Baikal, the deepest and cleanest lake on earth, attracts tourists from all over the world. The Southern Baikal area is among the dynamically developing tourist destinations. Alexander Lautin, Director General of the Irkutsk Region Development Corporation, told the EcoTourism Expert portal about promising tourism projects in the Irkutsk Region.
- Where would you advise to start the acquaintance with Baikal?
- The acquaintance with the region usually begins in Irkutsk, the capital of Eastern Siberia, a city with an over 300-year history, it is located at the crossroads of trade, tourism and transport routes. From Irkutsk, tourists go to small towns and villages on the banks of the Angara River and the Baikal coast, for example, to Taltsy, a unique open-air museum of wooden architecture and a living history of the pioneers of Siberia, or to the Listvyanka Village famous for its picturesque nature and the Museum of Baikal. Among the most famous attractions are the Mount Monomakh’s Cap and warm lakes such as the Myortvoye (Dead), Izumrudnoe (Emerald) and Tyoploye (Warm) lakes, as well as the Taltsinsky Peak, the Baikal Art Gallery and the Zhigalov Museum of Minerals.
Especially for those who come to Lake Baikal for the first time, I strongly recommend making a trip by the Circum-Baikal Railway built back in the 19th century so that they could get a better idea of the area and enjoy the beauties and attractions of the Irkutsk Region. And, of course, the city of Baikalsk located at the foot of the Khamar-Daban Ridge is a must-visit to admire the amazing views of its snowy peaks, valleys in the rocky mountain, and be in harmony with nature. Comfortable conditions for outdoor activities and sports have been created and continue to be created in this part of the South Baikal area after setting up the Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
- How popular is the Irkutsk Region with tourists today?
- For 8 months of 2022, the tourist flow to the Irkutsk Region reached 1,1 mn people, which is more than for the same period last year. Every year, a number of travellers visiting South Baikal grows, which is not surprising because the ski season in these places lasts from November to May due to plenty of snow and comfortable weather.
A large number of sunny days during the summer also offers great opportunities for outdoor activities, which includes ecotourism, ethno-tourism, numerous routes of various difficulty levels like hiking, mountaineering, water tourism, horseback riding, and cycle touring. In the Pribaikalsky National Park, several tours are especially popular, including the ones dubbed the North of the Olkhon Island, the Great Baikal and the South of the Olkhon Island. This year, more than 60 thousand tourists travelled along these routes.
The stunning beauty of the Baikal nature attracts both lovers of various outdoor activities and photo tourists. It is important, as they say, to ensure a well-developed tourism infrastructure.
- What are the opportunities for developing tourism, implementing promising and attractive projects in South Baikal?
- The prospects for the tourism development in the Irkutsk Region depend on the successful implementation of the project of a year-round mountain resort within the framework of the “Gate of Baikal” Special Economic Zone. The SEZ area is 763 hectares with the total area for infrastructure construction of 121 hectares. This is the largest tourist cluster of Lake Baikal and entire Eastern Siberia.
International competitions are regularly held in the Irkutsk Region. At the same time, the construction of ski slopes, ski-lifts and other tourist infrastructure continues, and good opportunities are created for private businesses to invest in the development of ski and health resorts, hotels and campsites.
Tax preferences, the construction of engineering and transport infrastructure and the administrative support at all stages made it possible to double the number of residents in the Special Economic Zone this year. The total sum of investments declared by the residents for the entire period of the project implementation should be over 16 bn roubles.
Anyway, it is important that all tourism and infrastructure facilities in the Special Economic Zone are built after the mandatory State Environmental Review.
Right now, we offer good environment, modern infrastructure and quality service, and will offer them in the near future. We can say that today, the “Gate of Baikal” is wide open for tourists and investors are welcome.
Photo courtesy of the Irkutsk Region Development Corporation.