They’re smaller than seas and larger than ponds. Lakes are areas filled with water that is surrounded by land and one or more rivers which feed and drain the lake. Lakes are not directly connected to any ocean. Unlike rivers, their water is also not flowing. While no universally accepted distinction between lakes and ponds exists, lakes generally are regarded as having water bodies of at least 10 hectares (25 acres). Smaller bodies of water are seen as ponds.
Most lakes in the world are natural, but artificial, human-made, lakes exist as well. The world’s largest lakes are all natural though. The following list ranks the 10 largest lakes in the world. The ranking is based on the lakes’ respective area sizes.
This ranking lists the 10 largest lakes in the world. For the 10 longest rivers in the world, click here.
The 10 Largest Lakes in the World
1. Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is, by far, the largest lake on our planet. Although it should be noted that not everyone agrees with the classification of the huge inland body of water like a lake as it’s not a freshwater lake with outflowing rivers. Historically, it was also seen as more like a sea, hence the name (the first part of the name is derived from the Caspi or Caspians, an ancient Caucasian tribe that lived by the lake). The ancient Greeks and Persians even thought of it as a separate ocean.
But nowadays the Caspian Sea is generally called a lake. As such, it alone accounts for around 40% of all the lake water on Earth. With a maximum depth of 1,025 meters (3,360 feet) below sea level, the lake features the world’s third-lowest natural depression. There are a total of 130 rivers flowing into the Caspian Sea, the largest of which is the Volga River, the longest river in Europe. The lake’s shoreline is shared by five countries and the lake itself represents a border between those. The lake also separates Europe from Asia.
2. Lake Superior
If you don’t want to count the Caspian Sea as a lake, then Lake Superior would be your personal number one when it comes to the largest lakes in the world. In any case, Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world. The lake represents a border between Canada and the United States. Three U.S. states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) have a shoreline alongside Lake Superior. The name stems from the simple fact that the lake is the northernmost of the Great Lakes of North America. Of the many inflowing rivers, the Canadian Nipigon river is the largest overall, while the St. Louis river is the largest on the U.S. side.
3. Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. The lake is named after Queen Victoria, the ruler of the British Empire at the time when the British discovered the lake in 1858. The shoreline of the East African lake is shared by three countries and the lake represents a border between those. With a maximum depth of only 81 meters (266 feet), Lake Victoria belongs to the most shallow among the largest lakes in the world. The Kagera River is the main river flowing into the lake. Lake Victoria is of huge economic importance to the region, mainly due to its many native and exclusive fish species, which are sold to many parts of the world.
4. Lake Huron
Lake Huron is the second largest lake in the Great Lakes region of North America. It is named after the Huron people, a native Canadian tribe that has lived in the area between Lake Huron and Lake Ontario for centuries. The lake serves as a border between Canada and the United States, more precisely between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of Michigan. The maximum depth of Lake Huron reaches 229 meters / 750 feet. The Straits of Mackinac and the St. Marys River serve as the primary inflows for the lake.
5. Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is the third largest of the Great Lakes of North America and the only one that lies entirely within the United States. As such, Lake Michigan is the world’s largest lake to lie within only one country. The shoreline of the lake is shared between the U.S. states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and, of course, Michigan (the state is named after the lake which literally translates to “large water” in Ojibwe, a native American language).
The maximum depth reaches 281 meters (923 feet) below sea level. Cities like Chicago or Milwaukee lie directly at the shores of the lake, contributing to the huge economic importance of the lake. More than 12 million people (close to 4% of the total U.S. population) live in proximity to the lake’s shoreline.
6. Lake Tanganyika
7. Lake Baikal
8. Great Bear Lake
9. Lake Malawi
10. Great Slave Lake
The 10 Largest Lakes in the World
(at a glance)
|Top 10 Largest Lakes in the World:|
|1. CASPIAN SEA|
~ 371,000 sq km / 143,000 sq mi
|2. LAKE SUPERIOR|
~ 82,100 sq km / 31,700 sq mi
| 3. LAKE VICTORIA|
~ 68,870 sq km / 26,590 sq mi
| 4. LAKE HURON |
~ 59,600 sq km / 23,000 sq mi
|5. LAKE MICHIGAN |
~ 58,000 sq km / 22,000 sq mi
|6. LAKE TANGANYIKA |
~ 32,600 sq km / 12,600 sq mi
|7. LAKE BAIKAL |
~ 31,500 sq km / 12,200 sq mi
|8. GREAT BEAR LAKE |
~ 31,000 sq km / 12,000 sq mi
|9. LAKE MALAWI|
~ 29,500 sq km / 11,400 sq mi
|10. GREAT SLAVE LAKE |
~ 27,000 sq km / 10,000 sq mi
The Top 10 largest lakes in the world by lake area size.