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'What happens in Sibera stays in Siberia...unless it is covered by The Siberian Times'

Forget worn-out tourist destinations. Come to magnificent Lake Baikal, and meet its Tsarina!

By The Siberian Times reporter
08 July 2012

A major effort is underway to promote Lake Baikal a top tourist destination, not least by coaxing Russians to this jewel of Siberia.

New plans to co-ordinate the organisation of two federal tourism zones involve the Republic of Buryatia and Irkutsk Region. Under discussion is a single company promoting a 'joint tourism space' to attract tourists to Baikal, dubbed the 'Galapagos of Russia'.

Magnificent lake Baikal


Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal, pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


The idea emerged in an Itar-Tass report citing Buryatia's President Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn who predicted: ‘We would be able to use fully the recreational potential of the western and eastern sides of Baikal, of transport and other infrastructure to offer more tourism services and to attract more tourists’.

He believes Buryatia and Irkutsk ‘have a common interest in subsidising trips to Baikal for those who live in Russia's western part, and for whom as of now it is more affordable to travel to Turkey or to Egypt’, states the report. 

Early morning on lake Baikal

Lake Baikal, picture: Vera Salnitskaya


So far no detail was given on how such subsidies might work but Nagovitsyn said he had raised the issue with the outgoing Russian Federation president and secured a favourable reaction. ‘Dmitry Medvedev said this may be a good initiative’, he said.

Tourism is seen as critical to developing the economies of these two Siberian regions and it is believed there is huge untapped potential from within Russia, and also from Asia and the West. Buryatia's own Baikal Harbour Zone initiative is seen as paving the way to future successes and the republic has set ambitious targets.

Currently it attracts 530,000 tourists a year but by 2016 the aim is that this will rise to 1.8 million. 

rare Baikal seal


Baikal seal

Nice to seal you…! Meet the Tsarina of the lake, unique to Baikal. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya


A key to future prosperity will be a huge expansion of modern hotel developments as well as infrastructure expected for state-of-the-art tourist destinations.

But promotion is vital in a competitive market and Nagovitsyn has monitored the way a single company has been used in the North Caucasus to unify the messages of a number of tourist-conscious regions to both Russian and international audiiences, believing such a scheme may work in raising Baikal's profile too.

Reports say he has held constructive discussions with the Governor of the Irkutsk Region Dmitry Mezentsev.

The 3.15 million hectare lake is 25 million years old, and is the oldest and deepest in the world, reaching down 1,700 metres. Lake Baikal contains 20% of unfrozen freshwater in the world and its age and isolation have produced one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas.

Future editions of The Siberian Times will devote detailed coverage to the tourism potential of Lake Baikal.

Comments (3)

I have long wanted to visit Lake Baikal.It looks eapecially beautiful in these pictures. Thank you. lDoes anyone know if any shamans are still working there? Is it in any way possible to meet or train with them? Matbe dificulr for an English language speaker?
Ruth, Oxford UK
11/10/2017 23:52
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The Lake Baikal area is a beautiful area ‘if this area promoted in the right way’ it can be a top tourist destination in Russia. Btw it surprise me that it’s not really known by tourist from the West. Recently I visit Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Ol’khon Island, Chamar Daban and Slyudyanka and I was flabbergasted by the beauty of the nature and wildlife. You have to tell de rest of the World about this….
Walter R., Rotterdam, The Netherlands
30/07/2014 21:05
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Thank you for these beautiful pictures. What a magnificent land. I hope that Lake Baikal can be preserved with all of its' precious wildlife for future generations. It is truly a jewel.
Mara Mai, United States
04/09/2013 20:56
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