Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal is a natural wonder that is known not only in Russia, but all over the world. It is an immense lake situated in the south of Eastern Siberia at the border of Buryatiya Republic and the Irkutsk Region. The lake is acknowledged as part of UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage List.

If you look at Baikal’s landscape from space you will see a long and relatively narrow basin enclosed into two “horns” aligned to each other with their broader ends and engirdled by high mountains which are over 2000 meters above sea level and 1800 meters above the lake level. Mountains such as: Khanula (2371 m), Sokher (2316 m) – in the south of the Baikal; Davydov (1717 m) – in the central part; Chersky (2588 m) – in the north etc. The Baikal mountains are composed of granite and gneiss. White and pink marble, grey and red granites harmonise perfectly with the coniferous vegetation of the lake shores.

The other areas of the basin are covered by low (below 1000m) table-lands and so-called tuffets, plains and steppes (near estuaries of the Selenga and the Barguzin rivers and at Olkhon Island). Occasionally, there are forests sloping down towards the lake.
From a geologic point of view, the Baikal basin is a depression that appeared in the middle of the tertiary period of geological history; that is 25-30 million years ago. For thousands of years, the Baikal rivers bring their waters to this depression. These rivers include the Selengs, the Upper Angara, the Barguzin, the Utulik, the Snezhnaya etc.

The coastal area of Lake Baikal is extremely picturesque: unique lake shores covered with coniferous trees (pine, fir, cedar etc.), fancy cliffs at Peschanaya Bay, at Olkhon Island, at Chivyrkuysky Bay and other places. There are many beautiful and unique islands at the Maloye Sea, near the Olkhon, near the Saint Nose Peninsula (so-called Ushkanyee islands), at Chivyrkuysky Bay. The snow-covered tops of mountain ridges draw attention at all seasons: the Khamar-Dabana ridge, the Barguzinsky ridge, the north-western part of the Baikal ridge.

The most beautiful place of the lake’s south-western part is the outflow of the Angara River from the Baikal as well as the magnificent pictures of mountain nature at Peschanaya Bay and Khomuty, lower reaches of the Goloustnaya River, the landscapes near Baklaniy, Kadilny and Larch capes. The landscapes of the central-western part of the lake are of great interest. The Tazheran Steppe and Olkhon Island are situated there. At these places you can see each part of the typical Siberian landscape: bogs, cowberry pine forests, dark coniferous taiga, cedar forests, mountain tundra, bald mountains with snow-spots and, in Tazheran area and in some parts of the island – the steppes and even semi-desert areas.

Various terrain and vegetation, rich berry-fields, hunting and fishing lands, abundant mineral and hot springs as well as relatively easy accessibility makes the Baikal’s central area the tourist “Mecca”.

The ridges of northern, eastern and southern coasts gradually back off from the lake in a fan-like fashion – the flat forest benches interspersing with vast valleys of the Selenga, the Turka, the Barguzin, the Upper Angara and other rivers. From a landscape point of view, some of interior lakes in the south part of the Golondinsky ridge are of interest. One of these lakes, Lake Kotokelskoye, particularly stands out with its picturesque island. To the north-west of the Barguzinsky ridge the table-lands and the basin of the Upper Angara River are situated. This area is filled with central taiga landscapes.

The central-eastern part of the Baikal is famous for its high mountains and the mixed forests of Saint Nose peninsula, indented shores and grandiose peninsulas of the Chivyrkuysky Bay each of which can compete in its beauty with world-known islands of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Various small lakes and boggy area that divide the Barguzinsky and Chivyrkuysky Bays are also situated here, between the mountain chain of the Saint Nose and Baikal’s coast.

Frequent earthquakes indicate on-going crustal movements at the coastal area of Lake Baikal. The water surface of the lake is at 456 meters above sea level and the maximum depth is 1637 meters making it the deepest lake in the world. The lake’s width is 25-80 kilometers, with a length of 636 km. The lake’s coast-line is over 2000 km long. trans siberian railway