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Repository of almost a fifth of the world’s unfrozen fresh water, Lake Baikal is justifiably known as the jewel of Siberia. This crescent-shaped, 395 mile (636 km) long body of water – pure enough to drink and filling one of the deepest gashes in the earth’s surface – is hemmed in by mountains and forests teeming with wildlife. Since 2003 the Great Baikal Trail, a project to create a hiking path that encircles the lake, has been in full swing, each summer groups of volunteers pushing it farther toward its more than 1,200-mile-long (2000 km) completion. In the meantime, the prime places to head are serenely beautiful Olkhon, a 45-mile-long ...

Repository of almost a fifth of the world’s unfrozen fresh water, Lake Baikal is justifiably known as the jewel of Siberia. This crescent-shaped, 395 mile (636 km) long body of water – pure enough to drink and filling one of the deepest gashes in the earth’s surface – is hemmed in by mountains and forests teeming with wildlife. Since 2003 the Great Baikal Trail, a project to create a hiking path that encircles the lake, has been in full swing, each summer groups of volunteers pushing it farther toward its more than 1,200-mile-long (2000 km) completion. In the meantime, the prime places to head are serenely beautiful Olkhon, a 45-mile-long (72 km) island that is a sacred place to local Buryat people; the charming lakeside resort of Listvyanka, which can easily be accessed, if only for a day, from the region’s main city Irkutsk, the historic "Paris of Siberia"; and the Circumbaikal Railway, a remnant of the original Trans-Siberian rail route hacked through sheer cliffs at the south of the lake.

Simon Richmond
About the Expert

Simon Richmond has written Rough Guides to Malaysia and Japan; Lonely Planet guides to India and Russia; and adventure travel guides for Frommer's on Australia, India, South America, and Southeast Asia.

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Simon Richmond for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Eastern Siberia, southern Russia
  • Language: Russian, Mongolian
  • Currency: Russian Rouble
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    March to see the lake frozen and the land clad in snow; July and August for swimming, hiking and other outdoor sports.