The Russian landscape is like a series of breathtaking scenes from a nature documentary. Upheld as Siberia’s most coveted destination, Lake Baikal is often referred to as the Blue Pearl of Russia. The place has its unique flora and fauna that is hard to find elsewhere and the crescent shaped lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (for obvious reasons). A sharp contrast to the severity of weather and the largely unforgiving landscape, Lake Baikal is not the only attraction that the Baikal region boasts of. Getting around the area is just as stimulating as sitting by the lake for hours together. By Shubhanjana Das

1. Irkutsk City

Irkutsk City is a wonderful amalgamation of the contemporary world and history. The city is the unofficial capital of the Baikal region and offers a peak into the unexplored Siberian past, mostly through architecture. The Irkutsk Regional Museum, Vollonsky House-Museum, and the scattered timber houses are all memoirs of the region’s boastful past.

2. The Great Baikal Trail

Sure you can pull a deck chair and lounge by the lake just soaking in its brilliant beauty and appeal but you could also take your backpack and hike The Great Bail Trail. The whole trail covers the circumference of the lake but you can break it in a series of trails instead of covering the entire area. We hear that the trail to the top of Svyatoy Nos peninsula is the one worth all the effort as it rewards the hikers with 360-degree views of the lake and its many islands.

3. The Nerpa Seals

The Nerpa Seals are the residents of Lake Baikal and it would be a shame to your lake Baikal trip if you don’t catch them splashing away in the vivid blue waters. Two ways to catch these fun creatures in action is the nerpinary or take the Baikal cruise to see them in their natural habitat. You can also visit the Khoboy peninsula to watch these beauties sunbathing on the rocks.

4. Olkhon Island

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Visit Lake Baikal’s sparsely populated island of Olkhun for an experience unlike any other. Not only will you get close with nature but also get to swim in the waters, which is claimed to have therapeutic qualities. It is said that one swim in lake Baikal will increase your life span by five years. While the water is freezing cold elsewhere, Maloye Morye or the Litte Sea as this bay is called — is shallow and has warm waters. So go ahead, take a dive, and swim your way to a long life.

5. Winter Sports

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If you happen to be in Lake Baikal during the months of December to April, you will most likely find its waters frozen. This is the time when Baikal hosts winter sports like ice-fishing, ice-biking and snowmobiling. Hiking across from the mainland to the Olkhon Island on ice is also possible with a little help from the welcoming locals who set up yuts on the ice to break the 20-km-long trail halfway.

6. Circum-Baikal Railway

Not only is the Circum-Baikal Railway a breakthrough engineering achievement but it is also one of the best ways to enjoy the surrounding regions of the Lak. A typical Circum-Baikal trip starts at Slyudyanka and Port Baikal, and takes you along Baikal’s southern tip at a speed hardly faster than walking pace. The length of the trip is 85 kms, and during which counting the number of bridges and tunnels the train crosses will give you an idea of the magnitude of planning and investment this railway line demanded back in the time.

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