Frolic on a Frozen Lake Baikal: Dog Sleds, Ice-Fishing, Hovercrafts and More

Frolic on a Frozen Lake Baikal: Dog Sleds, Ice-Fishing, Hovercrafts and More

When you think of Siberia, you may think of punishment and exile, of barren tundra and vast expanses of nothingness – of a place of no return. But that’s comparable to thinking that everybody in Alaska lives in igloos.

Siberia, like Alaska, is a regular place, just colder. And more remote. With more wilderness in between the population centers.

MIR’s tour, Siberian Winter Escapade, explores the real Siberia – because if you’re going to go, you may as well go in the winter, right? See it in its natural state.

Irkutsk<br>Photo credit: Helge Pedersen

Church of the Epiphany in Irkutsk
Photo credit: Helge Pedersen

First stop: IrkutskThe frosty journey begins in Irkutsk, the midpoint of south Siberia. A celebrated stop on the old Tea Road from China to Moscow, and a centrally located hub for soldiers, fur trappers, pioneers and pathfinders, Irkutsk is a cozy and civilized community set in the middle of a chilly wilderness. Its average temperature in February and March is between 12 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit.  Here you’ll climb to the belltower of Irkutsk’s Church of the Holy Cross to enjoy a concert of chimes by a master bell ringer.

Lake Baikal<br>Photo credit: ??

The dogs are ready to go on Lake Baikal
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Fun on Frozen Lake BaikalUNESCO-listed Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake on earth. In the winter, it can freeze to a depth of six feet, making it possible to walk – and drive – on water. Here you are invited to:

  • down frosty vodka shots from glasses made of ice.
  • ride behind a team of real Siberian huskies on the frozen lake.
  • board a hovercraft for an adventurous tour of places along the frozen shore, including the Bronze Age petroglyphs of Sagan-Zaba and a Baikal horse ranch.
  • participate in a sunrise shaman ceremony at Olkhon Island’s best-known spot, Shaman Rock.

 (click on photo to see larger version)

Siberian Winter ConvertsBy the time you’re  on the way home, shod in the new Russian felt boots (valenki) gifted to you upon your arrival, you will have made friends with winter and with the enormous territory of Siberia.

The explorer George Kennan, in his 1891 book, Siberia and the Exile System, wrote:

You can take the whole of the United States…and set it down in the middle of Siberia without touching anywhere the boundaries of the latter’s territory; you can then take Alaska and all the countries of Europe, with the exception of Russia, and fit them into the remaining margin like the pieces of a dissected map. After having thus accommodated all this you will still have more than 300,000 square miles of Siberian territory to spare…an area half as large again as the Empire of Germany.

You’ve got to see it to believe it, and you’ve got to see it in winter to really know it.

Lake Baikal Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Ice-fishing on Lake Baikal
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Experience a Russian Winter with MIRSiberia is an incredible place to visit, especially in winter. Experience it for yourself at Lake Baikal on MIR’s Siberian Winter Escapade and on the Trans-Siberian Winter Wonder Land Route. You can also travel on a hand-crafted custom private journey.

New for 2015Arctic Explorer by Private Train: Quest for the Northern Lights. This winter journey in Western Russia includes an onboard New Year’s champagne and caviar celebration and a foray above the Arctic Circle to search for the Northern Lights. You can also experience New Year’s in St. Petersburg, Russia on MIR’s Russian Winter Wonder Land small group tour.

(Top photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin)

PUBLISHED: November 12, 2014

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