Irkutsk. A car, a bus, a minibus or a ship will take you to Listvyanka, Peschanaya Bay, Small Sea Strait, Olkhon Island, Baikalsk and Tunkinska Valley. «Raketa» pier in Irkutsk sends off regular ships to Chivyrkuyski Bay, Ust’-Barguzin and Severobaikalsk. A helicopter takes tourists to remote areas of Tofalaria and Shumak.

You can get to Irkutsk by car, by hitchhiking and by taking a plane or a train. A direct Moscow-Irkutsk flight takes 5–6 hours, and a flight from other Russian cities might take from 2 to 8 hours. A train from Moscow to Irkutsk will take about 3 days, and a train from Vladivostok takes the same amount of time.

Where to stay at Lake Baikal

Accommodation options at lake Baikal are countless. Put up a tent at picturesque beaches on Small Sea Strait, Olkhon Island or Peschanaya Bay if you’re content with a minimal amount of amenities. Rent a room at Arshan, in Khuzhir or in Bolshie Koty if you want to see how the locals live, to sleep well and to eat good food without paying much.

Stay in a hostel or a guest house if you think that a trip is meaningless if you don’t meet new friends every day. And if you value comfort above all else, choose an affordable hotel to your liking.

Book a room in advance, though, especially if you’re planning to travel in summer, during New Year holidays or on days of major festivals. Don’t forget to pack some good mood, too, and Baikal will greet you like an old friend.

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Иркутск весной

The spring at the lakeside is an amazing time to see the change of seasons. March still looks a lot like winter. In April, nature starts to slowly wake up from a long sleep. And in May, everything around you changes, exploding in hundreds of colors. Yellow lilies form pretty patterns of color. Rhododendrons cloud the hills with a pinkish haze not unlike Japanese sakura trees.

In addition to the natural beauty of the lake, there is always something interesting happening: festivals, performances, marathons. We picked the best springtime options for those who like to move a lot, to conquer the mountains and listen to good music.

Active adventures

International Baikal Ice Marathon

International Baikal Ice Marathon
International Baikal Ice Marathon. Photo by Masaki Nakamura

This is one of the most extreme marathons of the planet. Held in early March, it’s surrounded by full-on Siberian winter. The distance of 42 km 195 m is laid across the lake from Tanhoy to Listvyanka. People run on the layer of ice over the mile-deep vastness of Lake Baikal.

Participation is on a fee basis, available through pre-registration and requires certain level of health and fitness. You can find the details on the marathon’s website..

Mountaineering and Trekking

В ущелье Белого Иркута, район Мунку-Сардык
In the gorge of White Irkut, neighborhood Munku Sardyk. Photo by I. Kholmogortsev

In April, Baikal rocks heat up and shrug away the snow. Mountain climbers and avid trekkers go out to conquer new peaks and travel new routes. Many travel to the Sayan Mountains, Munku-Sardyk, Khamar-Daban, Shumak, Chivyrkuyski bay and other mountains, lakes and peaks.

However, inexperienced tourists should avoid hiking at Lake Baikal during the spring. Melting snow, slippery dirt and crumbling cliffs make Baikal trails much more dangerous. Use the services of local travel agencies instead. Take part in a regular organized tour with experienced instructors who will make sure you’re safe while you enjoy the spring at Lake Baikal.

ATVs

Поездка на квадроцикле
Riding on ATVs. Photo by baikal1.ru

In summer, many forest roads in the vicinity of Lake Baikal look like two deep parallel trenches. Those trenches sometimes reach a depth of one meter. But in the spring, the roads are still hard and cold, and taking an ATV ride is one of the best options for traveling and getting to hard to reach places. Even a child can handle the controls of an ATV, and the driver’s license is not required.

ATV rentals are almost everywhere. Irkutsk, Listvyanka and Olkhon Island all have them. One hour of rent costs around 1500 rubles. Rental offices offer guided tours and opportunities to travel independently.

Guided tours

Circum-Baikal Railway

Circum-Baikal Railway
Circum-Baikal Railway. Photo by fanatbaikala.livejournal.com

If you are new to the beauties of lake Baikal, treat yourself to a day trip on the famous Circum-Baikal Railway tourist train. While you enjoy the marvelous views from your window, the guides will tell you about the lake and show you Baikal-themed movies. When the train stops for short hiking detours, you’ll have an opportunity to stretch your feet, breathe in the air and take pictures.

A day trip costs about 3–4 thousand rubles. Please visit the website for a detailed route, pricing and schedules.

Amphibious boat trip

Amphibious boat trip
Amphibious boat trip. Photo by fanatbaikala.livejournal.com

When the ice becomes too thin for safe driving but the waterway is not available yet, you can rent out an amphibious hovercraft boat. The boat will take you over snow, ice, swamps and shallow waters with equal speed.

If a hostel offers tour services, it probably rents out amphibious boats as well. One boat can transport up to 6–8 people at a time. Average speed is 70 km/h, and a day of rent costs from 30 to 50 thousand rubles.

Mental relaxation

Bard song theater at Baikal Lake

Bard song theater in Listvyanka
Bard song theater in Listvyanka. Photo by Denis Kurenkov

This theater is located in Listvyanka on Ostrovsky str., 45. This is the only concert hall designed for bard song genre in Siberia. It holds concert lessons for schools and performances of famous artists. Weekend evenings are usually reserved for bard song concerts.

Attention!

Even if you are coming to Lake Baikal during the cold snowy days in March, bring along sunscreen and sunglasses.
Dress for the weather. During the spring, neither a fur hat nor thermal underwear will stay in your backpack. You’ll probably need swimwear, too.
Do not attempt to drive on Baikal ice in the spring. The ice thaws unevenly, and the car can easily break it and sink.
Bushes and grass hide hundreds of ticks in spring. Tuck your shirts into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks. Make time for an hourly head-to-toes check-up, and examine your body and hair each evening.

 

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Активный отдых на Байкале

2 000 kilometer-long coastline and an incredible landscape variety hint that any kind of traveler will find something to do here. We compiled a list of 8 different ideas for you not to be bored in your Baikal journey. Some of them are thrillingly extreme and some are blissfully tranquil.

For those who can’t live without a dose of adrenaline

Bycicle riding
Photo by 56thparallel.com

What to do?

  • Bike on trails of varying difficulty in the summer;
  • Bike on lake ice during winter;
  • Go rafting, kayaking and canoeing;
  • Go horse riding;
  • Go skiing;
  • Enjoy snowboarding and tobogganing;
  • Go dog sledding.

Where?

  • Listvyanka;
  • Bolshie Koty;
  • Baykalsk;
  • Circum-Baikal Railway;
  • Olkhon Island;
  • Severobaykalsk.

How much does it cost?

An extreme tour from a travel agency will cost you 3000–5000 rubles per day, depending on a tour. During independent bike tours, such as Baikal Bike Trophy, you’ll have to pay for lodging. Accommodations might be free or cost you up to 490 rubles in local hostels. The price of a weekend trip to Baikalsk starts at 1500 rubles, lift use not included.

Sunbathing and swimming

What to do?

Pitch a tent on a sandy beach. Rent a room or a house from the locals. Enjoy your life.

Where?

  • Maloe More;
  • Olkhon Island;
  • Barguzinsky and Chivyrkuisky bays.

How much does it cost?

Renting a house is 1000 rubles per day minimum. A hostel or a guest house cost from 500 rubles a day. Staying in a tent is free. If you don’t want to be surrounded by a dozen of cars and forced to listen to music you hate, make time to search for a secluded spot for yourself. Don’t hesitate to walk past tourist-preferred places. A hidden beach might be waiting just around the next corner. The best places, apart from Olkhon Island and Maloe More, are the sandy beaches from Maksimikha to Ust’-Barguzin.

Those who like waterway travel

What to do?

  • Go on a cruise;
  • Take pictures of Baikal;
  • Stop to explore caves and bays;
  • See it all from a whole different perspective

Where?

Ships departs from the «Raketa» pier at «Solnechni» district in Irkutsk. Buy a ticket and go anywhere you want, from Listvyanka to Nizhneangarsk.

How much does it cost?

From 700 to 4 800 rubles.

For those who love comfort

What to do?

Choose one of the many hostels to stay at. Make forays to examine the surroundings and local places of interest.

Where?

Anywhere along the coastline.

How much does it cost?

From 1 000 rubles a day.

When you browse for a hostel, do not rely on the information posted on its website or printed on handouts. Speak to the manager first. His or her manners will give you a good idea of how you’ll be treated during your stay. Ask about anything useful you can think of: food, amenities, Internet access, nearby pharmacies and entertainment.

The location of a hostel affects the price of accommodations. Don’t rush to reserve a room in a central hostel. Extra 200 meters will often help you save money. High competition doesn’t always affect the quality of services, though, so make sure to check out the reviews.

For ethnography, history and biology geeks

What to do?

Go to the museum, listen to a local guide, take part in an ethnographic or archaeological expedition, explore the ancient culture of the Baikal region.

Where?

  • Ethnographic museum complex «Taltsy» on the way from Irkutsk to Listvyanka;
  • Baikal Limnological Museum in Listvyanka;
  • Ivolginski temple in Ulan-Ude;
  • Olkhon Island and Buryatia ethnotours;
  • «Circum-Baikal Express» tourist train.

How much does it cost?

One visit to a museum costs from 100 rubles. A guide and a ticket to the tourist train cost from 1 900 rubles.

Museum staff seldom meets curious tourists, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. Ask about something they know about, and you’ll get a unique tour. Do your homework and read up on the places you plan to visit so you won’t miss anything.

If your spirit plant is tumbleweed

What to do?

  • Hike the trails;
  • Climb the mountains;
  • Go for a long hike;
  • Test yourself in the woods and get an unforgettable experience of a wild travel.

Where?

  • The coastline from Listvyanka to Bolshoi Goloustnoye;
  • The east coast;
  • Svyatoy Nos Peninsula;
  • Olkhon Island;
  • Severobaykalsk neighborhood — Lake Frolikha, Ayaya Bay, Cape Ludar, Sludyansky lake.

How much does it cost?

The minimal price of routine tourist life starts at 200 rubles per day, and if you want to hire a local guide, prepare to part with extra 700 rubles a day minimum.

Making your vacation help others

What to do?

Take part in the Great Baikal Trail project. Build eco-trails, help national parks and wildlife reserves, help restore cultural and architectural heritage.

Where?

Listvyanka — Bolshie Koty, Tankhoi, Olkhinskoe Plateau, Buguldeika, Ushkany Islands.

How much does it cost?

9 000 rubles for Russian volunteers. 305 euros for foreigners.

Seeking inspiration

What to do?

Visit one of the numerous theater, music or folk festivals at Lake Baikal (for example, Baikal Live). Stop by a creative workshop or an outdoors yoga seminar.

Where?

Olkhon Island, Bolshie Koty.

How much does it cost?

Ticket price for a festival starts at 400 rubles. Participation in master-classes costs from 2 500 rubles.

A trip to Baikal will open up new abilities you didn’t suspect you had.

Evidence shows that the amazing power and energy of the lake transform its guests. Don’t pick a journey type based on your knowledge of yourself. Do the opposite and make the journey shape you.

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Throughout the year, Baikal weather is remarkably volatile. Summertime bliss can turn into a windstorm at any moment.

The microclimate of Lake Baikal is similar to the seashore climate. Several factors contribute to this:

  • In summer, the waters warm up to a 300 meters depth. The heat is accumulated, just like in a battery;
  • Baikal gets many sunshine hours. For example, Olkhon Island only has 48 cloudy days a year;
  • Rivers Selenga, Barguzin and Verkhnyaya Angara warm up the coastal waters. In summer, some of the bays warm up to +22°C (71.6°F).

July and August are the best months for those who enjoy summer heat.

The sunniest places are Small Sea Strait, Peschanaya Bay on the west coast, and, of course, Olkhon Island, which is sunnier than the Black Sea resorts.

Early fall and the spring are perfect for a quiet hideaway. The weather is still good, but the majority of tourists have already gone. The time for extreme temperature changes, heavy rains and long winds comes later, in October and November. Gornaya wind is especially dangerous during those months, as its speed reaches 40-50 meters per second.

In winter, Baikal is traditionally cold, though still not as cold as Irkutsk. The snow and ice make it too beautiful for words. Travelers from around the world meet here as often as at the height of the summer tourist season.

Give yourself time to acclimate after you arrive to Irkutsk. Fatigue, a long flight, a change in climate and an altitude change can affect your overall well-being. Take a night’s rest in Irkutsk. Buy some clothes, medicine and other necessities for a trip to Baikal.

To make everything easier, we made a guide on how you should dress for a trip to Baikal.
Winds of Baikal are notoriously strong, too. Each of the winds has its own name: Barguzin, Kultuk, Sarma, Verkhovik and Gornaya. Gornaya is the strongest, and it comes most suddenly.

Summer maximum

+35 °C (95 °F)

Nighttime minimum

+3 °C … +5 °C (37.4 °F … 41 °F)

The average temperature during winter

–18 °C (–0.4 °F)

Give yourself time to acclimate after you arrive to Irkutsk. Fatigue, a long flight, a change in climate and an altitude change can affect your overall well-being. Take a night’s rest in Irkutsk. Buy some clothes, medicine and other necessities for a trip to Baikal.

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If mobile access is important for your travels, choose one of the more popular places for your vacation. Listvyanka, Bolshie Koty, Bolshoe Goloustnoe, Olkhon Island, Small Sea Strait and Arshan have the best connection quality. Yarka Island, Nizhneangarsk, Severobaykalsk and the east coast from Ust’-Barguzin to Kurbulik also have a signal. However, remote areas and wildlife sanctuaries only have satellite communication.

Baikal has the same service providers as Irkutsk:

  • Tele2
  • MTS
  • MegaFon
  • Beeline

They list Baikal as Far Eastern tariff zone. If you don’t want to turn on your roaming, buy a SIM card in Irkutsk. If you’re preparing for a long trip, put extra money on you cell. Only Listvyanka, Arshan, Small Sea Strait, Baikalsk, Slyudyanka and Severobaikalsk have ATMs and express payment machines.

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Listvyanka is a small village located on the western shore of the Baikal Lake at the source of the Angara River. This remarkable river is the only one that flows out of Baikal. It never freezes, and the source of the river is 863 meters wide, the widest one in the world.

Three centuries ago, Listvyanka was just a settlement with a winter cabin and a postal station. Today, Listvyanka is a noisy center of tourism where people come for the beautiful views, new experiences, Siberian delicacies and a feel of the legendary Baikal energy field.

The tourists like Listvyanka for its proximity to Irkutsk, a starting point for the majority of Baikal travelers. In just about 40–60 minutes on Baikalski highway, you’ll see the beautiful pristine lake right in front of you. Whether you’re coming for a three-hour tour or for a couple of days, you will not be bored for a second either way.

Listvyanka in one day

This landmark will be the first thing you see when you enter the village. The right side of the road has an observation desk with a viewpoint of the Angara river source and the Shaman Rock. The legend says that, when Angara ran off from her father Baikal to her fiancé Yenisei, Baikal threw this rock after her.

Shaman Rock
Shaman Rock. Photo by motorka.org
Not far from this site stands the Baikal Museum of Limnology, the only lake museum in Russian. Feel free to come inside for a visit — you won’t regret this decision. Here, you’ll spend hours looking at the wonders of underwater life in aquariums as tall as an average human. You’ll be able to have a virtual trip down the lake’s 1642 meters depth. You’ll see some rare exhibits of flora and fauna of Baikal under the microscope and look at the wild Baikal seals through a webcam.

Baikal seal
Baikal seal. Photo by pbase.com
If you want to meet some of the Baikal seals in person, visit the nerpinary on Gorki str., 101A. Those nice seals will dance, play musical instruments and even draw a painting to make you smile.

Baikal seal in the nerpinary
Baikal seal in the nerpinary. Photo by Alexander Sizov, pribaikal.ru
If you want to see the vastness of the lake from a great height, go up Chersky Peak along the asphalt road from the museum or take a chair lift from Kamenushka Pad’. Reach the arbor with its overview and you’ll see Lake Baikal in all its glory.

Along with the aforementioned Shaman Rock, you’ll see a white telescope in a distance. It is largest one out of the series of chromospheric telescopes in Russia. This telescope belongs to the Baikal Astrophysical Observatory on Partisanskaya St., 29, and you will not be able to get there without a prior appointment. To book a visit, call 8 (39–52) 42-82-65. Alternatively, you can just walk up the hill to the observatory and photograph the nature along the way. From the top of the mountain you’ll see a stunning view of Lake Baikal.

Байкальская обсерватория
Baikal Astrophysical Observatory. Large solar vacuum telescope. Photo by commons.wikimedia.org

If you can only make a one-day visit to Listvyanka, depart from Irkutsk no later than at 9 AM, and you’ll have enough time to enjoy yourself without any hurry

To visit the spiritual landmarks, go to Krestovaya Pad’. There stands the wooden Svyato-Nikolskaya Church, built by a merchant who narrowly managed to save his life during a storm. The church is active, so if you visit during a sermon, remember to follow the rules. Women should cover their hair. Men should remove their hats. Do not make noise or use the flash while taking pictures.

Свято-Никольская церковь на Байкале
Svyato-Nikolskaya Church. Photo by Vladimir Chokan
Krestovaya Pad’ has another landmark, too. Before you reach the bridge, you’ll find a retro-park of the Osipov family. Here, right next to old cars, you’ll see a milkman, a lamplighter, a stationmaster, a lady with a dog and other sculptures. All of them are made of simple iron, even though it feels like there was a magical mix or charm and kindness added during the construction process, too.

Exhibit of the retro-park
Exhibit of the retro-park. Photo by Sergey Nikitin

When you get hungry, visit the local market and try the famous Baikal cuisine of smoked omul and golomyanka

Selling smoked cisco in Lake Baikal
Selling smoked cisco in Lake Baikal. Photo by Denis Kurenkov

Try some pine nuts with honey or chocolate, too — and you won’t be able to find words to describe your pleasure. If you wish to take some with you, buy some smoked or salted fish, caviar, roasted nuts or Baikal herbal tea mixes.

Do not forget about the souvenirs made from leather, wood and Siberian gemstones. If you buy them from a market stall, don’t forget to haggle over prices, too.

Unique souvenirs, jewelry and Baikal-themed works are also up for sale in the Vladimir Plamenevski art gallery on Chapaev St., 76. Vladimir is a poet, an architect and an author of a unique art space, which welcomes all artists, photographers, writers and travelers from around the globe. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, visit the showroom of the gallery for a doze of beauty and spiritual atmosphere.

Listvyanka also has bears

No, they don’t walk the streets. The bears live in a home zoo on Gorki str., 3.

Bear in zoo
Bear in zoo. Photo by Vladimir Chokan

All of the zoo inhabitants are creatures with difficult fates. They enjoy attention, care and delicious condensed milk. Be sure to grab a jar of this milk before you visit the zoo, and you’ll make the bears very happy.

Listvyanka on a second day

If you stayed in the village overnight, come and see a performance in a bard song theatre, stop by a sauna or take a walk under the starry Baikal sky, and you’ll sleep like a baby. In the morning, go wherever your feet take you.

Bard song theater in Listvyanka
Bard song theater in Listvyanka. Photo by Denis Kurenkov
In love with the outdoors? Go scuba diving, rent a quad or a snowmobile, rent a ship.

Crazy about huskies and malamutes? The sled dog center on Kulikov str., 134a will make your day. Ride in the sleds, take part in Kani Cross and skijoring, take pictures and enjoy the time spent with these blue-eyed beauties.

The sled dog center in Listvyanka
The sled dog center in Listvyanka. Photo by Valeriy Sokolenko, fanatbaikala.livejournal.com
Is wandering around historical monuments something you love? Visit the open-air Taltsy museum. To get there, take a 631st bus or a 524th minibus from the bus station in Listvyanka, and you’ll reach the museum in 15 minutes.

Тальцы
Taltsy museum. Photo by Vladimir Chokan
Ready to take a hike in order to make unique discoveries? Walk the trail along the coastline until you reach the miners’ shelter in Chernaya Pad’, wash the sand, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find some specks of gold. The road to the shelter takes about 5–6 hours.

In another two hours of walking, you’ll see the Skriper Cliff caves that formed from the Jurassic sandstone. Board the boat to Bolshie Koty if you want to get there faster — from Koty, the walk will take about half an hour.

The boat is a convenient means of traveling around the nearby places. If you buy a waterway ticket, you can swim along the Listvennichnaya bay, get to Port Baikal or Peschanaya bay.

How to get to Listvyanka from Irkutsk

By car

Take the Baikalski highway. Travel time is around 40–60 minutes.

By bus

Take a 524th minibus route from the Irkutsk bus station. The ride lasts for an hour. Before you plan your trip, check up on the schedule by calling 8 (39–52) 50-03-66, 8 (39-52) 603-303, 8 (902) 51-03-303.

Waterway

During the summer, you can take the Barguzin ship which travels from the «Raketa» Irkutsk pier to Bolshie Koty. Travel time is 1.5 hours. For the exact schedule and ticket prices, please visit the East Siberian River Shipping Company website.

Where to stay in Listvyanka

Europe hotel
Mayak hotel. Photo by Vladimir Chokan

The village offers a wide range of available accommodations, varying from hostel beds for 600 rubles a night up to the 6 700 rubles a night luxury hotel suites.

Affordability is not the main reason the tourists choose to stay in a hostel. A lot of movement, a lot of small happenings and opportunities for forming new friendships make the hostels busy and leave almost no rooms vacant. If you want a cozy atmosphere with breakfast specialties, book a room in a mini-hotel or a boarding house. And if you prefer high-comfort vacations, choose a hotel or a resort. There, you’ll have no difficulties finding a vacant room, but you should book a place in advance nonetheless.

Olkhon is the largest island out of the thirty islands or Baikal, and it is also the only one that is inhabited. This is a place of powerful energy and cosmic magnetism. The island ensnares people with its legends like a wise old man who possesses the knowledge of the ancient secrets. Olkhon is believed to be the place where the first Buryat shaman got his powers, and some still search for a cave where the great and terrible Genghis Khan was laid to rest. In contrast to the mighty Khan, the locals are peaceful and hospitable. They rent their rooms to the tourists, feed them heartily and tell them the stories and legends of Olkhon.

Khoboy Cape — northern extremity of Olkhon
Khoboy Cape — northern extremity of Olkhon

The name of the island translates from the Buryat language as «having little forest»

This name is accurate. Forests of pine, birch and larch only grow in the central part of the island, while the northern and southern parts of Olkhon lay bare.

The summer is the best time for a vacation on Olkhon. Burning sun, rainless weather and a complete lack of mosquitoes make the island an especially great vacation spot. A winter vacation has an obvious setback of severe Siberian winter coldness. If you’re mentally and physically prepared to face this kind of weather, visit winter Olkhon and be rewarded with a view of the breathtaking landscape of icy caves and crystal-clear Baikal ice.

Things to do

Burkhan Cape on Olkhon
Burkhan Cape on Olkhon

Olkhon is a perfect place for a lazy vacation of swimming, sunbathing, stargazing and meditation. The island provided various vacation opportunities for those who aren’t used to sticking to one place. The choices are numerous, varying from horse-riding and quad-biking to hiking and taking tours of the island.

Olkhon has 143 historical monuments, which is more than anywhere else in the Baikal region. If you want to feel the spirit of this place in all its glory, visit Burkhan Cape, one of the nine Asian sanctuaries. This cape is also commonly called the Shamanka Rock. Only the shamans could enter the cave inside Shamanka in older times, but now the tourists can visit it, too. Children and pregnant women should stay away from the cave, though — the energy of the place is too strong.

Olkhon has many wooden poles with colored ribbon tied around them

These poles are serghe, symbols of the tree of life and places of spirit worship. As soon as you enter the island, find a serghe and appease the spirits by sprinkling the pole with milk or tarasun (milk vodka), and your vacation will be a success.

Visit the Khoboy Cape for some truly breathtaking scenery. This cliff looks like a sharp fang, and it provides the best view of the Barguzinski bay, Svyatoy Nos peninsula, Ryty Cape and Ushkanii islands, where Baikal seals bask in the sunlight. The Love Cliff is only 4 kilometers away from the Khoboy Cape. Visit this cliff if you want to conceive a child in the near future.

The miracles of Olkhon Island do not end here. A unique spruce forest on the western slope of the Zhima mountain grows there since the Ice Age. Sagan-Khushin Cape is comprised or pure white marble. Shara-Nur lake is famous for its healing muds and unique waters. The Buddhist Enlightenment Stupa on Ogoi Lake is a place where people travel specifically to make a wish.

The more your learn about Olkhon, the more unique and attractive it seems. It is no coincidence that the tourists from around the world come back here again and again, confident that any time wasted on the road is absolutely worth meeting Olkhon again.

How to get to Olkhon

Ferry to Khuzhir
Ferry to Khuzhir

Since Olkhon is an island, the road to it consists of three parts. The first is getting to the ferry, the second one is a ferry ride and the last one is getting to the place you want to visit. You can get to the ferry by taking a bus or a minibus, by car or a taxi, or by waterway. If you wish to, you can hike or ride a bike through all 300 kilometers from Irkutsk to Olkhon.

The cheapest public transportation option is a 507th route bus that departs from the Irkutsk bus station. This summer, these buses depart at 8.30, 9:00, 9.30, 10:00, 10.30 and 11:00. However, you should still call 8 (3952) 50-03-66, 8 (39-52) 603-303, 8 (902) 51-03-303 to verify the departure schedule since it may change from time to time. A one-way fare is 475 rubles.

Commercial minibuses also travel to Khuzhir, departing from Timiryazev Street bus stop and from the Central Market. The ride will cost 600-800 rubles. Additionally, you may travel by bus that departs from the «Trud» stadium. The ride costs 1000 rubles per person and the seats must be booked in advance at 8 (3952) 70-70-17.

If you take a car on Kachugski highway from Irkutsk to the ferry and then to Khuzhir, the road will take about 5–6 hours. Buses pass the queue without having to wait in line, but the cars will have to wait for their turn for a long time, especially if you’re travelling during the most popular tourist season.

The «Barguzin» ship departs to Khuzhir from Irkutsk pier «Raketa» during the summer. The road takes 6 hours. The exact schedule of the ride can be found on the website of the East Siberian River Shipping Company.

During winter, cars travel to Olkhon by ice. But when the ice is settling or melting, a plane is the only way people can get to the island.

Where to stay on the island

Rock «Fang» at Cape Burhan. Khuzhir
Rock «Fang» at Cape Burhan. Khuzhir

Tourists usually stay in Khuzhir, the largest and the most civilized village on the island. Khuzhir provides all sorts of wares and rental services for a comfortable and fun vacation: shops, markets, cafes, internet access, bike rentals and tourism equipment. If you don’t speak Russian, you can hire an English-speaking guide.

The housing in Khuzhir varies from small rooms in private houses with shared toilets outdoors to hotel rooms with all amenities available. The demand for the mini-hotel rooms is high — book them in advance. But if you prefer camping, put up a tent in any beautiful spot and enjoy every second of living to the beat of the heart of Baikal.

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A Circum-Baikal Express trip is a must-have journey for Baikal first-timers. But if you’d prefer to take a leisurely walk along the Circum-Baikal railway, to test your courage in the darkness of 500-meter tunnels or to take a swim in the ice-cold Baikal, you’d be better off buying a ticket to Temnaya Pad’ and hiking to Staraya Angasolka.

The wooden chapel, Roerich Museum and scenic trails

A train trip from Irkutsk to Temnaya Pad’ takes 2 hours and 40 minutes. Getting to the Lake Baikal from the station is easy. Even if you don’t have a map of the route, you can always follow the others. Each day, about a dozen tourists walk the trail, and you won’t get lost following them, especially in the summer.

After you pass along the railway to the beginning of the trail, you’ll have to descend down a long and steep trail. The rest of the road is smooth and easy. After an hour-long hike, you’ll be in Staraya Angasolka.

Staraya Angasolka
Staraya Angasolka. Photo by Valery Sokolenko, fanatbaikala.livejournal.com

When you get to Angasolka, make a stop to take a look at the Roerich Museum and the old chapel of St. Nicholas. If you get tired, you can stop by the local hostel. Afterwards, you can follow the railway to see the quaint tunnels, viaducts, bridges and galleries of the Circum-Baikal Railway.

Mysterious tunnels, Ptichi Bazaar and the mystery of the Temnaya Pad’

If you stand facing the lake and then walk to the left, towards Port Baikal, you’ll get to the longest tunnels of the Circum-Baikal railway. Some of the tunnels are pitch-black with no lights visible from either ends. Local pranksters have been using this eerie darkness to their advantage for decades, jumping out of wall niches to scare random passers-by.

Tunnel of the Circum-Baikal Railway
Tunnel of the Circum-Baikal Railway. Photo by Valery Sokolenko, fanatbaikala.livejournal.com

Legends and myths surround these tunnels. One of the stories warns people against turning around after hearing the sound of unfamiliar footsteps behind. If you do turn around, the legend says, you’ll see the local monster — a humanoid figure whose arms reach the floor. And if you ever see it, you’ll never make it out of the tunnel alive. You might actually hear some footsteps when you walk down some of the longest tunnels. But be not afraid. Those sounds are just distorted echoes of your own footsteps.

About nine kilometers from Angasolka, you’ll see the Ptichi Bazaar cliff, a place where the herring gulls nest. You can climb these rocks if you go through the tunnels. This cliff, as many of the other Baikal landmarks, is protected by the government as a monument of nature.

Ptichi Bazaar cliff
Ptichi Bazaar cliff. Photo by Valery Sokolenko, fanatbaikala.livejournal.com

Don’t forget to keep track of time, as there’s only one train back to Irkutsk. If you get back to the station a bit early, descend down the trail again to understand how Temnaya Pad’ station got its name — Temnaya Pad’ translates as «The Dark Fall». If you get the timing right, you’ll get to see the incredible sight of the trail being engulfed by darkness in just about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, at the station up the trail, the sun will be as bright and cheerful as before.

  • Climb down to Baikal coastline only if you see a well-trodden trail. At a first glance, some of those rocky stepstones might seem reliable, but you shouldn’t count on luck. The cliffs are treacherous, and the seemingly trustworthy rocks might crumble under your feet.
  • Give your clothes a quick check-up every now and then, as Temnaya Pad’ is infested by ticks.
  • Watch your steps. Venomous snakes inhabit both the woods and the coastline.
  • Don’t make campfires. The undergrowth in Temnaya Pad’ is thick and dry, and even a small ember might start a fire.