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Lake Baikal - The World's Oldest Lake

Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Lake Baikal - The World's Oldest Lake
  • Lake Baikal - The World's Oldest Lake
  • Diving in Lake Baikal
  • Ice Diving in Lake Baikal
  • Ice Diving in Lake Baikal
  • View in Google Maps

Twenty-five million is the number of birthdays it takes to deem a lake the World's Oldest, and Lake Baikal has enough candles on its cake to claim the honors. Located in the south of Russia's Siberia region, Baikal also ranks as the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world--its reservoir contains about 20% of the planet's unfrozen fresh water. Other mind-blowing stats include its mile-plus depth of 5,387 feet, surface area of 12, 248 square miles, and crystalline clarity. Lake Baikal serves as a habitat to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, a full 2/3 of which are found nowhere else in mother nature. The deal breaker for would-be residents who aren't members fo the local Buryat tribes: average temperatures in the area between Irkutsk Oblast and the Buryat Republic range from -2 degrees F minimum in the winter to 57 degrees F in the summer.

Its remote location in Siberia renders Lake Baikal relatively untouched by the tourism industry, though a few hardy places surrounding the lake do offer accommodations. The village of Listvyanka, approximately 2 hours from the international airport in Irktusk, is a popular base destination with several hotels. The lake also has many islands dotting its waters, the most popular of which is Olkhon, the largest lake-bound island in the world.

Roads from Irkutsk provide access to the lake region, and are dotted with stands of bundled-up elderly women peddling the area's major commodity: warm, freshly-smoked fish. Those brave enough to make the trek to Lake Baikal are advised to do so in the summer, as a massive winter freeze begins in November, and ballons into a surface cover of tens of feet of ice for five solid months.

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