15 Deepest Lakes in the World

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Lake can be found everywhere; in mountainous regions, basins, melted glacial areas and rift zones. They have been formed by glacier movements, landslides, ice-damming, sinkholes and volcanic eruptions. Depending on where exactly they are located, lakes vary in volume, area and depth.

If you ever wondered which lakes were the deepest, these are the 15 deepest lakes in the world.

1. Lake Baikal; Russia

Lake Baikal, RussiaSource: Hollyrik Photography / shutterstock
Lake Baikal

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the deepest lake in the world, at 1,642 metres. Lake Baikal also happens to be around 25 million years old, making it the world’s oldest lake.

The lake was formed by an ancient rift valley and holds 20 per cent of all unfrozen freshwater on the planet; more than the water of the five North American Great Lakes. It also happens to be considered one of the clearest lakes in the world.

Lake Baikal is home to 60 native fish species, a freshwater seal population, 236 bird species and a plethora of other animals. In fact, in addition to being home to around 2,500 animal species, the lake also hosts over 1,000 plant species.

2. Lake Tanganyika; Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi & Zambia

Lake TanganyikaSource: Robin Nieuwenkamp / shutterstock
Lake Tanganyika

This African Great Lake is not only the world’s longest freshwater lake, but, at 1,470 metres, it’s also the world’s second deepest. If that’s not enough, Lake Tanganyika is the second oldest lake in the world after Lake Baikal.

The lake holds 18 per cent of the world’s freshwater and is home to its very own sardine species, sponges and jellyfish. As well, there are around 250 species of cichlid in the lake, 98 per cent of which are endemic.

Lake Tanganyika can be found in the Albertine Rift in Central Africa surrounded by mountains and valleys. The lake’s fish feed the 10 million or so people that live in its basin, with fish coming from around 800 fisheries around the lake’s 1,828 kilometres shoreline.

3. Caspian Sea; Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan

Caspian Sea, Baku, AzerbaijanSource: Elena Odareeva / shutterstock
Caspian Sea, Baku, Azerbaijan

At 1,025 metres, the Caspian Sea is the third deepest lake in the world, holding around 78,200 cubic kilometres of water. The lake is a remnant of the ancient Paratethys Sea and became landlocked around 5.5 million years ago.

Although called a sea, Caspian Lake is in fact a lake that gets 80 per cent of its water from the Volga River. It is located in the Caspian Depression around 92 metres below sea level, bounded by five different countries.

The famous Beluga sturgeon resides here, as does five other species of the ancient fish and numerous other fish species. The lake is also home to the endemic Caspian seal, the Caspian turtle and baleen whales.

4. Lake Vostok; Antarctica

Lake VostokSource: NASA/User:Muriel Gottrop/User:Ningyou / Wikimedia
Lake Vostok

This subglacial lake is the largest in all of Antarctica as well as being the fourth deepest lake in the world. It’s located beneath Russia’s Vostok Station at the southern Pole of Cold at -500 metres below sea level.

Lake Vostok actually sits under the central East Antarctic Ice Sheet around 4,000 metres under the surface of the ice. Its average depth is 432 metres and it holds around 5,400 cubic kilometres of freshwater.

The lake is thought to be up to 25 million years old, though it wasn’t actually discovered until 2012. It is covered by an ice cap, resulting in a high gas concentration.

5. O’Higgins/San Martín Lake; Chile & Argentina

O'Higgins LakeSource: Christian Peters / shutterstock
O’Higgins Lake

The lake with two names is located in South America’s Patagonia region at an elevation of 250 metres. It’s known as O’Higgins Lake in Chile and San Martín Lake in Argentina, and at 836 metres is the deepest lake in the Americas.

The lake is located near the O’Higgins Glacier and surrounded by sweeping mountains, creating quite a scene. As a result, it has a milky light-blue colour due to the rock flour within the water.

The lake can be visited from El Chaltén in Argentina or Villa O’Higgins in Chile. There is also a boat that travels around the lake on the Chilean side.

6. Lake Malawi; Malawi, Mozambique & Tanzania

Lake MalawiSource: Scott Biales / shutterstock
Lake Malawi

The second deepest lake in Africa, Lake Malawi is the sixth deepest in the world, at 706 metres. The African Great Lake is spread across three countries, and although it’s officially called Lake Malawi, it’s also known as Lake Nyasa and Lago Niassa.

The part of the lake that sits within Mozambique has been declared a reserve by the Government of Mozambique, while the very southern end of it is part of the Lake Malawi National Park. The meromictic lake can be found in the East African Rift system.

Lake Malawi is an ancient lake that is estimated to be between 1-2 million years old. It’s an extremely clear lake, with visibility being up to 20 metres on a good day.

7. Issyk-Kul; Kyrgyzstan

Issyk-Kul LakeSource: Pikoso.kz / shutterstock
Issyk-Kul Lake

You can find Issyk-Kul in the Tian Shan Mountains at an elevation of 1,607 metres in eastern Kyrgyzstan. It’s the world’s second largest saline lake, second largest mountain lake, and at 668 metres, is the world’s seventh deepest.

Issyk-Kul is surrounded by mountains, though the lake itself never freezes. It’s the country’s first nature reserve as well as being a Ramsar site because of its important biodiversity.

The lake is home to many endemic fish, with four species being seriously endangered. There is also some unique nature landscapes and waterfowl, making it a lake that should be high on the list of places to visit in your life.

8. Great Slave Lake; Canada

Great Slave LakeSource: Sean Xu / shutterstock
Great Slave Lake

Great Slave Lake is the deepest lake in all of North America as well as being the tenth largest lake in the world and the eighth deepest. The Northwest Territories’ capital city of Yellowknife sits on the north side of the lake, while the Wood Buffalo National Park is just south of the lake.

There are over 25 rivers that flow into the lake, including Hay River, Slave Rover and Taltstan River, which are its main tributaries. There also happens to be an ice road on the lake that connect Yellowknife to the town of Dettah.

There is evidence that the 614 metre deep lake’s shoreline was inhabited by indigenous people from around 8,000 years ago. In fact, it shares its name with the First Nations Slavey people.

9. Crater Lake; USA

Crater Lake National ParkSource: Zhukova Valentyna / shutterstock
Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is in fact a crater lake that was formed by the collapse of Mount Mazama over 7,500 years ago. The lake is one of the biggest draws of the state of Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park thanks to its magnificent clear deep blue water and stunning surroundings.

At 594 metres, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the USA and the ninth deepest on the planet. No rivers flow into the lake, instead it’s filled by rain and snowfall.

There are two islands within the lake; Wizard Island and Phantom Ship. Wizard Island is a volcanic cinder cone that rises 230 metres above the lake, while Phantom Ship is a natural rock formation.

10. Lake Matano; Indonesia

Lake MatanoSource: Putu Artana / shutterstock
Lake Matano

This natural lake is located in South Sulawesi in the southern peninsula of Sulawesi at an elevation of 382 metres. The 590 metre deep lake is the tenth deepest in the world and Indonesia’s deepest.

Lake Matano is owned by one of the largest nickel mines in the world; Vale Canada Limited. Still, the water is exceptionally clear and has great visibility.

Every year tourists flock to the lake to enjoy the Lake Matano Festival. It’s also a great place to go boating, fishing, swimming and even diving.

11. General Carrera Lake; Argentina & Chile

General Carrera LakeSource: Alberto Loyo / shutterstock
General Carrera Lake

Also known as Lake Buenos Aires, the eleventh deepest lake in the world is located in Patagonia and surrounded by the Andes Mountains. It’s a glacial lake that drains into the Pacific Ocean.

The lake is extremely beautiful thanks to its surroundings as well as its own geological formations. In fact, it’s home to unusual formations that were formed by waves around 6,200 years ago.

There are a number of quant settlements around the lake on both the Chile and Argentina side that are used as a gateway. A ferry runs between Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez and Chile Chico on the Chile side, connecting the north and south sides of the lake.

12. Hornindalsvatnet; Norway

HornindalsvatnetSource: Doin / shutterstock

Not only is Hornindalsvatnet the deepest lake in Norway, but also in all of Europe! Although it’s quite deep at 514 metres, its surface area is just 51 square kilometres.

There are four charming villages along the lake’s shoreline and European route E39 highway is close by. It flows out to River Eidselva, which then flows into Eidsfjorden.

Every year in July the lake is the sight of the Hornindalsvatnet Marathon, with runners starting at the north side of the lake and making their way around it. If you are a marathoner, this is a race not to miss.

13. Lake Toba; Indonesia

Lake Toba, IndonesiaSource: Katesalin Pagkaihang / shutterstock
Lake Toba

This large natural lake sits in the caldera of supervolcano in North Sumatra at a surface elevation of over 900 metres above sea level. It’s the largest lake in Indonesia, the world’s largest volcanic lake and the thirteenth deepest lake in the world.

The site of Lake Toba was the result of a massive supervolcanic eruption that occurred between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago. Apparently this was the largest eruption on Earth over the past 25 million years!

Lake Toba is home to the Batak people who have villages around the lake’s shoreline. Tourists visit the lake to learn about the culture of the people, see important Batak sites, and, of course, be in awe by the lake itself.

14. Karakul; Tajikistan

Karakul LakeSource: NOWAK LUKASZ / shutterstock
Karakul Lake

Karakul is a 230 metre deep lake that site right inside an impact crater in the Pamir Mountains. The lake is part of the Tajik National Park and is an Important Bird Area.

Some of the bird species that live around the lake include Himalayan vultures, Tibetan sandgrouse, white-winged snowfinches, bar-headed geese and Caucasian great rosefinches. The islands in the lake is where most of the waterbirds nest and rest.

Much of the lake’s surroundings are used for grazing, although it does sit at an elevation of 3,900 metres above sea level. It’s one of the highest lakes in the world and in 2014 hosted the Roof of the World Regatta, making it the highest sailing regatta in the world.

15. Sarez Lake; Tajikistan

Sarez LakeSource: Nodir Tursunzade / shutterstock
Sarez Lake

Sarez Lake was created by the 1911 Sarez earthquake that also formed the Usoi Dam. The lake sits at an elevation of 3,263 metres and is 202 metres deep, making it the fifteenth deepest lake in the world.

The lake is located in the Pamir Mountains and holds around 16 cubic kilometres. Surprisingly, water doesn’t flow over the top of the dam and into the smaller Shadau Lake.

This is Tajikistan’s biggest naturally formed and its scenery is nothing short of jaw-dropping. You will need a permit and a local guide to visit the lake, though these are easy enough to get through a reputable travel agent.

15 Deepest Lakes in the World:

  • Lake Baikal; Russia
  • Lake Tanganyika; Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi & Zambia
  • Caspian Sea; Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan & Azerbaijan
  • Lake Vostok; Antarctica
  • O'Higgins/San Martín Lake; Chile & Argentina
  • Lake Malawi; Malawi, Mozambique & Tanzania
  • Issyk-Kul; Kyrgyzstan
  • Great Slave Lake; Canada
  • Crater Lake; USA
  • Lake Matano; Indonesia
  • General Carrera Lake; Argentina & Chile
  • Hornindalsvatnet; Norway
  • Lake Toba; Indonesia
  • Karakul; Tajikistan
  • Sarez Lake; Tajikistan