How Not To Be Disappointed by the Lake Baikal

The Baikal Lake is not nicknamed the Pearl of Siberia for no reason. I had very high expectations when going there for the first time in my life this autumn. I must confess my emotions far exceeded what I was prepared to see. If, like me, you like adventures and are ready to fully grasp the magic of a place, I wrote for you some recommendations on how to make your trip to Lake Baikal one of the highlights of your life.

Don’t let gossips and unverified information spoil your trip

Before going there, I have heard many different opinions on where and when going to the Baikal. The truth is most people, unfortunately, told me contradictory or inaccurate information. First, try to figure out what you want to do at the Baikal. Hiking in the forest? Sailing with a group of friends? Horse riding? Savouring local cuisine? The Baikal has it all and offers much more. You can easily rent a car at Irkutsk or Ulan-Ude to make yourself independent and the Baikal is your oyster! Do your homework carefully and don’t fall into the trap of booking a group package that will show you only the place where every man and his dog go. I have seen both tourist places and the hidden gems, and guess which ones I put in this post.

You can go to Lake Baikal by landing at Irkutsk or Ulan-Ude. I pretty much enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere of Irkutsk and its nice restaurants at the 130th Quarter.

The 130th Quarter in Irkutsk features many cafes and ancient wooden houses

What is the Lake Baikal

The Lake Baikal stretches on 636 km, about the size of Portugal. Filling a tectonic rift, it is by far the deepest lake in the world with an astonishing 1637 m deep. It also contains almost 20% of the world’s fresh water resources. When you face the Lake Baikal for the first time, you immediately feel its energy. You see the horizon as if you were at the ocean. The water is so transparent that you can see the bottom hundreds of meters from the shore.

The Aya Bay, situated in the Tageranskaya Steppe, offers a stunning variety of landmarks in its vicinity. You do not see ice on the picture, but the bottom.

Lake Baikal is beautiful everywhere, from South to North

The shores of the Baikal are 2,000 km long and very few people manage to see them all. Each corner has its charm. Don’t miss the chance of visiting the South or the North if you have this opportunity.

Above: Peshanaya Bay

The magic of Baikal spreads 100 km onshore

Baikal beauty extends to the whole area around. Lake Baikal lays among a variety of different landscapes, forests, plains, mountains, steppes with numerous cultural artefacts. Do not hesitate to take your car to go deep inside the Buryatia Region or the Sayan Mountains.

The Sludianka Station, an historic building made of local marble, is part of the longuest existing railway, the Trans-siberian.

Lake Sobolinoe Ozero, on the Snezhnaya River, is accessible via a pleasant, yet demanding hike.

It takes 2 hours up, and you must partly use an air-propelled boat to cross the strong mountain river.

The forest on the Northern shore is full of all sorts of colored mushrooms from end-August.

This forest, at Peshanaya Bay, burnt two years ago, but kept a peculiar esthetic and welcoming atmosphere.

Winter or Summer at Baikal?

The joke goes: -“What’s the difference between winter and summer at Baikal? – In winter, you don’t need to take your summer clothes”.

Summer used to be the only season when people thought of visiting the Baikal. Winter becomes more and more popular when you can see the ice stalactites on the cliffs illuminated by the winter sun or take a tour by car on the frozen surface. On the Southern side, there are 3 ski resorts.

I really loved September because the biggest flock of tourists already left and the warm colours of autumn are a real sight for the sore eyes.

What to take with you on a trip to Baikal

As mentioned above, there can be wind and low temperatures during the summertime as, say, during the wintertime in Europe. Take one set of light winter cloth. If you plan to hike, make sure you take walking sticks with spare rubber tips. A phone with pre-loaded maps that work offline (“Maps.me”). A pair of walky-talky will also come handy because most of the area around the Lake Baikal is not covered with GSM network.

A serious warning about walks in the forest: From May to September, there are illness-borne ticks. Fortunately, good shoes, hunting pants and repellent will eradicate the risk of being bitten. Other dangers include bears, but encounters with wild animals are rare and usually, bears hide away from humans.

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  • © Sebastian Zelechowski, Moscow 2011
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