Crystal Clear Lake Baikal
Crisp, clear, and clean, Lake Baikal, in southeastern Siberia (Russia), is a unique natural wonder. The deepest lake in the world, and largest by freshwater volume, it is home to hundreds of endemic species, earning it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
When I visited Lake Baikal in mid-July, I was excitedly told by my local guide that it was the hottest day of the year so far, with air temperatures reaching a scorching 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, he was looking forward to swimming the next day, following the example of children frolicking in the 50-degree water.
It’s impossible to imagine the frigid winters here, and though I’m sure they are beautiful in a very special way, this summer day was a page out of paradise. The dazzling sunshine playing games across the lake’s surface mixed with the symphony of greens and blues from the trees and water would have made for an Impressionists’ field day.
For me, the magic of Baikal comes not from its pristine nature, but from the ability of people to coexist in complete harmony with it. For example, locals take great pride in the fact that the water is so clean that one may drink straight from the lake.
Surrounded by untouched mountains and pine forests as well as the occasional village, Lake Baikal is truly a place to recharge and refresh, without needing to completely rid oneself of civilization. Just take a short boat ride, or walk along old overgrown railway tracks on the lakeshore (once part of the original Trans-Siberian), and end the day eating dried Omul fish (which you can only get here) in the charming town of Listvyanka.