In this review, we will stay at the Mayak Hotel in Listvyanka, one of the most popular places on the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.
Being the 7th largest freshwater lake in the world in terms of surface area (bigger than all the North American Great Lakes combined), there are obviously a lot of towns and villages located on the shores of Lake Baikal. Choosing where to stay is therefore mostly a matter of personal needs, taste and logistics.
I opted to stay two nights in the town of Listvyanka for a simple reason. First of all, it is the most accessible place on Lake Baikal as it is closest to Irkutsk. With especially long distance traffic along the lake being less frequent in winter, this seemed like the safest bet even though some more faraway places like Olkhon Island did intrigue me.
Secondly, there is simply less choice where to stay in winter than in summer. There are many places around the lake which are well-suited for summer travel and activities, but not so many when it comes to winter excursions.
What I read online, Listvyanka has by far the widest choice of activities and day trips which could be easily arranged on the spot. Even in wintertime, the town is a popular choice for a mostly Chinese tourist crowd. Also Russian locals from the region visit often, especially during weekends for a short break away from home.
Getting from Irkutsk to Listvyanka
It was fairly easy to make my way from Irkutsk to the town of Listvyanka. Even though the receptionist of my Irkutsk hotel told me I had to go to the out-of-town bus station, I found out about a much better option all by myself.
While I was exploring Irkutsk and took a stroll around the city’s main market located just a stone throw away from my hotel, I spotted some marshrutkas (Russian minibuses) with a sign ‘Листвя́нка’ (Listvyanka) placed at the front window.
When I came back to the place after checking out of my Irkutsk hotel after a two night stay in the city, it indeed turned out to be the starting point of a frequent marshrutka service to Listvyanka.
The marshrutka parked in front of the main market was already filled for 70 percent with other passengers, which meant that I had to take one of the window seats on the back row – one of the most undesirable places in the minibus.
As many marshrutkas only leave when they are completely full, it however also meant that we would likely depart sooner than later. Indeed, within minutes after taking a seat, the minibus filled up and we were off on our 40-mile journey to Listvyanka which takes a little bit over an hour.
The marshrutka seemed to be mostly used by babushkas from one of the villages on the route who went to Irkutsk for a little shopping spree. The scenery along the way consisted of eternal Russian taiga forests, although it was difficult to look out of the window due to the condensation as a result of the heater in the minivan and cold outside temperatures.
Half of the minibus emptied out along villages along the way, and when the vehicle arrived at its terminus in Listvyanka it was only me, four Russian women and a Chinese tourist on the bus.
Luckily, the terminus happened to be right outside my hotel for the next two days: the Mayak Hotel. The word Mayak is Russian for lighthouse and it’s quite obvious why it is called this way judging by the looks of the seven-story building.
Listvyanka is basically a strip of three miles long right along the shore of Lake Baikal. Most of the local inhabitants do however not live directly at the lakefront, but rather in a wooden houses in sheltered valley which runs inland from the lake.
As Listvyanka is a low-key town consisting mostly out of wooden houses the gaudy Mayak stands out completely. It’s the only hotel that is somewhat of a luxurious option among an otherwise OK-looking selection of smaller hotels, B&Bs and homestays in one of the wooden houses.
Even though a homestay in such a house sounded quite attractive, I did not want to risk it in the end as I required a reliable internet connection for work.
Mayak Hotel rooms
A friendly receptionist checked me in within seconds. I had a room on the fourth floor of the building, which can be reached by both stairs and elevator.
I opted for the smallest and cheapest room at the Mayak, a small-ish single room which at 2,100 RUB (30 EUR) per night including breakfast was well-priced. The room was of average size and did not disappoint.
The bed was comfortable, it had a desk to work on and the internet connection was great. Unfortunately, the room only had a view towards a hill on the back of the hotel. The more premium rooms in the hotel have of course a view over Lake Baikal.
The bathroom had all basic amenities which you would expect from a four-star hotel. However, do not expect any luxuries as this is still the Russian provincial hotel and not a four star hotel in Moscow or New York. The bathtub with hot running water was especially appreciated during my stay. Nothing better than a warm bath after exploring Lake Baikal with temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius (-22 °F) outside!
Mayak Hotel breakfast
Breakfast at the Mayak Hotel was perfectly adequate. Even though I found the quality of most foods somewhat average, the breakfast spread was quite big. There were different sorts of bread, some pastries, cold cuts, eggs, berry cake and even some bright red caviar! The coffee and juices were of decent quality.
The buffet also included some downright weird items for breakfast such as chicken nuggets, which the Russians staying at the hotel seemed to devour by the dozens at a time!
Mayak Hotel restaurant
The Mayak Hotel has an on-site Georgian restaurant. As Georgia is one of my all-time favourite travel destinations and I just love the country’s cuisine, it was a must to try it out on my second and last day in Listvyanka. As I had skipped lunch that day and I was starving, I decided to order all my favourites as I couldn’t make up my mind to limit my choices to two menu items only.
The meal started with a portion of khinkali, which are traditional Georgian dumplings most typically filled with meat. Weirdly, the dough of the dumplings was coloured black instead of the normal beige, something which I have never seen before. Fortunately, the dumplings were as juicy as they should be. Even though they were slightly overcooked and were rather soggy, they did taste well.
To eat khinkali the proper Georgian way, you pick them up with your hand, take a bite and immediately start to suck the juice out of the dumpling. Only when you emptied it from the juice inside do you start to eat the rest. Most Georgians would not eat the twisted knob on top of the khinkali out of tradition and rather put it back on the plate.
As a second course, I ordered an Adjaran khachapuri, which is a cheese bread from Georgia’s Adjara region served in an open boat shape. Also this dish comes with its own guidelines if you want to eat like a Georgian. Before you devour it, you first mix the runny egg, cheese and piece of butter with the dough by making an incision from the inside of the boat with a knife.
Afterwards you mix the contents a bit together to make it more firm. You then cut off pieces of the bread and dip it into the cheese in the middle of the boat. Even though the khachapuri was tasty, it was not as good as the ones you can get in Georgia.
This is most likely due to the Russians having banned the important of some foreign cheeses amidst rows with the EU and Georgia (traditionally, khachapuri is made with Georgian sulguni cheese).
To finish the lavish meal, I had ordered a pork shashlyk (skewered pork meat), which was served with a small salad, a spicy sauce and some flatbread. The meat was succulent and of very good quality. I don’t think the three dishes and the two Georgian beers which I ordered with the meal were more than 15 EUR together – which again represented great value.
As the top hotel in town, the Mayak did not disappoint. As the only four star hotel in Listvyanka, it has all the services and amenities which you might need. Decent rooms, fast internet, a good breakfast buffet, a great on-site Georgian restaurant and friendly English-speaking receptionists.
Especially the warm baths were appreciated after exploring frozen Lake Baikal at -30 degrees Celsius outside! Also, do not forget to eat at least once in the hotel’s Georgian restaurant.
Just make sure to set your expectations straight. Do not come in expecting the same quality of a four-star hotel in Moscow or Dubai. After all, this is Listvyanka in the middle of Siberia! If you do come it with the right expectations, the Mayak will likely deliver. Whatever you may think, the hotel is without doubt extremely good value for money.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Siberian Shuffle – A Crazy Winter Trip Around Eurasia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Oslo Sandefjord Torp (Airbus A321)
2. A Day in the Norwegian Capital of Oslo
3. Review: Norwegian Railways Night Train Oslo-Stavanger in a Private Sleeper
4. Review: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Stavanger
5. Stavanger – A Great Norwegian City Trip Surprise
6. Review: North Sea Lounge Stavanger Airport
7. Review: KLM Cityhopper Business Class Stavanger to Amsterdam (Embraer RJ-175)
8. Guide to the Carnival Celebrations in the Netherlands
9. Review: KLM Crown Lounge (Schengen) Amsterdam Airport
10. Review: Air France Business Class Amsterdam to Paris (Airbus A319)
11. Review: ‘Salon Paris’ Business Class Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2C
12. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Paris to Moscow (Airbus A320)
13. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Lounge Moscow Sheremetyevo
14. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Moscow to Irkutsk (Boeing 737-800)
15. Review: Matreshka Hotel, Irkutsk
16. Irkutsk Trip Report: Exploring the ‘Paris of Siberia’ in Winter
17. Review: Mayak Hotel, Listvyanka, Lake Baikal (current chapter)
18. A Winter Trip to the Frozen Wonderland of Lake Baikal
19. Review: Ibis Irkutsk Center Hotel, Irkutsk
20. Review: Domestic Business Class Lounge Irkutsk Airport
21. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Irkutsk to Moscow (Boeing 737-800)
22. Review: Pushkin Hotel, Moscow
23. A 24 Hour Stopover in the Russian Capital of Moscow
24. Review: ‘Moscow’ and ‘Jazz’ Business Lounges Moscow Sheremetyevo Terminal D
25. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Moscow to Paris (Airbus A320)
26. Review: TAROM Business Class Paris to Bucharest (Airbus A318)
27. Review: TAROM Business Lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
28. Review: Air France Business Class Bucharest to Paris (Airbus A320)
29. A Short Overnight Stopover in Paris
30. Review: Sheltair Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2D
31. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Paris to Baku (Airbus A320)
32. Review: Old City Hotel and Apartments, Baku, Azerbaijan
33. Destination Baku: An Intriguing Mix Between Old and New
34. Guide: Train Travel in Azerbaijan
35. Sheki: Azerbaijan’s Most Lovely Town and Springboard to the Caucasus
36. Must Be the Ganja! A Visit to the City of Ganja in Azerbaijan
37. Review: Shah Palace Hotel, Baku, Azerbaijan
38. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Lounge Baku Airport
39. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Baku to Paris (Airbus A320)
40. Review: Air France Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
41. Review: KLM Business Class Paris to Amsterdam (Boeing 737)
42. Review: KLM Business Class Amsterdam to Bergen (Boeing 737)
43. Blissful Bergen – Is It Really Norway’s Most Beautiful City?
44. Review: Bergen to Oslo on a Norwegian Intercity Train (Bergensbanen Railway)
45. The Flamsbana Railway – From the Myrdal Mountains to the Fjord at Flam
46. Review: SAS Economy Class Oslo to Brussels (Boeing 737-600)
47. Review: Diamond Lounge Brussels Airport Pier B Non-Schengen
48. Review: TAROM Economy Class Brussels to Bucharest (Boeing 737-800)