When we were travelling through Russia, one of the top visits on my list was Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world.
Lake Baikal is situated next to the village Listvyanka (and of course many more surrounding villages) in a remote area of Siberia.
It is easily reached by plane when flying to Irkutsk (or Ulan-Ude at the other side of the lake), or like I did it, by train from Irkutsk. As from the train station you need to get on a public bus to the bus station and as from there you have to buy a ticket for your mini-bus trip to Listvyanka.
We chose not to visit the city of Irkutsk (even if there are also many interesting things to see), but we immediately went to Listvyanka where we really got to experience the siberian winter.
I was so excited to see the deepest lake in the world. However, once we arrived, I felt so stupid… We went in winter, which means the Baikal Lake is amazingly beautiful, but it was impossible to see the depth of the lake 😀
The legend says that UFO’s hide on the bottom of Lake Baikal, not to be found by humans. Still wondering if they have a winter-stop, since I didn’t see any chance for them to get out of the lake this time of the year 😉
We stayed in a cozy cottage in the hotel Baikalskye Terema and enjoyed a sunset lake-view when having a drink on our terrace.
There are many hotels in Listvyanka, and it all of course depends on your own budget, but all of the hotels and cottages I’ve seen around the lake looked very nice from the outside.
So my first goal of seeing the depth of the Baikal Lake didn’t really work out. So up to the second one, hiking the Great Baikal Trail.
I read a lot about it on the internet, about how it was made by volunteers and I was convinced it was going to be great.
Now imagine, 30 centimeters of snow and hiking uphill following the first signs.
After an hour of going straight uphill, there were no other signs to be found.
We enjoyed some great views over there, but then decided we didn’t want to get lost in the woods and unfortunately had to turn back. Again, in summer you do hopefully find the tracks and for sure you will even enjoy a nicer (and less tiring) hike! 🙂
Next on the to-do-list? Circum Baikal Railroad hike! This railroad used to be part of the Trans-Siberian railroad, but is not regularly used anymore since there is a direct line from Irkutsk to Slyudyanka.
Normally (for sure all of the books I read were written in summer), you take a boat from Listvyanka to Port Baikal and there you can start your hike.
Once again, in winter there was no way a boat could pass through that ice. So… only 1 solution, walking over the ice!
I admit, I have been scared… It was a great adventure and I enjoyed it very much, but when the ice under your feet start to move, you definitely do not want fall in the deepest lake on earth 😉
The walk over the ice from Listvyanka to Port Baikal took us about 1 hour going and 2 hours coming back, but it was all worth it!
Another option would be taking one of the hovercrafts (that “drive” over the ice and the water) that people rent out for tours on the Lake, but we chose for the adventure 😉
Once you arrive in Port Baikal, you easily see the railway (more than a 100 years old) and just start walking… It is an easy hike with lots of amazing viewpoints, beautiful constructed tunnels and bridges. You can go on on this railway up to Kultuk (total of 86km), but we decided to turn back over the ice, to be able to be back before nightfall.
Another highlight is the Baikal Museum, where you unforunately only can pay in cash to enter (and we of course didn’t have any cash on us anymore 🙁 ).
What we did do, was going to the viewpoint that you can reach from behind the museum. You will pass a ski resort and hike a bit higher up to have another fantastic view on the Lake. From here you can also see the famous Shaman rock. However, to not expect anything big, because then it can take you very long to find it 😉
All in all, Lake Baikal is an amazing plaze with a great atmosphere, where people come to relax and enjoy their days off.
In summer it must be great with families, but even now, there were lots of kids (an adults 🙂 )having fun on the ice.
We might not have had the best luck on this trip, but I had a delightfull cold and icy experience in Lake Baikal and I will never forget the white scenery. A summer visit to Laike Baikal is already on my wishlist by the way 🙂
PS: On the train, when leaving Irkutsk again to continue the travel, a Russian lady told us that since a couple of days it was forbidden to go on the ice, since lots of cars had already fallen in (yes, the cars also drive on the ice). Good that I didn’t know that beforehand 😉
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