Lake baikal Lake baikal trek

Lake Baikal



Sitting in the Russian mountain ranges of Siberia is the ancient Lake Baikal. It is the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume and known to be the deepest lake, reaching a maximum depth of 1,642 m or 5,387 ft. This partially crescent-shaped lake is the clearest lake around the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Baikal Lake is located in south-central Russia, close to the Mongolian border. The nearest city to the lake is Irkutsk. Representing the unspoiled beauty of Russia, Lake Baikal is often referred to as the Sacred Sea. Lake Baikal has a thriving species of plants and animals, many of them endemic to the region. It is also the home of the Buryat tribes, the indigenous people of Siberia. Lake Baikal is surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, such as the Baikal mountains, the Barguzin Range, and the Primorsky Range. It also has 27 largely uninhabited islands, 300 streams, and gushing rivers like the Angara and Selenga.

Internationally recognized for its biodiversity and beauty, Lake Baikal is a superb destination to visit in Russia.



Location: Russia

Nearest Airport: The nearest airports to Lake Baikal are Irkutsk (IKT) and the Baikal International Airport (UDD).

How to reach: From Irkutsk by bus, train (Trans-Siberian), or flight

Famous for: crystal clear waters, unique wildlife, birdlife, fish species, beautiful forests, outdoor activities

Months Open: All year

Best time to visit: October to April



Mountain ranges

Diverse species of wildlife

Pribaikalsy National Park

Hot springs

Local villages and islands

Shamanka rock


Lake Baikal is the oldest lake in the world, formed 20-25 million years ago. The lake and the neighboring mountains were created by the Earth’s crust fracturing and moving. Originally a riverbed, the tremors of the Earth’s crust increased the size and widened the space between the shores of Lake Baikal. Throughout the tertiary period, 66 million to 2.6 million years ago, parts of the Lake Baikal basin developed and the melting glaciers continued to increase the water levels.

Situated in a rift valley, Lake Baikal has recorded up to 2,000 earthquake tremors each year. These earthquakes deepen the lake and further increase its size. The indigenous communities have lived near Lake Baikal since the 6th century B.C. The lake has been involved in various myths surrounding its crystalline waters. One of the popular local legends narrated by the Buryat people is the story of a water beast named Lusud- Khan, the Water Dragon Master. The lake is also known to be the site of the Han-Xiongnu battle, fought from 133 BC to 89 AD. In the 17th century during the conquest of Siberia, Russia expanded its territory to include Lake Baikal.


Sometimes called the ‘Galapagos of Russia’, Lake Baikal is renowned for its excellent biodiversity. Approximately 80 percent of more than 3700 species found at Lake Baikal are endemic, which means they aren’t seen anywhere else on Earth.

The Baikal seal or nerpa is a slinky sliver seal, endemic to Lake Baikal. It is believed to have become trapped near the lake since the last Ice Age. Nerpa is now a protected species, the world’s only exclusively freshwater seal.

Land-based mammals residing in Lake Baikal are reindeer, elk, wild boar, bears, polecats, ermine, Siberian roe deer, sable, wolves, Siberian musk deer, red squirrel, Siberian chipmunk, lemmings, marmots, and mountain hare.


Lake Baikal houses 236 bird species near its shorelines, mountain landscapes, and the Lena River source. On the Baikal Lake, one can spot white-winged Scots, falcated duck, Ruddy Shelduck, and Gadwall. Near waterside habitats reside the breed waders namely Wood sandpiper, common sandpiper, common snipe, and pin-tailed snipe. In the forests, different species of owls are spotted such as the long-eared owl and Tengmalm’s owl. The high mountain regions are the only place to witness red-bellied redstart, water pipit, polar bunting, and brown accentor. Other areas that are preferred for bird watching in Lake Baikal are scrub areas, Selenga River delta and Torey lakes.

Fish species

There are more than 59 species of fish living in the lake, including 27 endemic types. The most famous Baikal fishes are whitefish, grayling, and omul. Lesser-known fishes are taimen, Baikal sturgeon and Davatchan. The golomyanka is of much importance as this translucent, long-finned fish lives in the open waters at the bottom of the lake. More than 100 invertebrate aquatic species including flatworms, over 700 species of arthropods like crustaceans, ants, and insects as well as over 150 types of mollusks are found near the lake. These invertebrates are responsible for cleaning and purifying the water.