Baikal Irkutsk Trans Siberian

Baikal Information

On this page: General Info ; Getting to Baikal ; Transport around Baikal ; Destinations ; Travel Services 

On other pages: Baikal Tours ; How to Plan a Trip ; Listvyanka Guide ; Olkhon Guide ; Circum-Baikal Trains

Lake Baikal is unique in many aspects. It is the deepest and largest in volume fresh water lake in the world. By volume of water it is only behind salty-water Caspian Sea which possesses many features of the lake. Baikal is the deepest lake with the major depth of 1,642 m (5,387 ft or approx. 1 mile). And it has the largest average depth among all world’s lakes. Its average depth is 744.4 m (2,442 ft). Scientists report that the lake hold roughly 20% of all surface fresh water and 80% of fresh water deposits of Russia. This is more then in all five of the North American Great Lakes. Baikal is completely surrounded by tall mountain ranges which caused its isolated eco-system to undergo its own evolution. This explains the fact that 84% of all specious found at the lake are endemic. More about the lake

Though the very northern extremity lies on the same latitude as Moscow the climate here is much more severe then in European part of Russia. Winters here are extremely cold, however summer months can be very warm and enjoyable. The warmest period of the year is July and first half of August. Average summer temperatures are +18…+22 C (+64.4… +72 F) while some weeks especially in July it can be up to +30… +35 C (+86, +95 F). More about the weather

In late August in gets colder and often rains. Still September is mild and can be a good period of time for excursion tours, but not for leisure and swimming in the lake's water. October and November is a season of storms, it is normally really windy and gloomy. Winter months are very severe. When it gets warmer in late February and March but ice did not start to melt yet it is considered to be a great season for winter fun including ice-fishing, dog-sledding, snowmobiling and many other activities. More about the climate

Traveling to Baikal

Lake Baikal is located in the middle of Eurasian continent between Irkutsk Region to the west and northwest of the lake and Buryatia to the southeast and east of the lake. Most of the tourists visit the destination via Irkutsk airport which is only 65 km (41 miles) west from the lake. As soon as transport infrastructure is rapidly developing, one can also reach the east coast of Lake Baikal via Ulan-Ude (Baikal airport). Both Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude are international airports, however, they have only few international flights mostly to the nearby Asian counties. There are numerous flights from Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude to all of three major Moscow airports that are considered to be the gateway for international flights to Russia. More about air flights

The Trans-Siberian railway was laid around the most southern extremity of the lake. It passes Irkutsk, then goes through small cities of Slyudyanka and Baikalsk on the lake waterside and continues along the eastern shore of the lake to Ulan-Ude. All the trains that go along the Trans-Siberian stop in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. Some of the slower trains also make a stop in Slyudyanka – the small city from where the Circum-Baikal railway journeys start - and Baikalsk which is in turn a popular alpine ski resort in winters being located on a foothill of Khamar-Daban mountain range. The majority of visitors although prefer to disembark either in Irkutsk or Ulan-Ude to start Baikal trip with sightseeing in these cities and then proceed to the lake. See Traveling to Lake Baikal by train and more articles on Trans-Siberian train travel

Transport at Baikal

Once in Irkutsk or Ulan-Ude, there is extensive number of options to reach Lake Baikal. Many people choose to travel to the lake on private tourist coach or car or by extensive public transport routes. However, there is no automobile road that goes around the lake, nor even a round-Baikal trekking or cycling path. While the Trans-Siberian railway and highway tracks gird the most southern extremity of the lake making it easily available, the western shore is much less accessible. There are radial dead end roads from Irkutsk to Listvyanka Settlement, Bolshoe Goloustnoe Settlement and Olkhon Island. On eastern shore of the lake the automobile road goes all the way up to Ust-Barguzin at Barguzinskiy Bay in the middle portion of the lake with thousands of campers found along the shore during summers.

The most northern end of the lake where the cities of Severobaikalsk and Nizhneangarsk are located is touched by Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) - the strategic alternative to the Trans-Siberian that is too close to the boarder with China. Severobaikalsk is also served by domestic regional jet flights from Ulan-Ude airport.

All the rest of destinations especially in the middle and northern sections of the crescent shaped lake are a complete wilderness. The remote spots can be reached only by water transportation during yachts and boat cruises that are started mainly from Listvyanka. Or alternatively hydrofoil-ferry company in Irkutsk serves several routes along the lake by the river boats. Some of those routes like the one to Peschanaya (Sandy) Bay lead passengers to the pristine area untouched by development and auto campers. The others like the routes to Olkhon Island and Ust-Bargizin may become a much enjoyable alternative to dusty and bumpy local roads.

Tourist Destinations

Listvynka Settlement. Listvyanka is a small settlement at the lake waterside. It is located 65 km (41 mi) from Irkutsk international airport at the place of the Angara river source. Listvyanka is considered to be the most visited destination at Lake Baikal. It offers numerous outdoor activities, museum and sightseeing opportunities for tourists along with the best available accommodations at Baikal. Most of first-time visitors start their trip here. It is also the place where most of Baikal boat and yacht fleet is situated and thus all cruises started.

Listvyanka is a great place to see the lake at a first glance, learn about the culture and history of the area and enjoy magnificent views of the lake with distant snow-capped Khamar-Daban Mountains on the lake opposite side. However, in summer weekends it may be very overcrowded by day-time visitors who arrive from Irkutsk for waterside picnic with smoked Baikal fish. Our advice is to walk a few kilometers away along the main road of Listvyanka that goes along the lake shore. Soon after the dead end of Irkutsk – Listvyanka highway one can find secluded rocky beaches to admire more peaceful sceneries of the lake. More about Listvyanka

Olkhon Island. Olkhon Island located half way from south to north of Lake Baikal has become one of the most popular tourist destinations at the lake. The island separates the shallow and warm waters of the Maloe Morye (Small Sea) strait from the lake main water body. This made Olkhon a very popular lakeside resort for Russians during summer time. Besides that, Olkhon Island is the ancient sacral center for Shamanist believers. Indigenous Buriat people worship many spiritual sites here including the Burkhan Cape that is probably the most famous landmark of Baikal.

Olkhon Island was connected to electricity only a few years ago, and Khuzhir the main settlement on the island is recently experiencing the tourist boom due to the rapidly developing hotel infrastructure, beautiful sceneries of the lake and warm sandy beaches along the shallow bays. One may also consider visiting Olkhon during late winter when cars drive to the island across the incredibly transparent ice till the late April instead of taking the regular ferry connection. More about Olkhon Island

Circum-Baikal Railroad. Circum-Baikal Railroad is a historical railway track laid along the steep north-western shore of the lake from port Baikal at Angara headwaters to Slyudianka settlement at the most southern extremity of the lake. It contains over 420 engineering constructions including 39 tunnels, numerous bridges and supporting walls made of rocks and iron that have been built without machines using only human power. It took such enormous funding to finish this part of Trans-Siberian Railway that it was often called “The golden buckle of the steel belt of Russia”.

Circum-Baikal railway is accessible during one-day trips from Listvyanka which is connected by ferry to port Baikal – the starting point of the railway. Many local visitors get off the local suburban train at Temnaya Pad (Hollow) station in a short distance before Sludyanka at the southern end of Lake Baikal and hike down to the Circum-Baikal along a creek valley. Russian Railway company also operates one-day train tours four days a week during summer season and two-day weekend tourist train along this disused railway track.

East of Baikal. The area to the northeast of Baikalsk is a part of Buryatia Republic which is one of Russian Federal subjects. Unlike rough and rocky shores on Irkutsk side of the lake the area is a flat plain and used to be a place where cattle-breeders from local population lived for many centuries. Many shallow bays are found along the way including Proval (Abyss), Posolsky Sor, Barguzinskiy and Chivirkuiskiy Bays renowned for their warm waters and sandy beaches. Since the area is easily accessible by car the bays’ shores turn into dense tent cities during summer season. Being popular among locals these places do not draw attention of many foreign visitors due to its remoteness from major tourist infrastructure, however, some really comfortable and modern lodgings and accommodations can also be found here in some 200 km (125 mi) from Ulan-Ude.

Accommodation and Travel Itineraries

We can offer to our guests over 200 accommodation options in Irkutsk and Lake Baikal area. Those are various hotels, lodges, guesthouses, summer camps, log cabins, tourist cottages, etc. Most of these accommodations work with Russian market only and do not offer full list of amenities that most of western travelers are used to. It is probably enough to mention that a bathroom with flashing toilet and running cold and hot water in the guestroom is still not a must for Russian tourist market.

On this web-site we carefully select and list only the best accommodations that could be the most appropriate choice for demanding tourists from abroad. All of these accommodations feature in-room facilities that is still rare in this area. These hotels specialize in hosting guests from abroad having English-speaking personnel at the front desks, good choice of continental or American breakfast, king-size or queen-size beds, and other useful amenities. While the others may be simple, but very nice almost homestay options. And all of them have the experience in international hospitality.   

We have direct contacts with all of these hotels and lodges which allows us to have a prompt reply on room availability and reserve rooms at the best offered rates. If you like any of the options email us a request and we will be happy to arrange it for you. We will suggest transfer and excursion program to make your stay more enjoyable.  If you did not find the accommodation you desire or you know about please do not hesitate to contact us for even more options. 

On the other hand, if you are in search of some trip itinerary ideas or if you would rather prefer escorted tours to Lake Baikal we always have the variety of our fully-guided travel itineraries offered in our tours section. We are very flexible and ready to provide you a list of ideas for your vacations on our small-group and individual tours.

Contact us for more information on your incredible discovery and adventure tour to Lake Baikal!