About Lake Baikal

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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.