Irkutsk to Lake Baikal

Irkutsk city is only 70 km away from Listvyanka, a small settlement on the shore of Lake Baikal. Listvyanka is the most popular destination, because of the distance, the most crowded in summer. Don’t be scared, there are still moments when a traveler can enjoy a quiet moment with nature.

Ship near Listvyanka

Usually, it is a day trip to Listvyanka from Irkutsk. Guided in a private car or solo trip on a public minibus. Both can be fun and exciting if this is the first time for you to meet with Baikal.

It is even possible to go to cape Khoboy on Olkhon Island in 1 day and see the widest place of Baikal. It will be a tough trip, about 15 hours, but it is worth it if you are ok with a lot of car time.

The road to Olkhon Island itself is an adventure. Steppes and mountains, rivers and small lakes on the way. 2-kilometer ferry ride across Olkhon Gates straight and then an offroad adventure on the Island.

Cape Khoboy

Outdoor picnic lunch in a beautiful location makes the day. 360 degrees panoramic views are mindblowing.

Another one-day destination is Arshan settlement 120 km away from the south shore of Lake Baikal. Arshan is located at the feet of the mountains that form part of Sayan mountain range.

Road to the south from Irkutsk to Kultuk village is also called Kultuk road, one of the hardest part of the federal road from Moscow to Vladivostok. It is the beginning of the federal road Baikal, from Irkutsk to Chita city with Ulan-Ude city in the middle.

Road to Arshan

Road to Arshan from Kultuk goes through Tunka valley, surrounded by mountains it connects Baikal and Mongolian Lake Khuvsugul. The Sayan Mountains in the north and Khamar Daban Mountain range in the south. Mountains surround the valley of the sleeping volcanoes, mountain rivers, and healing water springs, this makes the location popular among Russian people.

Great Baikal Trail

One of the best things to do at Lake Baikal is to go for a hike. In this case, everyone must know about the Great Baikal Trail. Result of this organization is the system of trails around the Lake. Specially created for eco-tourists, this provides a great opportunity for people who like to discover nature on foot.

Here is the list to trails and description:

https://greatbaikaltrail.org/en/tropi/

Arshan Holy Waters

Arshan is a small town, south of Irkutsk. The road to Arshan goes through Kultuk town, the most southern part of Lake Baikal. Remains of Circum Baikal railroad go from here to Baikal village by the very shore of the lake. From Kultuk we turn right and using the road that leads to Western Mongolia we reach Arshan village in the foundation of Sayan Mountains. Only 150 kilometers is left to reach Russian-Mongolian border, which is so tiny in terms of Russia.

Kultuk town

Arshan is a place in the Buryatiya Republic, it is another region next to the Irkutsk region. Local people are called Buryat People. Buryats are relatives to Mongolian people, but they have their own language, customs, and way of life. The abundance of rivers, lakes, and forests made these people different from the nomads of the Mongolian steppe. Also here is the northern territories of Tibetan Buddhism culture. Local faith is based on the teachings and wisdom of Buddha mixed with shamanism. Russian population in majority refer to the Christian religion. Russian Orthodox tradition is dominating with magnificent churches and rich temples.

Arriving to Arshan

On arrival to Arshan, we usually have lunch in the local Buryat cafe. The meals are very simple but fresh and well cooked. Food, in general, is mild and not spicy, but hot and soy sauce usually present on the table. Simple lamb soup with little bits of vegetables. ‘Pozy’ which look like big dumplings with a mix of pork and beef meat inside are steam cooked and are eaten with hands. Also different kind of pastry with meat or other stuffings. Regular salads can be easily found anywhere. Also side dishes like potato, pasta or rice. Berry juice with water and sugar is very popular, also tea, coffee, beer…

Kyngarga river waterfall

After lunch, we head to visit holy waters of Kyngarga river with mineral springs all over the place. Roaring river with high rocks and forest on both shores. There is also a nice trekking opportunity to go and see the waterfalls up in the mountain. 2 kilometers total there and back. It is a great walk after a long ride in a car.

Then our road leads to the buddhist temple of Bodhidharma. Very beautiful location, calm and peaceful place. Small shop with Buddhist souvenirs and ritual items. It is possible to meet Lamas — locals who take care of the temple, some of them are from Mongolia and Tibet.

The next big thing on this trip is to swim in the hot mineral water pool. Zhemchug village is the location near Arshan where Hot water baths were built in Soviet Union times and now it is a popular place for local people and travelers from all over the world to go and experience a hot mineral water bath. The water is not extremely hot. It is recommended to take a bath there not more than 15 minutes. There are no public showers at the spot. Everything is organized in a very poor manner, but it is manageable and actually is a lot of fun. Entrance fee is 250 RUB per person. It is possible to take a swim at any time of the year. Swimming in winter is much better: fewer people and more exciting. After swimming, you will feel like you went to a sauna. It is a very relaxing effect.

There is more to explore

There is a Space observation facility, beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes and vast endless valley which leads to Mongolia. Spots with mind-blowing panoramic views. Wild nature with rich healthy air. Street market with local and Mongolian goods.

The recommended time span is 2 days total and 1 night in Arshan. But it is possible to go there and back in one day. The tour is available all year on any day.

All in one: Irkutsk, Baikal, Olkhon Island, Arshan

Ferry to Olkhon Island
Ferry to Olkhon Island

River Ehe-Uhgun' near Arshan
River Ehe-Uhgun’ near Arshan

River Ehe-Uhgun' near Arshan
River Ehe-Uhgun’ near Arshan

Bridge across the beginning of Irkut river
Bridge across the beginning of Irkut river

Travelers meet travelers in Irkutsk. Chile and Italy.
Travelers meet travelers in Irkutsk. Chile and Italy.

Fishing spot in Irkutsk city
Fishing spot in Irkutsk city

 

 

 

Nice cafe in the shadow of Courtyard by Marriott in Irkutsk.
Nice cafe in the shadow of Courtyard by Marriott in Irkutsk.

Google Maps link to Incognito cafe: https://goo.gl/maps/BnP4GiPopuw

Open libraby booth, Irkutsk.
Open libraby booth, Irkutsk.

Good old stuff.
Good old stuff.

Moments of emptiness.
Moments of emptiness.

Strong building = strong history.
Strong building = strong history.

Angels live in Irkutsk city.
Angels live in Irkutsk city.

Honey market.
Honey market.

Hidden treasures of Irkutsk downtow.
Hidden treasures of Irkutsk downtow.

Khuzhir village on Olkhon Island.
Khuzhir village on Olkhon Island.

Cape Burkhan (Shamanka) on Olkhon Island near Khuzhir.
Cape Burkhan (Shamanka) on Olkhon Island near Khuzhir.

Ship returning to Olkhon Island port.
Ship returning to Olkhon Island port.

Helicopter landing field spot on Olkhon Island.
Helicopter landing field spot on Olkhon Island.

Foggy Baikal.
Foggy Baikal.

Ferry to Olkhon Island.
Ferry to Olkhon Island.

Cape Burkhan (Shamanka) on Olkhon Island near Khuzhir.
Cape Burkhan (Shamanka) on Olkhon Island near Khuzhir.

Waterfall near Arshan village.
Waterfall near Arshan village.

 

Kayaking on Baikal 2 days

When we came back from kayak trip, my friend told me that I’m #(*&^ crazy. Well, yes, but we are crazy in a good and safe way.

My firiend let me use 2 person kayak for a little adventure on lake Baikal. We started early in the morining from Irkutsk. Picked up kayak in Bolshaya Rechka, went to Listvyanka, had breakfast, put kayak on the water loaded it with all the stuff.

After that I went to Belka Hostel and parked my car on the territory. Then walked down Chapaev street where Natasha was waiting for me reading her book.

We sailed for an hour. Meeting nerpa, Baikal seal, was unusual. It was sleeping on the water with only it’s small head on the surface. It woke up only when kayak was 2 meters away from it. Blinked it’s black eyes, sneezed at us and went under water. My camera was away, so sorry, no pictures.

After taking a nap on the shore we were trying to get back on the road, but I flipped it over. My bad. First time kayaking with no instructor, so this was expected. It is like a initiation to ‘kayaker’s club’. Camera, phone, money, documents and all important stuff was wet. But not lost. Now I understand what must be kept in dry box of kayak. All the things that got wet. But our box was full of food and there was no extra place. Ha-ha! First hand experience. Now I understand the value of instructors and guides.

I was in a hurry to get into kayak, because the water is so cold that it hurts feet when you are just few seconds in the water, the stones are slippery and I was not wearing proper footwear for this trip. Remember don’t be bear feet when kayaking. Wear at least rubber slippers.

2 hours more and we reached Bolshiye Koty village where we camped, cooked on fire and went to bed very early as we were extremetly tired.

Camping was great. We put our tent near the water stream that flows into the lake and had the source of fresh water. Also the sound of the stream was providing with calming and natural atmosphere. Bolshiye Koty village is small and has almost no cars, very quiet and relaxing.

Next day we woke up. Cooked food. Packed and started to pedal back. Now I get the idea of how to get inside the kayak and thought about my mistakes. I can teach anybody. Also we understood how to pedal properly. The weather was perfect both days. First day it was wind to the back and second day there was no wind at all and it was hot!

When we reached Listvyanka the shore was full of people. It was great hot summer days. People were greeting us from land, ships and boats. It was lovely. We felt like heroes.

40 kilometers total there and back. It is great for beginners, but it is not too easy. Thank you lake Baikal for your beauty and thanks to everybody who instructed and supported us.

 

 

Bicycle trip to the top of the hill

Today we went for 1 hour bicycle ride to the top of the hill with spectacular view on Khuzhir vllage on Olkhon Island. Going up the hill is hard, but the reward is great. The funny thing is that the view was covered with thick fog. After hard work up the hill it was a little upsetting. But still, the view was amazing anyway.

Second part of the trip is the best when return downhill back to the village.

We left just when cars with other traverlers started to arrive 🙂