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 (season only) 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.
It is possible to travel independently using local transport at any time of the year, as train #6201 Matanya assures the connection between Slyudyanka 1 (Слюдянка 1) and Port Baikal (Байкал) through the Circumbaikal Railway. Updated timetables are available online from the Russian Railways website. As with any local train, it's not possible to buy tickets online, but they can be bought aboard for 67 roubles (one-way, October 2013).
Matanya is now a comfortable, hi-tech looking red train, but as other local trains, it has no food for sale aboard and no hot-water dispenser. The stops are not long enough to alight and, outside of season, there are no food sellers on the plataforms, so pack your lunch and don't rely on instant noodles.
- Getting to Slyudyanka from Irkutsk is possible by either marshrutka or eletrichka and takes at least 2.5 hours. If consulting the Russian Railways website, eletrichkas are the trains whose ticket price is not shown (because it's not possible to buy them online). Tickets cost 83 roubles aboard (one-way, October 2013). Inquire for a route Irkutsk/Baikal and click on "routes with changes" ("Маршруты с пересадками") for obtaining connection suggestions.
- From Port Baikal, most tourists cross the Angara river towards Listvianka. Apart form summer season, the Matanya train usually arrives after the departure of the last ferry to port Rogatka (49 roubles one-way, October 2013), but it's possible to cross on private boats paying about 500 roubles pp. There is a new and clean hotel/hostel/museum (restaurant closed outside season) in front of the Matanya last stop, cheapest dorm costs 450 roubles for a 10h-stay, and in summer private accommodation abounds.
- The Port Baikal/Listvianka ferry deserves the Rogatka port, 5km west of the main Listvianka settlement (which has another bigger port). If arriving in Rogatka with the first ferry on the wee hours, either join the locals waiting for a minibus to the main settlement or find shelter on the Hotel Baikal's teahouse, which offers breakfast menus for 190 roubles (October 2013) and affords stunning views of Lake Baikal. Go uphill past the Lake Baikal Museum. Reception has wifi.
Summing up the connection timetables, it is usually necessary to overnight either in Port Baikal or Listvianka to complete the round journey from/to Irkutsk.
Please note train #6202 (Port Baikal/Slyudyanka) travels overnight and is therefore not interesting for sightseeing.
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.