The 10 Deepest Lakes in the World

January 5, 2024

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From shimmering bodies of water surrounded by snow-capped mountains to turquoise swimming holes that can only be accessed through caves, there are millions of beautiful lakes on Earth. But as well as being scenic and providing a source of entertainment for humans, lakes are vital in terms of marine biodiversity. They provide habitats for a wide variety of wildlife, including fish, birds, turtles, beavers, and even crocodiles.

Lakes can be formed in many ways, for example, from moving glaciers, landslides, sinkholes, moving tectonic plates, and volcanic eruptions. They can also be abandoned parts of rivers. This means they can vary greatly in shape, size, and depth.

When measuring how deep lakes are, scientists can take readings based on either the maximum depth (the deepest point in the lake to the surface) or the mean depth (the lake’s average depth). In this article, we’ll reveal the ten deepest lakes in the world based on their maximum depth.

Continue reading to find out what they are.

1. Lake Baikal

Aerial view of Lake Baikal at sunset
Lake Baikal at sunset
Max. Depth: 1,642 m | 5,387 ft
Shoreline Countries: Russia

Measuring 1,642 meters at its deepest point, Lake Baikal in Russia is the world’s deepest lake. 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Baikal is also considered the world’s oldest lake, with scientific evidence showing that it is between 25 and 30 million years old. Additionally, it is the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, containing more than 20 percent of the Earth’s unfrozen freshwater.

Lake Baikal is home to the world’s only freshwater seal and 60 fish species — half of which are endemic to the lake — more than 230 types of bird, 2,500 other types of animals, and 1,000 varieties of plants.

2. Lake Tanganyika

View across Lake Tanganyika
View across Lake Tanganyika
Depth: 1,470 m | 4,823 ft
Shoreline Countries: Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Zambia

The world’s second-deepest lake is Lake Tanganyika, which is 1,470 meters at its deepest point. 

Also known as the “African Great Lake”, Tanganyika spans the four African countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia, and it is the longest freshwater lake in the world.

It also contains about 18 percent of the world’s unfrozen freshwater and, at more than 10 million years old, it is the world’s second-oldest lake, after Lake Baikal.

Around 250 species of cichlid fish live in Lake Tanganyika, 98 percent of which are endemic. The lake is also home to unique species of freshwater sardines, jellyfish, and sponges.

3. Caspian Sea

Bird's-eye view of Baku on the shoreline of the Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea and Baku at sunset
Depth: 1,025 m | 3,363 ft
Shoreline Countries: Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan

The Caspian Sea is 1,025 meters deep at its deepest point, making it the third-deepest lake in the world. Spanning five countries (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan), it is also the largest lake in the world.

Considering its name, you might be wondering whether the Caspian is actually a sea, but because it is a fully enclosed basin, it is technically a lake. In addition to being the world’s third-largest lake, the Caspian Sea is the world’s largest enclosed basin and is the largest saltwater lake in the world, despite not being connected to the ocean.

In terms of wildlife, the Caspian Sea has its own seal and salmon species, as well as tuna and Beluga sturgeon.

4. Lake Viedma

View of Lake Viedman with the Andes mountains in the background
Lake Viedma and the Andes Mountain range
Depth: 900 m | 2,953 ft
Shoreline Countries: Argentina

The fourth-largest lake in the world is Argentina’s Lake Viedma, which is approximately 900 meters deep.

Located in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz and known locally as “Lago Viedma”, the lake was named after the Spanish explorer Antonio de Viedma, who was the first European to discover it in 1783. 

Lake Viedma was formed by melting ice from the Viedma Glacier, which is now three miles wide and towers over the lake at its western end.

The lake provides life to a variety of species, including birds, fish, otters, flamingos, gray foxes, and the largest colony of south Andean deer.

5. Lake Vostok

Cross-section of Lake Vostok, the largest known subglacial lake in Antarctica
An artist’s cross-section of Lake Vostok
Depth: 900 m | 2,953 ft
Shoreline Countries: Antarctica

With a depth of 900 meters, Lake Vostok in Antarctica comes fifth in the list of 10 deepest lakes in the world.

The world’s largest known subglacial lake, Vostok is located about 2.5 miles underneath a surface of ice — which means it can’t be spotted with the naked eye. This explains why it was only breached in 2012, even though it is thought to be up to 25 million years old.

Being covered by an ice cap for millions of years meant the lake developed its own unique ecosystem, and after successfully penetrating the icy surface in 2012, scientists discovered multiple new types of bacterial life. However, penetrating the ice to collect samples is not easy, and the lake is now protected by environmentalists who believe that drilling will contaminate the lake’s water.

6. O’Higgins/San Martín Lake

Small iceberg on a lake with mountains in the background
Iceberg on O’Higgins/San Martín Lake
Depth: 836 m | 2,742 ft
Shoreline Countries: Argentina, Chile

In sixth place is O’Higgins/San Martín Lake, which is 836 meters at its deepest point. 

Like the Caspian Sea, you may be wondering about the name of O’Higgins/San Martín Lake. The reason why this lake has two names is because its territory is shared by Argentina and Chile. It is known as Lago San Martin in Argentina and Lago O’Higgins in Chile.

Situated in Patagonia, the lake is surrounded by glaciers and mountains which are the reason for its milky-white turquoise-colored waters.

While the O’Higgins/San Martín Lake is in one of South America’s least-populous regions, the area around it is home to an abundance of animals and bird species that the lake supports, including hawks, woodpeckers, foxes, otters ducks, and Andean deer.

7. Lake Malawi

Boy rowing a boat on Lake Malawi
Boy rowing a boat on Lake Malawi
Depth: 706 m | 2,316 ft
Shoreline Countries: Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania

At 706 meters deep, Lake Malawi in Africa is the seventh-deepest lake in the world.

Spanning the borders of Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania, it is known as “Lago Niassa” in Mozambique and “Lake Nyasa” in Tanzania and is estimated to be between one and two million years old.

Lake Malawi is known for its clear waters, where visibility can be up to 20 meters, and it is home to 15 percent of the world’s freshwater fish with around a thousand different species, including cichlid.

8. Lake Issyk Kul

Lake Issyk Kul surrounded by rocky terrain
Lake Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Depth: 668 m | 2,129 ft
Shoreline Countries: Kyrgyzstan

With a maximum depth of 668 meters, Issyk Kul comes eighth on this list of the deepest lakes in the world.

It can be found in Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan mountains at an elevation of 5,270 feet (1,606 meters). Interestingly, the lake never freezes, even though it is surrounded by mountains, which is why it is called Ysyk-Köl, which means “Warm Lake” in the Kyrgyz language. An enclosed lake with a high content of salt, it is the second-largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea.

Like most of the bodies of water on this list, Lake Issyk Kul is essential for providing life to multiple fish and bird species.

9. Great Slave Lake

Moose standing in a lake
Moose can be commonly spotted in the area around Great Slave Lake
Depth: 614 meters m | 2,015 ft
Shoreline Countries: Canada

With a deep point of 614 meters, Great Slave Lake is North America’s deepest lake and the ninth deepest lake in the world. 

Located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the lake is named after the indigenous Slave or Slavey peoples, who inhabited its shoreline around 8,000 years ago.

While Great Slave Lake is surrounded by boreal forests and tundra, the area is home to a wide variety of animal species, such as moose, reindeer, and wolves.

10. Crater Lake

Crater Lake in the United States at sunset with trees in the foreground
Crater Lake at sunset
Depth: 594 m | 1,949 ft
Shoreline Countries: United States

The tenth-deepest lake in the world is Crater Lake, which is 594 meters at its deepest point. 

The deepest lake in the US, Crater Lake, was formed in the state of Oregon when the gigantic Mount Mazama volcano collapsed after an eruption. This happened more than 7,700 years ago, making Crater Lake a relatively young lake compared to the others on this list.

Today, the lake is known for its clear blue water, which comes directly from rain or snow, rather than other waterways that can carry mineral deposits and debris.

The lake is one of the main tourist attractions in Crater Lake National Park, which is rich in wildlife, from bears, coyotes, and elk, to birds and insects, with the endangered bull trout and endemic Mazama newt living within the lake’s waters.

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