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A guide to Lake Baikal, Russia

An ancient lake located in Russian mountain regions of Siberia, Lake Baikal is one of Russia's most popular tourist destinations. The lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has many claims to fame including the title of 'deepest lake in the world'. It is also home to the only freshwater seal in existence, the Baikal Seal.

Lake Baikal Russia
Lake Baikal, Russia

Geography

Lake Baikal is a continental rift lake with primary inflows coming from the Selenga, Barguzin and Upper Angara rivers. It is surrounded by scenic mountain ranges and the Angara River is its only outflow. The lake contains a fifth of the entire planet’s freshwater supply.

Lake Baikal size:

Lake Baikal has a surface area of around 12,250 square miles, is 395 miles in length and 50 miles wide.

Lake Baikal depth:

Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world measuring up to 1637 metres from bottom to water surface.

Approximate distance from Lake Baikal to nearby popular destinations:

Lake Baikal to Irkutsk: 65km

Lake Baikal to Moscow: 4325km

Lake Baikal to Ulan-Ude: 160km

Lake Baikal to Ulan Bator: 575km

What to do at Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal has a lot to offer its visitors, especially those that like to explore or engage in outdoor activities.

Great Baikal Trail

The Great Baikal Trail is essentially a circular trail designed for hikers surrounding Lake Baikal. The trail originally began as project to develop a system of trails that help preserve the Lake's ecosystem, while attracting tourism and business to the area in the form of micro-hostels and home-stays as rest-stops. The trail attracts a wide range of tourists every year due to the spectacular scenery on the route along with the unique fauna and wildlife of the region.

Listvyanka

A popular village located on the Western edge of Lake Baikal, Listvyanka is considered to be the gateway to Baikal due to it's easy connection to Irkutsk (and the Trans-Siberian as a result). The village itself has a lot to offer with quaint architecture and a well-known market selling Omul fish native to Baikal, considered a delicacy in Russia. You will also find the Baikal Museum which exhibits regional flora and fauna from the region as well as an observatory to the South of the village.

We offer tours of Listvyanka starting in Irkutsk where tourists can explore the village, museums and take in the magical Angara River.

Water-sports

Most tourists go to Lake Baikal for the water-sports. Scuba-diving is particularly popular since the lake is known to be one of the clearest in the world and therefore fruitful for scuba-divers. You will find a wide range of sailing, speed-boating and water skiing opportunities in the most tourist-friendly areas.


Looking for more? See our full list of Lake Baikal tours.

Best places to stay near Lake Baikal

With the ever-expanding amout of tourists visiting Lake Baikal each year, the area has seen a significant increase in places to stay from quaint spa hotels and retreats outside of Listvyanka to more conventional hotels inside the village. See our hotels and accomodations page for more information about available hotels near Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.

Lake Baikal climate

There are great disparities in temperature between the different seasons, but the differences are more moderate than elsewhere in Siberia due the proximity of Lake Baikal’s large water mass. This means temperatures average around 18°C in July and -18°C in January. The Lake Baikal region is beautiful all year round and a trip should be planned according to what you wish to see. The winter is cold, but magical; May and June tend to be least crowded, but it will be warmer and sunnier in July and August. Autumn is stunning with the leaves turning in the brightest colours, but it can also be stormy.

Weather in Lake Baikal

 

How to get to Lake Baikal

The easiest way to get to Lake Baikal is via the Trans-Siberian Railway, which stops on the other side of the Angara River, connecting the city with Moscow and Vladivostok. Most travellers often go to Irkutsk and then take a bus or car over to Lisvyanka which is a popular tourist area towards the Southern-most end of the lake basin.

Why you should visit Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal in one of Russia's most popular tourist destinations offering picturesque scenery, abundant wildlife and water-sports including scuba-diving and sailing. The lake has something to offer whatever the season, in Winter, the lake freezes over creating an area for ice skating, snowmobile rides and dogsledding tours, while in Summer, tourists can spend time on one of the many beaches surrounding the lake.

Lake Baikal common questions

Here, we have included a range of frequently asked questions about Lake Baikal:

How far is Lake Baikal from Moscow?

Lake Baikal is approximately 4325km away from Moscow and is a 3-4-day journey by train. Most tourists will take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok which calls at nearby Irkutsk and then take a taxi, ferry or bus over to Listvyanka.

When is the best time to go to Lake Baikal?

This depends on what you are looking to do. The lake is typically frozen between January – May making it perfect for Winter sports and activities such as snowmobiling, dogsledding and skating. The Summer months are ideal for hiking and watersports including sailing.

Can you swim in Lake Baikal?

Yes, you can swim in Lake Baikal. The best place to go is Olkhon Island which has the best beaches and is relatively shallow. The water also tends to be warmer here.

How far is Lake Baikal from Mongolia?

The journey between Irkutsk and Ulan Bator as part of the Trans-Mongolian Railway takes between 24-35 hours depending on which train you get.

What is the nearest airport to Lake Baikal?

Lake Baikal’s nearest airport is in Irkutsk and takes around 6 hours by plane without stops if travelling from Moscow. Many tourists also fly to Baikal International Airport (formerly known as Ulan-Ude Airport) which is located on the Eastern side of the lake and is around 7.5 miles away from Ulan-Ude.