Monkey Business offers a variety of activities in Siberia, from the amazing Lake Baikal, to the wooden City of Irkutsk. There are camping trips on Olkhon Island, winter ski trips, and trips around the shore of Lake Baikal, the deepest lake.
Lake Baikal (along with Mongolia) is one of the must-see stops on any Trans-Siberian trip. It is a totally unique destination and geographically in a position which makes it rarely visited unless you travel on the trans-siberian and take the time to stop. Lake Baikal's immense size alone is unique: its length of 636 km (the distance between Moscow and St. Petersburg), and width up to 79 km. Everything about Baikal impresses our imagination and boggles the mind: its age of minimum 20 million years, unlike most other lakes on earth who are 15,000 years old at most, its crystal mirror-like surface which expands to 31,471 square km, and its maximum depth of 1637 m. It contains 23,000 km3, or almost one fifth of all the freshwater reserves of our planet. The water is so transparent that you can throw a white disk of 20 cm in diameter into Baikal and it can be seen down to a depth of 40 meters. During the winter, the ice can be up to 10 meter thick, still transparent.
Lake Baikal Region
Listvyanka or Bolshoe Goloustnoe villages are situated 70km / 110km respectively from Irkutsk, on the very shore of Lake Baikal. Picturesque roads run through the forest down to the lakeshore.
Depending on which tour you book an experienced guide/interpreter will be with you most of the time, arranging trips and excursions and also helping you to associate with the family and the locals, introducing you to the Siberian village life-style and culture.
You will visit some of the local attractions according to your chosen program. You can climb the local peaks and enjoy the magnificent views of Lake Baikal from the top. Experience the natural beauty of the surrounding forests, valleys and hills. The powerful beauty of the lake with wild rocky cliffs and crystal clear air and the mysterious healing energy of the lake has always been a source of power for the shamans living in Siberia.
Lake Baikal is deservedly one of the highlights of any Trans-Siberian trip & we offer a range of programs over the next few pages which will allow you to see the best of what this stunning region has to offer. Most of our programs are based in either Listvyanka or Bolshoe Goloustnoe but for the adventurous there are Olkhon Island Camping trips and Skiing at Baikalsk. In both Listvyanka and Bolshoe Goloustnoe you are accommodated in a separate room in a traditional wooden house (the toilet is outside & there are no doors inside the houses - just curtains). Meals are provided 3 times a day. Your hospitable landlady will prepare delicious traditional Siberian food. Irkutsk has developed into a comfortable city to finish up you Baikal experience.
A cross between Western Russia and Siberia, Burytia and Mongolia, the City is growing but the centre you will explore is relatively small. This is the older part of the City which has been restored and has some excellent Siberian wooden architecture. There is also a modern feel to the City with a cafe culture and shopping arcades which are comfortable to wander around, whatever the weather outside! While staying in Irkutsk you will be accommodated at the Angara Hotel or Uzori Hotel on basic trips.
Listvyanka is on the shore of Lake Baikal at the mouth of the Angara River, which flows down from Irkutsk. This is the nearest access point to Lake Baikal from Irkutsk and although the village is built using traditional wooden architecture, recent development has seen an increase of hotels, bars and holiday resorts for wealthy Russians. However this development does mean there are some good museums and souvenir shops making it a good place to stop for a short time to learn about thee histiry of Lake Baikal. There are also tourist based activities available, especially during winter and so we offer some good options of snow-mobiles or cross-country skiing. We also use Listvyanka as a base for longer trips to Olkhon Island, Circum-Baikal or trips including the Port Baikal Ferry.
Bolshoe Goloustnoe is a very small traditional village which has little tourism development and maintains a local feel with all houses built of wood in the traditional style. Bolshoe Goloustnoe (or BG as we often refer to it) is a little further away from Listyvanka and sees much fewer tourists making their way here. As a result you will gain a much more genuine Siberian Lake Baikal experience and the locals go about their daily routine relatively unchanged. There are no shops as such int he village although you are well looked after my your local family and guide and all meals are provided. If you want a little more action, then consider Listcyanka. We offer trips to Ushkani Cape from Bolshoe Goloustnoe.
Ushkani Cape is 8km from Bolshoe Goloustnoe along a lakeshore path. Along the way there is a “dry” lake which appears and disappears from time to time. Geologists have no explanation for this event. Ushkani cape is a hunting and fishing settlement surrounded by high cliffs which prevent the strong winds off the lake reaching it. There are small, richly carved wooden houses in a secluded setting and there are tour options which include a night at the cape.
Krestovsaya Bay is an unspoilt area of Lake Baikal some three of fours from Irkutsk and apart from the natural beauty of the region and the beach side setting, the Bay area also boasts remnants of an ancient fortress from the 6th Century as well as stone-age paintings in the Sagan-Zaba rock and marble cliffs.
Olkhon Island is 300 km from Irkutsk. At 72 km long, Olkhon Island is the largest island on Lake Baikal and home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the region. It is a unique as it has three different climate zones of steppe, forest and desert. Olkhon Island is wonderful place for hiking, biking and horse-riding tours, and the Maloye Sea is one of the best places on Lake Baikal for aquatic activities. At Hoboi cape, the most northerly tip of the island, there are some of the best views of Lake Baikal, which show the immensity and powerful beauty of the lake. By late summer, Sandy Bay is one the few spots where the water is warm enough to swim comfortably.
The Circum-Baikal railway was built more than a hundred years ago, and is an outstanding landmark to the construction and engineering art. There are a lot of beautifully constructed tunnels and bridges along the way. The railway was supposed to be a continuation of the Trans-Siberian railway. The Circum-Baikal railway was used for Trans-Siberian trains starting from 1904 until 1950's, when the new railway from Irkutsk to Slyudyanka was built. Nowadays, Circum-Baikal is a quiet picturesque route with many tunnels and a few traditional Siberian village stops. There are just two trains operating each week.
Baikalsk is a Siberian ski resort situated close to Lake Baikal in Baikalsk city. It is a popular ski region for locals and especially at the weekend with families coming from Ulan-Ude and Irkutsk for the skiing - even President Putin skis here! There are magnificent views to Lake Baikal and perfect snow.
length of Baikalsk ski slopes is over 15 km, maximum altitude
difference -550m, with 5 lifts. Although it is not a huge resiort
by European standards the quality and depth of the snow can
be perfect with fresh un-pisted runs to be found most days.
The ski area is one of the best in Siberia and Far
East of Russia and National Russian Ski Teams also train here.
Snowboard and cross-country skiing is also available at Baikalsk. The winter season lasts from approximately December 1 till early April 1.