The 15 Largest Lakes in the World

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: November 13, 2022
© Igor Kovalenko/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points

  • A lake is generally deeper than a pond. 
  • A lake also tends to be more of an oval shape with peninsulas, while ponds usually have rounded edges.
  • Lakes are mostly freshwater but can contain some amounts of saltwater, while ponds are freshwater. 

Thousands of lakes exist in the world today, and it’s only natural to wonder which of them are the largest. With modern technology, humanity has managed to measure lakes in terms of their size and volume. We have gathered data about the biggest lakes of all.

We’re going to 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 biggest lakes in the world, we have to know what makes a body of water a lake. Generally speaking, the main differences between a lake and a pond are size, outlet, depth, shape, and type of water contained within:

1. Depth: A lake is generally deeper than a pond. 

2. Shape: A lake also tends to be more of an oval shape with peninsulas, while ponds usually have rounded edges.

3. Nature: Lakes are mostly freshwater but can contain some amounts of saltwater, while ponds are freshwater. 

Furthermore, lakes tend to be:

  • deeper than 20 feet
  • have an open outlet that connects them to a body of water rather than being closed off
  • 200 acres (0.3 Sq mi) or more in overall size.

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 ones. Interestingly, the largest lakes might not be the deepest nor the longest as you will see on this list. The 15 largest lakes in the world are:

15. Lake Balkhash

Lake Balkash is one of the largest lakes in Asia.

©Maxim Petrichuk/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
16,400 km2
6,300 sq mi
605 km
376 mi
26 m
85 ft
106 km3
25 cu mi

Lake Balkhash is a lake with a high density of saline, and it is located entirely in Kazakhstan. This lake is the center of a lot of economic projects. The crescent-shaped body of water is the largest lake in Kazakhstan and one of Asia’s big lakes.

The Aksu, Karatal, and Ili rivers flow into this large lake which shares the same name as the largest city on its northern shore.

Balkhash contains both salt and fresh water with its deeper eastern side containing the former, and its shallower, broader, western side, containing the latter.

14. Lake Ladoga

Lake Ladoga is the biggest lake in Europe.

©FOTOGRIN/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
18,130 km2
7,000 sq mi        
219 km
136 mi
230 m
750 ft   
908 km3
218 cu mi

Lake Ladoga is often considered to be the largest lake in Europe but only because it is located entirely within Europe and not split into different regions. Lake Ladoga is also the second-largest lake in all of Russia (the largest is Lake Baikal).  

In terms of freshwater big lakes on a global scale, Ladoga ranks 14th. The body of water is yellow-brown and home to a wide range of fish, including, carp bream and European perch. It also has its very own ringed seal species, the Ladoga seal.

13. Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great lakes.

©Michael J. Eves/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
18,960 km2
7,320 sq mi
311 km
193 mi
244 m
801 ft
1,639 km3
393 cu mi  

Lake Ontario is the 13th largest lake, and it is another one that is split between the U.S. and Canada. Lake Ontario is another one of the Great Lakes, and it has the smallest surface areas of any of them. This lake is commonly used as a feat for swimmers to cross.

12. Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg has the biggest watershed in Canada.

©lastdjedai/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
24,514 km2
9,465 sq mi
425 km
264 mi
36 m
118 ft
283 km3
68 cu mi

Lake Winnipeg is a very large lake that is located entirely within Canada. The lake is part of the largest watershed of any lake in Canada. Lake Winnipeg is facing significant ecological problems including infiltration by zebra mussels and algae blooms.  

11. Lake Erie

Lake Erie is the second-smallest of the Great Lakes

©IanSkylake17/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
25,700 km2
9,900 sq mi
388 km
241 mi
64 m
210 ft
489 km3
117 cu mi

Lake Erie is another lake that borders the United States and Canada. It’s another one of the Great Lakes, and it’s the smallest out of all of them in terms of volume. The lake borders many states in the U.S., and it’s a popular tourist attraction throughout the year, even when portions freeze in the winter.

10. Great Slave Lake

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

©norikko/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
27,000 km2
10,000 sq mi
480 km
300 mi
614 m
2,014 ft
1,560 km3
370 cu mi

The Great Slave Lake was named by French Explorers that dealt with Cree individuals who had enslaved other tribes. That name was later translated into English. This lake has a fair amount of area, but this is known mostly because it is the deepest lake in North America.

9. Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi has shorelines in three countries

©Scott Biales DitchTheMap/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
29,500 km2
11,400 sq mi
579 km
360 mi
706 m
2,316 ft
8,400 km3
2,000 cu mi

Although Lake Malawi is named for one country, it actually has shorelines is three. They are Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. This lake has a respectable surface area, but its depth and volume are not too significant.

8. Great Bear Lake

This lake is very far north in Canada.

©Kevin Lings/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
31,000 km2
12,000 sq mi
373 km
232 mi
446 m
1,463 ft
2,236 km3
536 cu mi
`

Great Bear Lake is located in Canada. Although Canada has a lot of lakes, this one is the largest lake that is situated entirely in the country. This lake is in the far north of Canada, with some of it technically being in the Arctic Circle!

7. Lake Baikal

You can find Lake Baikal in Russia and near Mongolia.

©Julia Kuzenkova/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
31,500 km2
12,200 sq mi
636 km
395 mi
1,637 m
5,371 ft
23,600 km3
5,700 cu mi

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

6. Lake Tanganyika

Tanganyika is one of the biggest lakes in Africa, and it’s the largest freshwater lake.

©Naoki Kakuta/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
32,600 km2
12,600 sq mi
676 km
420 mi
1,470 m
4,820 ft
18,900 km3
4,500 cu mi

Lake Tanganyika is another massive lake that is located on the continent of Africa. It has shorelines in Zambia, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi. No other freshwater lake is as long as this one, and its vast depths give this lake a massive volume. Lake Tanganyika is the largest freshwater lake by volume.

5. Lake Michigan

This is the biggest of the Great Lakes in the U.S.

©Frederick Millett/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
58,000 km2
22,000 sq mi
494 km
307 mi
281 m
922 ft
4,900 km3
1,200 cu mi

Lake Michigan is another one of the Great Lakes, and this one is interesting because it is located entirely within the confines of the United States. As such, this is the largest lake that is located in a single country! It also has more volume than Lake Huron.

4. Lake Huron

The lake is deeper and contains more water than some of the bigger lakes.

©EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
59,600 km2
23,000 sq mi
332 km
206 mi
229 m
751 ft
3,540 km3
850 cu mi

Lake Huron is another of the Great Lakes that has shorelines in the United States and Canada. This lake is interesting because it has less surface area than Lake Victoria, but it has a lot more volume. Lake Huron is interesting because it has Manitoulin Island, the biggest lake island in the entire world!

3. Lake Victoria

Named for Queen Victoria, Lake Victoria is an incredibly important lake for the wildlife.

©Stefan Haider/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
68,870 km2
26,590 sq mi
322 km
200 mi
84 m
276 ft
2,750 km3
660 cu mi

Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. This freshwater lake has shorelines in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Lake Victoria was named for the British monarch, and it is famous for supporting a wide variety of wildlife in the area. Although its area is much larger than most other lakes around the world, its volume is substantially less owing to its short depth.

2. Lake Superior

In terms of freshwater lakes, none are bigger in surface area than Lake Superior.

©Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
82,100 km2
31,700 sq mi
616 km
383 mi
406 m
1,333 ft
12,100 km3
2,900 cu mi

Lake Superior has shorelines in both the United States and Canada, and it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area alone. This lake has a massive volume that exceeds many of the other “Great Lakes” that are nearby. Lake Superior has been used for shipping for over a century.

1. Caspian Sea

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

©Marina Khlybova/Shutterstock.com

AreaLengthDepthVolume
371,000 km²
143,000 sq mi
1,199 km
745 mi
1,025m
3,363 ft
78,200 km3
18,800 cu mi

The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest lake even though it shares some characteristics with a sea, including salinity and the fact that it has an ocean basin below sea level. The lake has shorelines in many countries due to its large size, such as Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. The water in this lake is brackish in some parts with somewhat high salinity, but less than an ocean.  

What Is the Largest Lake in the United States?

Lake Superior is the largest lake in the United States, but it shares a shoreline with Canada, too. The largest lake contained entirely in the U.S. is Lake Michigan. This lake is located next to the state of Michigan.

What Is the Deepest Lake in the United States?

Crater Lake has a depth of 592 meters or 1,943 feet. This lake is located in the state of Oregon, and it is famous for its deep blue color and its massive depth.

What Is the Deepest Lake in the World?

Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world. This lake is located entirely within the nation of Russia, and it has become a popular tourist attraction for hikers. The Great Baikal Trail runs along the perimeter of this lake, allowing people to walk, hike, and bike around the outskirts and get tremendous views.

Final Thoughts on the Largest Lakes in the World

The largest lakes in the world are distributed around the world. Many of the biggest lakes are found in North America, though. These lakes have an immense surface area, length, depth, and volume. Many of these lakes share shorelines with multiple countries, too. However, a few of these lakes are very large and only exist in a single country, like Lake Michigan.

Next Up…


The Featured Image

Animals in Great Lakes
Animals in Great Lakes
© Igor Kovalenko/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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