Baikal in winter 2023

In winter, Baikal has the most beautiful ice on the planet. It is clean and freezes in the most incredible forms: here you can see ice splashes and huge hummocks, grandiose cracks, numerous bubbles and many more unusual ice patterns.

Baikal is a unique lake. This is one of the oldest reservoirs: its approximate age is 25-35 million years. Here is the cleanest water in the world, because epishura crustaceans purify it, filtering all the lake water 30 times a year. In terms of territory, this Siberian lake exceeds the area of ​​such states as Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Local residents and some scientists call the reservoir the Baikal Sea. Twenty-seven species of fish live in the waters, which do not live in any other water bodies of our planet. At the bottom of Lake Baikal there are depressions up to 7 kilometers deep, which is rare even in ordinary seas. 

In this article we tell:

  • What to do in winter on Lake Baikal?
  • What is the famous Baikal ice like?
  • When to go to the lake to see the ice?
  • What tours are there for winter Baikal?
  • And what sights can be visited here?

    What to do in winter on Lake Baikal?

    The ice expanses of a frozen lake is a whole fairy-tale world. In winter on Baikal you can:

    • see clean and incredibly transparent Baikal ice;
    • go ice skating and play hockey at the largest ice rink in the country;
    • rafting on an ice floe at the source of the Angara River: such rafting is a completely unique and, most importantly, safe experience;
    • ride snowmobiles, dog sleds and hovercraft – a hovercraft, as well as arrange a drift on off-road vehicles;
    • take part in ice fishing and try the famous Baikal fish – in the winter months, the fish is much tastier due to the accumulated fat;
    • find out what the “kiss of Baikal” is and arrange psychological relief by breaking thin ice floes;
    • look at the Baikal seal – endemic to this lake;
    • visit Buddhist datsans and become a participant in shamanic rites in the sacred places of Baikal;
    • learn about the culture and way of life of indigenous peoples;
    • try sagudai from omul, buuzy, khushuura, boovy and tarasun, horzo, Mongolian and Buryat teas and other traditional dishes and drinks of the local population.

    What is the famous Baikal ice like?

    In different places, the ice on Baikal is completely different. Somewhere you will be waiting for giant cracks. Somewhere there are millions of bubbles. Somewhere – a wall of broken ice floes larger than your height.

    Different forms of ice among the locals have their own names:

    • “fat” – the first thin crust of ice that is broken by waves;
    • “zaberegi” – narrow strips of ice that freeze when waves roll on the shore;
    • “sokui” – ice growths from constant water splashes on stones and rocks;
    • “sopki” – large “sokui”, which are found only on Baikal;
    • “Osenets” – floating ice with an uneven surface, which is considered the strongest on the lake;
    • “kolobovnik” – an ice crust, consisting of blocks of autumn ice, bound by a transparent growth.

    The waves frozen on the shores form splashes that sometimes look like melted wax, and sometimes like crystal works of art. On Baikal in winter, the grottoes are covered with ice, and icicles similar to stalactites form in them – this is the result of wind, frost and thaws.

    One of the most beautiful and unusual phenomena on Lake Baikal in winter is ice with bubbles. In pure and transparent ice, streams of bubbles of different diameters are clearly visible, which rise from the depths of the lake and create three-dimensional pictures. These are methane vapors from the bottom of the lake, which freeze in the thickness of the ice. Baikal bubbles are the most popular photo spots.

    When to go to Baikal to see the ice?

    Ice begins to form from the middle to the end of December, depending on the arrival of winter and the onset of cold weather. At the beginning of January, Big Baikal is not yet covered with ice, but in some bays of the Small Sea one can already see first ice transparent as glass. Walking along the pervold, you can see the bottom of the lake and, if you’re lucky, its inhabitants.

    During winter, in shallow bays, ice thickness can be 1.5–2 meters, and in the main territory of the lake, from 0.7 to 1 meter. A person can safely move on ice with a thickness of 20 cm. And when the ice build-up reaches 40 cm, he is already able to withstand weight up to 17 tons.

    Every year Baikal freezes differently, the structure and thickness of the ice change. Therefore, the most beautiful ice from year to year happens in different places. Local guides find them and know how to get there.

    In February, the air temperature ranges from -15 to -20 °C during the day and from -20 to -25 °C at night. But with high humidity and strong gusts of wind, it will be colder. Therefore, on a winter trip to Lake Baikal, you need to take good equipment:

    • warm down jacket with a hood;
    • windproof and easy-to-walk trousers made of waterproof materials;
    • winter boots;
    • warm windproof hat;
    • thin fleece gloves and leggings made of waterproof materials, woolen mittens;
    • a set of winter thermal underwear made of fleece or Polartec;
    • woolen socks;
    • face mask or large scarf.

    What tours are there for winter Baikal?

    We have selected a variety of very bright options for those who decide to go on a winter trip. To see beautiful ice, interesting places and sights, it is better to go to Baikal on an organized tour.

    Local guides know everything about Baikal and will show you the most beautiful places. The tours have thought out convenient logistics and comfortable accommodation, as well as safe transport, for example, hovercrafts – hovercraft, as well as trackers – all-terrain vehicles on low-pressure tires that move equally confidently on off-road, ice and water. Unlike ordinary cars or SUVs,
    all-terrain vehicles are officially allowed to move on ice: it copes well with hummocks and cracks.

    In addition, the ready-made programs include excursions, tastings of local dishes and various interesting activities: rafting on an ice floe, ice fishing, dog sledding and snowmobiling. From such a trip you will get the maximum impressions!

    Choose the program you like and don’t forget to book a place in the group.

    See “the same” ice

    Baikal Ice program 

    This is our hit – the most popular winter trip to these parts. It is included in the top 30 unforgettable routes according to National Geographic Traveler magazine. The famous Baikal ice, the most picturesque places and a rich program – everything is collected in this tour.

    While traveling, you will be able to:

    • take photos with giant cracks, millions of bubbles, ice splashes and huge hummocks;
    • explore the ice, moving on all-terrain vehicles and hivuses;
    • go ice skating on the largest ice rink in the country;
    • find out what “Baikal antistress” is;
    • make a wish, bypassing the Stupa of Enlightenment on the island of Ogoy;
    • rafting on an ice floe – this activity impresses even experienced travelers!

    During this tour you will feel the unprecedented power of the Baikal ice. Ice sights, grottoes and caves with ice stalactites, the purest ice… Such a trip will bring great pleasure to all lovers of winter beauty.
    Ice Express program

    This program is a short version of our “top” winter trip to Lake Baikal. It is suitable for those who want to spend a busy weekend here. All the most beautiful, bright and interesting – in just one weekend.

    On this journey, you will:

    • take a hivus to those Baikal places that are famous for the most beautiful and clean ice on the planet;
    • walk through the ice caves;
    • visit Cape Tsagan-Khushun and the island of Izhilhei;
    • go ice skating and visit the islands of Ogoy and Olkhon;
    • have a picnic in one of the bays of the Small Sea;
    • see the picturesque Cape Dragon and the Olkhon Gates Strait;
    • see the amazing ice splashes at Cape Kobylya Golova;
    • look into the ethnographic park, get acquainted with the culture of the Baikal Buryats and try the local cuisine.

    This is a comfortable tour that you can go on with children over eight years old.

    Travel for the New Year holidays

    Program “New Year on Baikal”

    Snow-covered pines, frosty air of the Siberian taiga and the first clean and transparent ice. New Year here is not just like a fairy tale – it is a real fairy tale.

    On this journey, you will:

    • ride a dog sled;
    • visit the famous island of Olkhon;
    • see how the legendary reservoir begins to ice;
    • admire the panoramas of the Tazheran steppes;
    • visit the mini-museum – “Buryat ethnocomplex”;
    • take part in folk festivals in the Taltsy Museum of Wooden Architecture
    • look into another ethnocomplex “Golden Horde”;
    • visit the Baikal Astrophysical Observatory.

    And all this in just 6 days of the most comfortable and active holidays. The tour is suitable for relaxing with family or friends.

    Program “Siberian Christmas”

    The main difference between this tour and the previous one is that you will go on a trip to Baikal during the January holidays after the New Year.

    On this journey, you will:

    • see the first ice in the bays of the Small Sea – transparent as glass; The Small Sea is the strait between the mainland and Olkhon Island;
    • ride snowmobiles and dog sleds;
    • meet a colorful sunset on Olkhon Island;
    • attend a culinary master class on cooking a traditional Buryat dish – poses;
    • visit a family ethnic complex, get acquainted with the traditions of local peoples and take part in a culinary master class;
    • relax in an unusual bath and swim in the hole.

    The Christmas tour is perfect for a family trip with children from six years old.

    For those who want to be among the first

    Program “Pervoled on Baikal”

    In January, the ice does not yet cover the entire water surface, but the strait called the Small Sea freezes. The ice at this time is transparent and smooth, like a mirror, and there are very few tourists.

    On this journey, you will:

    • make especially beautiful shots with “untouched” ice and arrange a mirror sunset photo shoot on the ice;
    • one of the first this year to explore the grottoes of Baikal;
    • go to the island of Olkhon, where there is a rock sacred for shamans with a cave on Cape Burkhan;
    • go to the island of Ogoy and see the snow-white Stupa of Enlightenment;
    • launch an ice fireworks and try different “chips of cold”;
    • ride a Finnish sled and even participate in the creation of a capsule of desires.

    This program has a better price, since the high season has not yet begun.

    Expeditions for fans of non-standard travel

    Program “Transbaikal Expedition”

    This tour is one of our novelties: a large-scale trip on Khivus and all-terrain vehicles from the southernmost to the northernmost point of the legendary lake. The program will appeal to those who want to see everything: not only “visiting cards”, but also hard-to-reach and reserved places.

    On this journey, you will:

    • observe how the Baikal landscapes are changing dramatically – ice grottoes and splashes, taiga, steppe, sandy beaches and hot springs;
    • visit the famous sights of Olkhon Island: Shamanka rock, Cape Sagan-Khushun and the northernmost point – Cape Khoboy;
    • drive along the Baikal ice along the famous Circum-Baikal Railway;
    • admire the breathtaking panorama from the top of Mount Shebet;
    • swim in hot springs and walk through the taiga on hunting skis;
    • visit the picturesque windy bays and ride along the Tazheran steppes;
    • explore the Small Sea and fabulous ice grottoes.

    Despite the expedition format of the tour, comfortable accommodation awaits you on most of the route.
    Program “Crossing Baikal”

    Cross the famous expanse of Baikal on foot in its widest part… If you are ready for a harsh but exciting adventure, join our winter hike through the legendary reservoir!

    On this journey, you will:

    • spend two nights in tents on the ice in the very center of the lake, where its depth reaches one and a half kilometers;
    • see the most diverse Baikal ice;
    • skate;
    • visit the Ivolginsky datsan;
    • take a steam bath in a hot ice bath, and then plunge into an ice hole with the purest Baikal water;
    • try to drill an ice hole in the geographic center of the lake;
    • taste hot tea from Baikal herbs;
    • visit the cape Burkhan, sacred for shamans, on the island of Olkhon;
    • test yourself for strength: while traveling, you may encounter strong winds and a blizzard.

    Trekking on the Baikal ice is something that will be enough on this tour. During the transition, you will find yourself at a point that is sixty kilometers away from civilization in all directions!

    For snowmobile lovers

    Program “Winter on Baikal”

    Snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, mountain ranges and ice grottoes, bays and islands – in this tour we have collected many sights and wonders of Baikal.

    While traveling, you will be able to:

    • look into the caves of the Small Sea and visit the island of Ogoy;
    • get on snowmobiles to the foot of the Khamar-Daban ridge;
    • to visit a place that is called the “Siberian Riviera” – in Peschanaya Bay;
    • try traditional dishes of Baikal and Buryat cuisine, including omul sagudai;
    • ride on the “north-trucks”;
    • arrange photography in the most picturesque places of the route;
    • ride on the snow “powder”;
    • go on a tour of the historical center of Irkutsk and along the Angara embankment.

    A rich program, excursions, beautiful panoramas and comfortable accommodation – this tour is well suited for both beginners and experienced travelers.
    Ice Drive program

    A tour for those who want to get the most out of traveling to Lake Baikal in winter. On SUVs and a hovercraft you will go on a trip along the western coast of the lake from Listvyanka to Olkhon Island.

    While traveling you:

    • you will reach the northernmost tip of Olkhon – Cape Khoboy, where the most picturesque hummocks and splashes are most often formed;
    • explore ice caves and grottoes in the Small Sea Strait;
    • ride snowmobiles through the Siberian taiga and off-road vehicles through the Tazheran steppes;
    • see the Stupa of Enlightenment on the island of Ogoy;
    • learn how to drive a dog sled;
    • try Buryat cuisine and Baikal delicacies;
    • get acquainted with the culture and traditions of the peoples of the Baikal region.

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