When I was doing my research for the upcoming trip to Baikal, I would always come across Listvyanka. Almost everyone mentioned it (I am a native Russian speaker, so I searched for the info in Russian), so I decided it was worth going there. And I was right 🙂
Listvyanka is a small village on the shores of Baikal, right where the Angara river flows out of the lake. Naturally, the place is quite picturesque, to say the least. The village is surrounded by spectacular landscapes, there are pebble beaches alongside the shore of Baikal, a couple of fantastic museums, and you can easily spend a couple of days here. And there are diving facilities as well, but I don’t know much about them.
Anyway, Listvyanka is famous for two things: Baikal Museum and Baikal trail from Listvyanka to Bolshie Koty. These two things are the reason I decided to go to the village, but, as it was my last stop in the region, I was too tired for the trail. I still regret I didn’t do at least a part of it: it must be spectacular.
My opinion is that you shouldn’t miss this small village on your trip to Baikal, and here are some practicalities.
When I visited: end of June – beginning of July 2019.
How to get to Listvyanka from Irkutsk
Getting to Listvyanka from Irkutsk is very easy: buses, or better to say marshrutkas, depart from the main bus station of Irkutsk and the central market every 30 minutes or every hour. I guess the frequency depends on the season. The cost is 150 RUB and drivers might charge extra for baggage (this cost depends on the driver, I am afraid: I was charged different amounts to/from Olkhon Island).
Now about getting tickets to these marshrutkas. If you don’t speak Russian, the easiest way is to buy tickets online. Luckily, some parts of the website are in English, and the process is pretty straightforward. Keep in mind they charge a service fee for online booking, about 14 rubles (about 0,20 EUR). What I noticed is that the English version of the website is quite limited and offers tickets to Listvyanka from the main bus station only. But you can buy tickets personally at the bus station, the thing is that I am not sure whether ticket sellers speak English as I am a Russian speaker.
When it comes to Listvyanka, I took the marshrutka from the central market and paid directly to the driver: there was no need to buy tickets in advance. In cases like this you just take any available seat 🙂
Something else to know: if you look at the map, you will see that Listvyanka is a long village, so buses make two stops there. The first stop is at the Baikal Museum, at the entrance to the village, and the other stop is at the bus station at the other end of Listvyanka: the distance between these stops is about 4 kilometers, so be careful where you get off. Even when you buy tickets they will ask you to choose one of these stops. I opted for the bus station stop as it was closer to my hotel.
Things to do in Listvyanka
Chersky stone is the most famous panoramic deck in Listvyanka. The views from the height of 730 meters are spectacular: the Angara River, Shaman Rock, Baikal Port, mountains and the endless waters of Baikal Lake. If there is one thing you shouldn’t miss in Listvyanka, it is Chersky stone.
Where does the name Chersky come from? Jan or Ivan Chersky was a geographer and explorer of Siberia. He has many other titles and an interesting life, you can read about him if you have time.
How to get there: first on foot up the road at the Baikal Museum and then by cable way. The road goes up and it will take some time, so make sure you have water with you. Somewhere in the middle between the museum and the stone you will see a cable way which belongs to a ski center Istland. They allow visitors to use the cable way to get to Chersky stone, be it summer or winter, against a price, of course. I paid 400 RUB for return tickets. If you don’t want to pay, you can get to the stone on foot. It wasn’t crowded when I was there, and I enjoyed the ride: the views were very nice 🙂
It is fair to say that it gets crowded at the stone itself: you will see a queue of people waiting to take a selfie. The stone isn’t flat, so be careful.
How to get: I have already explained how to get to Listvyanka from Irkutsk, but what if you are already in Listvyanka, but stay closer to the bus station? The distance between the Baikal Museum, where the road up to the stone starts, and the bus station is about 4 kilometers. If you are willing to take it on foot, that’s fine, but there is another way. There is no local transport in Listvyanka, but marshrutkas to Irkutsk will gladly take you to the museum. If you stop one, they won’t be surprised as they are used to it. I paid 20 RUB to get from the bus station to the Baikal Museum.
Baikal Museum and its park
The Baikal Museum is the most famous in the area, and the only one dedicated to a lake. They have several tanks with fish and nerpas, a hall with the history of Earth and Baikal with videos (just have a look at the screenshot I took!), about the geology and climate of the lake, etc… in general, they exhibit everything about the lake.
In addition to the main exhibition the museum offers an opportunity to virtually see the bed of Baikal Lake in a bathyscaphe. I took this tour, and it was amazing! You feel as if you are going down to the bed of the lake and you see everything that people in the real bathyscaphe saw.
There is a hall in the museum where visitors can see the invisible to the naked eye organisms of Baikal through a microscope.
Next to the museum there is a park : it’s not very big but it has an enormous vegetation variety and offers stunning views over Baikal Lake.
Cost: entrance fee is 310 RUB, virtual dive in a bathyscaphe is 60 RUB, entrance fee for the park is 60 RUB. More info is here.
Address: Akademicheskaya Street, 1А.
I had heard quite a lot about this rock and I knew I had to see it. If you look at the map you will see that it is right in the middle of the Angara river where it flows out of Baikal Lake, and you can’t see it from the shore. The only way to get to the rock is by boat. I don’t know whether there are organised tours to the rock (you can ask at the many information centers), but I found a phone number to a local who took me and a lady from the hostel I stayed at to the rock on his motorboat. We met him at the pier of the Baikal Museum, he took us on a tour around the rock and Baikal Port on the other side of the river. We paid 700 RUB (about 10 EUR) for the pleasure.
The visible part of the rock is small, a couple of meters long, and only 1-1,5 meters are seen above water when the weather is nice.
Now, why is this rock so important? Of course, you can skip it, but it is a legendary place. It was believed that the master of the Angara river himself lived there. People living in this area left criminals on the rock for a night, and if the person was still there the next morning, then he was innocent.
But how the rock appeared there is the most interesting legend. Many-many years ago, when Baikal was a man, he had a beautiful daughter Angara. She fell in love with Yenisei, but her father was against their union, so Angara ran away. Baikal got angry and threw a rock to stop her, but it fell behind her. Angara united with Yenisei, and, geographically, the Angara river is a tributary of the Yenisei river.
It is believed if one touches the rock and makes a wish, it will come true. If I remember it right, one has to throw a coin and burkhan (propitiate the gods) as well.
Baikal Museum of Gemstones
The region around Baikal is famous for its gemstones, and I was even told that anyone can stumble upon any of these stones. Well, I didn’t find anything exciting, but I knew I could see everything in the museum 🙂
The Museum of Gemstones in Listvyanka is small, but its collection certainly deserves attention. There are many stones, including amethyst, malachite, picture jasper, charoite, etc. But the collection is not limited to stones: they have Faberge eggs (though I am not sure they are original), old coins and banknotes, gramophone, an old TV and a typewriter. In general, this is a curious place worth a visit. And they have a wide selection of stones for sale.
Cost: 150 RUB (2019).
Address: Kulikov Street 12B.
Retro park of the Osipov family
I am glad I went to this place! The Osipovs are a family of artists, the father is a painter, and his son is a blacksmith and creates different things from metal. They have a huge collection of the Soviet and not only cars and other objects, like motorcycles, wooden boats, telephones, samovars, irons, sewing machines, etc, and exhibit them in their front yard and in a room inside the house.
You can see the paintings by the father in the room and funny creations of the son in the yard. Just have a look at them:
And they have a small funny and happy dog, so don’t get scared 🙂
Cost: 100 RUB (in 2019).
Address: Kulikov Street 62B.
There is a small market in Listvyanka not far from the nerpinarium and the bus station, and they sell a lot of fish. Baikal is famous for smoked omul, a local delicacy. Omul is endemic to the lake and you can buy it only in the region. I bought one on the train on the Circum-Baikal Railway trip. It cost 150 RUB, but it is more expensive in Listvyanka. Anyway, smoked omul is fat so you will need something to wash it down 🙂
Another fish to buy is golomianka. It is endemic to Baikal as well. It is much smaller than omul and is almost transparent. I haven’t tried it, so I have to trust the recommendation of my guide in Tazheran Steppe 🙂
But it’s not only fish that they sell. They have a lot of souvenirs as well, so you can buy yourself a matryoshka or a fluffy nerpa.
Anyway, just walk around, buy yourself a fish and enjoy a nice meal 🙂
Nerpa is a Baikal seal endemic to the region. According to some researches, nerpa is equal to dolphins when it comes to intelligence.
Nerpinarium in Listvyanka is the place where nerpas are kept and trained. They have a team of experts who take care of animals, vaccinate them, clean the swimming pools. The nerpas in the nerpinarium are those taken from hunters or little nerpas found alone on the ice. They can’t be returned into the wild, so they stay in the nerpinarium.
While the purpose of this nerpinarium is noble, it’s up for you to decide whether to visit the show or not. It lasts about 30 minutes, and seals show different tricks, dance and jump. You can find here info on schedules and prices: it is in Russian, but you can use Google Translate.
Cost: 350 RUB for adults on weekends and 300 RUB on weekdays, and 280 RUB and 250 RUB respectively for children.
Address: Gorky Street 101 A.
Tourist attractions in Listvyanka I didn’t visit
In addition to the places above there are a couple of smaller places I didn’t visit. I passed twice by the Cabin of Magical Traditions on Gorky Street 7. I am not sure what’s inside, but apparently, the exhibition is based on local beliefs and traditions.
Not far from the hostel I stayed at there was a small doll museum (Chapayev Street 61) and an art gallery of Vladimir Plamenevskii (Chapayev Street 76).
But, I guess, you are more interested in Listvyanka-Bolshie Koty Trail. It is a part of the Great Baikal Trail and is about 25 kilometers long. Depending on how fit you are, it might take from 5 to 8 hours to finish the trail in Bolshie Koty village. This might mean that you may have to spend a night in Bolshie Koty, as I wouldn’t advise you to stay in the woods at night. I have heard that one may encounter bears on the trail.
You have to remember that in the Baikal region almost every place outside villages and cities is a protected area. This is true for this trail as well, and it means you will have to obtain a permit for hiking it. You can do it in Listvyanka, the forestry unit is in Gorky Street 2. I got a permit in Olkhon Island: they asked for my passport and the route, and I paid 100 RUB for it.
You can find everything about the trail here.
Where to stay in Listvyanka
As it is a popular place among locals, there are many hotels and hostels in Listvyanka. It was my last stop in the region and I spent enough money on accommodation in Irkutsk and Olkhon Island, so I decided to save some money by booking a hostel. After a long search I opted for Belka Hostel: it was cheap and reviews were quite good. What I didn’t know is that it was on a hill, so everyday I had to climb it up and down. It is more than 1 kilometer away from Gorky Street (the main street running along the shore of Baikal). Yes, I googled the distance before booking it, but I thought it was doable. Yes, it was, but it was so-so exhausting! Unfortunately, you will have to deal with it, as many hotels in Listvyanka are on the hill.
Anyway, I booked a bed in a 6-bed mixed dormitory. Thankfully, it were twin beds, not bunk ones 🙂 And I met some really nice people there. Actually, one of the men staying in the room gave me the phone number of the boatman who took us to Shaman Rock.
Other drawbacks of the hostel, in addition to the distance: they had problems with Wi-Fi when I was there and fixed it the evening before my departure 🙂 Luckily, there was a hotel nearby, Ersi, where I had breakfast and used their Wi-Fi. Shower was in a different building, the private bathroom had a toilet and a sink, but no hot water. If you are short of money, it is a decent place to spend a couple of nights.
Other places to consider:
– Hotel Dauria with wooden interior and private bathrooms. It is about 500 meters away from Gorky Street.
– A studio with lake view.
– Guest house Ostrovskogo 11 with modern rooms.
– If you are willing to splurge, book a luxury apartment in Baikal Hill Residence.
Where to eat in Listvyanka
I spent a couple of days in Listvyanka, so I don’t have many restaurant recommendations. All my breakfasts I had at Ersi Hotel: it was pretty modest but delicious. The cost of eggs with sausages, tea and crepes was around 200-250 RUB (around 2,90-3,6 EUR).
Now, about restaurants. I really liked Sval Restaurant (Gorky Street 31): it has a fancy wooden interior and it is right on Gorky Street. The food is super delicious! In Sval I had the best tea in my life: it was herbal tea made from local berries and plants, served with honey. Their pelmeni were amazing! And they have an interesting way of serving salads: at least the one I ordered came in a huge wooden spoon 🙂 When it comes to pricing, it is rather expensive, but totally worth it.
Berg House is another place on Gorky Street I can totally recommend (Gorky Street 59). It was the first place I went to, just because it started raining and it was the nearest restaurant. I didn’t regret it as everything was delicious. The salad was super fresh, but their fish in foil… it is simply yummy!
Shaman Restaurant is on Gorky Street as well (Gorky Street 29B). They have a wide selection of meat and fish dishes. And, in addition, they have a pastry shop inside the restaurant with delicious cakes and pies. The only thing I didn’t like was that they include 10% service fee to the bill, but it is fair to say that on the table there is a piece of paper warning about it.
In general, I would say expect to pay about 1.000 RUB (14 EUR) per person in the places above, including tips. I don’t drink alcohol, so my bill would be cheaper than yours.
By the way, if you are interested in the local cuisine, I have a list of dishes.
To sum up, I think you should definitely visit Listvyanka. I would allocate 2-3 days to the village depending on what you want to see and do. The Baikal Trail will definitely take a day, and they offer boat tours to some other parts of Baikal.
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