Lake Baikal & The Hidden Beauty of Buryatia | Ulan-Ude, Russia Travel

It’s a long journey from the remote farm community, but the time has come for us to pay a visit to perhaps the most popular attraction in all of Buryatia – Lake Baikal. 

And we arrive just in time for a sunset swim before tomorrow’s busy day. 

Lake Baikal isn’t any normal body of water. 

Along with being the deepest lake on earth and suppling the world with 1/5 of all it’s fresh water – it is also the world’s most ancient freshwater lake – originating some 20-25 million years ago. 

Baikal’s coastline measures 1300 miles, with 27 islands dotted across the lake. 

More than half the species found on these islands and in Lake Baikal are unique only to this place.  

And after a delicious lunch onboard, including a local fish soup, we set out to find one of the Baikal’s most famous residents.

Nerpas or Baikal seals, are one of the smallest true seals and the only seal who live exclusively in freshwater. 

They’re timid and usually stick to just a few spots around the lake, but with no major natural predators, I’m happy to report that the population is healthy and thriving in this beautiful environment.

Jetting out of the valley like prehistoric giants, there are many tales and legends around these distinct rock formations. Locals worshiped and offered sacrifices to them, which I completely understand as they definitely seem to derive from something otherworldly.

We settle back into this city life with a nice dinner and a few well-deserved beers. 

We take one deep breath and then jump right back into it in the morning.

As I mentioned in the last episode, Ulan-Ude was actually closed off to foreigners until 1991.

It originally developed as a popular trading town and grew further with the expansion of the Trans Siberian Railway in 1900. 

Today it’s home to a very diverse 400,000 residents.

Knowledge Day, on September first, traditionally marks the beginning of the school year here in Russia.

Children bring flowers to their new teachers, and the faculty welcomes both pupils and their parents. 

In many schools there’s a celebratory assembly to start the day, and we’re lucky enough to experience it.

With our time running out here in the city, we make one last stop for a few final buzis and then it’s right back to the train station.


My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

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