Lake Baikal, Russia

23 Mar, 2009

Lake Baikal: The Blue Eye of Russia

Lake Baikal, Russia

For all the beauty and wonder Russia knows, it isn’t exactly known as a country that houses world-renowned natural attractions. To be sure, Russia is one of the most visited countries in the world; its prominence gives it that. Note that most of the popular attractions in Russia are hardly natural ones. St. Petersburg, for instance, is a popular tourist destination, but it is known for being a historical and cultural center, with the numerous structures it houses. Other popular sites in Russia include the Tretyakov Gallery, the Red Theater, and the Bolshoi Theater, the Hermitage Museum, the Church of the Savior on Blood, and the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. None of these mentioned here are natural attractions, as all of them are manmade structures. Of course, there are more rural destinations in Russia compared to the ones cited above, but they are simply rural areas that boast of scenic surroundings, taking advantage of nature rather than the mechanical creations of man.

But this is not to say that Russia is devoid of any notable natural wonders. After all, the country is located in such a magnificent location—near the Mediterranean Sea, Russia has a climate and weather that is conducive for a relaxing holiday. And just like most European countries, Russia is green—modernized but has not forgotten to preserve nature. The countryside of Russia, for one, is very rural, even bordering on underdeveloped. This is why it has this provincial but serene atmosphere, perfect for getaways from the busy cities of the world.

A testament that proves Russia is also a naturally beauty country is Lake Baikal. People would travel miles and endure several hours of travel just to see the serene and immaculate waters of this lake, located near the Buryat Republic and the Irkutsk Oblast. Lake Baikal (which means the rich lake) is often regarded as Siberia’s Blue Eye, mainly because of its color and its appearance. Siberia, for one, is known for its natural wonders—it houses a number of picturesque, pristine, mostly virgin forests, lakes, mountain ranges, and other similar features. One of its more popular attractions is the Ukok Plateau, a greenland in Russia (again a proof that Russia is naturally diverse as well) that is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

In any case, Lake Baikal is also included in that UNESCO list, proving that it is one of the more important attractions of the country. The UNESCo criteria cited many reasons for the inclusion, including its outstanding freshwater ecosystem. Because of its located, the area is highly protected, so it seems like a virgin paradise. The outstanding variety of flora and fauna within the area—most of them endemic—also served as basis for its inclusion in this prestigious list. More than one-thirds of the more than 1,000 species living in the lake and its surrounding areas are endemic to Lake Baikal, which means the location is also a very popular location for scientific explorations.

In any case, a travel guide could tell anyone why Lake Baikal is very important: it is the world’s deepest lake, and also its largest freshwater lake in terms of volume. Besides being the deepest, it is also the oldest—as its formation dates to as far back as 25 million years ago. Although not the longest lake (a distinction that belongs to Lake Tanganyika in Africa), its maximum length is 636 km and its maximum width is 79 km (in comparison, Lake Tanganyika is 673 km, with a width of 72 km).

Of course, with all these, it is easy to see why Lake Baikal is also a popular tourist spot. This is because, beyond the statistics, Lake Baikal is truly a splendid, majestic sight to behold. Its size alone is overwhelming—but the surrounding greenlands in the area is just as magnificent. Visitors travel to Lake Baikal mainly because of its pure, blue waters—it wasn’t called the Blue Eye of Siberia for nothing. It has been well documented that Lake Baikal was previously in danger of being developed into an industrial site. Fortunately, this was prevented by the country’s environmental policies, protecting such areas from industrialization. It was in 1992 that the area was turned into a national park—a move that further highlights its beauty and its importance.

Lake Baikal may look like a one-note destination, and it may seem as if it could bore tourists who are used to the fast-paced city life. But this is exactly what this marvelous attraction does not offer. It remains pristine, making it a destination like no other in the world. The lake becomes crystalline blue during the summer, and the shores of the lake are filled with some of the spectacular flora. Boat tours are also offered during the warmer months in the country, as a way to at least see some of the more distinct characteristics of the lake. Hiking tours, of course, are available within the area. Since it is home to a wide range of animals and plants, walking through the expanse of the Lake Baikal is a perfect way to see the best of what nature has to bring. Obviously, this lake is a favorite among tourists and travelers who enjoy the great outdoors and its numerous perks, although, of course, everyone and anyone can enjoy the beauty of Lake Baikal. There is probably no other site as magnificent, serene, and expansive as Lake Baikal.

Lake Baikal may not be able to hold a candle against the other urbanized locations in Russia. As one of the more developed countries in the world, one with a wide and rich history, it is expected that Russia offers historical manmade structures that can be considered as the best in the world. But Lake Baikal offers the opposite—beyond the urbanized Russia is a simpler Russia. Lake Baikal resides in an area far from the usual modern amenities and modern features, but it also features something Russia isn’t known for—pristine, virginal beauty that could be among the last in the world.

Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal, Russia

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