A winter trip to Baikal is not as extreme a trip to, for example, Russia’s far north beyond the arctic circle, but there are some issues you should bear in mind. In February and March day time temperatures are relatively warm by Siberian standards - around -15C to -20C and there is normally always sunshine - it is even possible to get a tan. However as soon as the sun sets the temperature falls and it can get as cold as -30C. The weather here can also be very unpredictable, and the lake’s winter storms are notorious. Therefore thermal underwear is a must. The main principle of winter clothing is lots of layers – the more layers you have the warmer you will remain.
You will find a mobile signal in all settlements in the area, but you may be without coverage on long transfers. All federal Russian operators work around Baikal – Megafon, MTS and Beeline. However within the national parks there is practically no coverage and only satellite phones will work.
The region around Baikal is relatively safe, but you must remember that you are somewhat at the mercy of nature and you should be careful when walking around cliffs, rocks or on the ice of Lake Baikal. There are no barriers or warnings on the ice, so you should always follow the instructions of your guide.
- Thermal underwear.
- Warm trousers (which have a membrane or fleece layer, such as ski-trousers).
- A warm sweater or fleece.
- Warm socks, such as thick hiking socks (and a spare pair in case they get wet).
- A warm scarf, snood or balaclava (fleece ones are best).
- A warm coat with a synthetic lining, such as one for skiing.
- A warm hat (fleece or woollen).
- Gloves (fleece or woollen). It might also be worth wearing a thinner pair underneath if you will be taking lots of photos.
- Warm hiking boots with a thick sole and lined inside with fur, fleece or Gore-Tex.
- Ice grips for walking on the ice - these are studded spikes which you wear over your shoes which will stop you from slipping on the ice.
- Sunglasses and suntan lotion – the sun is active enough in March to give you a slight tan, especially considering the fact that it is reflected by the snow.
- First aid kit (medicine, lip balm, plasters, etc) - there are few chemists here so come prepared!
- Personal hygiene products.
- Camera – it is also best to bring a spare battery as the freezing temperatures drain batteries quicker than usual. You might also want to bring an extra memory card as you will probably be taking lots of photos and there won't be anywhere to buy one if needed.
Baikal is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Russia, which is no surprise as the deepest and purest lake in the world, surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes. The summer season around Baikal only lasts 2.5 months - in the beginning of June you can still see icebergs on the lake and there is still a cold wind, while nearby Irkutsk can be experiencing temperatures of 30C. Read more...