Visiting Beautiful Lake Baikal Russia
The Siberian Riviera?
Stunning scenery, Delicious Fresh (and smoked) Fish, Cute Fresh Water Seals And Dodgy Accommodation.
Listvyanka is a small village on the banks of Lake Baikal about 1.5 hours from Irkutsk. Due to its close proximity to Irkutsk it is a popular summer holiday town for Russians and now becoming a destination on the Chinese tour bus route.
We arrived at about lunchtime and found our guesthouse, which quite frankly was a dive. When we were looking for accommodation we had looked for an apartment and couldn’t find one, we discovered later that we would be there before the season really began and many of the rental properties had not yet opened.
So back to our dive…it was run by a family and everything was dodgy built, doors didn’t close, people rammed in everywhere, leaking toilet and so it went on. However this is all part of the travel experience it was just unfortunate that both places we had stayed in Russia so far had been a bit average.
Lake Baikal is stunning, picture crystal clear blue water which fishing boats puttering up and down surrounded by huge snow capped mountains. Listvyanka felt like a frontier town to me, it’s is quite scruffy and a bit unkempt BUT the Russians love it and flock there in the hundreds on the weekend to sit on the pebble beach and go on boats rides, some even swim in the freezing cold water of the lake. When we were there the water temperature was about 5 degrees….
The town has a fish market which sells the local lake fish called Omul which they smoke. Omul is delicious and in the season not only can you buy it at the market you can buy it from one of the many locals who set up smokers at their front gates and sell directly to the public.
One day we walked a couple of kms to the Baikal Museum which is one of the few museums that focuses on the lake. I found it a little science heavy and the 2 Nerpa seals housed in a tiny dark tank was disturbing but it did give us a good understanding of the huge size of the lake and the volume of water in it.
After the museum we walked up a hill to a chairlift which took us to the top of the hill and an incredible view toward Port Baikal and across the lake. From the lookout we walked back down the hill to the lake. We had to be careful when walking as we were seeing warnings everywhere about encephalitis bearing ticks in the local forests so we stuck to the roads and didn’t spend too much time near forests.
We spent 5 days at Listvyanka, ate some reasonable food, drank beer at a cafe with a deck over the water and by day 5 were well and truly ready to move on.
Travelling in Russia was far more planned than we like but as we could only get a 30 day visa and had many kms to cover we had to plan things (ie book train tickets) plus when applying for a visa you have to list the towns / dates we would visit – while we didn’t stick to this strictly we didn’t want to deviate too much from it..
We left Listvyanka and headed back to Irkutsk to hop on the train to go to Krasnoyarsk a town still in Eastern Siberia, 18 hours and 1062km away.
For Information on Travelling In Russia Read Our Russia Travel Guide