When one thinks of a lake the image that comes up is that of a vast body of water on which there are a number of boats sailing in every direction. However, when you come across the highest lakes, you will find that they are very small compared to what you had in mind. Some are just bigger than large ponds.
It is easy to guess that the highest lakes can be found near the peaks of mountains and volcanoes. The Himalayas have a number of lakes, ranging from pools of few hundred meters in diameter, to big lakes. Similarly, the volcanoes of South America have a number of lakes, a few of which are crater lakes.
Many of these highest lakes were not discovered till now, as they were in inaccessible and remote areas. Many of these lakes have been discovered after satellites photos revealed the existence of these lakes. The small sized lakes are called pools. These highest lakes or pools are not found in earlier lists made before 2010. Another important aspect is, there is no accepted general definition of a lake, and even smaller natural pools forms a class of lakes. Yet another significant aspect is that there is no agreement on the exact height of a lake and there are differences of opinions on the height of certain lakes. Many of the highest lakes have not been explored fully.
Here is the list of 17 top highest lakes of the world, many of which you must have not heard of. The existence of many of these highest lakes have been discovered and photographed by satellites.
17. Gurudongmar Lake, 5212 m, Sikkim, India
Gurudongmar Lake is situated at a height of 5212 meters, and is second highest lake in Sikkim as well as in India. It is a very beautiful lake with unparalleled panoramic and scenic beauty. It is surrounded by snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas. It is named after Guru Dongmar and has a lot of religious significance. It is considered a sacred lake, and has crystal clear water.
Surrounded by snow clad mountains and crystal clear icy water, it is considered to be a very sacred lake. A portion of the lake never freezes. The water of this lake is considered to have medicinal properties and is carried away in bottles by the tourists. Gurudongmar lake is well accessible from Gangtok which is just 8-9 hours drive away.It is en-route to Lachen, a small town in North Sikkim.
16. Cholamu Lake, 5500 m, Sikkim, India
Cholamu Lake in North Sikkim district, at 5500 m elevation, is the highest lake in India. Cholamu Lake is also known as Cholamu, Cho Lhamu and Tso Lhamo lake. There are several lakes in that region ranging in height from 5100 to 5500 meters. These lakes are quite big and about 2 kilometers in length and almost a kilometre in width. This area has restricted entry for visitors and tourists. Permit is required from the Sikkim Government and Indian Army.
15. Baruntse Lake, 5555 m, Nepal
Baruntse Lake is located at a height of 5555 meters. It is near a group of five lakes, called Panch Pokhari, which means Five Lakes. These lakes fall in the Makalu Barun region of the Himalayas on the Nepal side. The lake is 15 kilometers away from Mount Everest. There are many new lakes forming in the region due to the melting of glaciers caused by Global Warming.
14. Thukpe Dzingbu, 5565 m, Tibet-China
Thukpe Dzingbu Lake lies at a height of 5565 meters. This lake is very popular amongst the pilgrims of Kailash Mansarovar. Thukpe Dzingbu is a Tibetan word which means the Lake of Compassion. The peak of Mount Kailash has never been climbed. It is considered holy by several religions, including Hindus, Buddhist, Jain and Tibetan religion of Bonpo.
13. Kangshung Twin Lakes, 5520-5580 m, Tibet
Kangshung Twin Lakes are at 5520-5580 meters height and located north of Kangshung Glacier. The larger lake measures 570×260 meters, and the smaller one measures 270×190 meters. These lakes are 11 km away from the Mount Everest.
12. Karda Lake, 5620 m, Tibet
Karda Lake, at 5620 meters in the Himaayan region is a very large lake spread over 70 hectares. It can be called the Largest Highest Lake in the world. This lake is about 14 kilometers away from Mt. Everest. It is formed by the melting of the Himalayan glaciers and could have been expedited due to Global Warming.
11. Lago de los Polacos, 5715 m, Chile
Lago de los Polacos, at a height of 5715 meters, is another top highest lake in the Ojos del Salado region. It was discovered as recently as 2012. It was a rare, chance discovery by a group of Polish geo-scientist. Thus, it has been documented only after 2012.
10. Ridonglabo, 5760 m, Tibet
Ridonglabo Lake, at 5760 meters is one of the many highest Himalayan lakes. It is formed due to melting of Himalayan glaciers. It is just 14 kilometers away from Mount Everest. Below this lake is the well known Karda Lake which measures 1.3×0.6 km, and is at a height of 5600 meters,
9. Lake Mulas Muertas, 5770 m, Chile
Lake Mulas Muertas is at 5770 meters height on the Chiean side of Ojos del Salado volcano on the Andes. Muelas Muertas is a Spanish word meaning the dead mules. The world-famous Laguna Verde Lake lies at 4350 meters below this lake.
8. El Muertito, 5850 m, Argentina/Chile
The peak of El Muerito is about 5951 meters. It is in the Ojos del Salado volcano, which has a peak at 6488 meters, called El Muerto in Spanish, which means After Death. This volcano was not explored till 2011. The Ojos del Salado volcano is t the border of Chile and Argentina and it has crater poo in a regular shaped caldera. The water of El Muerito lake is ruby red and this is due to the micro-organism present in the water.
7. Bonito Lake, 5850 m, Argentina
Bonito Lakeis at about 5850 metres of altitude on the Cerro Bonito Chico peak of the Andes. This small lake measures only about 150×100 meters. However, uring certain seasons its size doubles depending on the water in it. The well known Laguna Inca lies in the main crater of the the peak at about 5150 meters and measures about 2.2×1.1 km and is one of the highest lakes of this size.
6. Aguas Calientes Pool, 5870 m, Chile
Aguas Calientes Lake is at a height of 5870 meters. It is a volcanic crater lake on the Aguas Calientes volcano in northern Chile. The water of his lake is unique and appears ruby red. The red color is due to the photo-chemical reactions by the micro-organism and planktons in the water. It is also called Simbad. It is easily accessible and is a popular tourist attraction.
5. Licancabur Lake, 5900 m, Bolivia/Chile
Lake Licancabur is at 5900 meters. It is one of the most famous of high altitude lakes. From 1981 to 2015, it was the highest place to be scuba-dived. It was also considered as a model of lake that can be found in other planets. It is small in size and measures 100×70 meters, and has a depth of 8 meters. The mountain is about 36 km away from the Bolivian city of San Pedro de Atacama. It is easily accessible. It is frequented by tourists and climbers.
4. Tres Cruces Norte, 5906 m, Chile
Tres Cruces Norte is at a height of 5906 meters. It is a crater lake and is located in a half-open caldera in the lowest of the Three-Crosses. The depth of the lake is only 12.1 meters. In 2015 a group of Polish scuba-divers dived in the lake making it the highest place on earth to be scuba-dived.
3. Cazadero Lake, 5990 m, Argentina
Cazadero Lake is at 5990 meters height and about 14 kilometers of the Ojos del Salado volcano peak. It is on a remote inaccessible area. It is near a peak known as Cazadero or Walter Penck. Its size is about 210×90 meters.
2. Pular Pool, 6190 m, Chile
Pular Pool is the second highest lake in the world. It has a height of 6190 meters. Pular is a volcano in the Antofagasta region of Chile. The peak of the volcano is at 6233 meter. Pular Pool lies below 50 meters of the peak. It is a frozen pool of water and has the size of about 100 meters in length and 70 meters wide.
1. Ojos del Salado Pool, 6390 m, Argentina
Lying at an altitude of 6390 meters above sea level, Ojos del Salado Pool is the highest lake on earth. It is located on the slopes of the Ojos del Salado. Ojos del Salado means “The Eyes of Salty Water”. Ojos del Salado is the highest volcano in the world. It is not an inactive volcano, and spews gas and vapors from time to time. It has a height of 6893 meters. It is on the borders of Chile and Argentina. It is a small crater lake with a diameter of only 100m and a depth of just 10m.
The peak can be accessed from the border of both countries. Chilean side is more tourist-friendly. It has huts and vehicles available. Reaching the peak or the lake does not require professional climber expertise and any healthy person can visit the highest lake in the world.
It may be surprising to think that the list of highest lakes may change over time. Global Warming has a great role to play in this. Many glaciers and the peak of mountains are melting. The water from these glaciers or snow-capped peaks collects in the slopes. Wherever the water is not able to drain, it forms a lake. In the near future, there may be many more new lakes at high altitudes than those that exist today.