Top 12 Amazing Facts About Lake Baikal

It’s one of the most astounding lakes in the world that holds an incredible record.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting facts about Lake Baikal, an astonishing feat of nature.

1. It’s located in Siberia

Lake Baikal is an immense rift lake that was formed by the movement of tectonic plates in southern Siberia in Russia. It’s located between the Irkutsk Oblast and the Buryat Republic Regions of the country.

The lake was formed as an ancient rift valley and has a crescent form. It’s surrounded by the Baikal Mountains and the Barguzin Range and contains 27 islands, including the third-largest lake island in the world, Olkhon, which is 72 kilometers (45 miles) long and an area of 730 square kilometers (280 square miles).

The shore of Olkhon Island
The shore of Olkhon Island / Виктория Шерина /

2. The region’s name is referring to the lake

It’s not just the Baikal Mountains that contain the name of the lake. The entire mountainous region east of the lake is sometimes referred to as Transbaikalia.

The entire region surrounding the lake is often referred to as Bakalia as well. The region doesn’t have any official borders and is a rather vague term to define the entire region.

Lake Baikal seen from space
Lake Baikal seen from space / NASA

3. It has more water than all 5 Great Lakes combined

Lake Baikal is the biggest lake in the world by volume. It has a total volume of 23,615.39 square kilometers (5,670 cubic miles).

To put this enormous number in the correct perspective, this means that Lake Baikal has more water in it than all the 5 Great Lakes of North America combined!

facts about lake baikal

4. It contains over 1/5 of all fresh water in the world

One of the most astounding facts about Lake Baikal is that it’s not just the biggest lake in the world by volume, it contains almost 23% of all fresh surface water in the world!

To make this fact even more amazing, the lake only has the 7th-largest surface area in the world as it covers a total area of 31,722 square kilometers (12,248 square miles).

Boat on Lake Baikal
A boat on the lake / Source

5. There’s no lake deeper than Lake Baikal

So how is it possible that this lake is only the 7th largest lake in the world by surface area, but still has such a huge volume of water?

This is because Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world! It’s firmed in a rift valley with steep cliffs which means the lake is deep just about everywhere. The lake has an average depth of 744.4 meters (2,442 feet) and a maximum depth of 1,642 meters (5,387 feet).

Because of the fact that the lake is so deep, its bottom is located 1,186.5 meters (3,893 feet) below sea level as well.

Lake Baikal has steep cliffs
Lake Baikal has steep cliffs / Sansculotte /

6. It’s inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lake Baikal has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The organization described Lake Baikal as “the most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem.”

It also added to its motivation that it’s the world’s oldest lake, as it dates back to between 20 and 25 million years ago, which means it’s of exceptional value to evolutionary science.

Lake Baikal facts

7. The lake is covered with thick ice in the winter

The average temperature in most parts of the lake during winter is about −19 °C (−2 °F). This means that the surface water freezes between January and May.

The ice covering the lake during this period can be 0.5 to 1.4 meters (1.6–4.6 feet) and in some places reach a thickness of over 2 meters (6.6 feet).

So can you just cross Lake Baikal by foot during the winter months?

Technically you can, but the chance of you freezing to death because of the extremely cold winds is very high, so definitely not advisable!

Lake Baikal in Winter months

8. It has a unique fauna and flora

Because of its unique characteristics, Lake Baikal has a very rich biodiversity. It’s literally a scientist’s dream because over 1,000 species of plants grow and over 2,500 species of animals live in and near Lake Baikal.

And these are just the ones we know of!

One of the most interesting facts about Lake Baikal and its biodiversity is that over 80% of the species living in and around the lake are endemic, which means they only live in this area in the world.

One of those is the “Baikal seal,” just one of 3 freshwater seals in the world that can be found all around the lake!

Baikal Seals / Source

9. This animal cleans the water of the lake every 23 years

With all these animals living in and around Lake Baikal, you wouldn’t believe that there is one animal that makes up over 80% of the entire region’s biomass. And especially not that this animal is a microscopically small type of Invertebrate called the “Epischura Baikalensis.”

This type of zooplankton that floats around in the lake has a unique quality as it’s estimated that it filters the entire water mass of the lake once every 23 years.

This ensures that Lake Baikal is one of the clearest lakes in the world, with transparency ranging from 30 to 40 meters (100 to 130 feet) during the winter, and 5 to 8 meters (15–25 feet) during the summer.

Lake Baikal in winter / © Sergey Pesterev / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

10. The first Russian saw the lake in 1643

Lake Baikal and its surroundings have been inhabited for thousands of years. This has been proven when a young human male known as MA-1 was found in the area northwest of the lake, dating back to the Upper Paleolithic period between 50,000 and 12,000 years ago.

The first Russian who discovered and mapped out the lake was Kurbat Ivanov in 1643, a Russian explorer who traveled to the area after the Russian conquest of Siberia in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Back then, the lake wasn’t referred to as Lake Baikal but as the “Baikal Sea.” And what a sight it must have been for this man during his discovery of what he thought was an immense sea!

View of Lake Baikal / Source

11. Lake Baikal became a popular tourist destination

The discovery of Lake Baikal didn’t cause a huge influx of people visiting it in the centuries that followed. It wasn’t until huge profits were made from natural energy sources in the area that actions were taken to attract visitors to the lake.

Hotels and resorts were built in the 2000s and the Russian Government declared the Baikal region a special economic zone in 2007. In the year 2009, in the northern part of the lake, a 100 kilometers (62 miles)-long trail was established called the Frolikha Adventure Coastline Track.

Since then, well over 100,000 tourists visit the area every single year to get a glimpse of its amazing biodiversity and scenery.

Lake Baikal trail
Trail near Lake Baikal / Alexander Klink /

12. Lake Baikal has an amazing nickname

This lake is one of the 7 wonders of the underwater world and is a unique place in the world. Because of this, it has a very special nickname as well.

Lake Baikal is referred to as “The Pearl of Siberia.”

Stars over Lake Baikal
Stars over Lake Baikal / Source