What to Do at Baikal lake: Rafting, Trekking, Sightseeing

Author: Dimitry Paranyushkin (on 03 Jun 2015)
Below we made a list of our favorite activities at Baikal lake. You don't really need to order a tour to be able to do them. It's much cheaper and easier to arrange a travel on your own and then find a local who will be able to help you. If in doubt, just get in touch with us over Way to Russia Facebook page  and we'll recommend you a local travel company that will be able to help you with your arrangements.


Sightseeing Tours

Destinations: Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Baikal Lake, Circum-Baikal, Arshan;
Level: Easy; Duration: 1 to 14 days; Best Period: May-October;
Recommended Price: from $20 / day pp, everything included;
Activities: sightseeing (cultural, nature, and ethnographic sights), light hiking, swimming, Russian sauna, birdwatching, fishing, boat-sailing;

Sightseeing tours are generally available from local operators and B&Bs. You don't need to book them beforehand, unless you'd like to go on a several days journey somewhere farout.

If you want to make an independent sightseeing tour, see our proposed itinerary for Baikal Lake where you'll find a few recommended routes.



Ethnographic Tours

Destinations: Olkhon island, Listvyanka;
Level: Easy to Moderate; Duration: 7 to 9 days; Period: June-October;
Recommended Price: from $50 / day pp, everything included;
Activities: ethnographic sights, trekking, swimming, Russian sauna, fishing, boat-sailing, camp-living, meditation and relaxation (optional :-);


These tours are usually designed to get you acquainted with the ancient Baikal ethnic cultures, as well as experience the beauty of the lake. You will meet a local Shaman, see ancient carvings on the cliffs, and have a chance to swim, fish, and trek at the lake.
One good thing about these tours is that you will gain access the places you wouldn't be able to get to otherwise (because it's too expensive and remote to do it on one's own).
The drawback is that the ancient culture at Baikal is almost dead, so you have to get really good guides to show you the authentic places and not touristic crap.


Rafting, Kayaking, and Yacht-Sailing

Destinations: Olkhon, Arshan (Sayan mountains), Circum-Baikal;
Level: Moderate; Duration: 9 to 11 days; Period: June-September;
Budget: from $65 / day pp, everything included;
Activities: rafting, kayaking, yacht-sailing, camp life, Russian sauna, swimming, fishing, cultural and city tours;
Several companies offer yachts and boats for rent at Baikal lake. Usually they cost about $650 - $1000 US per day and you can rent them for a few days with the crew. They normally have 10-15 persons capacity, so if you gather a group by yourself or use a travel agency to do it for you, that'll be quite affordable. Usually starts at Listvyanka, but should be arranged before (search for tours above).

Our recommendation is to travel across Baikal lake (only with experienced crew!) or otherwise ask local fishermen to give you a short half hour ride. Try the Sand Bay (quite remote) or Listvyanka (closer, but much more expensive). Usually $30-$50 will do it. Just make sure they come back to get you!

Rafting and kayaking are also easily available, usually for about $30 per person with equipment.



Cycling, Horseriding, and Trekking

Destinations: Olkhon island, Buryatia, Listvyanka, Arshan (Sayan mountains)
Level: Easy to Hard; Duration: 6 to 11 days; Period: May-October;
Recommended Budget: from $15 / day pp, everything included;
Activities: trekking, cycling, horseriding, hiking, camp life, Russian sauna, swimming, fishing, cultural and city tours;
Get a bike and make a day journey along Olkhon island to see its beautiful landscapes and bays.
Jump on a horse and ride from Listvyanka to Bolshye Koty goldmine. There you can try to find some gold, or just relax on the shore of Baikal lake.
Or, if you prefer to walk, trek around the Three Bays area on the eastern side of Baikal (Buryatia). Tours can't usually be arranged there, but it's pretty easy on your own.

Bikes and horses can normally be rent locally (for example, at Nikita's B&B at Olkhon island or at Arshan village in Sayan mountains) for about $15 / day.



Winter Sports, Snowmobile Riding, Skiing, Snowboarding, Ice-Fishing

Destinations: Listvyanka, Olkhon island;
Level: Easy to Hard; Duration: 1 to 12 days; Period: December-April;
Budget: from $50 / day pp, everything included;
Activities: ice-fishing, snowmobile riding, Baikal ice-cycling, diving, skiing, snowboarding;

Winter is also a great time to visit Baikal: it's all snowy and icy, and not as cold as they say. You can try out various activities, like skiing (near Baikalsk -- see World Snowboard Guide for this region written by Way to Russia team), exciting snowmobile riding through Taiga forests, diving in Baikal ice waters, or ice-fishing accompanied by local fishermen, and vodka (if you like :-).

Also, every March, there's an annual Winteriada - Winter Games Festival taking place at Baikal, and you can be an active participant or spectator.


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