Ask Baikal

Hi there! My name is Maxim Milyutin. I am based in Irkutsk, Russia's Siberia. Traveller, organiser of local travel talks, and owner of Irkutsk hostel. Travel for me is not necessary movement to some place far away from home, it's a state of soul. That's why I like to travel around my home region and and abroad as well. I'm happy to share my knowledge about Baikal with everybody! Feel free to ask me about Lake Baikal via the contact form Tatiana Baksheeva, our previous blog runner, remains with us as a contributor.

Baikal ‘Omul’ Whitefish

Hi! Today I’ll tell you about very famous Baikal fish in Russia, it’s Omul, also called Baikal whitefish, or stranger whitefish! You can find it everywhere at the lake, at markets, cafes and restaurants. Locals cook it in many ways, boil it (then you get local fish soup, called “yushka”), fry it. And salted omul fish is very good in salad, called “zagudai”, when except the fish you have slices of onion, pepper, salt and vegetable oil. It is traditional food fot local minority called “buryats”, originally nomads, but here they are also hunters and fishermen. But the most tasty it is hot-smoked and cold-smoked (I prefer hot!). Try it!

Russian economy and prices for travel to Siberia at 2015

Hi, guys!

You probably know, that there is something happening with Russian economy. Here is my forecast for prices for the next year. The pros of this process is that prices for everything (tours, food, accommodation, guides…) had dropped dramatically, USD/RUB and EUR/RUB exchange rate strongly decreased (ruble is now twice cheaper), and now everything here is twice cheaper than before. I think it’s good time for travelling. Some examples below. Hostel accommodation costs 600 rubles, in 2014 it was around 15 USD, now it’s 7 USD. Dinner at good restaurant costs 1500 rubles, it was 40-50 USD, now it’s 20-25 USD! The prices is going to rise during 2015, but not so dramatically, because Russian government manages the situation, and averate salaries won’t increase two times. Probably, during the 2015-2016 dollar and euro exchange rate to ruble will be normalized, but still it’s really cheap.

The con is that travelling abroad for Russians is very expensive currently (since we get salaries in rubles, not dollars). I think 2015 should be great year for travelling. Happy New Year and see you in Siberia!

What do we know about the Baikal seal (nerpa)?

Baikal Seal (Nerpa)

The Baikal Seal - Nerpa

The Baikal Seal or nerpa is a unique animal of Lake Baikal. It’s the only mammal that lives in the lake.

A lot of people go to the Baikal to see this charming creature. In summer, the seals like basking in the sunshine and you can see how variously they can behave. Like people, the Baikal Seals have different characters and temperaments.

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TOP Places to Visit at Lake Baikal, Russia [tips + video]

Chersky Rock at Lake Baikal, Russia. Photo by

On the boat. On Lake Baikal.

Chersky Rock at Lake Baikal, Russia. Photo by

Lake Baikal is the oldest, the deepest and one of the most fascinating lakes of the world. Wherever you go at this charming lake, you will feel its spirit, spend a wonderful time and will be filled with its powerful positive energy!

If you arrive in Irkutsk and you are limited in time or have limited budget, then it’s better to visit Listvyanka, which is situated on the shore of Lake Baikal, 70 km (44 mi) from Irkutsk.

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5 interesting events that happened at Lake Baikal in 2011

I decided to make a list of interesting events that happened at Lake Baikal in 2011. The Lake is very unique by itself, but there are a lot of people’s stories connected to its existence.

A barrel floating on the sea

In summer 2011 one retired man from Kultuk village decided to swim across Baikal in…a barrel. He was inspired to do such a heroic feat by an old song “Sacred sea, sacred Baikal,” in which the main hero – a state convict – swims across the lake in an omul barrel. Modern barrel was made in accordance of author’s drawings. The vessel consists of two sections – large wooden spools, on outer side of them pieces of foam and empty plastic bottles are fixed. There is a cabin with a table inside the barrel.

However Nikolay Lupynin had more difficulties than his inspirer. The Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) prohibited this adventure, explaining that he must register the barrel as a vessel and pass through a technical inspection.

The barrel is ready. Photo taken from

Nilolay was not ready to such requirements and wrote a letter to Irkutsk Region Governor with a request for assistance and permit to swim. However, Nikolay didn’t get any answer. But the traveler is not discouraged, he is confident that the voyage will take place in summer 2012. By this time the retiree promises to fulfill all the demands of the MES and will sail according to the official rules.
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Are there undiscovered islands at Lake Baikal?

I’ve been asked if there are any undiscovered islands at Lake Baikal. Baikal is quite well-studied and according to open sources there are no undiscovered islands there at the moment. However, everything is changing)

To make my answer more complete, I decided to describe some islands of the Lake. There are different opinions on how many islands actually are at the Lake.

Wiki says that there are 27 islands at Lake Baikal.

The largest one is Olkhon Island, its length 71 km, width – up to 12 km, area – 730 square km. There is the deepest point – 1637 meters – not far from the outer side of island.

Olkhon Island. Photo by Vasiliy Maslukov

There are also Uskanyei Islands, a small archipelago of rocky shores in the middle of Lake Baikal near the Holy Nose Peninsula (Republic of Buryatia). There are 4 islands in the archipelago – Big Ushkaniy (the area of ??9.4 km²), the maximum height above the lake – about 210 meters, and Thin, Round and Long islands. They are covered with larch forest. There are Baikal Seal rookeries on the banks. Human impact is minimal, because these islands are part of the Trans-Baikal National Park. One needs permission to land for visiting Ushkaniye Islands.

Ushkaniye Islands. Photo by Vasiliy Maslukov

Yarki Island is located at the north of Lake Baikal, its length is 20 km, and width from 10 to 200 meters. The island is rapidly destroying because of its sandy structure and the constant rise of water level in Lake Baikal.

Yarki Island. Photo by Anna Lempert

The writer and Baikal researcher Vitaliy Bryanskiy in his book “Hello, Baikal!” (1989) says there are 35 islands at Lake Baikal. He suggests that Lake Baikal has also such islets as separate large stones, boulders, pebbles or clusters.  Some of them have vegetation and nests with gulls’ eggs.

Currently, most of the islands of Lake Baikal are enlisted as natural monuments or included to the two national parks.

Impossible2Possible’s “2010 Siberian Express for Water” Lake Baikal winter trekking expedition. Video, photos, interview w/ Ray Zahab

Impossible2Possible Siberian Express Lake Baikal trek map

These are photographs of the last year’s winter trekking expedition “Siberian Express for Water” done by Impossible2Possible (i2P) along Russia’s Lake Baikal from its very south to its very north. 650 km on the ice! Incredible achievement!

Here’s what the Siberian Express for Water expedition participants say:

In 2010 i2P Founder Ray Zahab and i2P Ambassador Kevin Vallely teamed up for another epic impossible2Possible expedition. The two adventurers travelled to the far reaches of frozen Siberia and the remote shores of Lake Baikal, the oldest, deepest lake in the world, to run some 650km unsupported down the length of its frozen surface. The team averaged approximately 50km per day on this grueling expedition, while hauling all of their food and supplies. Over 8,500 students took part in both the Experiential Learning program and fundraising initiative for water projects in Africa.

Learn more on the expedition website.

Great news!

Apart from photographs, Ray Zahab sent me answers to our questions. Further, please, find the interview with him. Additionally, the documentary about the expedition is attached.

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Vladimir Sukhachev’s Household

A history of Irkutsk is inextricably linked with the name of Vladimir Platonovich Sukachev (1849 – 1920). The mayor, philanthropist and patron of the arts, the creator of the Irkutsk Art Gallery – he gave his strength and resources to his hometown.

Vladimir Sukhachev

Irkutsk developed a lot during his administration time. Sukhacev organized the first Voluntary Fire Company. Telephones and electricity appeared here. The first pontoon bridge and the bridge across the Angara River were built: they replaced the inconvenient ferry. Despite the diversity of public interests of Vladimir Sukachev, Irkutsk citizens will remember him mainly as the creator of Irkutsk art gallery. It was an old dream of Sukachev: open in his hometown a Museum of Art. And thanks to him, nowadays we have a great opportunity to enjoy the paintings of Russian artists – Repin, Platonov, Makovsky, Vereshchagin, Aivazovsky, as well as European ones.

But today I invite you to visit his household which renovation started in 1989. Now it’s a museum that carefully preserves chronicles of the past – memories of a bygone era and its contemporaries.

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Enchanted with the Ice of Lake Baikal. 38 breathtaking spring pictures.

Enchanting Ice of Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia. Winter pictures. By Muumi

Enchanting Ice of Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia. Winter pictures. By Muumi

Yes, it’s summer right now! Summer! Pretty hot outside. So, why not chill out?! Let’s look back and see what we had a couple of months ago on Lake Baikal, Siberia / Russia. Magic ice! It’s like a diamond. You can’t stop admiring it!

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How to get from Listvyanka to Olkhon Island?

I’ve been asked a question on how to get to Olkhon Island from Listvyanka.

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Lake Baikal map (from Red dots shows Listvyanka and Olkhon. Click the image to enlarge.

In summer time you can get from Listvyanka villgae to Olkhon Island only by water.

I translated an official timetable for summer 2011. Read more »