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The World's Most Magnificent Lakes

Lauren Curd

I'm sure I won't have to explain to you what a lake is but don't just think these large bodies of water come in a standard issue for every country. They can vary in shape, size, colour and even mystery. The latter will be defined for you in this list for the top 10 lakes around the world. Each one falls under a different category so please allow me some creative licence.

1. Oldest and Deepest: Lake Baikal, Siberia

Lake Baikal, in Southern Siberia, is greedy as it takes up two criteria for this top 10 list. Not only is the Russian monster the deepest lake in the world, it is also the oldest, at more than 25 million years old. Formed in an ancient rift valley, Lake Baikal has played a significant part in history for many of the species that reside underwater and nearby. It is more than 5,300ft deep at its most profound point, which is roughly about 4000ft below sea level. The most famous animal to grace its waters may be the ‘nerpa’, the only exclusively freshwater seal on the planet, which has baffled biologists as to how they made it inland from the sea. Now it is Siberia and the place is notorious for getting cold and icy; Lake Baikal is no exception. When the winter months kick in, temperatures can get as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit and this can make a layer of surface ice as thick as two metres. Ice skating is very popular for those brave enough to trek there.

Other notable lakes:

Oldest: Ohrid, Albania-Macedonia; Maracaibo, Venezuela; Eyre, Australia

Deepest: Tanganyika, Central Africa; Caspian Sea, Asia, O’Higgins/San Martín, Chile-Argentina 

2. Largest: Lake Superior, USA and Canada

This category is specific to largest lake by area. The Caspian Sea is larger but I’m not counting that as it’s considered a sea and we’re focusing on lakes. Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes of North America and the largest lake in the world – the name is quite fitting if you ask me. Formed by volcanic activity a fair few million years ago, the surrounding area has been shaped by many events since. The terrain around the lake has been perfect for mining and shipping and many towns situated on the lakeshore are still involved in these professions. It is also home to countless plants and animals, including 80 species of fish, with a majority native to the area. 

Runners up: Victoria, East Africa; Huron and Michigan, North American Great Lakes; Tanganyika, Central Africa

3. Colourful: Lake Hillier, Australia

Lake Hillier is located at the Middle Island which is the largest among the Recherche archipelago in Western Australia. What makes this lake worthy of our list is the permanent colour this lake holds 24/7 – pink. Unlike other lakes that have a colourful hue due to chemicals affected by sunlight, Hillier will retain its pink colour wherever you take it. It has left scientists scratching their heads and all they have come up with is that it contains a high concentration of salt. Although it’s a fairly small lake, the amazing colour can be seen from the plane as you fly over and it attracts visitors all throughout the year

Other lakes on the spectrum: Retba, Africa – pink; Laguna Colorada, Bolivia – red; Kelimutu volcanic crater lakes, Indonesia – blue, green and red

4. Hottest: Boiling Lake, Dominica

You would definitely not want to go skinny-dipping in this lake. The Boiling Lake (the name should give it away) in Morne Trois National Park, one of Dominica’s World Heritage sites, is a flooded fumarole filled with bubbling grey-blue waters and constantly shrouded in vapour clouds. Along its edges the water temperature reaches a sweltering 180 to 197 degrees Fahrenheit and the centre is too hot to get close enough to measure. There’s a 13km hike to the lake from the nearest road and you pass sulphur springs, mountainous peaks and beautiful gorges along the way. People are even known to slide over the lake on a rope system. 

Not warm enough for you? Try: Frying Pan Lake, New Zealand; Beppu Hells, Japan; Nyos, Cameroon 

boling lake dominica

5. Mysterious: Loch Ness, Scotland

There are many mysteries in the world and only a few are centred on lakes. Loch Ness is worthy of a mention simply because of the creature that supposedly inhabits its murky waters. Loch Ness has been attracting tourists, nay-sayers and adventurers for years, all in search of the illusive and shadowy beast known as the Loch Ness Monster. ‘Nessie’, as she is affectionately known, has been documented by various witnesses but there is no substantial evidence to suggest she actually exists, let alone lives in a lake in the Scottish Highlands. Most likely a plesiosaur, the first sighting of a lake beast was in the 6th century and since then, numerous scientific research has been undertaken upon, around, and under the lake to put this mystery to bed. Findings have been inconclusive. Aside from that, Loch Ness is the second largest loch in area and depth but contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.

Other mysterious waters: Roopkund, India – the sight of more than 200 unexplained skeletons, Spotted Lake, Canada – where many minerals create a spotted effect on the water in varying sizes and colours; Lake Abraham, Alberta – escaping methane bubbles get frozen under the surface causing a unique and beautiful bubbled effect

6. Lake Series: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

This series of sixteen lakes are interconnected by spectacular waterfalls and voted as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Set in deep woodland in Plitvice National Park and populated with the likes of deers, bears, wolves and rare bird species, Plitvice Lakes are renowned for their distinctive seasonal colour changes, ranging from green, grey or blue. The shades change due to sunlight angles and quantity of minerals or organisms. Each lake is just as dazzling as the last and the interconnecting waterways add another element, ensuring they flow from each crater to the next in an efficient but intricate way. This image is further perpetuated by the lush green scenery and mountainous exterior.

Other series include: Lake District, Cumbria, UK; Great Lakes, USA-Canada; Patagonia, Chile-Argentina; Most of Finland.

7. Highest: Lake Titicaca, Peru-Bolivia

By volume of water, Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America, and due to its surface elevation of 12,507ft above sea level, is the highest navigable lake in the world. There are higher bodies of water, most of them pools and not large enough to be considered lakes and all of them are not suitable for boats or sailing. Situated in the Andes, Lake Titicaca has five major river systems that feed into it, making it a vastly important lake to the surrounding towns and cities. It also has 41 islands, some of which are densely populated. There are a number of steamships that serve the waters, which are widely involved in trade and transportation. 

Want to feel dizzy? Look at: Saiful-Muluk, Pakistan – 10,557ft; Ojos del Salado Pool, Argentina-Chile - 20,965ft; Lake Tsomoriri, India – 15,080ft

8. Longest: Tanganyika, Central Africa

The second deepest lake in the world, Tanganyika can at least say it’s the longest. Extending for 420 miles in a general north-south direction and an average width of 31 miles, this lake holds the greatest volume of fresh water, accounting for 18% of the world’s available fresh water. It has had a complex history of changing flow patterns due in part to high altitude, great depth, slow rate of refill and mountainous location in a turbulently volcanic area. The lake is home to various birds, fish and other animals that depend on it, not including the countless settlements situated along the shore that survive on the food the lake provides. The first known westerners to find the lake were British explorers in 1858 who were actually seeking the source of the River Nile, later to be discovered as Lake Victoria.

Other lakes in terms of length: Baikal, Siberia; Lake Malawi, southern Africa; Balkhash, Kazakhstan

9. Animal Populated: Jellyfish Lake, Palau

I’ve included this simply because of the amazing spectacle to come across when you visit this lake. The name gives it away and while the stigma of jellyfish is that they sting, these golden varieties in particular do not have the power to cause harm to humans. As a result, you are literally able to dive among these beautiful creatures and swim with them. Although, you are only allowed to snorkel as scuba diving in this lake can be fatal to the jellyfish and humans, the latter because of the high concentration of hydrogen sulphide that occurs at 15 metres depth. The jellyfish migrate along the small lake on a daily basis. Palau has many marine lakes but Jellyfish Lake is the only one open to tourists. There are numerous other animals in this small Polynesian country, including saltwater crocodiles, so caution is advised if you’re exploring. Don’t worry though as Jellyfish Lake is only home to these mysterious creatures.  

Other wild lakes are: Malawi, southern Africa – home to hundreds of species; Baikal, Siberia – only known location of the freshwater seal, the Nerpa; and Lake Tahoe, California-Nevada – where 1.5 feet long goldfish have been discovered.

10. Other Unusual but Beautiful Lakes

Okay, I’m cheating a little but I wanted to highlight the best of the rest, all of which have earned a slot because of their beauty, their location or because there’s just something a little unusual about them. 

Five-Flower Lake, China - a beautifully clear lake with shallow multi-coloured waters whose bottom is littered with ancient fallen tree trunks. 

Taal Lake, Philippines – the most photographed lake in the country and home to the world’s smallest active volcano. The lake fills the Taal caldera and in the middle lays the Taal Volcano, inhabiting its little island which, believe it or not, has its own lake in the middle! Crazy.

Dead Sea, Middle East – not actually a sea but a lake with 9.6 times the amount of salt in the sea. Often cited in the Bible, Jesus is said to have walked on its waters – and it’s not hard to see why considering that due to the high levels of salt and other minerals, you cannot actually swim in it as the water pushes you up to the surface. Many people are seen just lying on top and reading without any support. It’s also the world’s lowest elevation and unable to sustain life.

Crater Lake, Oregon – with no inlets or tributaries, the waters of Crater Lake are considered one of the most clearest in the world. Named because of the deep caldera in which it fills, Crater Lake is a result of the collapse of Mount Mazama thousands of years ago.

Fancy visiting one of these magnificent lakes on your next holiday? Get in touch and we will be delighted to help you plan an unforgettable itinerary.


**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**

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