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Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal is one of the most jaw-dropping sights in the world and is often called "the Pearl of Siberia". Surrounded by the picturesque taiga and mountains, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. What is more, Eastern Siberia's Baikal is a spiritual destination point that is sure to please.

The first time the great Russian writer Anton Chekhov came to the shores of Lake Baikal, he realized that everything he had seen before was prose and that “everything afterward was poetry.” Visitors from all over the world come to experience this vast and sprawling lake. It is so grand that the Russians have dubbed it the "Sacred Sea."

It is the deepest (with a maximum depth of 5,387 ft) and oldest (formed about 25 million years ago) lake in the world. In the chilly winter Baikal is a real fairy-tale, it freezes completely forming a unique phenomenon - a crystal-clear ice sheet that can be over 3 ft, giving the opportunity to take a sneak peak into Baikal's underwater world.

Baikal is also home to some of the most unique and exceptional aquatic life with over 3,500 species of plants and animals inhabiting the lake, 70% of which can be found nowhere else in the world. While these animals dwell on the bottom of the lake, visitors can still enjoy the local seals called "nerpas", which are one of the three freshwater seal populations on Earth, as they frolic on the rocks scattered around the lake.

The lake encompasses 27 islands, the most famous of which is the pilgrimage site and home of shamans - Olkhon Island. Buryat tribes inhabit Baikal's eastern side and have been rearing goats, camels, cattle and sheep on this territory for centuries.

Viewing the clear night sky in Lake Baikal is vastly different than anywhere else in the world. With the absence of city lights, stargazing around Baikal is a truly remarkable experience. After spending the day enjoying the lake and its surroundings, visitors can enjoy fresh food from any one of the local vendors. Many of the vendors will prepare classic Siberian dishes such as omul.

Depending on the season, there may even be special events to celebrate the winter or the coming of spring. As one of the world's most mystifying creations, Lake Baikal is an essential visit for travelers of all ages.

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Lake Baikal, Russia

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Lake Baikal, Russia

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