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What to bring from the world’s deepest lake Baikal? 7 ideas for you

IIt is always better to bring from such places something unique and produced locally

If you travel to some remote spots on a planet such as Irkutsk region in Russia, by your visit you contribute to the local economy. It is always better to bring from such places something unique and produced locally. If you don’t want to waste your money on boring magnets and other souvenirs made in China,  this list of gifts prepared by the locals is for you! Hope you will find something unique in it and something that really resonate with your inner voice.

1. Baikal cedar nuts
A great gift from nature! Our cedars (pine trees) grow in the rocky south-eastern area of the Baikal without roads and people. There is also a big plantation as a part of Baikal National park. The Baikal forests are under ecological protection, industrial projects harmful for nature are not allowed. 

Cedars grow very slowly and reach ages up to 1,000 years, some even more. Pine tree cones take about 14-15 months to mature. Harvest of local cedar nuts is done by hand it protects them from light, oxidation and outside damages, in order to preserve their natural ingredients and health benefits. After harvesting, nuts are manually shelled according to the old Siberian traditions. And only after they packed in vacuum packages.  

Baikal cedar nuts

2. Natural taiga chewing gum
What can be healthier than something that nature gives us for free?
Taiga flora is very rich and if you take Irkutsk region as an example, 70% of it covered with taiga forests.
What’s in there? Conifers such as pines, cedars, larches. Conifers produce resin.

Taiga resin is completely natural – you will not find the best medicine for your mouth. Resin gum prevents the development of caries, provides hygienic cleanliness and health of your teeth and gums.
The main advantage of natural gum is that in its manufacture all the beneficial properties of the turpentine, embedded in its very nature, remain intact. Great to taste, try and bring everybody. It’s light and small as well so goes good for backpackers as something that might bring the Siberian spirit and surprise people all over the world.

Siberian chewing gum, Smolka
3. Baikal fish
The most traditional eatable souvenir from lake Baikal is, of course, fish. It is so tasty that no one lays for a long time. Endemics became a real brand of the deepest lake in the world. In general, there are over 60 types of fish in the lake. This representative of the fish family is caught all over Baikal, and it is the main target.
Everybody coming to the lake have heard about omul fish but in October 2017, an almost total ban on omul was introduced on Lake Baikal – the second time in the entire modern history of the lake. But poachers don’t care and you can still see it in some of the counters for sale. It’s up to you whether to support it or not.

The variety of fish is huge: you can buy fish salted, smoked and dried. The fish, which was subjected to the procedure of cold and hot smoking, is stored longer and will completely “survive” the way back home. With salt fish, it’s a bit more difficult but still possible. But on the market breaks now you can find sealed kegs, where the fish is stored in its own brine. Therefore, lovers of salted fish will be able to safely take away. Fish is sold everywhere. It can be bought in the markets, in tourist areas, in small shops and supermarkets or it can be tried on our Baikal Adventure tour

4. Honey or jam with pines

First time you hear that? We are not surprised. But it completely worth it to try. There are options such as local honey with tiny pines. Or pines in a syrop of dandelions. Very local tasty.

5. Famous charoite stones

In case you’re not a fan of eatable things. There are many options of local crafts to see and choose. Lat’s start from local stones. The most famous one is the charoite. Light purple and bright purple products immediately attract attention. Charoite is difficult to confuse with other ornamental stones. For the first time, this stone was found in 1948. The only charoite deposit in the world is located at the junction of the Irkutsk Region and the Republic of Sakha. Every year products from this stone are becoming more expensive. This is because the extraction of a beautiful mineral is stopped and jewelers use the “old” reserves. But judging by the fact that beads, boxes, rings, and bracelets are sold a lot, there is a chance to get an expensive fake. Therefore, it is worth buying a quality certificate from the seller before buying.

6. Baikal herbs

Teas from wild herbs – an excellent souvenir! They will not take much space in luggage, but they are good for health and they will allow you to enjoy the taste and aroma of the Baikal taiga and recall the route you have traveled. Herbal preparations usually include sea buckthorn, bearberry, raspberry, currant, golden root, Baikal skullcap, thyme, and Ivan tea. 

Saagan Dahl herbal teas are especially popular with locals and guests of Baikal. This medicinal plant can be found from the south of Lake Baikal in the lands of Buryatia. Its scientific name is Adams rhododendron. A small shrub grows on rocky slopes, near the upper boundary of the forest zone. Tea from Saagan Dahl is pleasant to the taste and is an excellent energy stimulator. In addition, the Buryats and Evenky actively use this plant in traditional medicine.

Siberian traditiona tea, Saagan Dahl herbal tea

7. Ethnic souvenirs

As Baikal is standing at the place where cultures and religions exist one with another it’s a wonderful and powerful example of co-living. Orthodoxy, Shamanism, Buddhism. Isn’t it incredible?
That is why you can find anything you want – from stylish jewelry to clothes and unusual musical instruments (tambourines and vargans) which can be purchased at all tourist centers of Baikal, Listvyanka, Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. Many products in it are of real artistic value because they are inlaid with ornamental stones and rare species of Siberian wood. Crafts made from local natural materials, such as birch bark, stones, twigs and cones rounded by lake water, are sold all over lake Baikal. A favorite way for them was the Baikal seal. In Irkutsk, ethnic souvenirs are easy to find in the specialized shops. We recommend the one in the very city center on Karl Max street called “Shafran”.

Baikal tours

By the way, no matter what you choose remember to bring your memories first.  Be in the moment and enjoy your time at the lake!

Written by a local guide, Katya