10 things
that everyone will want to do at Baikal
1. Enjoy a popular native Buryat ritual
While driving around Lake Baikal, you will sometimes come across an unusual small pavilion along the road, often with narrow pillars that are decorated with colorful ribbons. These are meant to be altars for local spirits. Travelers often leave special offerings here, in the hope that these spirits will help them reach their destination safely. The name of the main spirit here is Burkhan. He will look favorably upon you if you leave behind a coin, or if you tie a strip of cloth to one of the pillars. Please don't tie anything to a tree. And make sure that you don't offend Burkhan by tying on a sock, or a protective mask, or anything plastic to one of these altars.

As you tie your ribbon don't forget to make a wish for a safe journey. Or you might ask for one of your bright, pure dreams to come true in the future. If you don't have a ribbon, you can always sprinkle some vodka (or a clear liquid) over your shoulder, to honor these same spirits. It might feel a bit weird the first time you do it. But ask your guides, and they'll likely share the finer points of this very essential ritual.
2. Take a swim in the lake
When you look out on the crystal clear water of Baikal, you naturally will want to jump in. You might not swim for very long—outside in the open water it can be quite cold. But a voice inside you will likely urge you to take the plunge! Your friends might ask: "Why do you want to swim in such icy water?" But you can reply: "Hey, only the brave can conquer the open seas!" And Baikal is as big as many seas of the world. You may not conquer all of it. But somehow, when you step out of the cold water into the summer air, you always come away feeling more healthy and alive!

* Please, if you want to use the lake to bathe, be sure to use only bio-degradable soaps and shampoos that contain no phosphates!

** If you want to swim in the lake, we recommend that you do it only during the summer. During the winter, please beware that the ice can have cracks or be too thin. You don't want to swim in Baikal fully clothed—even during warmer months!

3. See Lake Baikal when it's all covered in ice
Even when the lake ices over it is amazingly transparent. You can look down through the ice and see how pure the water is below. In some places the ice will be pushed up into the air as it freezes, forming ice caves and grottoes, along with small hillocks and splashes of water frozen in mid-air. Local Russian love visiting Baikal during the winter, moving across the ice in snow-shoes or skates, or on skis or with dog sleds—or even on bikes with special winter tires. Photographers flock out onto the lake to take pictures of all the icicles that hang from the ice caves, or the bubbles and streaks of air that were caught in the ice as it froze. Note: don't forget that Baikal is famous for how clean it is. So please remember to take out all of your trash when you leave—and don't knock down all the icicles! We want everyone else who follows in your footsteps to enjoy these same frozen wonders of Baikal in winter.
4. Why not try one of our famous Siberian dishes: the Baikal Pozy
One menu item that you might want to try while at Baikal are our local dumplings, or Pozy. They are made from flour dough, with lamb or beef (or onions and mushrooms, if you're vegetarian!) that is stuffed inside and then steamed. You can try these Pozy in virtually all the cafes lining the roads to Baikal. But the most delicious are definitely made on the Buryat side of the lake. In some places you can call the restaurant in advance, and reserve a time to sit down and work alongside the local chef, to sculpt and cook your own Pozy! A true experience of a lifetime!
5. Learn how to crack open and eat local pine nuts
Our cedar (or Siberian) pine trees bring lots of enjoyment to everyone. They grow all over the Baikal region. People collect the cones, then take out the fresh nuts, and share them as a popular delicacy. For those of you who are inclined to be lazy, you can always buy local pine nuts that are already shelled. But sometimes it's more fun to learn how to snap them open yourself, and eat the nuts fresh off the tree. Many local guides can demonstrate the best way to do this. Recently cedar cones have become a very popular (and eco-friendly) souvenir for tourist to bring home.
6. Catch a glimpse of the Baikal seal, or "nerpa"
This freshwater seal is a true symbol of Baikal. It takes a bit of luck and patience to come across one in its lakeside habitat. Sometimes the seals will peer out of the water to breathe in air, or to see what is happening on the surface. They are very curious animals, but don't like noise. So if you see a silvery shining seal on a rock on a sunny day, do not shout out to your friends. It will just slide back into the sea. Better to silently admire this unique marine mammal as it basks in the warmth of the sun.
7. Take a hike on the Great Baikal Trail
What could be more pleasant than a leisurely hike along a beautiful trail around Baikal? There are many different trails to choose from, and almost all of them go to places there are no cars or roads. Along the trail you'll come across covered picnic tables and benches and scenic viewpoints, all of which were built by volunteers with the Great Baikal Trail Association. You can take day hikes, or longer walking tours on several favorite routes. Or if you want to contribute to Baikal you can join one of the summer volunteer teams that constructs and maintains the trail every summer.

*Note: however you choose the use the trails here, please practice the "leave no trace" ethic along the way by not leaving any trash at any of the trail sites!
8. Go bird-watching in Zabaikalski National Park
Bird-watching is coming to be more and more popular around the lake. Both scientists and regular bird lovers have discovered a whole new world of birds here in Zabaikalski National Park, located on the eastern or Buryat shores of Baikal. The best route is to wander out into the Chivyrkui wetlands, heading over to a peninsula that we Russians call the Holy Nose. And along the way you'll see herons, swans, loons, and so many other unusual bird species. Be sure to bring your binoculars!
9. Head over to the Baikal Nature Reserve in Tankhoi and visit their new Visitor Center
There are a number of theme-based exhibits at this new Visitor Center, each dedicated to the natural or cultural heritage of the Baikal region. All the objects of art, the unique natural exhibits, and interactive multimedia panels and videos — they all complement each other in their wonderful portrayal of Baikal. The lake itself is the centrepiece of this exhibit hall, much in the same way as it is the centrepiece of all our lives here at Baikal. After you tour through the halls of this center, try to take the time to walk along the Cedar Alley Eco-trail, which leads into the reserve from the main square here. You will be surprised how peaceful it is along this trail, with loads of birds and squirrels coming out to join you along the way.

10. Take a detour up into the wild areas of northern Baikal
At the top of the lake you can travel to a village called Baikalskoye. This is an old fishing village that dates back to the 19th century. The area around the town is sheltered from the harsher northern winds by nearby Cape Ludar. So it has been a popular settlement from time immemorial. Local guides can take you to some of the sites in and around the village where you can still find relicts from all the pre-historic native Siberians who favored this area.
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Россия, Иркутская область, г. Иркутск, озеро Байкал