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.

Frozen Lake Baikal 2019 Photos

Small collection of photos, taken during the winter season on Lake Baikal, that can give a quick peek on what we are talking about here.

Why we love winter more than summer in Siberia? Life starts in Siberia when winter comes every year, it opens opportunities that summer cannot provide. Ice roads, fresh air, spirit of true adventure. Historiacally hard and terrible, and nowadays easy and fun.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/PQnN7mt7UY7ZdFhM6

This is a shared google album with 455 Photos inside

Weather on lake Baikal

Summer high season on lake Baikal is from middle of July to the beginning of September. Warmest days. Most tourist are from Russia and China, but you can meet people from all over the world in Irkutsk and around lake Baikal. There are many locations with no tourists or very little.

Winter high season is from middle of February to the end of March. Winter’s end. This is the time when the ice on the lake is the most stable and firm, 1 meter thick on the most of the lake. It doesn’t freeze only in small area in the south, where Angara river begins (Listvyanka village).

The lake is frozen from middle of January to middle of April.

See the chart below for the temperature averages.

average temperature / precipitation chart

Weather is changing fast. It never rains more than 2 days. Usually 1 day rain, cloudy day after and sunny again. Lake Baikal area is famous for having near 300 sunny days in a year. Most of the time the weather forecast is wrong about the rain. Clouds may be all over the place, but it rains shortly in random location.

It is possible to get into heavy rain but it will be short time rain. But snow falls can last longer and sometimes give a lot of trouble on the roads. Thanks to Russsian people who are used to occasional abundance of snow and icy roads.

Visiting lake Baikal is all about getting connected to nature. We recommend to visit the lake when there is the smallest amount of travelers.

From April to the beginning of June you can see how the lake starts to wake up from the winter sleep. The ice is all gone and more than 300 streams and rivers start to fill the lake. Spring time is a struggle with winter who doesn’t want to finish. The water is the cleanest during this time.

From September to the end of January, extremely beautiful during the fall on lake Baikal. Autumn stormy skies and colors of the nature can impress anybody.  Also winter magic starts when everything goes to bed under the white blanket of winter. There is snow all over the land, but the lake takes long time to freeze. Misty waters, icy shores, trees under the snow. Short winter days take you away into the fairy tale of Siberian winter.

Olkhon Island morning ride

I went for a morning forest ride today on Olkhon Island. Picked up some pine tree cones for making health potion later. I was happy to see many snowdrops on the way, these flowers appear first in our forests. The weather was great and it is a great opportunity for one to have such a great excercise trip in the morning.

Best wishes to everybody. Welcome to Olkhon Island.