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Baikal Lake is famed for its astonishing scenery: deep-blue waters ornated with all possible landscapes formed under diverse natural forces. This UNESCO-protected natural heritage site undoubtedly provides with unique views and unforgettable nature moments. However, it is hardly possible to cover the entire lake in one trip, unless you are on a half-year vacation solely planned for Siberia. In this case, the village of Listvyanka is an ultimate destination. Only one hour drive away from Irkutsk, this small settlement presents a warren of authentic wooden houses and food stalls that fringe the lake with its enchanting chaotic shape. Although you do not find here the subalpine meadows crossing taiga, you get a chance to experience everything the oldest settlement around Baikal Lake has to offer. Keep reading to find out the major lake pearls not to miss in the Listvyanka village.
One of its kind, Baikal Limnological Museum functions as an independent research institution in Listvyanka already since 1993. Although the research is a primary area, a fair share of attention is also given to interactive displays and educational activities. Hence, the museum supports the summer school for kids “Studies of Baikal”, that takes place here annually and holds numerous courses for teachers and tourist guides. As a visitor, you can access nine spacious aquariums, get an observation tour in English or feed a Baikal seal ('nerpa' in Russian). The unspoken highlight of the museum experience is a virtual dive to the bottom of the lake. A small-scale model of a manned submersible invites up to 22 people to “dive” to the depth of 1637 m. The visuals are created on the base of professional footage obtained during the acclaimed expeditions of “Mir I” and “Paysysy”. The so-called dive is usually accompanied by the guide’s story about the unique characteristics of the underwater landscape and local biodiversity. The museum is opened from 9h to 19h throughout the week and is located at the very entrance of Listvyanka.
For all the newcomers, Baikal Lake is not only the deepest lake in the world, but also home to more than 800 various endemic species. Thus, the above-mentioned Baikal seal or ‘nerpa’ as it’s usually gently named by the locals is one of them. Apart from ‘nerpa’, you might come across some other unusual names like 'golomyanka' or 'omul', both are famous fish species. Besides, the latter is almost synonymous to the Baikal Lake brand. A beloved touristic delicacy and a popular chaser among the locals, this whitefish breed is a representative of the salmon family. His relative, the Arctic omul is modestly living in the northern waters of Russia and Canada. But particularly, at the Baikal, this fish has gained its big name and was anthemed in numerous legends, traditional songs and is frequently mentioned in the culinary recipes. Thus, in the center of the Listvyanka village, you find a big fish market. You can really have a ball and try all kinds of omul, from smoked to dried, from soaked in beer to fried. But not only you get the guilty fish pleasures here, but also can buy some authentic souvenirs such as jewelry made of Baikal minerals and stones, hand-made handicrafts, and some local herbs.
Somewhat unique not only for Baikal Lake but also for the entire world, the Circum-Baikal Railway presents the unvarnished artwork that celebrates outstanding engineering. This railway has truly surpassed all other lines existed in the amount of various and challenging works performed here. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, it stands for a phenomenal masonry of tunnels and retaining walls merged with the massive cliffs that perilously fringed the Baikal shore. As some bits of the road are impressively narrow and heavy-going, to master them without any smart machinery back in times was a demanding task. Hence, today these 40 tunnels, 16 galleries, numerous viaducts and bridges present a true architectural monument. To evidence it with your own eyes, you face multiple choices. However, there is one sensational tour offered particularly from Listvyanka. It is optimal for those who want to cover as much as possible in one day. You can see the best spots along the Circum-Baikal Railway from the cutter that brings you from Listvyanka and back. On your waterway, you will see the Port Baikal, an official final destination of this prominent railway, and some other small villages along with picturesque landscapes.
So, if you find yourself around this small but much-to-offer residential settlement of Listvyanka, that extends over the shores of the stunning Baikal, make sure not to miss the major lake pearls.
Cover picture © credits to irkipedia.ru/Mikhail Stepantsov
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