Siberia lake Baikal

Russia, to most people, is largely an undiscovered wilderness. Vast, icy, and diverse, it might be the world's largest nation, but it remains an enigma to travelers who rarely venture beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Siberia, however, at least captures people's imaginations – the massive province conjures up images of snowy forests galore and inhospitable arctic landscapes aplenty. And for those willing to really explore its depths, there's nowhere more magical than Lake Baikal. Not only is the natural wonder the world's oldest and deepest lake (plus the world's largest freshwater one), but it's brimming with flora and fauna: a haven for 1,200 animal species (including the world's only freshwater seals) and 600 types of plants.

So yeah, the 'Galapagos of Russia' is basically the coolest place you've never heard of (literally). You might have trouble convincing friends to venture all the way to southern Siberia with you, but someone who didn't struggle is Moscow-based photographer, Kristina Makeeva. Below, she's kindly shared some incredible pictures of her trip there with friends, and trust us, they'll inspire goosebumps for both their beauty and iciness (the temperature during her visit in March was a casual -20°C to -25°C). It's worth-knowing that the ice doesn't tend to melt until May, so if you do fancy a swim then July or August is your best (well, only) option.

Kristina had only positive things to say about the lake, calling it "a spiritual place", and even praising the "well-developed transport" around the area. Her words of advice? "Take frost-resistant cameras and a lot of batteries." Ours? English is not widely spoken there, so brush up on some Russian vocab and phrases. You have been warned...

Without further ado, here are 15 ridiculously beautiful images of Lake Baikal.

To see more of Kristina's amazing work, check out her website and Instagram.