Our night here was mostly out of necessity, as we caught the amazing Circum-Baikal Railway, which arrives in Port Baikal after the last ferry out of town has already left (though, there are more services during summer).
We thought we’d be clever and get off the train one stop early at the ‘74km’ station rather than at the terminus ‘Port Baikal’ station, as it was closer to the actual village and our accommodation – the port was just that, a very small, but ugly industrial port.
Our hotel was actually at the top of a steep and rough muddy road. Making things more confusing, there were two streets with the same name, and of course we took the wrong deviation. It was a tough walk with all of our luggage, and for the last half I had to carry Risa’s big backpack, too (lucky it wasn’t that heavy). However, little did we know that a driver from our accommodation was waiting for us at the Port Baikal station, saving us from the slog.
There weren’t many accommodation choices that I could find, so we ended up staying at Krugobaykalskaya Holiday Park, which is somewhere a little more fancy/expensive than we would ordinarily stay. I say expensive, but it was only 2400r ($60) a night, plus another 900r ($20) for dinner and breakfast – dinner being a juicy stroganoff, and breakfast being bliny (pancakes) with sour cream.
It was a really nice summer retreat, and I could imagine during the warmer months it would be a really beautiful place to chill out for a few days, especially if you had children and just wanted to relax in the fresh air.
For us though, Port Baikal was a necessary stay, and I would find it hard to recommend if there were other options available. There were a few other (Russian) homestays, a small convenience store, and that was about it, apart from a train station and a port.
That’s not to say that it was without charms. This is an area that has very few tourists, and even fewer foreign tourists. It is a small lakeside town, full of charming cottages, fresh air, and amazing vistas of Lake Baikal.
I was going to be able to swim in the lake, but I dipped a couple of fingers into the water (as did Risa) and it’s like putting my hand into ice water. I mean, I definitely could do it, but I really shouldn’t. Maybe if I had a warm sauna waiting for me…
It’s not unique to Port Baikal, but we’ve seen a large number of awesome Soviet motorbikes (and side carts) here. There is something so cool about the pure utility of these things. I’d love to have one of these one day, but I know it’d lose it’s practicality in an urban environment. Plus, I’m sure they’re not the most reliable vehicle…
The ferry to Listvyanka left from Port Baikal at 10:45. It also left at 6:40, and two other times later in the afternoon. It’s certainly not what I was expecting, and I had to ask several times to make sure that we were actually catching the correct ferry. It is more of a vehicle ferry, with space for a few passengers to stand/sit around the outside. At least the fare reflected the comfort/service – I forget the fare, but it was around 50r ($1) each.
Sadly, the ferry didn’t actually go to Listvyanka, but rather to Rogatka, another port at the mouth of the Angara River about 4km from where we wanted (and expected) to go. Out of principle, I waited for a while for a marshutka (minibus) to come to ride into town rather than catching a taxi, but when Risa queried the patient older taxi driver, and he said 50r ($2), we gave up and went for the easy option. It was smart, too – we later learnt that the minibuses are once an hour.