Known as the 'Galapagos of Russia', Baikal Lake is stretched across the southern part of Siberia. With its fantastic grottoes, endless bays and abundant small islands, it makes it a nature photographer’s haven, attracting far-reaching colonies of seals, gulls, and in-numerous fish, just to name a few. However, there is one natural phenomenon that beats it all – a legendary Baikal ice. Being featured in the National Geographic not once, it attracts many Russian and international visitors every year. As the water of the Baikal lacks the dissolved and suspended minerals and is instead saturated with much of oxygen, the ice here is particularly transparent and solid.
Not only you can expect to see “through” to the bottom of this magnificent lake but also find around some naturally-formed ice sculptures of hillocks and caves. In all the undreamt colours of a blue-green palette, those natural fragments are spellbinding. Hence, a travel to this snow-white wonderland around February and March can ultimately become your once-in-a-lifetime mind-blowing trip. Stick around to find out what are the best spots to photograph the legendary Baikal ice.
If Baikal Lake is known as the heart of Siberia, then Olkhon Island is the Baikal’s heart. A truly historical, geographical and sacred center of the lake, it is fraught with ancient legends and mysterious traditions. The only inhabited island, it annually attracts multiple nature and religious tourists. Thus, about 273, 000 guests have visited it in 2017. Reachable both from Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude by ferries, it provides the view over the lake’s highest depth mark. Besides, the island itself is rich in archival monuments, archeological objects and several tombs.
Although the name of the island takes its origins from the Buryat language and means a ‘small forest’, the reality is rather different. Along with the sprawling mixed forest, the island welcomes you with the Dutch-flat steppes, spectacular cliffs and impetuous wind. As well as the island’s diverse landscapes, you also get the thrilling bird view that opens over the rigorous sleeping beauty of this massive iced lake.
Another great spot for the ice photography is the Maloe More. Conveniently located on the same way as Olkhon Island, this strait simply connects it with the western shores of Baikal Lake. The maximum depth here reaches 210 m, which enables the water to freeze completely during the wintertime. Both tourists and locals drive to the Maloe More by cars for either ice fishing or ice-skating. The entire area is stretched from the Mukhor Bay to the village of Onguren, that borders with the Baikal-Lena Nature Reserve.
If you opt for car-driving from the Onguren village along the lakeshore, the scenic landscapes are guaranteed. As opposed to the bird view from the Olkhon Island, this area provides you with more precise pictures such as fuzzy ice crevices resembling little worms or numerous spacious bubbles beyond the thought.
Finally, you can travel to the village of Listvyanka to get your dream photography. Only an hour away from Irkutsk by bus or car, this village is considered to be one of the oldest settlements around Baikal Lake. People started to live here already in the early 18th century. Today, it is a popular tourist destination. Due to its proximity to Irkutsk, only about 70 km away and engrossing activities offered, this village is always on the go. Listvyanka is a starting point of several water routes across the lake itself, whether small excursions or long cruises. As the bus’ final stop is located conveniently close to the lake, too, you can literally jump onto the ice from the bus seat.
Just as Baikal Lake is massive and stretched, so too the landscapes around are different. Depending on what you are willing to see in your object lenses, you can select from many options. Still, hardly anything else can compete for the title of the best spots to photograph the legendary Baikal ice as fascinating Olkhon Island, Maloe More and Listvyanka.
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