Siberia impresses with its incredible diversity. Its landscapes, which combine dense forests, arid deserts, lakes and mountains, give it a different look each season. The temperature differences are indeed impressive: from -60° in winter to +40° in summer! A sometimes hostile nature that nevertheless conceals treasures to discover, such as the Irkutsk Oblast and its impressive Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater reserve on the planet. Petit Futé takes you on a journey to conquer this gigantic territory by offering you its 10 essential experiences
N°1 - Walking on the ice of Lake Baikal
Nicknamed "the pearl of Siberia", Lake Baikal impresses by the transparency of its waters: you can see up to 40 m deep without any problems! From December or January, and for four months, the lake is completely frozen. A thick layer of ice allows you to cross it on foot but also by car or truck! This unusual experience will make you discover the sumptuous ephemeral landscapes shaped by winter. And when you see the depth of the water under your feet, you will really feel weightless!
No. 2 - Ice fishing on the lake
To live like the natives, you have to immerse yourself in their daily life. That's what you'll do if you ice fish! After sleeping in an igloo, you will discover how this ancestral ice fishing technique is still very effective today. In the lake, 52 species of fish live together: the best known is the omoul, the pride of Siberian gastronomy. Taste it smoked, it's a delight!
N° 3 - Admire the ice sculptures
On the lake, ice sculptures are numerous and all of them are very fine, thanks in particular to the weather conditions that maintain them. The cold is so intense in Siberia that it allows you to enjoy this goldsmith's work in a slightly less ephemeral way than elsewhere. A fine example of men's ability to overcome the hostility of the climate to transform natural elements into true works of art
N°4 - Discovering Shamanism
Shamanism is one of the oldest forms of spirituality of humanity. It is a religious phenomenon peculiar to Central Asia and Siberia: the island of Olkhon, south-west of Lake Baikal, is a sacred place. Meeting a shaman allows you to learn more about this belief, which is often misunderstood in the West. You will be impressed by the fervour with which the shaman carries out his ritual to make contact with the spirits... It is fascinating!
No. 5 - Worshiping the Sacred Rock
On the island of Olkhon, the shaman's rock strikes visitors. First of all, its natural beauty is breathtaking: this pyramidal rock bordered by a beach of golden sand offers a magnificent panorama. But the Shaman's Rock is also a spiritual place where many walkers come to gather. It is here that the bodies of dead shamans were once burned. According to local legends, it is even not recommended for pregnant women to go near it, as the radiation of the spirits would be so strong!
No. 6 - Picnic on the ice
It's certainly one of the craziest experiences! After catching a few fish, barbecuing them at -20° is truly unforgettable. Most excursions on the lake include this little well-deserved break. So forget the checkered tablecloth and the wicker basket, opt instead for the gloves and blanket to enjoy the moment to the fullest!
N° 7 - Discover the fervour of monasteries
The most important Orthodox centre in the region is the former monastery of the Virgin of the Incarnation in Irkutsk. Founded in 1683, its stone church was built in 1762. It contains works on wood and precious icons. Attending a moment of morning service will plunge you into the heart of the sacred and make you discover the pious atmosphere of the Siberian monasteries where the texts chanted by the priests resonate.
No. 8 - Focus on the decembrist movement in Irktouzk
The history of Siberia, like that of all Russia, is linked to the decembrists. These Russian revolutionaries from the nobility initiated the St. Petersburg uprising on December 14, 1825 to fight against autocracy and tsarism. Among these insurgents, 80 are forced to work by force in Siberia and remain there forever. Several of them settled in Irkutsk and even today, the Decembrists Museum is located in one of their houses: the Volkonsky house. It is the opportunity to discover an authentic Siberian house while enriching its culture!
No. 9 - Eating on the premises
To discover the real Siberian cuisine, the ideal is to eat at the locals. A complete meal usually consists of a soup, a salad, a fish or meat dish with starch and a dessert. While eating, we often drink tea to warm up, or vodka! On Lake Baikal, omul is king. It is eaten grilled, in soup, smoked, stuffed and even iced! The marinade we make from its flesh is called "saguday", it is a very fresh and tasty preparation!
N° 10 - Appreciate wooden architecture
Siberian architecture uses a lot of wood in its constructions. This is particularly the case for isbas. These traditional farmers' houses are made of stacked logs. You can see them at the Taltsy Open Air Architecture Museum, at 47 kilometres from the Baikal Road. This village-museum houses different types of Siberian dwellings such as yurts and hunting huts. Several historical films have been shot there.
How to get a visa for Russia?
You would like to discover Siberia, but before you look for your plane ticket to fly to the icy plains, you must first obtain a visa for Russia.
Pleasenote that there are two types of visa.
The classic visa. It will be affixed to your passport in the form of a sticker. Please note that, unlike other formalities, the Russian visa will only be valid on the basis of the supporting document you will bring with you. For example, if you are going on holiday in Siberia from July 15 to August 15, your visa will only be valid on that date.
The second option is to choose an electronic visa. It will only be valid for 16 days and 15 nights. You will need to have in your possession the printed document that you will have received by e-mail.
Whichever option you choose, please note that you will not be able to obtain a visa more than 3 months before you enter Russia.
Therefore, you will need to provide the following documents:
1 passport valid 6 months after your return date on the French soil
1 Russian embassy form to be filled in online, then printed out
1 recent passport photo (less than 6 months old) that meets the standards
1 insurance certificate
1 tourist or business justification, indicating the dates and duration of your stay.