Lake Baikal is the deepest and one of the biggest lakes in the world and one of the major attractions on the Trans-Siberian railroad. But it can also be the subject of a week-long trip. In summer, Baikal is a very popular destination and places like Listvyanka can be quite disappointing when they are busy. This is why we have chosen a few places where you can find peace and serenity to enjoy the beauty of Baikal.
It takes about 5–6 hours by road to reach Olkhon Island, a major attraction on Lake Baikal and even in Russia. The west coast and its steppe contrast sharply with the mountainous landscape on the eastern shore. The sun shines abundantly and the pure air makes for exceptional views, no matter where you are on the island. Admire the deep blue lake and mountain ranges with peaks up to 2,500 metres above sea level and a visibility range of 10 km.
Visit Lake Baikal to see the seals which are one of just three species of freshwater seals in the world. They appeared here during the Ice Age. During the summer, the seals get warm on the stoney beaches. The biggest colony is found on the Uchkani Islands, but they can also be found on Olkhon Island. An experienced guide will bring you to visit these colonies and teach you how to get close to the seals without being spotted by these fearful creatures.
You can stop to visit the Tazheransky Steppe on the way to Olkhon. The region is distinguished by its archaeological sites and picturesque bays. The roads are dirt tracks and the area is only accessible throughout the year in 4x4 vehicles, safeguarding it from tourism. You can stay in a local farmhouse or a comfortable hotel in the Aya Bay.
From Ulan Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic, there is an excellent road to the lakeshore that is less popular with tourists. Beyond the Barguzin River is the wildest of Baikal’s shores and the Chivyrkuisky Bay, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful places on Lake Baikal. There are no hotels, but you can stay at a local’s home where they will serve you fresh fish for dinner.
Lake Baikal has two main arrival points: the city of Irkutsk on the western shore and Ulan Ude in Buryatia on the eastern shore. The two cities are connected to Moscow by regular flights (6 hours by plane) and are both located on the path of the famous Trans-Siberian. You can also take the train from Moscow (3 days on board) or from Saint Petersburg, before moving on to Vladivostok or Beijing via Mongolia.
For a short 4-day trip, you will have to choose between Listvyanka and Olkhon Island. Listvyanka is easy to get to by car (70 km) or hydrofoil (1h30). From Listvyanka, there are several excursions possible: the historical Circumbaikal railroad, the Chersky Peak or the Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture. Olkhon Island can be reached by car or hydrofoil.
Continue your journey with a visit to Buryatia and Ulan Ude on the Trans-Siberian. Unfortunately at the moment, the coast is not accessible over water. Regular boats between Ust-Barguzin and Irkutsk are currently not running.