Travelling on the Trans-Siberian Express offers an opportunity to take in some of the world’s greatest wonders. From the mysterious towns and cities of Russia to the far reaches of China, there’s certainly a lot to see. Whether opting for a long or short stay, each Trans-Siberian journey provides a bountiful itinerary leaving travellers with varying tastes and budgets completely satisfied.
In addition to learning more about the fascinating history and heritage of its many destinations, a trip on the Trans-Siberian allows you to take in a bevvy of natural wonders. But nothing can be as wondrous as exploring the world’s oldest and deepest lake. Here we share our essential guide to the stunning Lake Baikal.
Introducing the world’s deepest lake
Lake Baikal is guaranteed to take your breath away. It’s the deepest freshwater lake on the planet – 1,642 metres at its deepest point. The lake itself spans an area of almost 400 miles, an expanse that also awards Baikal the title of the largest freshwater lake by volume. It is thought to contain between 22 and 23% of the world’s fresh surface water. The lake actually holds more water than all of the North American Great Lakes combined. As a result, there’s much to explore.
In addition to this, Lake Baikal is the clearest and the oldest with an estimated age of between 25 and 30 million years. Situated in south-east Siberia, just north of Mongolia, the UNESCO World Heritage site majestically splits the land and could even be the beginnings of a future ocean. Learn more about Lake Baikal by numbers.
Exploring this freshwater reserve
Thanks to its age and isolation, Lake Baikal and the surrounding lands remain relatively undisturbed by humans. It’s regularly referred to by locals and visitors alike as the ‘Galapagos of Russia’, and as you’ll discover, it’s no ordinary lake.
This ancient site is home to a plethora of unique animals and plant species. It’s the only place to view the planet’s only freshwater seal, a beautiful, earless species that’s also one of the smallest. The species, known as the nerpa or Baikal seals, is highly intelligent and agile. These seals can live up to the ripe old age of 60 and they’ve called the lake their home for the past two million years.
At Lake Baikal you can enjoy stunning vistas and explore endless mountain ranges. The lake can be travelled by train, bike or dog sledge during the winter. Brave travellers can also take a dip in its icy waters before drinking from the lake itself.
Winter in Lake Baikal
Winter is a magical, if bitterly cold, time to visit the lake. Whilst not for the fainthearted, a winter trip to Lake Baikal is certainly recommended. One of the top things to do during a winter trip to the lake is to walk on its frozen surface. Silvia Lawrence, world adventurer and blogger at Heart My Backpack, shares her experience:
“I’ve walked on plenty of frozen ponds and lakes without a problem, but venturing out onto Lake Baikal gave me seriously wobbly knees! Because the water is so clear, at parts we could see far down into the lake and it really felt like the ice could simply give way and I’d be sucked to the very bottom. It was ridiculous considering I could see quite well that the ice was incredibly thick, but I guess standing on top of the world’s deepest lake just has to be a tad intimidating.”
Ready to organise your trip to Lake Baikal? Read our guide to planning the perfect itinerary to help you along.