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On the banks of the Angara River 72 kilometres from Lake Baikal, Irkutsk is today the tourist gateway to the Baikal region and the wilds of Siberia surrounding it. Lake Baikal is the deepest freshwater lake in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has 2 national
Much of the history of Irkutsk, though, revolves around the Decembrists. In the early nineteenth century, many Russian artists, officers and nobles were sent into exile to Siberia for their part in the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I. Irkutsk became the major center of intellectual and social life for these exiles, and much of the city's cultural heritage comes from them. Many of their wooden houses, adorned with ornate, hand-carved decorations, were built by the Decemberists, and still survive today.
Today, Irkutsk is one of the biggest cities in Siberia, with a growing population of more than 590,000 people. It's home to several universities and a major branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
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Irkutsk is home to a remarkable number of historic churches, among them Ascension Church (1747-51), Epiphany Cathedral (1718-46), Our Lady of Kazan Church (1885-92), and Saviour Church (1706-13). There are also a few historical museums in the houses of Decembrist exiles, or you can just wander around and look at the beautiful wooden architecture on the houses. A downloadable PDF sight-seeing map can be found at WWW Irkutsk.
The world's deepest lake is Lake Baikal 65 kilometres southeast of Irkutsk. It is 1,637 metres deep and contains roughly 20% of the world's freshwater supplies. Fed by 336 rivers and streams including the Angara, Barguzin, Selenga, Turka and Snezhnaya, the lake holds fifty species of fish including bullhead, sturgeon and omul. 
In the winter, the central park has many ice sculptures as well as an ice castle that you can walk around in. There are ice slides in this park also. Most Russians stand up and slide on the soles of their shoes. The park is very lively at night with tourist, even though the temperatures drop well below -20 °C.
Winter precipitation is quite light and all of it falls as snow. Winters are very cold and prolonged everywhere, but the short summers can be quite warm and pleasant by day once the winter snow has melted. Summers become shorter northwards, but even as far north as Verkhoyansk (see the table) the brief summer has some very warm days. Summer is the wettest season everywhere.
Average temperatures for the year are:
More information on the weather can be found from the BBC Irkutsk Average Weather website.
|Avg Max||-13.5 °C||-9.8 °C||-0.6 °C||8.2 °C||17.1 °C||22.6 °C||24.1 °C||21.6 °C||15.5 °C||6.9 °C||-3.3 °C||-11 °C|
|Avg Min||-23.1 °C||-22.1 °C||-13.4 °C||-4 °C||2.6 °C||8.4 °C||12 °C||10 °C||3.6 °C||-3.5 °C||-13 °C||-20.2 °C|
|Rainfall||12 mm||9 mm||13 mm||19 mm||33 mm||62 mm||120 mm||86 mm||50 mm||30 mm||18 mm||19 mm|
Irkutsk International Airport (Russian: Аэропорт Ирку́тск) (Airport Code: IKT) is an airport in the centre of Irkutsk, Russia. Due to its proximity to the Angara Reservoir the airport enjoys a particular microclimate, with foggy weather being prevalent for most of the year. The airport is often closed due to bad weather conditions, with Bratsk serving as a diversion airport. Some key destinations served from Irkutsk include:
There is also the smaller Irkutsk Northwest Airport, which mostly serves civilian aircraft.
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Irkutsk is a station on the Trans-Siberian Railway, connecting Moscow and Vladivostok. There are numerous services running from Irkutsk on a daily basis. Branch lines also go south towards Mongolia and China, and to Ulan-Ude.
Federal road connects Irkutsk with Vladivostok.
From late June until late August, there are hydrofoil connections from Irkutsk all the way up north across Lake Baikal to Severobaykalsk, where you can connect to the Baikal Amur Railway (BAM). There are summer ferries to Bratsk as well across the Angara river.
Buses, trolley buses (electric buses), and trams (on tracks) operate on an honour system. Tickets (called "taloni") are the same for all three and can be purchased in a 10-pack from the driver, at kiosks situtated near bus stops, and at some other kiosks. To validate your ticket, slide it into the top of one of the devices mounted on the walls, and punch it. During the day, especially in the city centre, these forms of transportation can get extremely crowded. People often pass their tickets through the crowd to someone standing near a punching device. If you are handed a ticket, please pass it along or punch it and pass it back, as appropriate.
If you travel without a ticket and an inspector catches you, you will be fined 20,000 rubles. (Make sure to get a receipt when you pay the fine.)
Tram numbers are posted on small signs hanging on wires above the street. Trams stop in the middle of the street, but you can wait on the sidewalk. When a tram approaches, cars are obliged to stop and wait for passengers getting on and off the tram.
To Suburbs and Lake Baikal
There are many bus routes between the small suburban towns and Irkutsk city. The main routes are to Angarsk (every day) and to Listvyanka/Lake Baikal (every 2 hours). You can reach any small railway station near Irkutsk via the "elektrichka" or suburban trains. There are a number of hydrofoil routes down the river Angara and up to Lake Baikal. They run only in the summer time.
|Admiral Hostel||Cheremhovski pereulok ( street) Building 6, Apt 1||Hostel||87|
|Baikaler Hostel||Lenin street, Building #9 Apartment 11||HOSTEL||89|
|Baikalhostel||Ulitza Lermontova 136, Kvartiera 1, 1th floor||Hostel||85|
|Nerpa Backpackers||Irkutsk, Sportivny lane building 5A apt. 1||HOSTEL||90|
|Penguin Hostel||Yamskaya street, 5-46||Hostel||-|
|Trans-Sib Hostel||Sportivniy str 9 ap 8||HOSTEL||88|
|Auberge Théâtrale||Karl Liebknecht street 11 apartment 15||Guesthouse||-|
|IF Hostel||Gasheka str, 2-3||Hostel||-|
|Irkutsk Hostel||Zhelyabov str. 23a/1||Hostel||80|
|Explorer Hostel||5th Army, House 71, flat 6||HOSTEL||80|
|AlpBase||Angasolka settlement, Alpbase 1 and 2 Irkutsk region||HOSTEL||-|
|Home Hostel Irkutsk||Polskih Povstantsev 18 B||HOSTEL||-|
|DayNight Apartments||Jamskaya 5||APARTMENT||-|
|Irkutsk City Lodge||Baikalskaya Street 124||HOSTEL||88|
|Friends' house Irkutsk||Zhelyabova Str., building||Hostel||-|
|Irkutsk Hostel on baykalskaya str||Baykalskaya street, 253B||Hostel||-|
|Staryi Dvorik||Povstantsev street 18b||Guesthouse||-|
|Galina's Hostel||5th Army St, building 35, appt. 1||HOSTEL||-|
Russia is a huge country, and excess to the internet varies a lot. The main cities and tourist places have (free) wifi excess at lots of places, like restaurants and cafes (McDonald's is always a safe bet). Internet cafes are present in larger places as well. Rural areas and especially if you venture into remote and/or mountainous areas have little excess at all. Most travellers will find connections though when using their phone or tablet.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The emergency number is 112. The country code for Russia is 7. Russian phone numbers have an area code with three, four or five digits (according to their province), followed by an individual number with, respectively, 7, 6 or 5 digits, always yielding 10 digits in total. The three digit code 800 is used for toll-free calls. Mobile phones always have three-digit "area" codes and seven-digit numbers. Calls within any one area code may omit the area code (except in Moscow). Inter-area code calls within Russia: 8 (wait for tone) full Russian number including area code. The international access code for dialling outwith Russia is the sequence of 8 (wait for secondary tone and then) 10. International calls to Russia, as always, replace the plus sign (+) in the international phone format with the local international access code for the country you're calling from, followed by Russia's country code of 7 followed by the individual Russian phone number including area code.
You will require a SIM-unlocked GSM 900 / 1800 compatible international cell phone when buying a Russian SIM card. If you do not have your own international cell phone, it's best to buy a cheap cell phone with some value on the card. Foreigners can purchase a local SIM card by showing your passport. BeeLine is considered to be the best in terms of reliability and connections quality. However Megafon's services can be a bit cheaper.
Russian Post is the national postal service of Russia. It's English version is currently under construction, but mainly involves the track&trace system. The domestic post is reasonably reliable, and sending international mail is fairly reliable but slow, taking at least a few weeks to European countries, longer to the USA or Australia for example. The delivery of mail sent from abroad to Russia is highly unreliable, and people or companies tend to use foreign adresses, from where a private carrier sends it to Russia. Alternatives like poste restante are non-existent with Russian Post. Most cities and large towns in Russia have a Central Post Office (Glavpochtamt), which also sells stamps and envelopes, and usually has fax services and Internet availability, though the latter mostly not in smaller places. Also, many hotels have postal services, including mail boxes. Post offices tend to keep long hours, usually from 8:00am or 9:00am until 8:00pm or 9:00pm Monday to Friday, and closing earlier during weekends. The main central post offices in the biggest cities keep even longer hours. For sending parcels, you can also try services by DHL Russia and FedEx Russia. For all mail you can use the regular alphabet, though maybe include the country's name in Cyrillic. For sending post to Russia (or trying to receive it) note that addresses should be in reverse order: Russia, postal code, city, street address, name.
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