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Sights of Baikal in Winter

The winter weather at Baikal may seem harsh to many, but not everyone knows that during the summer months, the lake has time to warm up enough that the accumulated heat makes Baikal winters mild and pleasant for walking and traveling.

Of course, that applies only to the cities that are right on the coast. However, the real Siberians would say that the real magic of the lake is revealed in the winter months, when the lake is covered with a transparent layer of ice, and the forests and mountains are sleeping under a blanket of pristine and fluffy snow. Treat yourself to unforgettable views of Baikal’s magnificent nature in winter, especially since you can enjoy some truly unique activities that become available during the season.  

Riding Across the Baikal Ice

Freedom of movement is one of the advantages of a winter vacation on Lake Baikal. There are few roads around the lake, but in winter Baikal itself becomes a solution. In February, the water turns into ice strong enough to hold a vehicle, so you can take a ride across the frozen surface and enjoy beautiful views of different parts of the lake. 
It can be safely crossed in any direction, so the activity is widely enjoyed both by tourists and locals alike. 
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For example, in summer the residents of Severobaykalsk have to travel a day by train or fly through Nizhneangarsk to get to Ulan-Ude, and in winter they simply cross Baikal diagonally.

In February, the water turns into ice strong enough to hold a vehicle.

It can be safely crossed in any direction, so the activity is widely enjoyed both by tourists and locals alike. For example, in summer the residents of Severobaykalsk have to travel a day by train or fly through Nizhneangarsk to get to Ulan-Ude, and in winter they simply cross Baikal diagonally.

However, you should keep in mind that it can also be dangerous. The local Rescue Service strongly advises against traveling over the frozen lake until February. Tourists should also refrain from tempting fate in early April, when the ice could already be thin. Usually, the main trails across the lake are set by the local MES office, so if you have decided on this journey, you should let an experienced driver accompany you and use specially designated routes. There are also tours where groups of tourists ride across the frozen Baikal on quads or snowmobiles – a trip like that will certainly be a memorable one!

Skating

It is impossible to look at the glassy surface of the frozen lake and not think of skating! In winter, Lake Baikal turns into the biggest skating rink in the world. So when you set out on a journey through the winter Baikal, make sure to grab your skates.

The winter ice on the lake is so clear that on a sunny day you can see the fish underneath, as well as planktonic algae which can grow there thanks to the sun’s rays that penetrate the ice. By the end of winter, the thickness of ice on the lake reaches 1 m., and in bays up to 1.5-2 m. The landscapes around you will be just as breathtaking as the view under your feet: in winter, icy grottos form along the shores of the lake, producing interesting and often intricate shapes.
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Ice Fishing

The locals might tell you that the best time to fish on Lake Baikal is the end of March or beginning of April, but the ice fishing season on Baikal actually starts in January, when the bays are completely frozen. You can catch the fish that the locals refer to as “Sorovaya” (from “Sor”, the spot where a bay is flooded at periods of high tide). It includes perch, roach, pike, and dace. To catch a noble fish, you have to go to the "high seas" where you can count on landing a burbot, grayling and the famous Baikal omul. It is fairly easy to cut a hole in the ice with an ice pick despite its thickness, but it has to be done at the highest possible temperatures, because the colder it is, the thicker the ice. When ice-fishing, remember the rules that apply to any time of year – watch the weather and stay close to shore.

Journey on the Circum-Baikal Railway

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If you are not fond of extreme activities or fishing and simply wish to enjoy the winter scenery and breathe in the fresh Baikal air, a trip on the famous Circum-Baikal Express will be a perfect pastime for you. The route will take you from Irkutsk to the southern shore of Lake Baikal.
 

The Circum-Baikal Railway was once a part of the Great Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok. But during the construction of the local power station, part of the railway was submerged, and trains to the east ran over a different branch that had been built in advance. There is no other railway in the world that encompasses as many man-made structures as this section of the CBR. The 85-kilometer track runs through a multitude of century-old tunnels, drainage systems, bridges, retaining walls, all against the backdrop of cliffs, headlands, and rocks exposed during the construction of the railway, as well as scenic river valleys. An old train is running on the track at 30 km/h, allowing tourists to take in the beauty of the Baikal shore. You can step out at any stop and take pictures or simply close your eyes and breathe in the fresh, crispy air. Time for sightseeing may vary considerably – from 40 minutes to several hours.

Everyone who gets to visit Baikal in winter will certainly want to come back exactly at this time of year, because here you can find a real winter wonderland!

 

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