Irkutsk is perhaps the most popular stopover on the Trans-Siberian Railway route and it’s not difficult to see why. A relaxed city brimming with fine architecture and fascinating cultural and historical sights, Irkutsk has maintained a certain level of sophistication ever since the early 19th-century when gold was discovered in the area followed by the arrival numerous artists and nobles who were exiled here after the Decembrist revolt.
Ornate Decembrist log cabins are still dotted on the pretty streets alongside grand public buildings displaying classical Russian architecture, and there are plenty of exquisite cathedrals, churches and museums to explore giving an insight into this remote yet welcoming city. The biggest draw of Irkutsk, however, is its close proximity to the magnificent Lake Baikal. The oldest and deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal is a spectacular sight and offers many opportunities for activities such as hiking, cycling, horse riding and kayaking.