Lake Baikal is the deepest and, possibly, the most ancient lake in the world; it is about 25 million years old. It holds almost a quarter of the world's supply of fresh water, and the water is extremely pure and clear. A white disk 30 cm in diameter can be seen through the Baikal water even at a depth of 40 meters.
The lake is located at an elevation of almost 500 m above sea level; it is 636 km long and from from 20 to 80 km wide. Lake Baikal and its shores are home to 1,850 species of animals and 850 species of plants, many of which can only be found there. The most famous Baikal fish are the sturgeon, grayling, cisco, and live-bearing oilfish. However, the most valuable of them all is the omul, revered for its exquisite, tender taste.
The lake offers more sunny days than resorts on the southern seas. In the fall, storms with strong winds are frequent. Lake Baikal freezes over only in the second half of January and is completely free of ice only in May. Baikal ice, like its water, is surprisingly clear, forming enormous, transparent fields; in shallow areas the bottom and underwater inhabitants can be seen.
Over three hundred rivers fall into this fresh-water storage of the Earth, and only one — the Angara — has its source there. At the outflow, near Listvyanka Village, 70 km from Irkutsk, a stone towers above the water. According to the legend, Father Baikal threw this rock after his disobedient daughter, the beautiful Angara. Despite her father's admonitions, she went to her fiancée, the Yenisei, after moving apart the mountains surrounding the lake.
Lake Baikal is a true tourist magnet. Most come in the summer, a relatively warm season there. In late July — early August, the water near the shores heats through well. It is best to travel about the lake on a small rental boat, being able to change the route at one's discretion, enter the picturesque harbors and straits, fish, and sunbathe.
The Olkhon Island is a power center of sorts of the area. It is called the Heart of Lake Baikal; even its shape is reminiscent of the outline of the lake. It is the largest island on Baikal, 71 km long and 12 km wide. The deepest spot of Lake Baikal is near the north-western bank of the Olkhon (1,637 m). Locals believe that the grave of Genghis Khan is located in the cave of the Burkhan marble cliff.
There is another, man-made, sight near Lake Baikal. Its name is the Circum-Baikal Railway. This historic railroad in Irkutsk Oblast, formerly a part of the Trans-Siberian Railway, 94 km long, was formerly known as the gold buckle of the steel belt of Russia. These days, it is a museum of railroad culture of a kind, comprising 806 cultural historic objects, 582 engineering monuments, including 38 tunnels, and over 200 bridges.
The wondrous nature of Baikal, a climate that is rather mild for Siberia, and the sand beaches all attract tourists. The area has alpine ski slopes, comfortable hotels and resorts, and healing springs. Travelers from around the world can enjoy cruises, ethnographic, environmental, horseback tours, hunting and fishing trips.
|Address:||The Republic of Buryatia / Lake Baikal|