Lake Baikal is the deepest and oldest lake in the world, and the largest freshwater lake in terms of volume. It is also among the clearest of all lakes, and thought to be the world's oldest lake of 25 million years old. The lake stretches for 636 km longwise and 80 km widthwise; its maximum depth is 1,637 m. The clear water of Baikal contains high level of oxygen and minerals and also has the composition close to distilled. In many respects it is due to the crustacean-epischura-plankton, found only in the waters of Baikal, which cleans them. In spring water transparency may reach up to 40 meters in depth. Baikal is a natural storage of 20% of world’s and 90% of the Russian reserves of fresh water. It washes 336 rivers and streams. The only river taking off from the lake is the Angara. Lake Baikal is known as a "laboratory of biodiversity." It is inhabited by almost 3,000 species of animals and plants, many of which are endemic there.
The closest spot to Baikal is Listvyanka settlement, which is 65 km away from Irkutsk. Listvyanka is quite a touristic village with hotels and cafes; you can have good walks there. The highway from Irkutsk to Lake Baikal goes through picturesque taiga-forest up and down the high hills. Listvyanka and its surroundings have a number of interesting places for a traveler to see: the amazing Baikal Limnological Museum with 11 aquariums containing the Lake Baikal fauna, nerpinary with trained Baikal seals endemic in Baikal; St. Nicholas Church of the beginning of the XIX century; the Shaman Stone - an ancient place for pagan rituals (an observation deck Chersky Stone). You can also visit the Astrophysical Observatory, with the largest solar telescope in Russia. Souvenir market is one more attraction of Listvyanka. In the town there is a variety of hot - or cold-smoked and salted omul fish, a delicacy of Lake Baikal; the fish is on sale.