Trans-Siberian Irkutsk & Lake Baikal
Trans Siberian to Irkutsk & Lake Baikal
One of the most popular stops on any Trans Mongolian or Trans Siberian Railway tour is the wonderful Siberian city of Irkutsk. Located over 5,000km along the routes from Moscow it is a pleasant city with a warm climate in the summer months. The city is quite different from Moscow, despite feeling very Russian in its population. There is an altogether more relaxed feeling to life in a city once dubbed as the “Paris of Siberia” due to the large amount of artists that ended up here along with the wide streets and continental architecture. It certainly retains a buzzing street life that includes a great cafe and bar culture that thrives in the warmer summer months.
Some Facts About Lake Baikal
The city itself is one of the largest in Siberia with a population of over half a million and is found on the Angara river which is a tributary of the Yenisei. However, it’s not the city that most people come here for but instead the lake, Lake Baikal, and it’s surrounding countryside. One thing is for sure, Baikal has plenty of that and it is stunning. There are multiple hiking options and while some of it is for the fitter amongst us, there is also plenty of walking options for the less enthusiastic hikers such as myself.
Lake Baikal itself deserves a few moments of wallowing in the stats and so here goes…It is the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume despite being only the 7th largest in surface area. To put that into perspective, you could fit all the water from the Great Lakes in North America and still have room for more! This, of course, makes it the world’s deepest lake at 1,642m and if that isn’t enough for the stat-bank, it is thought to be the clearest and the oldest at 25 million years old. the lake is home to over 1700 species of plants and animals and a whopping two thirds of them can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.
What to Do in Irkutsk
Our Trans-Siberian Express Rail Tours usually take in a short stay in Irkutsk, occasionally a night at the wonderful Marussia boutique hotel before departure on the train again. It is near the cultural street that is buzzing in the evenings and is lined with bars such as my favourite – Harat’s Irish pub. But it’s not why people come here and most of our clients spend most of their time around the lake and rightly so.
Listvyanka or Bolshoe Goloustnoe?
It is an area of stunning beauty but it has also been (over)developed in areas and, in my opinion, you don’t really want to go to these places as that’s not why you are going to Siberia. Listvyanka has developed itself into a nice spot on the shores but it lacks any real authenticity and has more of a feeling of an old seaside town resort than it does the wilds of Siberia. I would usually recommend the village of Bolshoe Goloustnoe, which is still inhabited by villagers, many of whom have never really left the place. You can spend a night in a cabin on a farm, giving you a real taste of Siberia while still having the privacy that wouldn’t be available in a normal homestay.
Make sure you stop of in Irkutsk and take in Lake Baikal on a Trans Siberian Express or any other Trans Siberian / Trans Mongolian tour.
What if first class is not available?
Article originally posted by Phil Stanley and Headseast: 20th May 2015