Lake Baikal Photography Expedition 2020

A world class photo safari in Siberia's kingdom of ice
With its enchanted ice caves, dazzling winter sun and dramatic landscapes, winter is without a doubt the most spectacular time to photograph frozen Lake Baikal.

This Lake Baikal Photography Tour will grant intrepid photographers the honour of focusing their lenses on some of Siberia’s most famously beautiful frozen landscapes. Summer sees the bulk of tourist activity in the area, but it’s in winter that the most devoted photographers make the pilgrimage, hoping to capture once-in-a-lifetime images of the natural world at its most powerful and surreal.

Trip Highlights:

  • Climb to the top of Khoboy Cape for a breathtaking panoramic view showing the true scale of Siberia’s “inland sea”. The cape contains a labyrinth of grottoes where sunlight dances off ceilings jagged with icy stalactites
  • Khorin-Igri Bay: an ideal spot to photograph the natural phenomenon of frozen bubbles under Lake Baikal, rising to the surface in perfect discs suspended in the clear, dark water
  • Budun Cape is a rugged natural monument surrounded by shard-like ice mounds. An unreal sight with a huge variety of shapes, lines and geometry allowing for some creative perspectives
  • In the bay of Zuun-Khagun, the ice is often so transparent that the bottom of Lake Baikal is clearly seen. This is one of the best places to capture one of the most iconic images of Baikal – the inky black lake surface split with vein-like cracks in the ice that can stretch for dozens of kilometres
  • Uzury is a tiny village of about 10 people in eastern Olkhon. Close to Uzury are numerous ice grottoes and natural ice hummocks – giant blocks formed by the movement of ice floes that shimmer like precious stones on the surface of the lake.

Under deep freeze conditions, Lake Baikal is an astonishing sight, with its transparent layer of ice blanketing staggeringly clear water plunging over 1000 metres into the abyss. Exploring the lake’s numerous islands will reveal hidden grottoes and frozen caves where intricate ice formations make for otherworldly photo subjects.

The main subject of this 8 day Baikal tour will be the breathtakingly beautiful Olkhon Island, the largest of Lake Baikal’s 27 islands. Olkhon is divided into three distinct climatic zones – steppe, forest and desert. Dotted all around Olkhon are strikingly photogenic landscapes and natural monuments, made all the more spectacular in winter by the presence of glittering ice caves and bizarre, beautiful ice hummocks – huge shards of ice that form out of cracks in the surface of the lake and shimmer with a transparent, turquoise hue.

To get to Olkhon from Irkutsk, we’ll travel approximately 300km by road and over ice. During winter, the narrow channel between the mainland and Olkhon is completely frozen, allowing us to safely commandeer our bus over the metre-thick ice to reach our home base in western Olkhon, Khuzhir. Khuzhir village is home to 1,200 out of Olkhon’s 1,500 mostly indigenous Buryat residents.

This dedicated photographer’s safari caters for camera buffs of all skill levels, with an expert photographer on hand to give you advice on shooting techniques. Amateur photographers will enjoy workshops on mastering equipment, building the right composition and using filters. Seasoned photographers will learn more about shooting panoramas, focus stacking and night photography. Travelling with a professional team including a guide, translator and drivers, you’ll visit the most visually breathtaking destinations in the region on this Lake Baikal photo tour. You won’t go home without a gallery’s worth of stunning pictures, guaranteed!

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Trip style



Mixed (hotel, wooden cabins)



Action rating

Group size

Type of tour

8 days / 7 nights


2-6 people

Guaranteed Departures

Itinerary View map

Day 1:From Irkutsk to Olkhon island

Welcome to the astonishing Baikal region of Siberia and the winter photography expedition of a lifetime!
Your journey begins with your arrival at Irkutsk airport, where you’ll be met by our staff, ready to answer all your questions on the mission to come. At 10am, we’ll waste no time venturing straight to the shores of the mighty Lake Baikal.

From Irkutsk, we travel by road to Olkhon Island (approximately 300km, 5 to 6 hours) off the western coast of Lake Baikal. During winter, the narrow channel between the mainland and Olkhon is completely frozen over, allowing us to safely commandeer our 4wd transport over the metre-thick ice to reach our destination in western Olkhon. Our home for the next nine days is Khuzhir, the main village on the island. You’ll stay in comfortable, well heated wooden cabins with a welcoming local atmosphere.

Days 2-6:Landscape photography around Olkhon

Over the next 5 days we will visit the most picturesque destinations in and around Olkhon including the ice grottos of Kharantsy Island, the ice mounds of Khoboy Cape, the Buddhist stupa on Ogoy Island, the bubbles at Belenky Island, the tiny settlement of Uzury and the steppe landscapes on the southern part of Olkhon.

Because of the weather dependent nature of the trip, there’s no fixed, day-by-day itinerary – we choose destinations based on the most opportune conditions on each day.

Day 7:Return to Irkutsk

Our expedition complete, after lunch we transfer back to Irkutsk to spend the evening relaxing, celebrating and sharing favourite photos and memories.

Day 8:Departure

Final morning in Irkutsk, with transport provided to the airport ready for the journey home.



Wooden cabins accommodation on Olkhon Island (6 nights)

Hotel accommodation in Irkutsk (1 night)


Breakfast, lunches and dinners while on Olkhon Island


Group arrival and departure airport transfers

Transportation on tour according to the itinerary (4WD cars)


Professional photographer guide

Local English-speaking tour leader

Experienced driver

Activities and sights

All sights indicated int he itinerary, depending on the weather


Russian visa support documents

*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Not included

Flights, travel insurance, visa, optional excursions, individual transfers

Dates & Prices

DatesAvailabilityPriceSingle sup. 
2 Feb - 9 Feb, 2020
Guaranteed Departures
Limited spaces US $2,990 US $600 Reserve
Your own group at any dates
Private Tour
Available US $2,990 US $600 Reserve


Kurt SuterAustralia

As a non-photographer, I did not have too many expectations. My focus was on Ice Skating and exploring the Icy Wonderland on foot and with my eyes, and that worked out very well. I had access to skates all week and I enjoyed a number of skating excursions in the vicinity of the van, as the exceptionally low temperatures during our stay on Okhlon Island prevented me from venturing too far. Dimitri, our driver on the island did a fantastic job navigating the icy roads.

Andrew and Igor have been very friendly and knowledgeable tour guides, the program and daily trips they offered were varied and interesting.

Heather FitzpatrickAustralia

Thank you for all your work, and I will be staying up to date with other tours that 56th Parallel run.

The trip was fantastic. The landscapes were amazing, and I was happy with many of my photos. Accommodation at the Lake: was really good, and perfectly suitable for the trip. Yes, it was a little cold a couple of nights, but really nothing that bad. So, I would say it is a suitable place to book for your future tours. Our guides and their scouting of locations: the locations selected were awesome as they were able to dodge the large groups of tourists, and we nearly always had the place to ourselves. This was absolutely key to the enjoyment of the trip and the quality of the photos, so this was simply wonderful. This was actually the most important aspect of the trip.

Dmitri the driver: he was the king of the ice, that guy. He improved the safety of the trip immeasurably. The food at lunches on the trip: Dmitri's wife cooked the loveliest lunches. Your communications leading up to the trip: you were excellent in keeping in touch and providing information.


- Andrej is an AMAZING landscape photographer (which we only realised at the end of the trip when we saw some of his photos), and we sort of missed the benefit of his knoweldge.

- Gaining tips and help: both Igor and Andrej were great at scouting locations and I liked them both very much, but I think they presumed that we all were just capable of capturing the landscape to maximum effect. I am an amateur photographer with no landscape photography experience. Later on the tour, Andrej started to show me some good spots to set up, which I was grateful for. If only this was posible at the start of the trip, and so many more of my photos would have been a better quality. So, I wasn't asking for dedicated and long-winded personal assistance, just a few minor tips and traps along the way was all that was needed to make a difference.

- I learned in other photographic contexts that you should start wide, then go small, and something like this could really help for landscape photography too when there's a group, i.e. start with your wide shots then walk towards the rock or hill that's the subject, for example.

- Packing list: I'd strongly recommend including on the packing list some cleat-like/ice no-slip things that you can place on your shoes. You can buy some fairly low-grade ones at the supermarket there, but they weren't that good. It means the difference between skipping/running along the ice like an elegant gazelle, or shuffling at a snails pace carefully and slowly, and even then falling over and hurting yourself constantly. Also, chemical hand warmers aren't really available in Russia, and I know that some of the others mentioned these. I also bought the reindeer boots that all of the cool Russian kids had there (like this), and I didn't have a single moment of cold toes.

So overall, I really loved the trip and found it to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a truly beautiful landscape; one which is fragile and vulernable to our climate change, and over-touristing in the coming years. Thank you for all your work, and I will be staying up to date with other tours that 56th Parallel run.

Chris WrightAustralia

Everything was wonderful!

I was very happy with the trip. The guide, Yulia, was wonderful. She was friendly, positive, knowledgeable and interesting. Alexei the driver was very good at what he does. The lake, of course, is absolutely beautiful, a wonderful place. Thank you for all of your assistance with that part of the trip too.

Sandra Thomas and Pat FarrantUK

A trip of a lifetime, many thanks!

Hi Anna, just to say "thank you" for organizing such a fantastic trip in Lake Baikal! Both Pat and I thoroughly enjoyed it and met some lovely people, the one day of -40C was a bit extreme. All went off well, both of the tour guides in Moscow and Irkutsk were really good and drivers met us all promptly, so really well organized! Thank you so much for putting up with all our enquires. Anyway a trip of a lifetime, many thanks! 

Lake Baikal winter tour

Katja RiedelNew zealand

It was a wonderful adventure, the only thing that could have been better? The wind direction!

I can’t praise the organisation of 56th Parallel enough: Everything went smoothly, the booked accommodation was nice, there was enough flexibility to change plans and I felt that my wishes were taken seriously and were incorporated. They were easy to deal with and listened to my wishes. It was a wonderful adventure, the only thing that could have been better? The wind direction!

My 250km Ice skating adventure on lake baikal Feb/March 2016...

Five years ago I saw for the first time pictures of the frozen Lake Baikal on the internet. Gifted Russian photographer Daniel Kordan had just finished an ice skating trip around Olkhon Island with friends and came back with amazing photos of ice covered cliffs, lattice like patterns of white cracks in black ice, ice caves glittering like Aladin’s cave and icicles longer than a human being.

Fast forward five years later and I have just returned from my trip to Lake Baikal. My expectations were high after constantly looking at other people’s pictures of Lake Baikal, but they were exceeded. The ice was more wonderful than ever imagined and the ice skating was fantastic. I had enlisted 56th Parallel to help me with the logistics of my trip and they were great. Communication via email before the trip was good and together we worked out an itinerary for custom made trip.

Even when four days before the trip I had to put everything on hold because of family problems they were very understanding and prepared to support me whatever I decided. Luckily in the end I could travel as planned.

Anna from 56th Parallel with whom I corresponded promised me that my guide would be a real “travel buddy”. That was very important to me because I would be alone with the guide for 11 days. Maksim, 28 years old from Irkutsk, was the best guide I could have wished for. Experienced, yet relaxed, fit, with very good English, a good ice skater and with lots of local knowledge was also an interesting person to talk to. He was patient and friendly and looked very well after me. He was also very understanding of my photography, making sure I was at the best places during sunrise and sunset possible. He was a great guide and companion.

The organisation of gear, food, accommodation and transport was perfectly organised. In the evening we would skate into a village and move into cosy and warm rooms, often with the chance to take a shower before a filling dinner was served. During two nights we decided to camp on the edge of the lake, enjoying the solitude and scenery. In these cases it was no problem to cancel the accommodation, a flexibility I really appreciated.

If you have any urgent questions or enquiries, please give us a call +61 2 9388 9816

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