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15 largest lakes in the world

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key point

  • Lakes are usually deeper than ponds.
  • Lakes also tend to be more of an oval shape with a peninsula, while ponds usually have rounded edges.
  • Lakes are mostly fresh water but may also contain some amount of salt water, while ponds are fresh water.

With thousands of lakes in the world today, it's only natural to wonder which one is the biggest. With the help of modern technology, humans have managed to measure lakes by their size and volume. We collected data for all the largest lakes.

We'll show you the 15 largest lakes in the world and provide interesting information about each one.

What is a lake?

Before we show you the largest lakes in the world, we must know what makes a body of water a lake. In general, the main differences between lakes and ponds are the size, outlet, depth, shape and type of water contained:

1. Depth : Lakes are usually deeper than ponds.

2. Shape : Lakes also tend to be oval with peninsulas, while ponds usually have rounded edges.

3. Natural : Lakes are mostly fresh water but may also contain some amount of salt water, while ponds are fresh water.

Additionally, lakes tend to be:

  • deeper than 20 feet
  • have an open outlet that connects them to a body of water instead of being closed
  • A total area of 200 acres (0.3 square miles) or more.

15 largest lakes in the world

Now that we know what makes a body of water a lake, it's time to discover the largest body of water. Interestingly, the largest lake may not be the deepest or longest you'll see on this list. The 15 largest lakes in the world are:

15. Lake Balkhash

15 largest lakes in the world 1
Lake Balkash is one of the largest lakes in Asia.

© Maxim Petrichuk/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
16,400 km2
6,300 square miles
605 kilometers
376 miles
26 meters
85 feet
106 km3
25 cubic meters

Lake Balkhash is a very saline lake located entirely in Kazakhstan. The lake is the center of many economic projects. The crescent-shaped body of water is the largest lake in Kazakhstan and one of the great lakes of Asia.

The Aksu, Karatar, and Yili rivers flow into this large lake that bears the same name as the largest city on its northern shore.

Balkhash has both salt and fresh water, with the deeper eastern side containing the former and the shallower, wider western side containing the latter.

14. Lake Ladoga

Lake Ladoga is the largest lake in Europe.


area length depth volume
18,130 km2
7,000 square miles
219 kilometers
136 miles
230 meters
750 feet
908 km3
218 cubic meters

Lake Ladoga is often considered the largest lake in Europe, but only because it lies entirely within European territory and is not divided into different regions. Lake Ladoga is also the second largest lake in Russia (the largest being Lake Baikal).

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In terms of freshwater Great Lakes worldwide, Ladoga ranks 14th. The tawny waters are home to a variety of fish, including carp and European bass. It also has its own ringed seal species, the Ladoga seal.

13. Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario is the smallest of the five Great Lakes.

©Michael J. Eves/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
18,960 km2
7,320 square miles
311 kilometers
193 miles
244 meters
801 feet
1,639 km3
393 cubic meters

Lake Ontario is the 13th largest lake and is another lake that is divided between the United States and Canada. Lake Ontario, another of the Great Lakes, has the smallest surface area of the Great Lakes. The lake is often used as a feat for swimmers to traverse.

12. Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg has the largest watershed in Canada.


area length depth volume
24,514 km2
9,465 square miles
425 kilometers
264 miles
36 meters
118 feet
283 km3
68 cubic meters

Lake Winnipeg is a very large lake located entirely within Canada. The lake is part of the largest watershed of all lakes in Canada. Lake Winnipeg faces serious ecological problems, including zebra mussel infiltration and algal blooms.

11. Lake Erie

Lake Erie is the second smallest of the five Great Lakes


area length depth volume
25,700 km2
9,900 square miles
388 kilometers
241 miles
64 meters
210 feet
489 km3
117 cubic meters

Lake Erie is another lake that borders the United States and Canada. It is another of the Great Lakes and the smallest of them all in terms of volume. The lake borders many US states and is a popular tourist attraction year-round, even during winter when parts freeze over.

10. Great Slave Lake

Great Slave Lake has a rich history and an unfortunate name.

© norikko/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
27,000 km2
10,000 square miles
480 kilometers
300 miles
614 meters
2,014 feet
1,560 km3
370 cubic miles

Great Slave Lake was named by French explorers who dealt with the Cree who enslaved other tribes. The name was later translated into English. The lake is quite large, but it is mostly known because it is the deepest lake in North America.

9. Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi has shorelines in three countries

©Scott Biales DitchTheMap/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
29,500 km2
11,400 square miles
579 kilometers
360 miles
706 meters
2,316 feet
8,400 km3
2,000 cubic miles

Although Lake Malawi is named after one country, it actually has three shorelines. These are Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. The lake has a sizable surface area, but its depth and volume are not too important.

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8. Big Bear Lake

This lake is located very far north in Canada.

©Kevin Lings/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
31,000 km2
12,000 square miles
373 kilometers
232 miles
446 meters
1,463 feet
2,236 km3
536 cubic meters

Big Bear Lake is located in Canada. While Canada has many lakes, this one is the largest and lies entirely within the country. This lake is located in the far north of Canada, some of which are technically within the Arctic Circle!

7. Lake Baikal

You can find Lake Baikal near Russia and Mongolia.

© Julia Kuzenkova/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
31,500 km2
12,200 square miles
636 kilometers
395 miles
1,637 meters
5,371 feet
23,600 km3
5,700 cubic miles

Lake Baikal is located exclusively in the country of Russia. Although it ranks seventh on this list, it is the deepest lake in the entire world and has the largest volume of freshwater among lakes in the world. This lake is very deep.

6. Lake Tanganyika

Tanganyika is one of the largest lakes in Africa and the largest freshwater lake.

© Naoki Kakuda/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
32,600 km2
12,600 square miles
676 kilometers
420 miles
1,470 meters
4,820 feet
18,900 km3
4,500 cubic miles

Lake Tanganyika is another huge lake located on the African continent. It has coastlines in Zambia, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi. No other freshwater lake is as long as this one, and its vast depth lends it to its sheer size. Lake Tanganyika is the largest freshwater lake by volume.

5. Lake Michigan

This is the largest of the five Great Lakes in the United States

©Frederick Millett/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
58,000 km2
22,000 square miles
494 kilometers
307 miles
281 meters
922 feet
4,900 km3
1,200 cubic miles

Lake Michigan is another of the Great Lakes, and this one is interesting because it's entirely within the United States. So this is the largest lake in a single country! It is also larger in volume than Lake Huron.

4. Lake Huron

The lake is deeper and has more water than some larger lakes.

©EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
59,600 km2
23,000 square miles
332 kilometers
206 miles
229 meters
751 feet
3,540 km3
850 cubic miles

Lake Huron is another of the Great Lakes with shorelines in the United States and Canada. This lake is interesting because it has a smaller surface area than Lake Victoria, but a much larger volume. Lake Huron is very interesting because it has Manitoulin Island, the largest lake island in the world!

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3. Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria, named after Queen Victoria, is a very important wildlife lake.

©Stefan Haider/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
68,870 km2
26,590 square miles
322 kilometers
200 miles
84 meters
276 feet
2,750 km3
660 cubic miles

Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. This freshwater lake has shorelines in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Named after the British monarch, Lake Victoria is known for supporting the region's diverse wildlife. Although it is much larger in size than most other lakes in the world, its volume is much smaller due to its shorter depth.

2. Lake Superior

As far as freshwater lakes go, none have a larger surface area than Lake Superior.

© Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
82,100 km2
31,700 square miles
616 kilometers
383 miles
406 meters
1,333 feet
12,100 km3
2,900 cubic miles

Lake Superior has shorelines in both the United States and Canada and is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area alone. The lake's sheer size surpasses many of the other "Great Lakes" nearby. For more than a century, Lake Superior has been used for shipping.

1. Caspian Sea

The Caspian Sea is the largest lake, and yes, it's technically a lake!

© Marina Khlybova/Shutterstock.com

area length depth volume
371,000 square kilometer
143,000 square miles
1,199 km
745 miles
1,025 meters
3,363 feet
78,200 km3
18,800 cubic miles

The Caspian Sea is the largest lake in the world, although it shares some characteristics with the ocean, including salinity and a sea basin below sea level. Due to its large size, the lake has coastlines in many countries such as Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. The water in this lake is brackish in places, slightly higher in salinity, but lower than the ocean.

What is the largest lake in the United States?

Lake Superior is the largest lake in the United States, but it also shares a coastline with Canada. The largest lake located entirely within the United States is Lake Michigan. This lake is located next to the state of Michigan.

What is the deepest lake in the United States?

The depth of Crater Lake is 592 meters or 1,943 feet. Located in Oregon, this lake is known for its deep blue color and enormous depth.

What is the deepest lake in the world?

Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world. The lake lies entirely within Russian territory and has become a popular tourist destination for hikers. The Great Baikal Trail runs along the perimeter of this lake, allowing people to walk, hike and cycle in the suburbs with stunning views.

Final Thoughts on the World's Largest Lake

The largest lakes in the world are located all over the world. However, many of the largest lakes are located in North America. These lakes have enormous surface area, length, depth and volume. Many of these lakes also share coastlines with multiple countries. However, some of these lakes are so large that they only exist in one country, such as Lake Michigan.

What animals live in and around the Great Lakes?

Large lakes provide diverse and thriving ecosystems for many different kinds of animals. These habitats support a wide range of aquatic and terrestrial life, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Here are some examples of animals you might find in and around large lakes:


  • Fish: The large lake is home to a variety of fish including catfish, bass, carp and pike.
  • Invertebrates: Aquatic insects, crustaceans, and molluscs also thrive in the Great Lakes.
  • Amphibians: Frogs, toads, and salamanders are common residents of large lakes, where they lay eggs and forage.

Terrestrial animals:

  • Birds: The Great Lakes attract many bird species, including ducks, geese, swans and loons, as well as birds of prey such as eagles and ospreys.
  • Mammals: Some mammals commonly found around large lakes include beavers, muskrats, otters, and deer.
  • Reptiles: Snakes, turtles and lizards can also be found around the large lake, where they feed and bask.

Together, large lakes provide diverse and thriving ecosystems for many different species of animals, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Whether you want to observe wildlife, or just enjoy the beauty of nature, a visit to the Great Lakes offers plenty of opportunities to explore and discover the amazing creatures that live in and around these habitats.


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animals of the great lakes region
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© Igor Kovalenko/Shutterstock.com

about the author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in various fields such as Managed Service Providers, Animals and Retail Distribution. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading and writing.

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