One of the world’s oldest geographical features (formed 25 to 30 million years ago), magnificent Lake Baikal (Озеро Байкал) is the highlight of Eastern Siberia. Summer travellers enjoy gobsmacking vistas across waters of the deepest blue to soaring mountain ranges on the opposite shore; rarer winter visitors marvel at its powder-white surface, frozen steel-hard and scored with ice roads. Whether they swim in it, drink its water, skirt its southern tip by train, cycle or dog sled over it in winter, or just admire it from 2000km of shoreline, most agree that Siberia doesn’t get better than this.
Banana-shaped Baikal is 636km from north to south and up to 1637m deep, making it the world’s deepest lake, containing nearly one-fifth of the planet’s unfrozen fresh water. Despite some environmental concerns, it’s pure enough to drink in most places, but use common sense. Fed by 300 rivers, it’s drained by just one, the Angara near Listvyanka.