Why to visit Lake Baikal?
Baikal is the World’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. Can you imagine that it contains 20% of the World’s total unfrozen freshwater reserve? Unusual freshwater faunas, snow-capped mountains and breathtaking beauty. This is Lake Baikal!
Lake Baikal is surrounded by small villages along the shore. Lake also has many islands, from which the biggest one is Olkhon Island.
You can reach Olkhon Island easily from Irkutsk by taking the bus or the minivan. At the moment the bus costs 750 rubl (2018 data), you can buy tickets in the Central Bus Station. Minivan price is 1000 – 1500 rubl and it’s possible to book it in Irkutsk’s Tourism Information Centre or just take the minivan on the spot by the Central Bus Station. You can also try to hitchhike! The ferry that transfers vehicles and people to the island is totally for free.
Olkhon Island is a great place to enjoy the nature and feel the magnificent energy of the lake. The island is considered to be the heart of the Lake Baikal, and it`s enfolded in ancient legends and misteries. The island is protected by the Baikal cold waters, so it has kept traditions longer than other places around. According to the legend, the first Buryat shaman got its powers at Olkhon. So to the present day, Olkhon Island has a reputation of the place where Baikal’s formidable spirits live.
There are many tours to take on this island, remember to visit the most well-known sites, e.g. The Burkhan Cape that is one of nine holy places in Asia. According to the legends, the keeper of Olkhon, the Greatest Spirit, lives in a cave of the cape. You will definitely be stunned by this place and this island in general. Such a magnificence!
Baikal’s age and isolation has produced one of the World’s richest faunas, e.g. nerpa is the World’s only freshwater seal and can be found only in Lake Baikal.
Written in UNESCO World Heritage sites, Lake Baikal sinks to a depth of 1.6 metres, supports more than 1000 animals and hundreds of endemic plants. 350 rivers flow in the Lake Baikal, but only one flows out of it.
Baikal is surrounded by mountains that offer breathtaking views. There are several wooden houses with a room just for you, though for now they are generally with outside bathroom and toilet, so be prepared for it, if you come in a chilly season. Also WiFi is something exclusive on the island.
How to get back to Irkutsk? You can book a minivan in your hotel or in Olkhon Info Centre that is located in the biggest village of Khuzhir – it will cost you 1000 rubl (2018 data). But there are also municipal buses going back to Irkutsk. More often in the warm season, though once per day also in autumn and spring. You can buy the ticket for 750 rubl in the small bus ticket cabin by the market “Gastronom” in Khuzir village. A recommendation: do not bother to buy an extra place for your luggage as it might not even appear on your ticket. Here everything can be discussed with the driver.
The nearest place by the Lake Baikal from Irkutsk is Listvyanka. Enjoy a hike in the Great Baikal Trail in the summer and ice-skating or dog-sledding in the winter time!
You can get to Listvyanka by minibus from the Central Market or Central Bus Station of Irkutsk. It takes about 1 hour of ride and 140 rubl. During the warm season the buses leave every thirty minutes or more often whenever they are full.
Listvyanka village consists of small wooden houses, many tourist shops and hostels. You can choose several tours like horseback rides, boat tours or excursions to the more remote parts of the lake. There is also sightseeing platform, fish market and beautiful scenery all around! And don’t forget about the Great Baikal Trail! The path leaves from Listvyanka village and is 55 km in lengths.
Near this village you will find Circum-Baikal railway that goes around the lake.
Get back to Irkutsk from the parking near “Mayak” hotel in Listvyanka. Minibuses leave every thirty minutes till six in the evening.
Small villages with wooden houses, rocky islands, endemic species and spirits of the lake. Heaven for wild animals and fish, and just something spectacular for your eyes and soul!