Sights: Lake Baikal


Listvyanka (it takes 1 day)

Irkutsk is only 66 km of the lake. There is fairly good road to the nearest village Listvyanka. You might think that you would be at Baikal in an hour. However, if you have only 1 or 2 to visit the lake, it would be better to take the hydrofoil «Barguzin» at the riverside station of Irkutsk.

Listvyanka isn’t very convenient for short trips, as in spite of a large number of hotels, and consequently, a large number of tourists, no regular tours over the most beautiful places of Baikal are offered there. Actually, Listvyanka is on the bank of the lake, but it isn’t its most beautiful places and it would be rather difficult to perceive all the beauty of Baikal there. As to excursions, you can be offered to go to the old railroad or simply visit the village, where there is nothing to see. Also, you can take some Irkutsk boat, but they aren’t always make a stop in Listvyanka.

One of the main attractions of the village is tamed nerpes and Baikal museum. In the afternoon you can go to the market and taste Baikal specialty – smoked omul. Smoking of this fish is the main trade of the citizens of Listvyanka. There is no night life in the village.
 
Peschanaya Bay (it takes 1 day)

It is an inimitably beautiful nook of the lake where Nature has gathered and generously given man the blue sky, a vast space of Baikal, the amber-like quicksand of its beaches and the healthy air of the Baikal taiga.
The Bay is 80 kilometers of Listvyanka and 160 kilometers of Irkutsk. It takes 3.5 hours to get there from Irkutsk.

Deep in the bay, in the pine grove there are houses, tents and other facilities for tourists. There are 2 tourist hostels: «Baikal Dunes», a comfortable complex accommodating 80 people, and «Peschanaya Bay», a dilapidated hostel accommodating 200 people.

The soft sand and emerald green water of the lake are magnetic, but the Baikal water is available for swimming only for a healthy sound person - in August the surface waters are warmed only up to +4, +16°C.

Peschanaya Bay is the sole place on the lake where one can see miraculous "walking-on-stilts" trees, a real wonder of Baikal. They grow on a sand dune near Bolshoi Kolokolny Rock. The trees have risen above the earth on their stilt-like roots, from under which water and winds blow out the soil. Amateur fishermen may experience real fishing happiness, and tourists dreaming of hiking may go along picturesque mountain paths to feel exhilaration and harmony with Nature that feels everyone who ever encounters "the Siberian pearl".
Olkhon island (1 or 2 days). If you have at least one week to visit the most beautiful places of Baikal, you must go to Olkhon Island. It is 300 km of Irkutsk, and the roads aren’t very good. It takes at least 5 hours to get there by car and at least 7 hours – by bus. So, you must be prepared to spend the first day of your trip only on moving. In summer you can also take a hydrofoil from Irkutsk to Olkhon (travel time is 7 hours). In summer the ferry runs to the island every half hour. If you are going to be at Olkhon Island in spring or autumn, you must inquire into the ferry schedule.

There are a lot of campings on Olkhon Island. In the village Khuzir there is “Olkhon Island” (up to 40 people). Near Khuzir there is Shamanka Rock (or Burkhan Cape), one of the sacred sites of the Buryat people. This rock is one of the most recognizable sites of Baikal. There is a cave called Shaman in it. Its depth is about 6 meters. In ancient times in cave held shamanistic rites. Later, there was built the altar of Buddha.

To the north from Khuzir there is a wonderful Saraysky Bay

The sandy beach is 3 km long and the width is about 1 km. Cosy meadows and glades surrounded by pine forest are behind the sandy banks. The bay is shallow and in summer the water is warm enough to swim.
At the midsection of the western coast of Lake Baikal between the mainland and Olkhon Island stretches a strait known as Maloye Morye (the Small Sea). Its area is about 90 km2. It isn’t very deep comparing with the rest of Baikal, so its waters have time to warm up. Therefore, it is just here that you could have a sound rest in the wild: very beautiful rocky shores, which are curious to explore, taiga woodlands, which are interesting to walk in, very picturesque bays and sandy beaches, where you can sunbathe, and delicious Siberian food, Russian baths and vodka in the evening (all depending on everyone's demands). What else do you need to rest far from civilization? However, be careful, as in the area there may be many wild tourists and, as a rule, they leave a lot of garbage.
Wild nature of Baikal has a peculiar atmosphere, as Siberian taiga hasn’t yet been so affected by human activity as, say, American national parks. On one hand, it creates certain problems (for example, any long trip takes at least half a day or even the entire day, providing the quality of roads), but on the other hand, if you want a safe rest in taiga wood, it is undoubtedly one of the world's most beautiful place.
 
Ushkany Islands (national reserve)

Ushkany Islands are located in the middle part of Lake Baikal, about 7 km to the west from the Holy Nose Peninsula. The archipelago consists of four islands: the Big, the Narrow, the Round and the Long. The archipelago contains unique fauna and flora and especially mild continental climate. The islands' rocky shores serve as a popular resting place for Baikal seals and constitute the largest rookery (seal colony) of Lake Baikal. The Baikal seal (nerpa) is the only freshwater pinniped species on earth and it inhabits only the deep waters of Lake Baikal. There is no free access to the Ushkany Islands as it is the territory of national reserve.
You can rent a boat to sail around the islands (it may cost up to several hundreds of dollars). However, such trip takes 2-3 days, as it is about 120 km from Olkhon to the islands, and you have to sail for at least a day. During the trip you are sure to see some resting places of Baikal seals (nerpa).

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