The wonders of nature are ceaseless, and when it comes to lakes and water bodies, one can truly see nature at its most spectacular. The lakes given below, are renowned for their picturesque locations, tucked away in the lap of nature; for the untouched purity of their waters, and for the wide variety of aquatic life they house. While some of them are tourist hotspots, others receive a sparse inflow of tourists because of their remote location. Ranging in depth from over 5000 to 500 feet-deep, these are the 12 deepest lakes in the world-
1. Lake Baikal
Location- Located in southern Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the southeast, Russia.
Dimensions and Depth- Its surface area is 31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi) and its maximum depth is. 1,642 m (5,387 ft)
Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest lake. It is the oldest freshwater lake (formed 20-25 million years ago), and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Having the largest volume of freshwater, one-fifth of all the fresh water in the world is located at Lake Baikal. It is also considered one of the clearest lakes, on a good day you could see 40 meters into the lake.
The lake is nicknamed “The Pearl of SIberia”, because the energy revenues it created, led to an economic boom. Rich in biodiversity, it hosts more than 1,000 species of plants and 2,500 species of animals. The famous Baikal seal, which is one of the only 3 freshwater seal species in the world. Lake Baikal is located in a remote location, and is covered with ice for five months of the year; which is why it doesn’t receive a large inflow of tourist
2. Lake Tanganyika
Location– The lake is divided among four countries – Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Zambia, with Tanzania (46%) and DRC (40%) possessing the majority of the lake.
Dimensions and Depth– It has a surface area of 32,900 km2 (12,700 sq mi), a surface elevation of 773m (2536 ft), and an average depth of 1,470 m (4,820 ft).
Lake Tanganyika, is the worlds longest freshwater lake and the second deepest in the world. The water of the lake ultimately flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and also flows in the Congo River.
The name of the lake apparently means “plain like lake” or the “great lake spreading out like a plain”; and was first discovered by British explorers in 1858, while searching for the source of the Nile. Tanganyika, is famous for its rich aquatic life, including well over 250 different types of fish species (mostly of the Cichlid variety), and for different types of invertebrates like molluscs and crustaceans. In fact most of the protein in the diet of the population of one million people nearby, is derived from fish from the lake. The lake allows tourists to go snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking and sport fishing. The Zambia National Fishing Competition (ZNFC) is held on Lake Tanganyika in March every year and attracts up to 100 fishermen from throughout Africa. Another fascinating tidbit about this lake, is that it allows you to view the world’s only fully aquatic cobra – Storm’s water cobra, which is endemic to these waters.
3. Lake Vostok
Dimensions and Depth– Its surface area is 12,500 km2 (4,830 sq mi), and its maximum depth is between 510 m (1,700 ft) to 900 m (3,000 ft).
Antarctica has 400 subglacial lakes, and Vostok is the largest of them. The interesting part of this lake is, that it lies underneath an ice cap that is nearly 2 miles thick! Lake Vostok gets its name from the Russian research station bearing the same name. Vostok means ‘east’, which refers to its location in eastern Antarctica. The Vostok Station has the lowest measured natural temperature on Earth at -89.2 °C (-128.56 °F), and Lake Vostok lies directly underneath it.
The discovery of this lake presents quite an interesting tale. Russian scientist Peter Kropotkin was among the first few to have proposed the idea of freshwater lakes under Antarctic ice sheets at the end of the 19th century. Building on that research, in the early 1960s a team of Russian scientists made use of seismic sounds to determine the thickness of the ice sheet that was beneath the Vostok station. But all this evidence of substantiated, only after Andrey Kapitsa suggested the presence of a subglacial lake in the region, and when British scientists gathered data using an ice penetrating radar, in the 70s.
Lake Vostok continues to be a significant area of study for many reasons. Not only do samples attracted from this region give us more information about living organisms in the unforgiving antarctic environment; they could also give us important information about sustaining life on another planet. The harsh environment of Antarctica is believed to have much in common with the ice-covered Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and studying Lake Vostok will help scientists understand what kind of life can exist; and how, in such harsh and unforgiving environments.
4. O Higgins/San Martin Lake
Location- Chile/Argentina, South America. Located in Patagonia and shared by Argentina and Chile; between the Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo Region and the Santa Cruz Province.
Dimensions and Depth- It has a surface area of 1,013 km and a shoreline length of 525 km. 836 meters (2,742 ft) deep.
This lake-known as O’Higgins in Chile and San Martin in Argentina-has an unusual and distinct shape, consists of eight different branches or arms. It is mainly fed by the Mayer river, and drains into the Pacific Ocean through the Pascua river. The lake is the deepest in South America, and gets its unique milky light-blue colour comes from rock flour suspended in its waters. Seen from above, the lake consists of a few finger shaped valley floods. This lake is quite inaccessible, and lies in one of the least populated regions of South America, one with harsh topography and climate- steep valleys, unusual flora and fauna, and crowned by glaciers and ice caps. The windswept mountains around the lake remained uninhabited until the early 1900s, and are sparsely populated till date, which further cements its reputation as a tucked away South American paradise. Long distance cyclists, trekkers and hikers can enjoy the picturesque view thanks to the Carretera Austral highway being made operational. The land around the lake also presents a view of certain rare and endangered species like- Torrent Duck, River Otter, Culpeo Fox, Huemul (an Andean deer), Hawks, Harriers, Condors and the Magellanic woodpecker.
The Lake also allows for White Water Rafting as long as you bring your own equipments.
The nearby towns are a testament to South American identity, and richly display the traditional Patagonian craftsmanship.
The most common tourist route to visit this lake is that of El Chalten in Argentina and Villa O’Higgins in Chile, including the ferry through the Chilean side of the lake.
5. Lake Malawi
Location- Located between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Dimensions and Depth- It has a surface area of 29,600 km2 (11,400 sq mi), a surface elevation of 29,600 km2 (11,400 sq mi) and a maximum depth of 706 m (2,316 ft)
Known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique, this African Great Lake is the ninth largest lake in the world, and second deepest in Africa. It is a meromictic lake, i.e, a lake which has layers of water that do not intermix. The lake was first discovered in 1846 by a Portuguese trader. It is home to more species of fish than any other lake, and this has been a major food source for the residents of the area. In fact, because of its reputation for fishing, Lake Malawi has earned the nickname- “Lake of Stars”, due to lights from the lanterns of the fishermen in Malawi on their boats, that resemble, from a distance, stars in the sky, according to David Livingstone who coined it.
Tourists can take in the full extent of this Lake’s beauty by visiting the Lake Malawi National Park, which provides a luxury experience of comfort, and a feast for the eyes, as you take in all the natural aquatic beauty. Kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving and water skiing are also available as tourism activities.
6. Issyk Kul Lake
Location- Northern Tian Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan.
Dimensions and Depth- The surface area of the lake is 6,236 square kilometres (2,408 sq mi) and its maximum depth 668 metres (2,192 ft).
Issyk Kul Lake is the tenth largest lake in the world, by volume. It is an endorheic (one with a closed basin), saline lake. Issyk-Kul means “warm lake” in the Kyrgyz language; because although it is surrounded by snow capped peaks, it never freezes! The lake is fed by hot springs and snow melt. Issyk Kul is also a site of “globally significant biodiversity” according to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
The Issyk-Kul State Reserve was established in 1948 to protect unique nature landscapes and waterfowl at Issyk Kul. The mountains around the lake are home to rare animals like the Snow Leopard, Cutter-loader, Wild boar. The shores of Lake Issyk-Kul are famous for their health resorts, and sanatoriums and holiday houses. Tourists also have the opportunity to trek, hike, cycle, take tours on horseback, relax and take in the magnificent view of Issyk Kul in a nearby resort.
7. QUESNEL LAKE
Location– British Columbia, Canada
Dimensions and Depth- It has a surface area of 266 km², and a maximum depth of approx. 610 meters, although the three maximum depth is unknown.
Quesnel Lake is a glacial lake or fjord, and is the origin of the Quesnel River. It is claimed to be the deepest fjord lake in the world. It is also the deepest lake in British Columbia. Lying in the heart of the Cariboo Mountains, Quesnel Lake boasts of an impressive ecosystem which includes stillwaters, rivers and salmon creeks. Tourists and visitors of Quesnel Lake, are in for a treat because of its stunning scenery, including sandy beaches and ancient cedar rainforests. The three provincial parks – Bowron Lake, Cariboo Mountains and Wells Gray, nearby- allow you to soak in the scenery and enjoy the incredible serenity and tranquility that is characteristic of the region. Quesnel Lake is especially popular for its fishery. A diverse variety of fish are found in its waters like, Sockeye and Chinook salmon, Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, Lake Char, and Kokanee. Tourists can partake in swimming and kayaking in the waters, relaxing on the secluded beaches along the shoreline, or trekking in the surrounding mountains.
8. CRATER LAKE
Location– Oregon, United States of America
Dimensions and Depth- The maximum depth of Crater Lake is 594 m (1,949 ft). The lake level has an elevation of 1,883 m (6,178 ft) above sea level.
Crater Lake is a caldera lake, and the crater from which the lake was formed (which is about 6 miles in diameter) is the remnant of Mount Mazama, a massive volcano that erupted 7000 years ago. The deepest lake in the United States, it is filled with rain and melted snow that fell within the caldera basin. Its primary input is from annual precipitation in the region, which is why the lake level of Crater Lake fluctuates according to the climate.
Crater Lake is the main attraction for Crater Lake National Park; and for good reason. This deep blue lake has no inlets or tributaries, and has one of the purest waters in the world, because of the absence of foreign particles and pollutants. The lake also contains two islands-Wizard Island and Phantom Ship-within it, and they are covered with a vast array of flora like different types of trees, wildflowers and lichens. Another popular feature of the lake is “the old man of the lake”, which is a full-sized tree, now a stump; that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for over a century.
The Klamath Tribe of the Native Americans in the region, revere this lake as a sacred site, because of the legend of Mount Mazama; and tourists revere this site for its breathtaking scenery and the feeling of instant tranquility that envelops them when they are present before this miracle of nature.
9. LAKE MATANO
Location- South Sulawesi, Indonesia, South Asia.
Dimensions and Depth- It has a surface area of 164.1 km², a surface elevation of 382 m and a maximum depth of 590m.
Lake Matano is the deepest lake in Indonesia, and the 10th deepest in the world. The lake is between 1 and 4 million years old, and its name means “wellspring” in the local native tongue. Isolated from other lakes, Lake Matano has quite a remote location-600km from the nearest town of Makassar, with thick and deep forests on its shores- which has ensured that it retains its rich and unique ecosystem. Lake Matano is truly a tropical paradise, albeit quite hard to reach! The best ways to reach the lake include either a 12-hour bus ride, a very expensive flight from the nearest largest city or a car ride from there. Named after one of the fishing villages on its coast with the same name, this lake boasts of a wide variety of endemic fish and other species like Caridina shrimps, Parathelphusid crabs and Tylomelania snails, including many species of plants.
Since 2015, the annual Lake Matano Festival is being organised in the summers, in order to attract more tourists to the natural beauty of the lake as well as the South Sulawesi region.
10. GENERAL CARRERA LAKE
Location- Chile/Argentina, South America. Located in Patagonia and shared by Argentina and Chile.
Dimensions and Depth- The lake has a surface of 1,850 km² and a maximum depth of 586 m.
General Carrera Lake (Chilean side) or Lake Buenos Aires (Argentine side), is the biggest lake in Chile, and the fourth largest in Argentina.
Surrounded by the snowcapped peaks of the Andes Mountain Range, the lake has glacial origins. This lake drains into the Pacific Ocean. While this majestic lake is accessible from both countries, travellers often prefer to access it from the Chilean region of Aysen.
What the General Carrerra Lake is perhaps most famous for, is its natural landmarks. The banks of Carrerra Lake are surrounded by pristine, clear, marble cliffs. Thousands of years of weathering later, they’ve taken the form of something called the “Las Cavernas de Marmol”, labyrinthine passageways which can be navigated by sailing underneath them. These structures stretch for over 300 metres and include 3 notable sites-The Marble Caves, Marble Chapel and Marble Cathedral- unusual geological formations located at the centre of the lake. The Marble Caves have been formed by wave action over the last 6,200 years. This wave action has also resulted in the creation of some ethereal impressions. The marble takes on different hues of white, pink and blue- and the clarity of the water below is a site to behold. It’s no wonder that the General Carrerra Lake attracts thousands of admirers, on account of its exquisite beauty!
11. LAKE HORNINDALSVATNET
Location- Norway, Europe. The lake is located in the Sogn og Fjordane county, one kilometer south of the county’s border with More og Romsdal county, within the border of Eid and Hornindal municipalities.
Dimensions and Depth- Officially measured to a depth of 514 meters (1,686 ft). Its surface is 53 meters (174 ft) above sea level, which means that its bottom is 461 meters (1,512 ft) below sea level.
Hornindalsvatnet is Norway’s and Europe’s deepest lake and was scoured out during the last ice age. It is surrounded by mountains, glaciers and two fjords. This is the reason for its impeccably clear waters. No glacial streams run into the lake, so the lake is composed mostly of snowmelt. The lake lies next to one of the most famous scenic tourist highways between Nordfjord and Stryn. The area around the lake, is not highly developed, because the locals believe in preservation of the natural beauty and ecosystem. The small towns around the lake region are known for their historical churches, and the Hornindal region is well known for its folk culture and art. For the more outdoorsy traveller, Mount Hornindalsrokken offers some exciting hiking paths, cycling and climbing trails, as well as horse-riding on the special Fjord horse of the region.
12. LAKE TOBA
Location- Indonesia, South Asia. The lake is located in the middle of the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Dimensions and Depth- The lake is about 100 kilometers long, 30 kilometers wide, and up to 505 meters (1,666 ft) deep. It has a surface elevation of about 900 meters (2,953 ft).
Lake Toba is a large natural lake occupying the caldera (a large volcanic crater) of a super volcano. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world. In fact, the eruptive power of the Toba super-volcano, within the vicinity is enough to cause a global volcanic winter!
So while it may not be the nicest travel prospect for those of us catastrophe-phobics out there, Lake Toba actually boasts of some ethereal scenic beauty.
The surrounding countryside is rainforest including areas of Sumatran tropical pine forests on the higher mountainsides make for great trekking and hiking destinations; and you can even venture into Samosir island located in the middle of the lake, to experience misty mountains and picturesque waterfalls. The nearby towns allow you to experience traditional Batak hospitality and cuisine; and the lake itself allows you to go swimming, boating, and relaxing by the shore and watching locals take their water buffalos out in the fields.
Check these lakes out to bask in nature’s splendour!