Bolshiye Koty Guide
Bolshiye Koty settlement is situated on the western shore of Lake Baikal some 16 km (10 mi) north-east from Listvyanka along the lake shoreline. The history of the village is closely connected with a gold rush period at Lake Baikal. Starting from 1841, gold was mined at the western shore of Baikal for over 50 years. Though, it did not prove to be a real success. All mines where abandoned by the early XX century. Today, the settlement consists of a few houses belonging to permanent residents, a dozen of summer huts and the biology research institution owned by Irkutsk State University where natural science students come in the summer for internships.
How to Get There
Although Bolshiye Koty is located very close to Listvyanka settlement it is still considered to be a remote destination at Lake Baikal. During winter time when the ice gets thick enough to support the weight of a vehicle, locals drive from Listvyanka to Bolshie Koty and back on the lake surface. The ice road becomes the official public road when it is opened in mid-January. In the summer locals and visitors can access the village by off-road vehicles across the mountain pass or by water transport. Ferry to Bolshiye Koty is the only official form of transport to the village from May till September. Virtually half of the year the village has no official access. In spring and fall time one can reach it only by hiking there. When we have elections, for instance, authorities sent a helicopter to deliver ballot box to the polling station at Bolshiye Koty.
Visiting Bolshiye Koty during a single day tour from Listvyanka can be a very good experience once you do not have much time available to explore different destinations around the lake. Even a day spent here will let you enjoy lake sceneries at the wilderness and leave an impression of Baikal away from overcrowded Listvyanka with all the museums, restaurants and modern hotels. We can offer a whole-day hiking trip from Listvyanka to Bolshie Koty. The trip takes about 3-4 hours for experienced hikers and some 5-6 hours for the beginners. Most of our clients cover this distance in 5 hours and spend another couple of hours relaxing on the shore while lunch is being prepared at a campfire.
Our guide will pick you up from your hotel in Listvyanka and lead you through a forest trail across a mountain pass. The first part of the trail climbs uphill. However, elevation is not too high; the track still goes at the foot of Primorsky (Maritime) mountain range. This segment of the way is probably the toughest one. If you have telescopic hiking poles this may help. It is still fine if not since the route does not require any equipment or special training. The rest of about two thirds of the track proceeds along the lake shoreline on a relatively easy and nice passage. One the way through there will be nothing, but Siberian forest and picturesque secluded shoreline of the lake.
If you are not really fond of hiking we can substitute this for other activities. We offer the same trip on four-wheelers (ATV) or by horseback riding. Alternatively, you can cover the distance to Bolshiye Koty by water on sea touring kayaks. Some people believe this is more fun than simply hiking. Though, all these activities are certainly somewhat more expensive.
When arriving to Bolshiye Koty you can choose to stay there for an overnight. There aren't many accommodation options in the village. These are mostly rooms for rent in locals’ cottages or very basic huts built to provide a shelter for tourists during the summer. However, our most common choice here is “Baikal Chalet in Koty” which is a small 8 room guesthouse located only 150 m (490 ft) from the waterside. This is the only property in Bolshiye Koty settlement that has private amenities with running hot and cold water. Here you can relax after hiking trip and wash off your tiredness in the most traditional Russian way by visiting hot Russian banya (steam sauna). Being a really small place Bolshiye Koty does not have any restaurants to dine out, so most of accommodations include full board meals into the room rate. Double room in “Baikal Chalet” costs USD 175 per night with meals.
One may choose to spend night at a lodge here or take off back to Listvyanka or Irkutsk the same day by hydrofoil boat. Ferry schedule may vary somewhat throughout the season depending of month and weekday. Tickets for the return trip from Bolsiye Koty can be purchased on board of the hydrofoil. However, we strongly suggest buying tickets in advance for the reserve way to guarantee seats on Sunday nights and virtually on any other day during peak tourist season.