Irkutsk is a city brimming with elegance and sophistication, largely courtesy of the many artists and nobles who were exiled here following the Decembrist revolt in 1825. It has been nicknamed the "Paris of Siberia" due to its stunning architecture and rich cultural and historical legacy, and it certainly earns the moniker. After spending a few nights in Irkutsk, head to Olkhon Island and enjoy its picturesque natural beauty and serenity. The tour also includes time in Listvyanka and Port Baikal, and the chance to take a boat ride out over the depths of Lake Baikal (in the summer) or hoverboard over the stunning frozen ice (in the winter). Whatever time of year you go, Lake Baikal is guaranteed to stun you with its beauty and tranquillity.
Fly to Irkutsk via Moscow.
Arrive in Irkutsk and transfer to hotel, where you will check in for 2 nights. In the afternoon meet your local guide for a city tour of Irkutsk (3 hours). Irkutsk is a city brimming with fine architecture and fascinating cultural and historical sights. It has maintained a certain level of sophistication ever since the early 19th-century when gold was discovered in the area, followed by the arrival of numerous artists and nobles who were exiled here after the Decembrist revolt. Ornate Decembrist log cabins are still dotted on the pretty streets and can be found alongside grand public buildings displaying classical Russian architecture. In addition, there are plenty of exquisite cathedrals, churches and museums to explore, giving an insight into this remote yet welcoming city. (B)
Free day to explore Irkutsk further. (B)
This morning transfer to the bus station for the bus to Khuzhir on Olkhon Island. This bus takes around 6-7 hours and includes the short ferry crossing. Check in to the guesthouse for 2 nights. (B,D)
Stretching 70 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide, Olkhon is the largest island of the 26 on the lake, and is often referred to the heart of Baikal. It has been the centre of Buryat Shamanism for centuries, and according to legend this is where the first Buryat Shaman got his gift. The beauty and tranquil isolation strikes its visitors immediately: pristine sandy beaches, towering cliffs, fascinating rock formations and water so clear and fresh you may not be able to believe it. Today spend time exploring the island, including a visit to the local museum in Khuzir, the main settlement on the island. In the evening, take a walk to Cape Burkhan (Shamanka Rock) for stunning Baikal sunsets. (B,D)
Today take the bus back to Irkutsk and transfer by car to the village of Listvyanka by the shores of Lake Baikal. Check into the guesthouse for 4 nights. (B)
Meet with your local guide for a sightseeing excursion of Listvyanka including a visit to Baikal Limnological Museum. This museum has excellent displays showing the history, unique flora and fauna of the lake. Stop by Saint Nicholas church, built in the 19th century, and take the chair lift up to an amazing viewpoint of Lake Baikal. Spend some time in the Fish and Souvenir market where you can sample some delicious smoked omul and barter over souvenirs. (B)
This morning meet with your guide and transfer by car to the ferry port for the fifteen minute crossing over the Angara River to Port Baikal. Spend the day exploring the cape around this small settlement. Visit the reconstructed railway station, which houses a small museum of history of the Circumbaikal Railway (closed Mondays and Tuesdays) along with an old steam engine. Take a walk along the track of the Circumbaikal Railway with photo stops en route, and keep an eagle eye out for the Baikal seals which can sometimes be seen in the water. Enjoy a picnic on the shore (Lunch box is included), before returning to Listvyanka. (B,L)
Depending on what season you visit enjoy an exhilarating hovercraft experience on the ice (1 hour) or take a short boat trip out on to the Lake. (B)
Today transfer back to Irkutsk and make a visit to the Taltsy Museum of Architecture & Ethnography, an impressive collection of old Siberian buildings set in a peaceful riverside forest on the main road from Listvyanka to Irkutsk. Amid the renovated farmsteads explore two chapels, a church, a watermill and some Evenki graves. Shop for some souvenirs before arriving back at Irkutsk, where you will check in for overnight stay. (B)
This morning, transfer to Irkutsk Airport for flight back to the UK via Moscow. (B)