Lake Bajkal is a beautiful lake in southern Siberia, Russia, often a stop on many tours in this boundless country. Unesco heritage since 1996 and part of the Seven Wonders of Russia, it extends over 31,700 square kilometers, one of the largest lakes in the world.
It is located near a very deep tectonic pit and is embraced by several mountain ranges, in a region with an extremely rigid climate and characterized by strong temperature ranges. Lake Bajkal is fed by 336 rivers, of which the main ones are Selenga, Barguzin, Verchnjaja Angara, Turka and Snežnaja.
In winter the surface of the lake freezes until May; moreover, it is often beaten by a wind called Sarma by the local inhabitants.
The main attraction of Lake Bajkal is the island of Olkhon, the largest and the only one inhabited within the basin. It is thought that its name derives from the local Burian language and has the meaning of "small forest", as it is actually covered by steppes and woods. Inhabited by a Burian community, it houses the famous Cape Burchan, or Shaman Rock, on the north-west coast. This rock is a sacred place for the Siberian shamanism and for the Burian lamaism.
The ancient Buddhist monks believed in fact that in the cave a divinity lived: for this reason Olkhon island was an important destination of pilgrimage. Only the shaman could access the cave, while the women could not even get close. The local population made sacrifices in honor of the rock, where in one place a mysterious Sanskrit inscription was engraved.
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