Possessing 20% of the freshwater reserves in the world, this lake is an essential element for Russia’s ecosystem. This becomes more evident considering the amount of animal and plant species that inhabit the area. More than 1500 terrestrial animal species, many of these unique and with limited habitats around the lake. The bottom of the lake also has more than 800 species of algae, and the area surrounding the lake is also home to more than 1000 species of plants.
The lake and its formation date back to 30 million years ago, one of the oldest geologically lakes. The lake has been home to human inhabitants for thousands of years, such as the precursor tribes of the buryats and the yakutos. It has come to be visited by the Chinese of the Han dynasty, the Kurykans who gave the lake its current name, and would not be annexed to Russian territory until the mid-seventeenth century.
The surrounding area has several settlements and areas of stay, most notably the Listvianka settlement, located on the shores of the lake.
Lake Baikal is located on the edge of the Irkutsk region and the Republic of Buryatia, in the center of the Asian continent. “Blue Eye of Siberia”, “Sacred Sea”, “Diamond of the Planet” – this is the name of Baikal. The deep water lake is home to the world’s largest supply of fresh water, unique in composition. Not only is it pure and transparent, but it also contains so few mineral salts that is equivalent to distillate.
In the form of an emerging crescent, Baikal stretched from southwest to northeast. The length of the lake is 636 km, the largest width in the central part is 81 km, the minimum width in front of the Selenga Delta is 27 km. Baikal is located at an altitude of 455 m above sea level, the coast is approximately 2 thousand km. More than half the length of the coast of the lake is protected.
Around 300 rivers and streams flow into Baikal, and the Selenga River brings half the volume of water that enters the lake. From Baikal flows the only river: the Angara. There are about 20 islands in the lake, the largest of which is Olkhon.
Everywhere, Lake Baikal is surrounded by mountain ranges and hills: the western coast is more rocky and steep than the eastern one. A picturesque environment with an exceptional variety of flora and fauna attracts tourists from all over the world. This region received the status of a reserve of planetary importance. In terms of the number of rare plants that grow only here, it surpasses Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands. The most favorable time to relax on Lake Baikal is from May to October. In summer, in addition to excursions, trips and fishing, tourists can enjoy holidays on the beach, and in winter, skiing.
The ships of the Eastern Siberian River Transportation Company (VSTP) go along Baikal and Angara. Water transportation is very popular: there are many places in Baikal where you can only get there by water. VSRP operates regular passenger flights to Chivyrkuisky Bay, Peschanaya Bay, Olkhon Island, Listvyanka and Bolshie Koty. There is a ferry service in Listvyanka. The ferry delivers passengers and transportation to Olkhon for free, the ferry operates from May 12 until freezing.
Irkutsk is connected with the east coast of the lake to Ust-Barguzin, and with the north – to Nizhneangarsk. The shipping company offers walking routes along the Larch Bay, along the Circum-Baikal railway, to the Peschanaya Bay, as well as a historic tour of the Angara River (the ticket price is RUB 500 for adults and 250 RUB for children) and multi-day cruises in Baikal from 35 800 RUB. In Irkutsk, there is a water transport line within the city and there are 2 marinas where the journey begins: the Raketa marina and the river station.
Barguzinsky Bay. One of the best holiday destinations in Buryatia. The largest bay in Baikal extends to the mainland for almost 30 km. On its banks there are pebble and sand beaches. Views: the Svyatoy Nos peninsula, the Svetlaya Polyana ecological and ethnographic museum-park and the sacred Dukhovoy lake near the village of Maksimikha.
Chivyrkuisky Bay. The protected area with a large number of closed bays with a depth of no more than 5 m, so that the water can be heated well. Sandy beaches and ideal conditions for trophy fishing in both summer and winter. In August, the cruise regatta ends in the bay.
Yarki Island The largest beach in Baikal with a length of 20 km and a width of up to 100 m is located on the north coast. It has the warmest water and excellent fishing for perches and pikes. In summer, it can only be reached by water.
Litter of ambassadors. A popular summer holiday destination at the eastern end of the lake. There are two tourist areas in the bay: Kultushnaya and Baikal surf. Windsurfing competitions are held at Ambassador Sor. A special omul embassy is trapped here.
Enhaluk The area on the east coast with wide sandy beaches with a length of 10 km. Among the attractions are the Zagza hot springs that are used to treat diseases of the skin of the joints, as well as the Gulf of the Falla, as a result of the devastating earthquake of 1862.
Small Sea The coast of the Small Sea extends for 100 km from the village of Sakhyurt, where there is a crossing to Olkhon, and to the limits of the Baikal-Lensky Reserve. This is a shallow strait separated from the great Baikal by the island of Olkhon. Its coasts are planted with many sandy bays.
Diving in Baikal
Diving with equipment in the “sea” of Baikal is practiced both in summer and winter. The most favorable moment for this is June, when the most transparent water and lots of light: visibility under water reaches 40 m and underwater currents are weak. The waters of Baikal hide not only the rich underwater world of animals and vegetables, but also the variety in relief: caves, vertical walls, canyons.
Baikal has good opportunities for technical diving, which involves the inspection of man-made “sights”: sunken ships, barges, wagons and other picturesque ruins. Listvyanka is the most popular place to dive in the lake. There are several dive sites near the town and you can dive from the shore. Interesting areas for conventional and technical diving are along the Circum-Baikal railway. Olkhon has deep sea dive sites with natural attractions. The small sea strait is actively used for winter diving. In the area of the Ushkany Islands there is the only lava entrance in the lake and the seal colonies, which can be observed in the natural environment.
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