Lake Baikal is a unique and mysterious natural phenomenon whose untouched and magnificent beauty impresses all people who come to see it. They call Baikal “the pearl of Siberia”.
The distance from Irkutsk to the lake is 60 kilometers and one can reach it in two ways – by land and by river.
The highway to Lake Baikal runs along the Angara. The traveller soon leaves behind the suburbs of Irkutsk with their new residential areas. The taiga moves in on the highway. On the left it is thick and dark. On the right one catches glimpses of water through the trees – first, the Irkutsk Reservoir with its quaint-shaped coves, and then the Angara itself. Sometimes the highway goes past settlements between Irkutsk and Baikal. The houses are of huge logs, window surrounds and shutters of many painted with various designs or ornamented with carving. Lumbermen, fishermen, fur-breeders and farmers live here.
The highway then climbs hills, goes down into the river valleys. The climbs become higher and more frequent. The highway comes closer to the Angara, another rise, a turn – and there it is Baikal. The horizon swiftly opens out, revealing to view the silvery smooth surface of the lake.
One may also travel up the river by a Raketa hydrofoil launch. It takes as long as the land trip – about an hour. First, the launch travels up the Irkutsk Reservoir. Its picturesque shores are lined with villa estates, summer camps and cottages, villages, jetties and yacht club piers. Leaving the reservoir, the launch enters the Angara, breasting its powerful current.
Then the mountains nodivide to form a giant funnel. The only Angara River flows out of Baikal. One can see the top of the Shaman Stone – a reminder of the rapids. They separate the Angara from the lake. Now the rocks of the rapids are under the water. The river is relatively shallow at its source. The water is warmer here than elsewhere.
When the Shaman Stone is left behind, the Raketa heads for the landing stage of the Listvyanka Settlement. The highway also leads here.
Listvyanka is on the coast of Baikal. This is a small settlement. It stretches in at the foot of a high stony ridge.
So, Listvyanka is a place where one may begin the trip around Baikal or stay in the hotel, have a rest and get pleasure here.