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Updated: 2022-09-10 13:10 ( China Daily )
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The ancient Lake Baikal has a wealth of beautiful surprises. Nature aside, the region is also rich with culture-home to the Buddhists and the Buryat ethnic minority. Here are some more highlights.

Explore Olkhon Island

Indulge your wilderness-conquering fantasies by trekking and camping wild on the dramatic cliffs and secluded sandy bays of Olkhon, Lake Baikal's largest, sparsely-inhabited island. Visit the Khoboy peninsula in an antiquated Soviet army jeep to view the largest of the shaman ritual sites and spot some Baikal seals sunbathing on the rocks below.

Visit the Ivolginsky Datsan

The Ivolginsky Datsan is the largest and most important Buddhist center in Russia. As you walk around this complex of brightly-colored temple buildings and simple monastic dwellings, keep a look out for white stupas and trees festooned with colorful prayer flags. Spin the prayer wheels, admire the giant Buddha statue with the offerings of coins, colored silks and rice and listen to the chanting of the monks amid clouds of incense smoke.

Hike the Great Baikal Trail

The Great Baikal Trail project aims to eventually encircle Baikal with a series of trails. You can currently hike through a pine forest between the villages of Listvyanka and Bolshiye Koty, or from the picture-perfect fishing village of Baikalskoye to the cold Lake Slyudyanskoye via a striking cliff edge path.

Dive in

Legend has it that Baikal's waters have miraculous properties, a swim in which gives you five extra years of life. The best places to take a dip include the golden sandy beaches along the northern shore of Olkhon Island, where the water of Maloye Morye (Little Sea) is at its shallowest and warmest, and at the long pebble beach in Severobaikalsk.

Take in the Barguzin Valley

The remote Barguzin Valley-an expanse of open steppe punctuated by salt lakes, small Evenk and Buryat villages, and shamanic sites situated against the backdrop of the craggy Barguzinsky Mountain range-is the eastern and least accessible of Baikal's shores. With a frontier feel, it rewards the most adventurous, those undaunted by the prospect of long and infrequent bus journeys and who relish camping in the wild.

Hit the hot springs

The land around Lake Baikal is alive with hot springs, particularly in the small spa town of Arshan, situated in the picturesque foothills of the snowpeaked Eastern Sayan Mountains. The town itself is ramshackle, but the faded grandeur of the 1920s Arshan Spa does not detract from the medicinal properties of the mildly sulphureous mineral water, which allegedly cures a multitude of ills.

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