Lake Baikal (Russian: Байка́л bigh-KAHL) is a lake in Eastern Siberia, Russia. It is the biggest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The lake is located in Eastern Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and Buryatia to the southeast. It is the planet's deepest (1637m) and oldest lake, as well as its largest body of freshwater by volume, containing over one fifth of the world's supply. The origins of the name are unknown, but several hypotheses are these: deep water (Yakut), rich lake (Turkic), rich fire (Mongolian), northern sea (Chinese). Russians sometimes call the lake Baikal sea because of its size.
The lake's geological formation started around 20-25 million years ago in the Mesozoic era. Its rift is continuing to widen 2 cm a year. The first mention of its name appeared in Chinese writings in 110 BC as "Beihai" (Northern Sea). Several cultures have flourished on its shores, and in the 18th century Buryat nationality came into being. Russian sources first mentioned Baikal in 1640. Exploration and description by Russian Cossacks and the Church continued until the first scientific expedition in 1723. On 13 October 1905 the Circum-Baikal Railway was opened. In 1916 Barguzinsky Nature Reserve was organized. In 1990, wind-surfers from Russia, Austria and Czechoslovakia first crossed the widest place of the lake. In 1991 the deepest spot on the lake's bottom was reached. In 1996, the Baikal became a part of UNESCO Heritage. The vessel "Sevan" began cruise tours in 2003.
Baikal mountains surrounding the valley and the lake consist of a few ranges. In the west there are the Baikal Mountains, in the east the Zabaikalskie Mountains. The Angara River is the only outflow of Lake Baikal. The ranges, rivers and valleys are tourist attractions of their own.
Flora and fauna
- Baikal Seal
The water mass is a key factor to the climate of the lake's banks. Winters are often milder, summers are chillier. Spring-time is late 10-15 days than the outer regions and fall is rather long. The area is distinctive for sunshine longevity which is record-high for the of whole Russia. Specific traits are added to the climate of the Baikal by winds: barguzin, sarma, verkhovik, kultuk. It is a common thinking that the Baikal is best for visit in July, when temperatures and winds reach favorable condition. The water in summer is cold, normally +8 to 9 °C and can reach +15 °C in bays. It's so pellucid that one can see the bottom 40 m down.
The nearest airport is in Irkutsk, which can be reached from either Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo 1 in Moscow. Charters from Bangkok are often operated by tour companies.
Domestic flights are taken in from Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Magadan, Yakutsk, Yekaterinburg, Saint Petersburg, Sochi.
Lake Baikal is one of the most scenic parts along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Coming from west, a bit after Irkutsk, the train goes descends along serpentine curves to the lakeshore and follows much of the southwestern edge of the lake for several hours, almost all the way to Ulan Ude. This is a scenic ride you may want to ride it at daytime (check the schedule of your train), especially if it's the first time you travel along the Transsib. Of the stations right next to the lake, long-distance trains stop at least in Slyudyanka.
The Baikal-Amur Mainline follows the lakeshore from Severobaikalsk and further north.
Buses leave from Irkutsk station throughout the day. The ride is about an hour and a half, with several stops along the way, and ends in the small town of Listvyanka, at the shores of the lake.
From Listvyanka you can go by hydrofoil boat to Bolshoie Koty, in the hearth of Baykal national park. One way costs 180 руб. Boat tickets to and from Bolshoie Koty can be purchased at an office inside Hotel Irkutsk. Prices are the same as on the boat. Stops are Irkutsk - Listvyanka - Bolshoie Koty. First boat goes from Listvyanka at 10, last at 16 o'clock. From there you can get by boat at 18:00 or by foot by Baykal tourist trail. It is 25 km (16 mi) and most of the path goes around the shore of a lake. A two day hike is also possible; first day 25 km (16 mi), second day 30 km (19 mi). From Bolshoie Koty you can go to Irkutsk by the same boat. It costs 360 руб.
It is possible to buy a boat ticket at 09:00 at Hotel Irkutsk, take the bus to Listvyanka, hike the first part of the Baikal Trail (5-8 hours), and take the boat back to Irkutsk at 18:00. You must hike fast though.
In the winter there is an ice road from Listvyanka to Bolshoie Koty.
From Listvyanka you can go to the Port Baykal that lies on the opposite side of river Angara. Boat costs 34 руб and goes from the place just under the Baykal limnological museum. It takes around 5 minutes to get there. However it is recommended to go the other way, from Port Baykal to Listvyanka.
To Port Baykal you can go by train as well. It goes from Sludyanka at the southern corner of the lake. It takes around 4 to 6 hours, since the train is really slow. But you have time to look around, because the railway is going by the shore of the lake. It costs 46 руб. It is so slow because it is the old Baykal railroad was built at the beginning of the 20th century.
- Olkhon. The largest island on the lake.
In Irkutsk Oblast (west of the lake)
- Vitimsky Nature Reserve
- Baikalo-Lensky Reserve
In Buryatia (east of the lake)
- Baikalsky Nature Reserve
- Barguzinsky Nature Reserve
- Dzherginsky Nature Reserve
Take part in yearly cross-country six-day race TransBaikal-20xx in July. Hovering 465 km (289 mi) and the dislevello 10,060 m (33,010 ft) it starts in Buguldeyka village takes two-days turn to Olkhon and ends in Yelantsy down south.
- Frolikha Adventure Coastline Track, as part of the future Great Baikal Trail.
Souvenirs are sold near the omul sellers (see below), and tend to be cheaper than in other Russian cities. There are several boats at the main dock who take on tourists when not fishing. The prices are negotiable, try to find other tourists who want to ride and get cheaper prices by being in a large group. Sometimes a kid with broken English acts as an intermediary for the price haggling.
The smoked omul sold by several fish sellers on the edge of the lake is wonderful, and there is a restaurant on the lake's edge with good fish, along with several bars and small groceries. But in 2018, it was forbidden to catch during spawning because the population had declined, so you will not find omul.
Everything in Listvyanka is within walking distance, including a small post office.
You should taste local Buryat dumplings - Boozy.
Baikal water is drinkable and almost distilled as the amount of mineral salts is infinitesimal.
You may stay in Irkutsk or Ulan-Ude, make a day trip to the lake and get back.
- Listvyanka, Irkutsk Oblast, the most popular destination with a number of hotels.
- Severobaikalsk, Buryatia, the city in the north with a number of hotels.
- Slyudyanka, the southmost village.
'Rest bases' of the Baikal are Russian type of countryside wooden houses with facilities offering excursions to the local sights. They often are located in villages or nearby.
- Barguzin bay (Баргузинский залив) and Saint Nose Cape (Мыс Святой Нос)
- Chivyrkuisky bay (Чивыркуйский залив)
- Maksimikha village (Максимиха)
- Sukhaya village (деревня Сухая)
- Maloe Sea (Малое море)
- MRS (МРС)
- Krestovsky Cape (Мыс Крестовский)
- Buguldeika (Бугульдейка)
- Bolshoe Goloustnoye (Большое Голоустное)
- Bolshoe Koty (Большие Коты)
Irkutsk is the biggest city nearby, but the BAM and the Trans-Siberian can take you from one side of the country to the other.