Imagine gazing through metre-thick ice sheet so clear you can behold the profound darkness of the world’s deepest and most ancient lake beneath. Or, envision yourself as witness to one of the world’s oldest surviving shamanic rituals. All this is possible in and around Lake Baikal, the pearl of Siberia. Located on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and known as the “Gateway to Lake Baikal” Irkutsk itself is a jumping off point for Siberia’s main attraction - Lake Baikal, 70km to the east.
Literally meaning “Nature Lake,” Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an astounding 25 million years old, plummeting 1,642m down at its deepest point. Baikal’s depths hold over one-fifth of the world’s unfrozen surface freshwater. It’s so large, ancient Chinese travellers called it “The North Sea.”