Europe Travel News

At 25 million years old, Lake Baikal is a must-see on a tour of Russia

Given it's size, it's understandable that some of the highlights of Russia tours will go overlooked. Visitors may be more likely to stay to the big cities - St. Petersburg, Moscow, Sochi - than head to the center of the country where some unusual natural features reside. One of the most compelling of these landmarks is Lake Baikal, which only sees about 30,000 foreign travelers each year. However, the lake, known as the Blue Eye of Siberia, is among the most unique bodies of water in the world. 

Located near the border with Mongolia, Lake Baikal is perhaps most famous for containing a jaw-dropping 20 percent of the world's non-frozen surface fresh water. While it's not the largest lake in the world - it ranks seventh on the list - it's so voluminous due to it's extraordinary depth. The lake reaches 5,387 feet at its lowest point, making it the deepest lake on Earth. It is also among the clearest, which helps create one of the most stunning views in the country. 

The lake's depth and volume of water is not the only reason why adding Lake Baikal to a tour of Russia makes sense. At more than 25 million years old, it's the world's oldest lake, and that, combined with its isolation, have created some unique flora and fauna in the area. Many of the plant and animal life that lives in and around the lake are endemic to the area and can't be found anywhere else. Among the lake's most unusual residents is the scaleless Baikal oilfish and the earless Baikal seal, which is the only truly exclusive freshwater seal in the world. 

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