The world's largest lakes
Lakes historically can form as a result of tectonic, volcanic or even glacial activities, but intentional and accidental human activities have also created and destroyed many lakes. We are not here today to dwell on the effects of humans on our planet, but to account for the largest and most beautiful lakes on Earth.
The fact that most of the great lakes are found in North America is not by chance; it is because, in the distant past, this region was covered with glaciers and, because glaciers move constantly, melting ice water causes these lakes to form.
While there are many notable lakes on the planet, we have narrowed our selection down to the largest lakes. These bodies of water located inland, independent and separate from the divisions of oceans and seas, can be found by the millions around the world. It is estimated that there are about 2 million lakes. Some are found in mountainous areas and others are located at elevations near sea level.
Lakes can be freshwater or saline.
The largest lakes are not only known for their enormous size, but also for their rich flora and fauna, and for the recreational activities and outdoor excursions organised in many of them, guaranteeing visitors truly unique experiences.
Even though the change in seasons causes the surface areas of several of these lakes to vary considerably, they still remain considerable at all times. The largest of these lakes covers a total area of no less than 370,000 square kilometres.
So if you've ever wondered where the world's largest lakes are, we've narrowed down this search for you.
They all represent truly majestic bodies of water. We have not introduced artificial lakes and reservoirs in this photo gallery.
In this gallery you will find a broad spectrum of lakes varying from a mysterious lake hidden under several kilometres to an icy lake where you can embark on an adventure trip of more than 1,000 kilometres through swamps and rocky coasts.
Lake Reindeer in Canada covers an area of 6,500 square kilometres. It is the 'smallest' of our journey of largest lakes on the planet. Located in western Canada, it has a spectacular coastline with countless coves and bays and multiple islands dotting the lake. The southern end of the lake is home to Deep Bay, where the remainders of a 140 million year old meteorite impact are found.
Lake Turkana in Africa has an area of 6,405 square kilometres. It is the largest permanent desert lake in the world and many hominid fossils have been found in the vicinity. It is an area rich in Nile crocodiles, snakes and scorpions.
Lake Taimir in Russia covers an area of 4,560 square kilometres. It is the largest lake in the Arctic Circle. Located in northern Russia, it is usually covered by ice, nine months of the year. The historic 1961 test of the Tsar Bomb (the largest and strongest nuclear device ever detonated) at an altitude of 4 km above New Zembla, caused some pollution in the lake, as plutonium particles were carried away by winds from the archipelago.
Lake Athabasca in Canada covers an area of 7,850 square kilometres. It is home to the largest sand dunes on Earth, stretching over 100 kilometres. On the negative side, uranium and oil extraction near the lake have led to severe levels of pollution in this area.
The Great Lake of Nicaragua covers an area of 8,264 square kilometres. Although it flows into the Caribbean Sea, the lake is so close to the Pacific Ocean that you can see it from one of its two islands. Before the Panama Canal was built, Cornelius Vanderbilt (the famous American railroad magnate) worked to secure the area as an alternative inter-oceanic canal. In the future we could have a potential Nicaraguan Canal. It is the only lake in the world where there are sharks
Lake Titicaca in Peru/Bolivia covers an area of 8,135 square kilometres. It is the highest navigable lake in the world, at 3900 meters above sea level and the largest freshwater lake in South America. It lies on the border between Peru and Bolivia, and is also famous for its sugar cane boats.
Lake Onega in Russia covers an area of 9,891 square kilometres. It is the second largest lake in Europe. Famous for its 1,650 lake islands, the lake also houses the UNESCO World Heritage Site Kizhi Pogost: a collection of 89 architectural wonders made of wood, including a church with 22 domes.
Lake Vostok in Antarctica covers an area of 15,690 square kilometres. It is known that there are about 400 subglacial lakes (liquid water under glacial ice) in our southernmost continent, including lake Vostok, which is the largest of all.
Lake Tonlé Sap located in Cambodia covers an average area of 2,700 square kilometres but, depending on the cycle, it can vary from 3,000 km² to 30,000 km². It is the largest lake in Southeast Asia. A fun fact about lake Tonlé Sap is that during the monsoon season, the lake reverses its course and flows from southeast to northwest, making the lake one of the most productive fishing areas in the world. In fact, the lake provides three quarters of Cambodia's inland fish production. Fish are the main source of protein for Cambodians.
Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan covers an average area of 18,428 square kilometres. This lake is usually frozen for four months during the winter. Located in one of the driest basins in the world, the lake does not flow into any ocean, making it a terminal lake. Lake Balkhash has seen many of its native fish species decline due to the introduction of non-native fish species.
The Aral Sea was once considered the fourth largest lake in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometres. Today its surface area measures up to 17,160 km² and thanks to the effects of the environmental degradation of this ecosystem the lake has lost practically all its surface and more than 90% of the water flowing into it. Testing of biological weapons in the open air, among others, has led to a high rate of pollution. Fortunately, an environmental protection project is gradually restoring the area.
Lake Ladoga in Russia covers an average area of 18,130 square kilometres. It is located just east of St. Petersburg. This lake of glacial and tectonic origin is undoubtedly the largest lake in Europe. It has served as an important trade route for thousands of years. The more adventurous kind of people, will love the "world's largest 4×4 adventure" that has been celebrated for more than 20 years.
Lake Ontario in Canada/EE. The U.S. has an average area of 19,477 square kilometres. It is the smallest of the Great Lakes, but its volume of water is almost four times greater than that of Lake Erie (it has a maximum depth of 244 meters). Its main source of water is the Niagara River, precisely from Lake Erie.
Lake Winnipeg in Canada has an average area of 23,553 square kilometres. It used to be part of the ancient glacial lake Agaziz before glaciers retreated in North America from 12,000 to 8,000 years ago. It is the largest lake in southern Canada and because it is not very deep, it is also an important fishing area.
Lake Winnipeg in Canada has an average area of 25,719 square kilometres. It has the most densely populated coastlines and watersheds of all lakes. The lake's drainage leads to the popular Niagara Falls at its eastern end. There are many islands in the lake, such as Big Chicken, East Sister, Little Chicken, Middle Sister, Mouse or Rattlesnake.
Canada's Great Slave Lake covers an average area of 27,200 square kilometres. It is the deepest lake in North America. During the winter, when the lake is already frozen it becomes an important ice route.
Lake Malawi in Africa covers an average area of 29,600 square kilometres. This lake in southeastern Africa is probably the most diverse lake, on Earth, for its fish species. The inhabitants of the two islands of the lake survive thanks to the exploitation of bananas, mangoes, tapioca and fishing in the lake.
Canada's Great Bear Lake covers an average area of 31,080 square kilometres. It is one of the largest and coolest lakes of this selection, and resembles the open jaw of a bear. This arctic circle lake is frozen from November to July and is generally one of the most serene and pristine water bodies on Earth.
Lake Baikal in Russia covers an average area of 31,500 square kilometre6s. At 1,637 meters deep, it is the deepest lake in the world. Its amazing depth makes it the world's largest freshwater lake in volume, as well as being one of the largest by surface area. It is one of the oldest lakes on Earth, having appeared more than 20 million years ago. It is also one of the cleanest on our planet, due in part to its watershed and a shrimp hungry for algae and bacteria that inhabits it to keep it pristine.
Lake Tanganyika in Africa has an average area of 32,893 square kilometres. It is one of the most biologically diverse lakes on Earth. One of its peculiarities is that it drains an area seven times larger than its size, partly due to its elongated and narrow shape that almost place it in the world's longest freshwater lake.
Lake Michigan in the USA covers an average area of 57,750 square kilometres. It is the only large lake that does not share a border with Canada and one of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is 494 kilometres long and 190 kilometres wide.
Lake Huron in North America covers an average area of 59,600 square kilometres. It hosts the largest island in the world in a freshwater lake: the island of Manitoulin with an area of 2,766 km².
Lake Victoria in Africa covers an average area of 69,485 square kilometres. Bordering Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the third largest in the world.
The Upper Lake of North America covers an average area of 82,103 square kilometres. It is the largest of the Great Lakes in volume and area. In recent years, the lake has been one of the most affected by accelerated global warming and is in great danger from the loss of most of its ice.
The Caspian Sea in Central Asia covers an average area of 371,000 square kilometres. It is undoubtedly the largest lake in the world. Its average depth is 170 meters. It is one of the few ancient terrestrial lakes that have existed for millions of years. Bordered by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, the Caspian Sea is a salt lake, largely because it does not flow into the ocean.