Worth a Trip: Nizhneangarsk
Until the BAM clunked into town, Nizhneangarsk had led an isolated existence for over 300 years, cobbling together its long streets of wooden houses and harvesting Baikal’s rich omul (a type of fish) stocks. If truth be told, not much changed when the railway arrived, but despite the appearance of now larger Severobaikalsk 30km away, the 5km-long village remains the administrative centre of northern Baikal.
The Regional Museum chases the history of the region back to the 17th century and includes several Evenki exhibits. The museum often hosts performances by the local Evenki folklore collective Sinilga, which can be arranged through the Maryasov family in Severobaikalsk.
To the east of the town, a long spit of land known as Yarki Island caps the most northerly point of Lake Baikal and keeps powerful currents and waves out of the fragile habitat of the Verkhnyaya Angara delta. You can walk along its length.
Scenic low-altitude flights cross Lake Baikal to Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude when weather conditions allow.
Marshrutky (R70, 50 minutes) from Severobaikalsk run every 30 minutes along ul Pobedy then continue along the coast road (ul Rabochaya) to the airport.
Worth a Trip: Baikalskoe
This timeless little fishing village of log-built houses 45km south of Severobaikalsk has a jaw-droppingly picturesque lakeside location backed by wooded hills and snow-dusted peaks. Your first stop should be the small, informal school museum. The only other sight is the wooden Church of St Inokent, which strikes a scenic lakeside pose.
Most visitors come to Baikalskoe on a day trip from Severobaikalsk, but if you do want to stay the night, arrange a homestay through tour agencies and fixers in Severobaikalsk. The Maryasov family in Severobaikalsk can put you up in the house of Gertrude Freimane, a Latvian deportee, who cooks excellent wild-berry cakes. There’s no cafe in the village, just a couple of shops selling basic foodstuffs.
Marshrutky (R100, 45 minutes) leave from outside Severobaikalsk train station every day early in the morning and in the early evening, returning an hour or so later.
A section of the Great Baikal Trail heads north from the fishing port 20 minutes up a cliff-side path towards the radio mast atop cape Ludar, from which there are particularly superb views looking back towards the village. Beyond that, Baikalskoe’s shamanic petroglyphs hide in awkward-to-reach cliff-side locations and can only be found with the help of a knowledgeable local. The well-maintained trail continues another 18 scenic kilometres through beautiful cedar and spruce forests and past photogenic Boguchan Island to chilly Lake Slyudyanskoe, next to which stands the small Echo turbaza (holiday camp) – book through the Maryasov family.
The hike makes for a rewarding day trip and, with the path hugging the lake most of the way, there’s little chance of getting lost. From the Echo turbaza head along a dirt track through the forest to the Severobaikalsk–Baikalskoe road to hitch a lift, or prearrange transport back to Severobaikalsk. Alternatively, some hikers tackle the day the other way round, catching the morning marshrutka to Echo turbaza, then timing the hike to make the evening marshrutka back to Severobaikalsk.