Siberian Lake Baikal and how to explore it fully (2023)

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Siberian Lake Baikal and how to explore it fully (2023)

Mystical, pure, deep and cold. This is the Siberian Lake Baikal.

The deepest and clearest lake in the world, with its unique ecosystem and deep-rooted shamanism, has a magical atmosphere that is sure to immerse you.

History and location

Lake Baikal is located in the Russian Far East, above Mongolia near the region called Buryatia. The lake was formed when two tectonic structures, the Siberian Platform and the Amur-North China Plate, moved away from each other. The area around the lake still suffers from over 2000 earthquakes every year and the lake is expanding by 2 cm every year.
The lake is over 1600m deep, but the most breathtaking fact, however, is that while most lakes are as old as 20,000 years, Lake Baikal is ancient, being over 25 million years old.

Lake Baikal Shamanism

🚌 How to get to Lake Baikal

What to visit on Lake Baikal

Russia Listvyanka ice-drone lake Baikal
The ice around the village of Listvyanka is crystal clear, but from the bird’s-eye view you can see a mosaic of many cracks created by ice movement.

Listvyanka

Russia Listvyanika Lake Baikal summer
Summer is beautiful around Lake Baikal. This picture was taken in Listvyanka, where the locals go swimming.

It is the starting point for hiking around the Lake Baikal. There you can find many hiking trails, guides and maps or other souvenirs. It’s also possible to taste the popular smoked fish omule and see Siberian freshwater seals.

Museum of Siberian Village

Is an extensive collection of preserved buildings, shelters, as well as musical instruments and other historical objects. It is a very pleasant place full of unique history and during the summer time I definitely recommend a visit.

museum of siberian village russia lake baikal
Museum of Siberian village

Another place you shouldn’t miss is the Olchon Island. This 73.5km long island is about 300km from Irkutsk and can be reached by minibus from the same station as Listvyanka.

Olchon Island

The trip to the island is an experience in its own kind. During the short trip to the island you will see how the landscape gradually changes, the trees thinning out until you see wide plains, dry steppes with dried grass and during the winter with bitter frost.

Russia Olkhon ferry harbour Baikal
A ferry to the Olkhon island on lake Baikal

After a few hours the marshrutka arrives at the harbor. There is no bridge to the island, so all cars are transported by ferry. The price of the ferry is included in the price of the marshrutka, but if you’d like to go on your own from there, you can skip the endless line of waiting cars and go straight to the ferry. The ferry ride is free.

During the winter, the marshrutka will only take you to the harbor, and from there you will have to take a hovercraft to the other side, where another minibus will be waiting for you. Don’t forget your ticket.

🏔 What to do on the island of Olkhon

Once you reach the island, be sure to visit the village of Khuzhir. It is about 30km from the ferry, but since there is no asphalt on the island, the trip will take quite a long time. If you take the ferry to the other side on your own, you can try hitchhiking. Be prepared to be asked for money. The village of Khuzhir is a recent addition to the island’s electricity grid, so its infrastructure will be adequate.

The most famous place near the village of Khuzir is definitely the Shaman Rock, or Shamanka as the locals call it.

Travel russia lake baikal shamanka
The most picturesque place on Lake Baikal. The Shaman Rock on Olkhon Island

It is an energetic place where Shamans from all over the world meet regularly. Women are forbidden to enter the Shamanka because there is a strong energy there that could cause infertility.

There are several beautiful places around Shamanka where it is possible to bathe. The water is crystal clear but very cold, so you can stay there for about 15 minutes. But nothing stops you from going out to warm up and after a few minutes run into the water again.

Sharp rocks surrounding the shore of Lake Baikal
Sharp rocks surrounding the shore of Lake Baikal

If you have enough time and are a bit adventurous, I recommend hiking around the island. It will be a wonderful experience as the scenery around is breathtaking. Take plenty of water with you though, even 7-10 litres. In the summer, when it’s very hot on the island, you’ll drink a lot of water, and even if you’re still surrounded by water, you’ll usually be walking along a ridge of rock drop-offs, which in some places are 150m high, so getting to the water can be both time-consuming and dangerous.

Female rock on Lake Baikal as a symbol of feminine energy
Female rock on Lake Baikal as a symbol of feminine energy

If you don’t have enough time, you can use the services of the locals and get a ride in their minibus. Unfortunately, the local guide will probably not speak English.

❄️ Winter on the Lake Baikal

During the winter time the only way to explore the island or the surroundings of Lake Baikal is to go on a tour. You will be driven to the different places of the island by a small Russian minibus (bukhanka) and the road mostly takes a part on the icy surface of frozen Baikal.

Although many people take this trip, especially to see something different from what Khuzir can offer, I think that if you have only one or two days, you can stay firmly in the village and enjoy walking on the ice on your own. The sceneries will be almost similar everywhere, as Baikal is covered with snow everywhere around the island. If you are looking for clear ice, visit Listvyanka.

Local Shamanism

The locals say that on board the ferry it feels as if one is leaving all the cares of our world on land. Many people visit the island to get in touch with their own spirituality or to seek help or advice from a local shamans.

travel Russia baikal shaman
The border of the shaman territory at Lake Baikal

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