Seasons for Lake Baikal Cruises
Siberian climate is quite specific and is characterized by very significant seasonal temperature changes. The climate of Lake Baikal area is somewhat milder since the enormous mass of water has a moderating influence on the surrounding territories. Nevertheless, Baikal is often called the museum of different climates. In one and the same time at different parts of the lake you can experience dramatically different weather which may depend on many natural factors. Thus, as you travel from one place to another the weather can be calm and sunny one day and windy and chilly on the other. Season is also very important.
In May, ice on the lake starts melting. Southern part of the lake around Listvyanka settlement is free of ice already in the end of April or the very beginning of May, while in the very north of the lake there is still may be pieces of ice floating in early June. Although cold Baikal water chills the air around the lake, Baikal in May has its own charm. You can literally feel its cold breathing with the waves brining clinking crystal pieces of ice. Deep blue waters cannot but captivate you.
In April tourists travel on the lake surface on hovercraft vehicles which allow sliding on the ice. Usually these are very short distance trips (1-2 hours), which are, nevertheless, worth doing, if you want to catch this magic evanescent moment of Baikal awakening. Long-distance cruises on the lake are organized mostly from mid-May when the southern and middle part of the lake thaws out, while up north one can still see ice field floating with Baikal nerpa seals sun-bathing on top of it. The main disadvantage of May expeditions is Baikal’s treacherous weather. Storms are quite frequent this time of the year.
Full-range navigation season starts only in June. Captains say this is the best time for Baikal cruises. The weather is fair and the lake is very calm throughout the first month of the summer. There are not very many tourists, though. Baikal water still mains very cold even till the end of the month. It does not get warm enough for swimming or beach fun which is possible only from mid-July till early August. Tourist cruising during this time of the year usually take advantage of comparatively low prices for charter boat rent.
July and August is considered to be a high-season for boat tours. People eagerly enjoy hot weather and relatively warm Baikal water that can reach 24ºÑ in shallow bays. For these few weeks Baikal changes its character – from a severe ice-cold northern sea it turns into a jolly and sometimes noisy beach resort. Its noble sky-blue waters turn green because of algae mass growing. This is the best time for swimming and getting a sun-tan unless you are not afraid of seasonal price rise.
September is, on the one hand, good time for visiting the lake. First, the influx of tourist is gone and you can count on a discount, second, autumn on the lake is very beautiful, third, it may stay comparatively nice and warm on the first month of the fall. On the other hand, sudden winds start blowing on the lake and a ship can be caught by a storm and spend a few days in a row in some safe bay providing a good shelter with no possibility to continue further along the route planned.
Few tourist venture to travel by water in October and December, although the lake is not yet frozen. It is cold and windy, severe and long-lasting storms are quite frequent. Along with January and February this time is considered to be a “dead” tourist season.