MIR’s 30 Years: Siberia’s Beauty of Lake Baikal (VIDEO)

MIR’s 30 Years: Siberia’s Beauty of Lake Baikal (VIDEO)

(Douglas Grimes is co-founder and president of MIR Corporation.)

I’ve traveled to countless historic and fascinating places in the world; some of the best are designated “UNESCO Heritage Sites” because of their cultural or physical significance, such as China’s Great Wall or Samarkand’s Registan Square.  One of my favorite UNESCO sites is endless Lake Baikal located in Siberia just north of Mongolia. The lake is more than 25 million years old and more than a mile deep, holding within its shores about one-fifth of the world’s unfrozen fresh water. Yet Lake Baikal is more than a vast body of water; it is also a geographical region with an impressive range of experiences to offer. Here’s a glimpse:

Lake Baikal MemoriesI saw Lake Baikal for the first time nearly 30 years ago, yet even today I can still remember breathing in the fresh birch air, pressing my hands into those icy-clear waters, and trying hard to memorize every detail of this unique, pristine lake and shoreline. I felt the way an old-time pioneer might have felt a century ago, newly arrived in new territory to start a new life. I knew I was seeing what few Westerners had had the opportunity to experience. The hospitality and attitude of Siberians was refreshing, much different from even Muscovites. My own welcoming experiences to this region truly sold me on Siberia, became the inspiration for creating tours and opportunities for travelers to journey with MIR to this pristine part of the world. 

Early morning mist on Siberia's Lake Baikal Photo credit: Helen Holter

Early morning mist on Siberia’s Lake Baikal
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo for larger version)

I’ve visited Lake Baikal many times over the past 30 years. One of my favorites was a Siberian winter escape huddling with ice fishers on frozen Baikal and checking out amazing ice sculptures. On another Baikal trip I rode a luxury train on the Trans-Siberian Railway, the one that follows along the Old Circumbaikal Railway route and traces the craggy southern shoreline to Port Baikal. Yet another highlight was a ride on the rails of the BAM (Baikal Amur Mainline) that stretches around the top of the lake through remote towns like Severobaikalsk, meeting some of the friendliest people on Earth.

Mush! Dogsledding across a frozen Lake Baikal<br> Photo credit: VladImir Kvashnin

Mush! Dogsledding across a frozen Lake Baikal
Photo credit: VladImir Kvashnin

Sacred Wonders of the LakeWhile boating on Baikal, I have been fortunate to view indigenous nerpa, freshwater seals near the Ushkaniye Islands; they’re found nowhere else in the world but in these waters. A visit to the lake isn’t complete without tasting smoked omul, a delicious whitefish that’s sold by little grandmother-babushkas alongside the shore. I’ve also hiked through the pristine national parks on either side of the lake, staying in private homes and tent camping along the shores of this great body of water. One of my most unforgettable Lake Baikal highlights: our MIR-Siberia team arranged for me to witness an authentic Buryat shaman ceremony on Olkhon Island, the lake’s largest island and considered one of the most sacred places on Lake Baikal.

Lake Baikal is dotted with sacred shaman sites, like this one at Cape Oboo <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

Lake Baikal is dotted with sacred shaman sites, like this one at Cape Oboo
Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin

The Spirit of BaikalLake Baikal and the Baikal region are such magical places to experience, no matter how or when you get there: by boat, train, hydrofoil, kayak in summer or snowmobile and hovercraft in winter. From years of experience journeying there I know that hospitable Siberians are waiting to welcome travelers to Baikal’s countless harbors, sheltered coves, overlooked inlets, and tucked-away villages in this most ancient and sacred place.

This is the beauty of Baikal, a place to be seen, shared and cherished.

More on “MIR’s 30 Years”

Learn more about “MIR’s 30 Years” in the stories below, all embedded with videos. They include MIR’s beginnings and the mindset and mission of MIR’s president and co-founder, Douglas Grimes; MIR’s utterly unique travel offerings at the crossroads of Europe and Asia; and Siberia, one of MIR’s favorites specialties.

You can also view the video series of “MIR’s 30 Years” on MIR’s YouTube channel, MIRCorpTravel, specifically under the playlist, “MIR’s 30 Years.”

MIR’s Beginnings

MIR’s One-of-a-Kind Journeys

Siberia, A MIR Specialty

MIR, in a Nutshell

(Top photo credit: Martin Klimenta – The sun sets over Lake Baikal, as it has for 25 million years.) 

PUBLISHED: November 15, 2016

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One thought on “MIR’s 30 Years: Siberia’s Beauty of Lake Baikal (VIDEO)

  • Clara Lee Romano

    My uncle Sante Vignaroli, was killed in 1904 in an explosion when building the tunnel around Lake Baikal. I would like some information about this incident. Can anyone help me?.