People who visit Russia are drawn towards its Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. The fact that this lake curves for early 400 miles through south-eastern Siberia, north of the Mongolian border inspires imagination as well as wonder. Geographically, this lake lies in a cleft where Asia literally splits apart and you can see the beginnings of a future ocean. The lake is surrounded by sublime mountains, and its landscape unravels vistas of unparalleled beauty. Come let us explore the sights in Baikal Lake that would enamor you with their pristine beauty.
1. Explore Olkhon Island
How to reach: 250 km from Irkutsk by car or by bus (5-7 hours, $10 by bus, $100 by car).
Olkhon is a beautiful nude land that seems to have emerged from the fresh waters of Baikal. The surface of the island is green and smooth like meadows, and crumbles down in Baikal in rocky cliffs on the edges.
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2. The Great Baikal Trail Hike
How to Reach: Hiking from Baikal
You can hike through pine forest between the villages of Listvyanka and Bolshiye Koty, or from the picture-perfect fishing village of Baikalskoye to the cold Lake Slyudyanskoye via an attractive cliff edge path. The most picturesque of all is the steep trail to the top of the Svyatoy Nos peninsula, with stupendous 360 degree views across Baikal and its islands.
3. Visit Listvyanka
How to Reach: 60 km from Irkutsk by car or by bus ($3-$15)
Listvyanka is the nearest village to Lake Baikal, which lies 70 Kilometers east from Irkutsk and far away from Moscow. Listvyanka has been the main river port of Lake Baikal for many years. During recent years, Listvyanka has gradually become the main tourist centre for Lake Baikal, and a future projects including a new "Baikal city" is being planned to be built around Listvyanka.
4. Board on to Baikal railway
How to reach: 60 km from Irkutsk by car or by bus to Listvyanka, then - ferry (5 mins)
Enter into a breathtaking journey around Lake Baikal, on the Circum-Baikal Railway, which runs along the North Shore of the Southern part of the lake, from the village of Slyudyanka to the Port Baikal settlement. The train travels at a leisurely pace right along the shore of the lake, stopping at the most significant architectural sites and at popular viewpoints, where you can take some great photos. You’re bound to be impressed by the stunning views of Lake Baikal, its magnificent beauty and the surrounding hills. Numerous tunnels, stone galleries, bridges and via ducts will strike your imagination.
5. Explore the Barguzin Valley
How to reach: The valley surrounds Baikal Lake
Barguzin Valley is one of the largest and most beautiful valleys in Buryatia, stretching 230 kilometers through the north-eastern part of the republic. It is home to the legendary burial place of Genghis Khan. In common with many of Russia's finest natural landmarks, Barguzin Valley is not the most accessible place. The almost complete absence of roads is compounded by taiga forest, desert, and mountain tundra. Nevertheless, this legendary place attracts adventurers and tourists from around the world.
6. The Hot Springs
How to reach: 3 hours by bus (or 2 hours by car) from Baikal lake, and it is a start of Sayan Mountains.
The land around Lake Baikal is alive with hot springs, particularly in the little spa town of Arshan, picturesquely situated in the foothills of the snow-peaked Eastern Sayan Mountains. The town itself is ramshackle, but the faded grandeur of the 1920s Arshan Spa does not detract from the medicinal properties of the mildly sulphurous mineral water, bathing in which allegedly cures a multitude of ills.
7. Visit Lake Baikal in winter for those freezy sports
How to reach: At Lake Baikal
In Winter Lake Baikal becomes the world’s largest ice skating rink. Play winter sports on its frozen surface: from tube riding to ice skating to winter putt-putt, there’s something for everyone.
8. Dive into Lake Baikal
How to Reach: At lake Baikal itself
There are several different dive sites at Lake Baikal, and depending on when you go, you may be able to visit more than a few of them. Ice diving often involves hours of driving, and if the maine has frozen over, it can take a few hours to reopen it. During the summer, boat dives around the lake’s 27 islands and near the mouths of the estimated 330 rivers that feed it are possible.
9. Arshan and Sayan Mountains
How to reach: 3 hours by bus from Lake Baikal (2 hours by car)
Visit the Arshan and Sayan mountains that are surrounded by rivers, good trekking walks, good infrastructure yoga and meditation camp, and an opportunity to get acquainted with locals.
10. Explore Irkutsk
How to reach: You will have to get down at Irkutsk to go to Lake Baikal
Irkutsk, the unofficial capital of the Baikal region, is both a modern city and excellent introduction to Siberia's past. Irkutsk Regional Museum showcases Evenk artefacts and shamanist ritual items and the main square retains a statue of Lenin. The smattering of attractive timber houses dates back to the time when the Decemberists, mutinous Russian aristocrats, were sent into exile by the Tsar. Look for the Volkonsky House Museum, the most impressive example of this architectural style.
11. Visit the Ivolginsky Datsan
How to reach: trains and buses from Lake Baikal
See the spiritual side of Baikal Lake. Visit Ivolginsky Datson, the most important Buddhist centre in Russia. As you walk around this complex of brightly-colored temple buildings and simple monastic dwellings, keep a look out for white stupas and trees festooned with colorful prayer flags.
How to reach: very near to Lake Baikal
The Buryat people have lived in Eastern Siberia since time immemorial, originally surviving as nomads who herded animals and lived in yurts, cylindrical tent-like dwellings covered in felt or skins. Genghis Kahn’s son Jochi conquered the Buryats in the 13th century. To this day, the Buryats are considered the northernmost Mongol group.
Covering this dramatic terrain, the area surrounding Lake Baikal can be a breathtaking experience. So this time when you visit Russia don’t forget to visit this enchanted landscape.