Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Olkhon Island

The great watery abyss of Lake Baikal is a huge rift valley in the heart of Siberia formed some 25 million years ago. It is both the oldest and the deepest lake in the world, containing around 20 per cent of the planet’s fresh surface water. Olkhon, one of the largest lake islands in the world, is the geographical, historical and spiritual heart of Baikal, divided by a treacherous narrow strait, near the lake’s deepest point of 1, 637m.

There are plentiful traces of human habitation on Olkhon from as long as 13, 000 years ago; 143 archeological sites have been discovered – rock paintings, burial mounds, settlements, defensive walls and sacred places. The island is steeped in native myth and legend.

When to go: The peak of the tourist season is from mid-June to mid-August when the weather is warm and dry. Population: 1, 500. How to get there: A bus suns five days a week between Irkutsk and Kuzhir, Olkhon, an 8-hour trip including the ferry crossing. You should know: Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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