Baikal is a mystery even to those who have seen it many times and thought to know everything about it. But the secrets of the lake are innumerable, and it’s impossible to discover them all.
Anton Chekhov, a famous Russian writer, said, «Baikal is wondrous, and Siberians unsurprisingly call it not a lake, but a sea». The surface area of the sea-like lake is equal to the whole of Belgium, and no other lake rivals Baikal in age or depth. Baikal is millions of years old, but it doesn’t seem to grow weak with age. Every year, its banks grow further apart by 2 cm. Nowadays scientists suspect that Baikal is an emerging ocean.
336 rivers flow into the lake, but only Angara flows out. The water in the lake is pure, oxygenated and clearer than tears. Drinking straight from the lake is safe. The weather, on the other side, is tricky and changeable. One day, it warms you up and calms you down. The next day, it blasts you with sharp icy windstorms. So, while preparing for a trip, reserve several sets of clothes. Light T-shirts, warm jackets and sunglasses will come in handy during any season.
25–30 million years
1 642 m
Water surface area
31 722 km²
Things to do at Lake Baikal
Drink fresh air in big gulps, hike the trails, climb the mountains and descend into caves. Gain strength and health in the healing springs of Arshan, swim and sunbathe — and even half a year after your trip you’ll still look like you just returned from a vacation.
Promise yourself to see all 350 wonders of Baikal and stretch the fun for your entire life to make sure that none of the years you live are spent in vain. Learn the legends of the lake by heart but continue to listen to them again and again.
In winter, go ice-skating on sturdy ice or conquer it with a powerful SUV or an amphibious boat. Go on a snowmobile ride or have fun with friendly Huskies. Play ice golf. Go ice-fishing and catch a fish worthy of years of boasts.
In spring, listen to the music and dance to ethnic beats. Take pictures of blooming rhododendrons and purple snowdrops — the photographs will be great.
In summer, deny yourself nothing. Try our hiking trails, drive on Baikal roads and go on a waterway trip. Engage in kiting and discover the Baikal way of diving. Watch amateur theatres from around the world during the international theater festival on Olkhon Island and feel the harmony of words and rhymes at the poetry festival.
In autumn, marvel at the colors of nature during the velvet season, meditate and enjoy the silence.
You can find more options for recreation in the «Types of travel» section of the website.
How to get to Lake Baikal
The easiest way to get to the lake is to depart from Irkutsk. A car, a bus, a minibus or a ship will take you to Listvyanka, Peschanaya Bay, Small Sea Strait, Olkhon Island, Baikalsk and Tunkinska Valley. «Raketa» pier in Irkutsk sends off regular ships to Chivyrkuyski Bay, Ust’-Barguzin and Severobaikalsk. A helicopter takes tourists to remote areas of Tofalaria and Shumak.
You can get to Irkutsk by car, by hitchhiking and by taking a plane or a train. A direct Moscow-Irkutsk flight takes 5–6 hours, and a flight from other Russian cities might take from 2 to 8 hours. A train from Moscow to Irkutsk will take about 3 days, and a train from Vladivostok takes the same amount of time.
Where to stay at Lake Baikal
Accommodation options at lake Baikal are countless. Put up a tent at picturesque beaches on Small Sea Strait, Olkhon Island or Peschanaya Bay if you’re content with a minimal amount of amenities. Rent a room at Arshan, in Khuzhir or in Bolshie Koty if you want to see how the locals live, to sleep well and to eat good food without paying much.
Book a room in advance, though, especially if you’re planning to travel in summer, during New Year holidays or on days of major festivals. Don’t forget to pack some good mood, too, and Baikal will greet you like an old friend.