Third Stop On The Trans-Siberian: Irkutsk
Irkutsk, one of the popular stops on the Trans-Siberian route, this central city in Russia has a bit of european touch with beautiful wooden houses, architecture and windows decorated in intricate architecture, Lake Baikal is one of the major reasons that brings many travellers to this cultural centre of Siberia.
Follow the multi-part Trans Siberian Travel Series posts below.
- Ultimate guide to planning the Trans Siberian adventure
- Life on the Trans Siberian train journey
- Trans Siberian routes and the trains
- First Stop on the Trans-Siberian: Moscow
- Second Stop on the Trans-Siberian: Yekaterinburg
- Third Stop on the Trans-Siberian: Irkutsk
- Fourth Stop on the Trans-Siberian: Mongolia
- Last Stop on the Trans-Siberian: Beijing
The World’s Deepest Lake
Lake Baikal, 64 km south east of Irkutsk, is 1637m deep and is estimated to contain more than 20,000 kilometers, this is roughly 20% of the world’s freshwater supplies.
Its estimated that this lake could supply the whole world with enough water to last for 40 years.
Known as the ‘Blue eye of Siberia’ it is the world’s oldest lake, formed almost 50 million years ago.
at about 400 miles long and and around 20 to 40 miles wide, the water is incredibly clear and refreshing tasty, you can even see the colours change depending on the time of the day due to the angle of the sun’s rays hitting the water surface. We saw it change from pale greenish blue to deep bluish tints.
Hiking the Baikal Trail
is a very nice way to enjoy the sights and nature around this massive lake, if you are not a hiker, there are a few boat trips that start from the town of Listvyanka, the hike trail starts around the same place near the main market.
We chose to hike a 3 hour trail to get to the shores of the Lake Baikal, our guide setup a quick camp fire and made some delicious russian Tea made from the fresh water from Lake Baikal, a nice toasty cabbage filled bun toasted in the fire and a nice little soup as an accompaniment, the best lunch we had.
one of the advantages of hiking is that you get the whole place to yourselves well away from the crowds.
A different view of Lake baikal from above shot on a Phantom 4 Quadcopter
Rail Enthusiasts and for Extended Views
Another way to see the grandeur of this largest lake is by the circumbaikal rail line, rail enthusiasts and anyone seeking extended views can hop on the train running twice a week along the old line from Irkutsk to port Baikal via Slyudyanka.
There are 2 trains on this route, a slower local train and a bit more expensive tourist train, don’t get misled by the name thou, it’s just a good train with comfortable seating and bilingual guide.
A lovely russian lunch is included in this trip, it’s in the middle of lush green scenery and besides the lake, a very nice place to spend the afternoon.
This train has lots of scenic stops along the route, its well worth spending a bit extra for this train.
Reconstructed Traditional Wooden Houses
On the road between Irkutsk and Listvyanka has a collection of reconstructed traditional wooden houses, some are around 300 years old, which gives the visitor insight into the lives of the first Siberian settlers.
In olden days the only way to cross Siberia was by road and river, fresh horses and simple accommodation were available from post-houses such as this.
Large farmhouses with ornate window decorations were a common theme and most machinery were made of wood and stone.
the city is the best way of enjoying the beautiful sights and architecture, on a sunny day what better way to cool off the midday heat in a city fountain.
We had no issues finding veggie food in Irkutsk, we tried 2 and were very pleased with the ambience and quality of food.
One from the Hare Krishna group, offers a variety of Vegan and vegetarian dishes, simple and inexpensive food by weight.
If you are tired of Russian food and want some spice, then this is the place to be, a nice and rustic mexican styling and the food was very delicious too, serves meat, but has a lot of veggie options as well.
It was so lovely to meet our train friends again in Irkutsk, they came to see us off on our journey ahead and invited them over to lunch, the joy of travel is you make so many lovely friends along the way.
We did some self explored tours, walked around the city and also took a few tours via RealRussia.