7 most beautiful and interesting places at Baikal

The most beautiful places of Baikal are the island of shamans, the steppe with rubies and ancient caves

The deepest lake on the planet. Its waves can reach four meters, precious stones are found in the surrounding dunes, coastal rocks are decorated with thousands of years of paintings, and the sunny days here are more than on the coast of the Black Sea.

Baikal ice

Baikal stretches across the center of Asia as a huge crescent separating the Irkutsk region and Buryatia. In the spring its waters turn blue and are so transparent that one can easily see the bottom reliefs at a depth of up to 40 meters. The 1.5-millimeter long crayfish, epishurea, owe its amazing purity to the lake. These translucent crustaceans act as a natural filter, absorbing algae and other organics. And in winter the lake is covered with ice, which forms cracks up to 30 kilometers long!

Baikal ice

Now Baikal is visited by more than a million tourists every year, and Hollywood director James Cameron even celebrated his birthday here. In this article, I tell you what to see at Baikal and when it’s best to come here for the best shots.

Mirages and the lake’s stern disposition

The locals call Baikal a sea. Yes, this water body has more of a marine character, severe and unpredictable. When fishing for their catch, fishermen never know what kind of weather is waiting for them in the middle of the lake, calm or stormy: a powerful Baikal sarma may appear even on a windless day and raise four meters high waves. The reason is the unique location of Baikal – in a bowl between mountain ridges and hills. The air flows through the mouth of the Sarma river, creating the effect of a wind tunnel: the wind blows on the lake with an enormous force.


Mirages also add mystery to Baikal. On a sunny day you can see a ship, a mountain or an animal silhouette over the water in the distance – it’s an optical illusion, which occurs due to the difference in temperature between the layers of air touching each other and the refraction of sunlight. Mirages are noticed more often in the northeastern part of Olkhon Island, on the Ushkany Islands and near Cape Solar.

Olkhon Island is the only inhabited and the most mysterious Baikal island

The lake has 27 islands, the largest of which is Olkhon. Legend has it that Mongolian shamans fleeing persecution during the time of Genghis Khan found refuge here, and later Buryat sorcerers found a home on the island, escaping the persecution of Buddhist lamas. The spirits are supposed to inhabit the rocks of Olkhon to this day, either the keepers of the majestic lake or the souls of deceased sorcerers.

Olkhon Baikal

The nature of the island is diverse: pine forests turn into kilometers of sandy beaches, the most famous of which is Saraisky, and the coastal rocks of fanciful shape cut into the waters of the lake. It is probably on this island that most of the most visited and beautiful places on Lake Baikal are concentrated.

Sarai beach Olkhon

The Shamanka cliff or Burkhan cape is one of the most mystical places in the whole Baikal area and is considered one of the nine shrines of Asia. Here shamans performed their mysterious rituals, and a small sacrificial cave with a through corridor is still preserved in the rock.

The shaman would walk through it to appear on the opposite side, astonishing eyewitnesses. Burkhan is still called a place of power, and you can get here as part of an organized tour.

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Olkhon shaman posts

Picturesque views of Lake Baikal can be seen from the capes of Khoboy, the northern tip of the island, Sagan-Khushun and Kobylya Golova on the western coast, and Khorgoi, which is in the very south of Olkhon.

Cape Khoboy Olkhon

Ancient archaeological monuments and burial grounds have been found near the island’s Lake Khankhoy. Lake Shara-Nur, which is hidden among the mountain forests, is considered a healing lake: its mud treats joints and skin diseases. Unfortunately, in recent years it has dried up a lot.

Three ferries connect the island with the mainland from May to December, and when the lake freezes, cars drive on the ice. To see all the sights of Olkhon, it is worthwhile to come for a few days and stay there, for example, in Khuzhir. The ferry to Olkhon is located in the village of Sakhyurta.

Tazheranskaya steppe – dunes, precious stones and picturesque caves.

It stretches between the villages of Elantsy and Chernorud. Landscapes of the Tazheran steppe look like a film with changing shots: hills turn into sand dunes with rocky remnants, and light pines and spruce forests grow behind them.

Tazheran steppe

The bowels of these lands are rich in semiprecious and precious stones – sapphires, rubies, and zircons. Unique minerals, which were not found elsewhere, were found here: tajeranite, which resembles a diamond with an orange tint, and azoproite.

Tazheran steppe

Several salty lakes with sulfite water are scattered like beads on the steppe, the largest of them is Dabakhtay-Nur. Mud on the banks of these reservoirs is medicinal and has a hydrogen sulfide odor.

Lake in Tazheran steppe

Aya Bay, one of the most beautiful places in Baikal, extends 800 meters into the Tazheran Plateau and forms a quiet harbor. The petroglyphs found here, 100 meters away from the shore, are more than 2500 years old! Ancient paintings depict shamans, hunters and their prey: elk, seal, swan and sturgeon.

Ayah Bay

Tourists come here not only for the sand beach: on the plateau of the Ayya bay prehistoric caves more than 20 million years old are found: “Ayya”, “Vologodskaya”, “Oktyabrskaya”, “Ryadovaya” and others. You can visit them together with a guide or as a part of the tour around the Tazheran caves. If you are not afraid of steep underground descents, go on a tour to the three-level cave Dream with grottoes, bizarre stalactites and stalagmites and visit the Big and Small Baidin Caves.

Enkhaluk – golden sand and hot springs

The Buryat village of Enkhaluk is one of the most popular places in eastern Baikal. Its coast is a clean sandy beach, which warms up well in the summer and is great for swimming. There is an excellent infrastructure, lots of camping sites, cafes, and guest houses.

Enkhaluk wildlife preserve

At 8 kilometers from Enkhaluk, near the village of Sukhaya, there is a hot spring Zagza, its water helps with skin diseases and problems with joints. Visitors take mineral baths in the pool of a small complex, which is open all year round.

The main decoration of these places is the Enkhaluk reserve, where 15 thousand hectares of forest are inhabited by rare animals: deer, ermine, sable, muskrat. In the dense thickets you can find grouse, partridge, and owl.

Ice patterns or beaches – when is it better to go to Baikal?

In winter, the smooth surface of the lake is completely frozen. During the period from January to April only a small area near the mouth of the Angara River remains free of ice. By the end of February, the thickness of the ice cover reaches a meter and a half, and the surface of Baikal is covered with many kilometers of cracks, which tourists from all over the world come to see.

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Cracks on Baikal ice

Professional photographers and tourists wander around the frozen Baikal, admiring the geometric patterns of cracks, air bubbles frozen under the ice and peering into the coastal grottoes, which in winter look fantastic, like the chambers of the Snow Queen. Look for the most photogenic ice in the western part of the island, in the area from the village of Elantsy to the north of the Small Sea and the crossing to Olkhon. It’s drier here, it rarely snows, and hence the ice is cleaner.

Ice grotto on Olkhon

There are several ski centers on Baikal. The largest and most popular of them is Gora Sobolinaya. There are 16 runs of varying complexity with stunning views of the lake. Thanks to a modern system of snowing slopes, the season at this resort lasts from November to April.

Sobolinaya mountain Baikal

June is the best time for diving. At the same time, it’s the best time to watch the Baikal seals – freshwater cousins of seals. Their largest concentrations are found on the Ushkany Islands.

Baikal seals

End of July and beginning of August is the season of beach vacations. The most popular beaches in Baikal are Peschanaya Bay with azure-blue water and golden sand, Soft Karga on the isthmus of Svyatoy Nos Peninsula, Saraysky Beach on Olkhon (I mentioned it above) and the coast of the Small Sea.

In summer you can go fishing, take a boat trip, ride a catamaran or fly a paraglider here.

Peschanaya Bay Baykal

The mighty old man Baikal is very hospitable – he has prepared a lot of interesting things for a variety of guests. Beaches and quiet bays for those who like to have a “seal” rest, mountain-skiing tracks and hiking for active sportsmen, picturesque sunsets for romantics. Its shores are covered with legends, keep many secrets, and who knows, maybe, as a reward for the long journey, Baikal will uncover them for travelers.

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7 most beautiful and interesting places at Baikal

interesting places at lake Baikal

What to see in Baikal? A list of 7 interesting and beautiful places to visit.

Baikal has long been on the list of the best places for recreation in Russia. Its surroundings abound with unique natural attractions: rocks, caves, bays, islands, bays and waterfalls. Here you can see the seals in their natural habitat, drink from the healing spring and visit the ancient sacred places. Below are, in our opinion, the most interesting, beautiful and accessible places in Baikal.

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For most tourists who come to Baikal, the village Listvyanka becomes the starting point for travel. From Irkutsk it is easy to get by bus or shuttle buses from the bus station. There is a well-developed infrastructure here, you can come at any time of the year.

At the entrance to Listvyanka at the source of the Angara River one can see a lonely loach peeking out of the water – the Shaman Stone. According to legend it was thrown after his daughter who ran away to Yenisei by her angered father Baikal. Buryats believed in the power of the stone, brought a man accused of a crime and left for the night alone with the spirits. Some of the men could not stand the test, went mad or disappeared, but if they survived they were left in peace. In summertime the stone is clearly visible from the shore.

The only Baikal museum with dendropark in the world is located in Listvyanka. Here one can see specimens of lake fauna: omuli, whitefish, sturgeon, seals. On the second floor of the museum there is a cabinet where you can see the smallest organisms under a microscope. There is a possibility to see the rookeries of seals on the Ushkany Islands with the help of webcams, there is also an interactive diving to the bottom of the lake. Museum is open daily from 9 to 19, the ticket costs 250 rubles, with immersion – 300 rubles.

You can see very touching show of seals in Listvyanka conservatory. Shows are taking place every hour from 11 to 18 on weekdays (except Mondays), every 45 minutes on weekends. Admission is 300 rubles (adults) and 250 rubles (children).

On the way to the village you can visit the open-air museum “Taltsy”. There you can see the best samples of architecture and household items which reflect the culture and customs of the Buryats, Evenks, Russians and Tofs, starting from the 17th century. Museum works from 9 to 18 every day, the ticket costs 150 rubles.

Shaman-stone. Photo: Martin-Vas / Depositphotos.com. Museum “Taltsy”. Photo: Curioso_Travel_Photography / Depositphotos.com.

Tazheran Caves.

To the south of Olkhon and the Little Sea there are rocks riddled with caves, dubbed the Tazheran Caves. They can be rightfully put among the most interesting and beautiful places of Baikal. The largest of them is the Dream Cave, its size allows one to walk upright. The most beautiful hall is the Throne Hall, inside of which there is a dais that really resembles a throne. Baidin cold caves are notable for their archeological findings. Ancient people’s camps, fragments of pottery, arrowheads and other items have been found here. Ancient rock paintings can be seen near the Aya Cave.

The caves are situated between the ferry to Olkhon and Elantsy village. You may get there by car from Sakhyurta.

What to see at Baikal

If you travel in winter, there are a lot of caves in the area of Olkhon and Small Sea, which you can get only at this time of the year. Some grottoes are not even accessible by boat, only by ice. Photo: alyssa1212 / unsplash.com.

Yord Mountain

On the banks of the Anga River in the Tazheran steppes rises a 42-meter mound, an interesting sight of Lake Baikal. You can get to it by car if you turn off near the village of Elantsy. The outlines of the mound have a surprisingly regular geometric shape, although no traces of human activities in the creation of the mound have been found.

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At one time or another, the Yordyn Games, which consisted of a circular dance around the mound, took place here 1-2 times a year. Only shamans climbed to the top. At least seven hundred people participated in the ritual, such is the number needed to close the circle completely. If fewer people gathered, the games were considered failures, and the whole year was a failure. Not so long ago the games were resumed, they are held every four years.

What to see at Baikal

The outlines of the mound have a surprisingly regular geometric shape, although no traces of human activity in the creation of the mound were found. Photo: TauraLilli / flickr.com / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Olkhon Island

Olkhon is the most famous island on Lake Baikal and one of the most interesting places on the lake. According to legend, the great Genghis Khan rests on Olkhon. From Irkutsk to the village of Khuzhir you can get by bus, boat or by car through the ferry in the village of Sakhyurt. Most of the tourists are here in summer and in January-March. From December to January the ferry service stops and only motor boats and air service is available. In winter, the island is easily accessible by ice. Learn how to have a wonderful rest in winter on Baikal.

The island’s main calling card is the Shamanka Rock and 13 pillars around it. These objects are situated near the village of Khuzhir on Cape Burkhan. In ancient times the rock was considered a dwelling place for spirits and children and women were not allowed to get close to it. There is a cave in the rock, where, according to the Buryat beliefs, lived the master of Baikal himself. To this day, the rock remains the main place of pilgrimage for all shamans who perform their rituals here.

From the Khuzhir village you can take a car or a bicycle to the cape Khoboi – about 30 km of total impassability to the north of the island. Here you can capture the best panoramic views of the lake, and if you are lucky, you can watch the Baikal seals. In winter you can see the natural grottos in the rocks, which are at the water level and reach dozens of meters in length.

The highest point of the island, Mount Zhima (1276 meters), is situated on the east of Olkhon, at the cape of Izhimey. According to legend, spirits and gods lived there to help lost travelers. As such, there is no trail for climbing the mountain, so the process may take a whole day.

On the way to the Tashkiney hollow is the healing Shara Nur Lake, or Yellow Lake. The water in it is really muddy because of the high hydrogen sulfide content and can cure diseases of the joints. The locals believed that it was home to a giant snake and never bathed in its waters.

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View of Baikal from Khoboy cape. Photo: wikimedia.org / Digr. In ancient times, mysterious rituals were performed near the Shamanka Rock (Photo: xantype / pixabay.com) The Shamanka Rock in winter. Photo: TauraLilli / flickr.com / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Ogoy Island

In the Small Sea, a few kilometers from Olkhon, there is the island of Ogoy. You usually get there by boat from the village of Khuzhir or Sakhyurt. The place is notable because in 2005 a Buddhist Stupa of Enlightenment was erected here. Inside the 8-meter concrete construction hid weapons and vessels with jewelry, there are also relics of Buddhist saints, ancient books and mantras, which were brought from Nepal. In order to get spiritual purification one has to walk around the structure eight times barefoot along the specially paved path.

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Photos of beautiful places at Baikal

Buddhist Stupa on the island of Ogoi (Photo: wikimedia.org / GeorgiyK)

Sagan-Zaba cliff

Another beautiful and interesting place of Baikal is the Sagan-Zaba cliff. The cliff is made of crystalline limestone and is located several kilometers from Krestovsky Cape. It is better to get to the place by water, or you can get there by car, but then you’ll have to walk. The white-pink cliff against the background of the Black Forest looks particularly beautiful at sunrise in summer.

This natural monument is well known for the so-called petroglyphs – petroglyphs of ancient people. The oldest pictures are estimated to be 4,000 years old. Archaeological finds of the Neolithic Age were found not far from the cliff in the Zun-Sagan-Zaba Bay. According to legend, shamans performed their rituals and sacrifices in one of the caves.

The Sagan-Zaba (White Rock) cliff is known for its rock paintings. Photo: wikimedia.org / Alexander Dellover. Petroglyphs on the rocks of the cliff. There are about 60 in total: one half depicts people and the other half depicts animals and birds. Photo: wikimedia.org / Alexander Dlyorov.

Circum-Baikal railroad

The Circum-Baikal Railroad (KBZhD) is a section of the Trans-Siberian railroad, built by order of Emperor Alexander III. Now it is a historical sight of Baikal, recognized as one of the most beautiful and expensive railroads in the world. To build an 85 km long section from Kultuk to the port of Baikal, engineers had to build 39 tunnels with a total length of 9,5 km, 18 galleries, 476 bridges and viaducts.

After the construction of the hydroelectric power station authorities paved a new way. Now Circum-Baikal express train with stops and local sightseeing is running on this section. The express train departs from Irkutsk and follows the route to the port. Then passengers are ferried across Angara and come back to Irkutsk by bus. Excursion goes all year round and takes a whole day. Full cost of trip without meals is 3-3,5 thousand rubles for adults and 2,8-3 thousand rubles for children. You can order tickets on the site of the company.

Baikal Sightseeing Photos

One of the tunnels on the Circum-Baikal railroad (photo: Vadim1962 / pixabay.com)

Of course, it’s not all beautiful and interesting places at Baikal – there are Shumak springs, sacred for Buddhists mountain Alkhanai, Ushkany Islands with seals, Sand Bay with walking pines, Sarma Gorge, waterfalls on rivers and many other sights. If you are going to take an independent trip to Baikal, you should remember that many places are in a protected area, and to visit them you must get a special permit.

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