Circum-Baikal Railway is a railroad on the western shore of the Baikal mostly for tourist purposes.
89-km–long route from Slyudyanka-2 to port Baikal is a great opportunity to enjoy the changing views of the lake as the train rides along the shoreline from south to north and back. You will pass through 39 tunnels making several 20 min stops to take a stroll outside.. Before World War II Trans-Siberia trains from Irkutsk was following Angara river reaching Port Baikal and then going at lake coast to Sludyanka. In late 40s. Line from Irkutsk to Port Baikal was dismantled and traffic was moved to mountain road through Bolshoy Lug, making Circum Baikal dead-end railway.
- By Circum-Baikal Express, Кругобайкальский экспресс which departs from Irkutsk. It comprises 1st, 2nd and business-class carriages which are rather relaxing. You can hear the music, listen to the guide or sit at the bar. The ticket usually is being bought at tour agencies as excursions. The train starts from Irkutsk on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8:00am or from the port Baikal on Thursdays and Sundays. The trip takes about 12-13 hours including stops for a walk. The time of return to Irkutsk is 21:00-22:00.
If you want to travel by yourself you may enjoy two basic variants: southward and northward. Note that official Russian train directions are irrelevant to north-south and are only two: to the west (на запад) and to the east (на восток). This is what you will always see when dealing with railway timetables. So in case of Circum-Baikal Raiway to the west means northward to the port Baikal and to the east means southward to Slyudyanka. The most common starting point is Slyudyanka. Local train that shuttles on the route is called matanya (#951/952).
- Getting to Slyudyanka is possible by either elektrichka or marshrutka from Irkutsk and spans 2.5 hours. Connection time to matanya may be quite long and varies according to the season but it will certainly be within 13:00-20:00. The trip itself takes 6-7 hours. On arrival to port Baikal, you either will want to come back the same way or go to Listvyanka that is across Angara river. Departure time for port Rogatka (in Listvyanka): 6:40, 15:50 and 17:15.
- From the opposite direction you should first go to Listvyanka and take a boat (ferry) across Angara river to the port Baikal. Departure time for port Baikal: 8:15, 16:15 and 18:15.
Summing up the connection timetables it will need another day for the round journey.
These are major stops as follow:
- Slyudyanka, its station building is covered with white and pink marble.
- Staraya Angasolka - small village and viaduc.
- Polovinny, the location of the shortest and the longest tunnels.
- Shumikha, you can get out and see valleys of two rivers and Italian wall.
- Port Baikal located on the cape Baranchik, and has early XXth century lighthouse.
It's important that food stores are scarce on the railway, so take something with you or use the bar.