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Lake Baikal. Listvyanka village. Ushkani Islands.

The Lake Baikal

 Your first visit to Lake Baikal leaves you with an impression of might, purity and grandeur. You begin to realize why local people speak reverently of the lake, as of a living creature, as though they believe it may take umbrage if they called it a lake instead of a sea. Majestic snow-capped mountain range follows its coastline, countless steaming natural springs and gorgeous evergreen cedar forests create most fascinating scenery both in winter and summer, numerous picturesque bays and gulfs with golden beaches are followed by amazing bluff rocks of all shapes and tints. It's the deepest, cleanest and, with regards to its unique rich wildlife, rarest lake-sea in the world. Let's see it in figures. 

Lake Baikal is located in the south of Eastern Siberia, in the Buryat Republic and Irkutsk Region of Russia. It covers 31,500 sq km and is 636 km long, at average 48 km wide and 79,4 km at its widest point. It contains one fifth of the world's reserves of fresh surface-water. Its average depth is 730 m and 1,620 m is maximum depth in the middle. Winter is milder and summer is cooler on Lake Baikal in comparison with the surrounding area. In January the temperature can be around -19° C and around +11° C in August. The surface -water temperature on the open part of the lake in August is +9+12° C and as high as +20° C by the shore in the bays. Baikal usually freezes in January and the ice breaks up in May. The ice is 70-115 cm thick. 

In the rocky mountain bowls Baikal has collected the crystal-clear waters of glaciers and more than 300 fastflowing rivers. It has collected, filtered and held the icy water for millions of years. The gigantic reservoir of fresh water containing 23,000 cu km of life-giving moisture is highly saturated with oxygen. It would take all the rivers of the world - the Volga and Don, Dnieper and Yenisei, Ural and Ob, Ganges and Orinoko, Amazon and Thames, Seine and Oder - nearly one year to fill the basin of Lake Baikal. And it would take the rivers, streams and brooks now flowing into the Siberian lake-sea about four hundred years. 

One of the reasons of its water's amazing purity is that every drop which flows into Baikal settles for many years. Another reason is that there a minute crayfish that catches the smallest water-plants and bacteria and another kind of crayfish that consumes everything that might pollute the surface of the lake-sea. 

As we said already, the wildlife of the lake is rich and diverse. Its water abounds in over 1,200 species of animals and 50 species of fishes from seven families. The main food-fish among the salmon species is omul, then grayling and lake sig. The largest fish in the lake is the sturgeon which is sometimes 180 cm long and 100-120 kg weight. 

Ushkani Islands is a reserve in the northeast of the lake where seals are bred. It's one of the Baikal's mysteries is how these seals came to be in a closed fresh-water lake. 

So, Baikal differs from the other lakes in the world by virtue of its unique depth, volume, the quality of its water and age for lakes exist usually for no more than of thousands of years, and finally, by virtue of its wildlife. 

 

The easiest way to reach Lake Baikal from the west is via Irkutsk. That is why Listvyanka village that is just 70 km away from the city but close to the lake is called the Gate to Baikal. The word "Listvyanka" comes from the Russian word "listvennitsa" (that means the larch), a common tree in the Siberian taiga. Listvyanka village is almost three hundred years old. It was a witness to many events such as the Cossack's pistols and peaceful farming for crops, gold seekers and people sent to exile, marine ships and fishing boats... You can see St. Nicholas Church during your tour around the village. It was built by the merchant Sibiryakov who had miraculously survived in a shipwreck. Originally the church stood on the shore right by the waterside but it was moved to the center of the Krestovka Glen a hundred years later. So, you'll see the oldest building of the village. 

Listvyanka village was a home for people operating the Baikal ferry - professional pilots, lighthouse keepers, meteorologists. Today the village is a starting point for scientific expeditions (Jean-Jacques Cousteau's team being one of them), the site for a unique Limnological Institute as well as museum. You can buy freshly smoked omul from Lake Baikal at a fish market on the wharf all the year round as well as a great variety of souvenirs and jewelry made of jade, lapis-lazuli, jasper, charoit and many other semi-precious stones.

Let's stand for a while on the shore of this lake-sea, over its eternal waters in this part of Siberia where the old untouched taiga stretches all around as far as the eye can see. You hear the mysterious pure sound of its waves. You have a feeling that Baikal senses, sees and hears everything. It can happen so that you'll be thousands of kilometers away and it will still cradle your reflection in the depth of its stirring waters. It will remember everything, good and evil. It's not fortuitous old folks consider it alive. This is not a place for hustle and bustle. Here like nowhere else you feel as if you have come in touch with eternity and perfection, as if you have felt close-by the breath of the breath of an omniscient presence and have absorbed a minute part of the magic secret of all existence. You feel the harmony inside of you, you feel the harmony around you and you become a tiny particle of the harmony of the world. And this wonderful, kind, eternal light will stay in your refreshed heart for many years.  

 

We can organize different tours to Lake Baikal for you!
You are welcome to Lake Baikal!

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