Right before this whole quarantine thing started around the world, I got a chance to make one of my dreams to come true. The dream was to visit Lake Baikal in winter (and I definitely want to see it in summer too).
In the beginning I want to give you some information about the place, in case you haven’t heard about it.
Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world and one of the oldest ones (25-30 millions years old). It is located in Southern Siberia in Russia. Mostly people come to the lake in summer and in the late winter / beginning of spring time. I decided to come in the end of winter to see the famous ice. For that I went to to Olkhon Island. The island is located inside of Lake Baikal. One of the interesting things about going to the lake in winter, that you get a chance to travel on the actual ice surface by car, because thickness of ice reaches 1 – 2 meters.
Here I want to share photos that I took while my three days trip to Olkhon Island. I got to see the famous ice (unfortunately, the most of the surface was covered with snow, because of the weather conditions this year), the huge icicles and one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.
The first evening there we started with Shaman Rock (Cape Burkhan). It is quite a mysterious place. In the ancient times, and even nowadays, shamans came and still come here to perform their rituals.
And the second day we started with picteresque sunrise.
Baikal is well knows as a “Place of powerful energy”. People believe that the lake is a very spiritual place with a very strong energetic field. There used to be people called “Shamans”, and probably there still are. Why they were/are there could be well explained with the location of the lake and the diversity of the ethnic groups . Buryat people live there (one of the ethnic groups in Russia), and they have their own unique culture, food, language.
These pillars are called “сэргэ” “serge”. They are used by Buryat people (ethnic group in Russia) as special sacral pillars. They put colorful ribbons around and pray, so later the wind spreads the prayers around.
Khuzhir is the biggest village on the island. Most of the tourists stay here, and most of the houses are actual guest houses. One person told that almost every family has all its’ profit from tourism. The wives are hosts/”receptionists”, and husbands are the drivers/tour guides. Anyways the place is really nice to visit, it gives you this authentic experience of living in a Russian village. Outdoor bathrooms, sauna “banya, farm animals and pets walking all around and other things.
After the sunrise we started exploring the northern part of the island. The first destination was Cape Khoboy – the extreme north point of the island.
One thing that amazed me while my trip to Baikal is the ice drifting. In some places the pieces of ice were really big, I cant imagine the moment it breaks. It is probably very loud, and I would think, scary. We were told that most of the pieces were formed in the beginning of winter, when the ice was not that strong. However, some of them were pretty new, and they appeared like one or two days before we got there.
This kind of cars have a nickname in Russia – the “Loafs”. They are the most common means of transportation on the island, because they are able to get through difficult roads and pathes.
One of the best experience for me was having “picnics” outdoors in winter. The temperature was around -20 degrees Celsius. However, it still was an amazing experience – very unique and authentic.
On the way back to Khuzhir we saw yaks. We were very lucky to encounter them. They can be found only in the certain ares of the island.
This is “Hivus” – a special type of transportation that allows to travel on the ice surface as well as water surface. It is actually a very convenient and safe way to move around, when ice starts melting.
Another picturesque sunset we saw at the view point called “the Lighthouse”.
The second day we went to explore the southern part of the island and started with a place called “The Stone Garden”. These stone “sculptures” were made by local people.
And the famous ice with the “bubbles”. This winter appeared to be very snowy, so it was really hard to find clean and clear ice surface. Every year thousand of people come to see this miracle of nature. I got to take pictures of the ice at the Lake Shara Nur that is located inside of the island.
By the end of the day we got to the famous Ogoy Island that has a very interesting shape. On the other side of the island the Tibetan Buddhist Stupa of Enlightenment is located.
Our last evening on the Olkhon Island finished with sunset from an amazing view point, where you can see the lake itself and Khuzhir village.
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