The Highest Lake in the World

(C)Copyright 2002 by Carl Drews
Last update: September 22, 2015

Return to main Highest Lake page.

Unofficial lake names (not recognized by the governing authorities) are in "quotes". This is not an exhaustive list; it's hard to get accurate geographical information from the remote regions of the Himalayas. I have found this information mostly by searching on the Internet for "highest lake" and things like that. Even the pictures here may be incorrect; I've seen travel brochures that reverse the Maroon Bells left-to-right, or label a photo of Mt. Rainier as "The Rocky Mountains." If you see any wrong or inaccurate information on this page, please contact me with a correction. Note that 1 meter = 3.28084 feet.


1"Ojos del Salado Pool"6,40020,997Argentina-Chile
2"Lhagba Pool"6,36820,892Tibet
3"Changtse Pool"6,21620,394Tibet
4"East Rongbuk Pool"6,10020,013Tibet
5"Cerro Tipas Lake"5,990 19,652Argentina
6"Acamarachi Pool"5,950 19,520Chile
7"Tres Cruces Norte Lake"5,915 19,406Chile
8"Lake Licancábur"5,900 19,357Chile-Bolivia
9"Aguas Calientes Pool"5,831 19,130Chile
10"Ridonglabo Lake"5,801 19,032Tibet
11"Poquentica Lake"5,750 18,865Chile-Bolivia
12"Damavand Pool"5,650 18,536Iran
13"Karda Lake"5,643 18,513Tibet
14Thukpe Dzingbu5,56318,251Tibet
15Panch Pokhri5,49418,025Nepal
16Cholamu Lake5,48618,000Sikkim
17Gurudongmar Lake5,24317,200Sikkim
18Orba Co Lake5,20917,090Tibet
19Laguna Glaciar5,03816,529Bolivia
20"Imja Glacier Lake"5,01016,437Nepal
21Lake Ccascana4,92016,142Peru
22Lake Tilicho4,91916,138Nepal
23Suraj Tal Lake4,88316,020India
24Lake Sibinacocha4,83515,863Peru
25Lake Manasarovar4,72715,508Tibet
26Lake Namtso4,71815,479Tibet
27Rush Lake4,69415,400Pakistan
28Laguna Lobato4,64015,223Chile
29Tsho Rolpa Lake4,60015,092Nepal
30Lewis Tarn4,58715,049Kenya
31Lake Chungara4,50014,765Chile
32Yamdrok Tso4,48814,724Tibet
33Karambar Lake4,27214,012Pakistan
34Lake of the Moon4,21513,829Mexico
35"Emerald Lakes"4,20013,780Irian Jaya
36Sheosar Lake4,14213,589Pakistan
37Lake Titicaca3,80012,464Bolivia-Peru
38Lake of Lovers 3,30010,827Caucasus
39Matscherjochsee 3,18510,450Austria
40Schwarzsee ob Soelden 2,8009,183Austria
41"Ruapehu Crater Lake"2,5058,220New Zealand
42Lake Cootapatamba2,0506,726Australia
43Blue Lake1,9006,234Australia
44Lake Péwé5501,804Antarctica

Emerging Lakes

Cold is the enemy of a high lake. Cold prevents liquid water from forming and collecting, and a true lake should have some liquid water year-round. There are many catchment areas high in the mountains that are capable of collecting liquid water, and some of these are now filled with snow and ice. As the climate gets warmer, it's probable that they will melt out and a new high lake will emerge. Dr. Nathalie Cabrol at NASA Ames is interested in monitoring such areas to study how a new alpine habitat develops.

For example, the volcano Parinacota on the border between Bolivia and Chile is 6,348 meters high (20,827 feet). It has a spectacular summit crater about 300 meters in diameter. If the climate in that area gets warmer, or if the volcano heats up a bit, it's possible that a crater lake could form there that would displace Lake Licancabur as the highest lake on earth. Stay tuned . . .

Dryness is also the enemy of a high lake. Dr. Cabrol points out that a potential lake must be perennial (lasting throughout the whole year) in order to qualify. Dryness is especially a problem in Chile's Atacama Desert. There are some known bodies of liquid water that form only during the snowmelt season, and dry up completely during the dry season (at Sairecabur). This does not prevent little hibernating bugs from living there, but it does disqualify the site from being a true lake. In this case we might have an emerging high lake if the climate gets wetter.

I'm uncertain if a high lake should be disqualified if it freezes solid all the way down to the bottom during the winter. Must a lake contain at least one cubic meter of liquid water year-round? I think so, but how do we check this? Who gets to climb up to a potential lake in the middle of winter, drill through the ice at hopefully the deepest point, verify that there's no water before hitting rock bottom, and try to do all this in a "typical" winter? Oh well, we've gotta leave some exploring for our children and grandchildren to do . . .

1. "Ojos del Salado Pool", 6,400 meters = 20,997 feet, Argentina-Chile

Ojos del Salado Pool is on the southeast face of Ojos del Salado, the highest active volcano on the border between Chile and Argentina. I was notified of this lake in 2007. Andes has a nice picture of this pool at the link below:

Andes reports that Ojos del Salado Pool is 100 meters in diameter. If the lake is circular, this measurement means that the surface area is 0.785 hectares. That is why I classified this lake as a "pool"; according to my definition on the home page, a true "lake" must occupy at least 1.0 hectares.

That figure of 100 meters is probably an estimate. I would love to promote Ojos del Salado Pool to "lake" status, but we need an accurate measurement of its size. If you plan to climb Ojos del Salado, here's what you need to do: Pace around the edge of the lake, and count your number of steps. When you get back to a measuring tape, measure ten of your strides. I will calculate the surface area from that, and post your results here. It will also be helpful if you can estimate how close the pool is to circular.

Updates from March 2014:
Chris Goulet supplied some additional information on Ojos del Salado Pool. This lake is located at 27.1195 south latitude, 68.5354 west longitude on the south-southeast slopes of Ojos del Salado. I have determined its elevation from the closed contour line at 6400 meters on Google Maps. The imagery from Google Earth shows the lake to be snow-covered, making it difficult to estimate the size. Nevertheless, I have estimated Ojos del Salado Pool to be 35 meters in diameter using satellite imagery. Probably the size varies with snowmelt.

SummitPost has a good photo of Ojos del Salado Pool (click to zoom to the 3.5MB photo):
Note that Cerro del Nacimiento is 19.5 km south by south-southeast of Ojos del Salado. If you plot a visual line-of-sight from the summit of Ojos to Nacimiento, lake 6408 falls just to the left (east) of the line.

Updates from September 2015:
There are two features appearing on satellite photos that could be high-altitude lakes. They are both on the southeast slopes of Ojos del Salado at an altitude of about 6,400 meters. The screen shot below (from Google Earth) shows them both near the summit.

Ojos Del Salado Pool
The yellow line is the international border; Chile is to the north, and Argentina is to the south. The green mountain icon at upper left is the summit of Ojos del Salado. The two frozen features that could be lakes are on either side of the small volcanic cone astride the yellow line.
Imagery by Digital Globe, US Department of State Geographer, and Google Earth. Click for larger image.

For greater detail, I have provided a higher-resolution screen shot of the two Ojos Del Salado Pools. The Chilean lake is 1.54 km east-southeast of the summit of Ojos del Salado. The Argentine lake is 1.24 km southeast of the summit. The two pools are 1.10 km apart. Here are the locations and altitudes:
Chile27.11377° South68.52638° West6357 meters
Argentina27.1195° South68.5354° West6408 meters

2. "Lhagba Pool", 6,368 meters = 20,892 feet, Tibet

Lhagba Pool is just less than a kilometer southwest of Lhagba La (Pass) and west of Lhakpa Ri. Whatever this feature is, it shows up on my National Geographic Map of Mount Everest (1999), about 6 kilometers north and 3 km east of the summit of Mt. Everest. The coordinates are approximately 28 degrees 3 minutes north, 86 degrees 58 minutes east.

It's pretty tiny! Lhagba Pool looks to be about 180 meters long and 50 meters wide. Has anybody been over Lhagba La, or up the East Rongbuk Glacier, and seen this thing? Send me a picture if you've got one.

3. "Changtse Pool", 6,216 meters = 20,394 feet, Tibet

Changtse Pool is a pool of meltwater that has formed in the middle of the Changtse (Beifeng) Glacier, north of Changtse (Bei Peak) and southeast of Changzheng Peak. It shows up on my National Geographic Map of Mount Everest (1999), about 7 kilometers north and 1 km west of Chomolungma itself. The location is approximately 28 degrees 3 minutes north, 86 degrees 55 minutes east. This same map is reproduced on pages 72-73 of the book "Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine", by Jochen Hemmleb, Larry Johnson, and Eric Simonson (1999). Changtse Pool and Lhabga Pool are both visible on page 73.

It appears that the side glacier coming down from Changzheng Peak impedes the flow of Changtse Glacier proper, and causes a hump where the two glaciers intersect. Meltwater gathers there, and we get a lake. Changtse Pool might be a small amount of water resting on top of the glacier, or it might be a much larger sub-surface aquifer that saturates the glacier and rises to the surface at that point. My research suggests the latter. The lake size is about 180 by 230 meters.

I doubt that this one really qualifies as a lake, for two reasons: I don't know of anybody who has visited it to verify on the ground that it exists, and it might disappear during the winter. But there it is on the topo map, a liquid body of water, over 6,000 meters high!

4. "EastRongbuk Pool", 6,100 meters = 20,013 feet, Tibet

"East Rongbuk Pool" is a temporary lake that forms during snowmelt season at the confluence of the East Rongbuk Glacier and the Changtse (Beifeng) Glacier. The following trip itinerary from Jagged Globe Mountaineering describes the arrival at Lake Camp:

Day 14: Trek to Lake Camp (6,100m).
Today we hike up the aptly named Magic Highway. This is an unlikely river of moraine that flows right through the middle of the treacherous ice pinnacles of the East Rongbuk Glacier. The route is surprisingly easy walking, although the altitude makes it hard work! The re-appearance of Everest is a pleasant distraction, and we can now see the whole of the North East Ridge, from the Raphu La to the summit. This is an immense mountain! The Highway finally drifts in toward the east ridge of Changtse, where a lake often forms. We camp here below the final steepening which leads to advance base camp.

East Rongbuk Pool became a huge problem for a BBC expedition in 2000, because it blocked the trail up to Advance Base Camp (on the north approach to Mt. Everest). Graham Hoyland writes:

More problems. A huge glacier lake has formed down the valley and is preventing the yaks from getting up to us. The Sherpas, Russell [Brice] and I walk down to Changtse Base Camp to see if we can drain it or bypass it. The lake is really beautiful. It's where the glacier from Changtse has joined our glacier, and the 100-foot ice sails are clustered around the new lake like some sort of Arctic Cowes week. There are lots of yaks waiting on the other side. Soon the British T.A. guys join us; like Russell they have always helped with these joint endeavours, unlike most of the other expeditions. We try making a causeway of rocks, but the water is about 3 metres deep. Eventually we cut a new trail into the mountainside using pickaxes and shovels. There was talk of getting explosives from the villages below to blow a gap in the ice retaining wall, but apparently Semtex is regarded as profane by the holy men in the monastery in the valley below, a problem we don't have in our country.
"I'm shocked, absolutely shocked!" (Claude Raines in Casablanca) How can they even consider blowing up one of the highest lakes on earth? Do these people have no respect for extreme aqueous geography? ;-{)

Another account by Himalayan Experience of the same expedition reports:

26th May - Day 60
As if Russ [Brice] hasn't got enough on his plate, news reaches us that a glacial lake has filled in behind us about a quarter of the way between ABC and BC. This means that yak trains cannot get through. Russ leads a team of 15 to go down and dig a metre wide yak trail skirting the lake for several hundred yards to give safe passage. The worry is that the water will continue to rise too fast!

28th May - Day 62 - D1 of Summit Attempt 2.
Meantime down in ABC Russ wrestles with the lake at the Changtse glacier which is worse, is now swamping the new trail and is still filling. We hadn't thought of bringing a boat on the expedition inventory! Russ coordinates with the Tibetan Mountaineering Association and the British Army on a solution.

Russell Brice later reported to me that the lake drains later in the season, and for this reason East Rongbuk Pool cannot be considered a true lake. It does not appear on any map that I've seen. I list it here as one of the interesting "near-lakes", or pools, that form high in the Himalayas at certain times of the year.

The East Rongbuk Glacier is very slow-moving compared with other alpine glaciers. This characteristic makes it suitable for extracting ice cores and using them for long-term climate studies:

5. "Cerro Tipas Lake", 5,990 meters = 19,652 feet, Argentina

Thanks to Chris Goulet and Guillaume Ceyrac for bringing this lake to my attention in March 2014.
Location: 27.2306 south, 68.5648 west
Size: 200m x 90m
Area: 1.8 hectares

6. "Acamarachi Pool", 5,950 meters = 19,520 feet, Chile

"Acamarachi Pool" is a small pocket of liquid water among the rocks in the summit crater of the volcano Acamarachi in northern Chile. Marko Riikonen from Finland told me about this one and the other high crater lakes nearby. He says:

To say a general comment about crater lakes, I think they are very common in the Andes. I got the feeling that about every volcano with crater and elevation higher than 5500 meters (and not permanently ice covered), has also lake. Sairecabur (5970m) next to Licancabur has also lake - on the flank crater, summit crater is degraded. My photos somewhat underexposed from that climb, so it's not in my web page. Also a volcano next to El Tatio geysir field (don't know the name) has a lake. The small linkphoto on my homepage frontpage is from that volcano.

I asked Marko how big is the pool. He writes:

I wouldn't like to estimate any numbers, but if I say it was 10-15 m at its long axis it can't be far from right. You can get some idea from the photos, but not from the swimming photo which is taken with 16 mm fisheye and makes the lake look much larger than it is. I got photos also from the other end of the lake, I put them there when I get them scanned.

Marko Riikonen has an excellent photo gallery of the Chilean volcanos and their crater lakes here:

7. "Tres Cruces Norte Lake", 5,915 meters = 19,406 feet, Chile

Thanks to Chris Goulet and Guillaume Ceyrac for bringing this lake to my attention in March 2014.
Location: 27.0457 south, 68.8144 west
Size: 218m x 152m
Area: 3.3 hectares

Read the "Tres Cruces, Tres Cumbres" expedition trip report by Guillaume Ceyrac, January 2013. Click for more photos and discussion of Tres Cruces Norte Lake at

8. "Lake Licancábur", 5,900 meters = 19,357 feet, Chile-Bolivia

19,731-foot high Volcan Licancábur (Licancabur) rises near northern Chile's Atacama Desert. There is a small lake in the summit crater of the volcano! Inca ruins line the lake. See this page at Peakware:

See also Claudio Seebach's page:
Carl writes to Claudio: "How big is the summit lake in Licancabur? How far is it below the true summit? I am interested in if it is the highest lake in the world."
Claudio writes back: "It's at 5900, inside the summit, about 50 m... The highest is always a doubtful thing: what is a lake ?"
I think Claudio's "5900" figure is a rough estimate for the elevation.

The page below by Michael Endl contains a picture of the lake. Michael points out that the international border between Chile and Bolivia runs right through the volcano Licancábur. It's not clear if the summit lake is entirely in Chile, or in Bolivia, or split in half between the two countries.

"Within the 400 m diameter summit crater (SC) is a fresh water lake, about 90 m x 70 m. This is one of the highest lakes in the world and hosts a planktonic fauna of considerable interest to biologists. A high altitude diving expedition in 1984 found the lake to be <4m deep with a temperature of 6 °C at the bottom (Leach, 1986)." I'd sure like to meet the folks who hauled scuba gear up to 19,400 feet!
That information puts the surface area of the lake at about 0.5 hectares. At least that's bigger than my back yard.

One of the summit logs on this page at PeakWare also refers to a "little green crater lake" at the summit. The green color comes from the plankton or bacteria in the lake.

Here are some excellent pictures of the summit lake of Licancabur by Marko Riikonen, including Leena swimming in the lake. That's gotta be the world's highest swim! The green color of the lake has probably been washed out photographically by the sunlight on the surrounding snow.

News Flash!!!
Dr. Nathalie Cabrol is a planetary geologist with NASA Ames in Southern California. She is studying the presence of ancient water on Mars, and the possibility of Martian life forms. Lake Licancabur is the closest analog to Mars on earth: cold, dry, windy, and protected by only a thin atmosphere. So Dr. Cabrol is leading a scientific expedition to Licancábur from October 16 through November 9, 2002! The scientists plan to survey the highest lake on earth, dive in its depths, catalog the bacteria and algae that live there, and look for extremophiles that can survive the harsh ultraviolet light at 19,000 feet. You can read more about the expedition at the following web site:

Dr. Cabrol reports that there is another high lake on the Sairecabur volcano nearby. The Sairecabur lake is seasonal only. The following web page mentions the lake in the summit crater of Escalante:

Here is a four-part article in Astrobiology Magazine about the Licancábur expedition (October 21, 2002 - November 11, 2002).

The NASA expeditions in 2002 and 2003 repeatedly measured the summit elevation of Licancábur at 6014 meters using GPS equipment, and the lake itself at 5916 meters (98 meters below the summit). Topographical maps of the Licancabur volcano list a summit altitude of 5930 or 5916 meters, based on an older geographical survey of the area. This discrepancy is not a big deal - the heights of Mt. Everest and K2 have also been updated from the original surveys. As of December 2003 the other elevations in Chile are from the older topo maps and surveys.

The NASA expedition also confirmed the lake size of 90 m x 70 m. Nathalie Cabrol recorded a water depth of 5.2 meters (17 feet) in one spot using a hand-held sonar device, but that may not be absolutely the deepest point.

Chris Goulet found green algae and red bugs swimming in the lake in 1993:

9. "Aguas Calientes Pool", 5,831 meters = 19,130 feet, Chile

"Aguas Calientes Pool" is in the broad summit crater of the volcano Aguas Calientes in northern Chile. The image below is copyright 2003 by Marko Riikonen:

There is clear evidence in the pictures that the shoreline has been higher. Marko writes:

As long as those crater lakes don't dry up, I would look at them as genuine lakes (or pools, whatever the term). Acamarachi had algae, so it probably stays wet all year round. Aquas Calientes and Chiliques had no life to be seen at least with naked eye, but they are such big lakes that there is no doubt about them staying wet year round.

If I say Aquas was about 40 meters at its long axis I won't be lying too much. I feel uncomfortable to give these figures, who knows how wrong they would turn out?

Agreed. It's difficult to estimate the distance across a lake just by eyeballing it, and most climbers don't carry a tape measure. I would suggest that mountaineers walk around the edge of the lake and count their steps. Try to walk normally at 5,000 meters! Pace off the distance around the lake, and write it down. Later you can measure the length of your steps accurately so we can multiply to get the lake's circumference. That measurement will help to estimate the lake's overall size.

From Volcanoes of the Central Andes:
"A shallow crater lake is present with the summit crater, and is apparently unfrozen on the air photograph and TM images."
"Note the summit crater rimmed by lavas and containing a small lake."

For vulcanologists, here's an interesting tidbit from Riikonen:

Funny thing about Chiliques lake is that in January 2001 satellite detected hot spots in the volcano, on flanks and crater meaning magma is just below the surface. So we went up there in 2002 and expected to see some indication of elevated temperature. The lake was deep frozen! The ice was thick as what! So much for the hot spot. Two years earlier only week or two later [in the season] it was all liquid.

10. "Ridonglabo Lake", 5,801 meters = 19,032 feet, Tibet

"Ridonglabo Lake" is a small lake about 1.5 kilometers southwest of Ridonglabo Peak (6239m) in the Tibetan Himalayas. The lake is about 14 kilometers northeast of the summit of Mt. Everest. It's actually in a side valley on the northwest side of the main Karda Valley, just where the Karda Glacier ends in Karda Lake.

For maps of this lake, see "Karda Lake". "Ridonglabo Lake" is a classical moraine lake produced by climate warming. The glacier retreated from its terminal moraine, leaving a depression in which glacial meltwater could collect into a lake. We know this happened between 1925 and 1988 because we have two maps of the area from those years.

The only thing standing between Ridonglabo Lake and my definition of a lake on the main page is for somebody to visit the lake on the ground and dip their toe into the water. The surface area of Ridonglabo Lake is about 3 hectares - plenty big enough to qualify. It's possible in 2003 that no human has ever visited Ridonglabo Lake. Although the Karda approach to Everest was used by George Mallory himself before the fatal 1924 British Everest Expedition, most climbers would go straight up the Kharta Glacier and then over Lhakpa La to the North Col, instead of exploring up that side valley. And I'm almost positive that nobody's ever gone windsurfing on Ridonglabo Lake!

11. "Poquentica Lake", 5,750 meters = 18,865 feet, Chile-Bolivia

Dr. Nathalie Cabrol of NASA Ames reports that the volcano Poquentica on the Chile-Bolivia border contains a lake in its summit crater. The lake is about 200m by 100m in size. Dr. Cabrol plans to visit the lake in late 2005 and obtain more exact measurements. Volcan Poquentica is also known as Puquintica.

12. "Damavand Pool", 5,650 meters = 18,536 feet, Iran

The volcano Damavand in northern Iran has a small lake in its summit crater during the summer.
This one sounds remarkably similar to "Lake Licancábur".
"The summit crater is about 150 m wide and 20 m deep, with a 40-m diameter frozen lake in the bottom. Although the summit rises to 5,670 m above sea level, there is no permanent glacier because of the dry climate." Therefore "Damavand Pool" is at 5,650 meters above sea level.

It appears that Damavand Pool cannot qualify as a true lake because it's too small, and because it disappears during the winter. It's not clear if the pool vanishes during the winter because it evaporates completely, sinks into the soil, or because it freezes solid down to the bottom.

In 1881 the summit crater had no lake, only snow:
"This is what Mr. Stack, in 1881, had to say of the view: 'From the summit which consists of a crater with snow and ice, a horizon of 50,000 square miles is unrolled in clear weather. The crater is some 200 yards in diameter, girt with a ring of yellow rocks of nearly pure sulfur, exhaling a pestiferous smell. The hollow is entirely filled up with snow.'"

13. "Karda Lake", 5,643 meters = 18,514 feet, Tibet

"Karda Lake" is a glacial moraine lake at the lower end of the Karda Glacier, just south of Ridonglabo Peak. The location is about 16 kilometers northeast of Mt. Everest. Karda is also spelled Kharda Glacier, Karta Glacier, and Kharta Glacier. (While we're in the area, note the smaller "Ridonglabo Lake" at 5,801 meters, or 19,032 feet.)

Karda Lake does not have a size problem, thanks to global warming. The lake is about 600 meters wide and I don't know how long because it runs off the edge of the map. That mostly-straight visible section of the northwest shore is 700 meters long. Erich Keller at SwissPhoto Surveys told me that this map was made in 1988 for Bradford Washburn (it was published by National Geographic in 1999). However, the "Ghosts of Everest" book has another map of the same region from 1925:

In 1925 Karda Lake was a small pool about 300m wide by 100m long at the snout of Karda Glacier. The lake has advanced up the valley while the glacier has retreated. That label "Kharta Chu" refers to the river, not the pond. ("Ridonglabo Lake" is now about 400 meters long and 200 meters wide; not bad for a high lake that didn't even exist 75 years ago.) I highly recommend the Ghosts of Everest book by Hemmleb, Johnson, and Simonson (1999). Buy it and you'll get both maps, too.

14. Thukpe Dzingbu Pool, 5,563 meters = 18,251 feet, Tibet

Anil Borkar of Bombay, India, told me about Thukpe Dzingbu. Anil reports: "This lake is also known as Gauri Kund and Tukje Tso (Tso means lake in Tibetan). The high altitude keeps the lake frozen even in summer months. This holy lake has very high religious importance in Hindus and Buddhists. This lake is situated near Mt Kailash adjacent to Drolma-la Pass." (I'm calling this one a "pool" because I think it's too small to meet the definition of a lake.)

Other links:

15. Panch Pokhri, 5,494 meters = 18,025 feet, Nepal

Panch Pokhri is a group of three sacred lakes in Nepal about 6 kilometers east of Ama Dablam (the mountain). The main lake is at 5,414 meters; the other two lakes are at 5430m and 5494m. Since we're going for the highest lake here, I'll list the height of the uppermost lake (the one to the northeast) for ranking purposes. That makes Panch Pokhri the highest named lake in the world as of August 2003. Panch Pokhri 5494 is about 700 meters long by 400 meters wide. Panch Pokhri 5414 is about 1.6 kilometers long by 500 meters wide, not including that inlet on the southwest shore.

Travel Addicts has a discussion of Panch Pokhri vs. Lake Titicaca here:

The Mera Peak - Imja Tse 1998 Expedition has an interesting trip report at the link below. The picture of Panch Pokhri below is copyright 1998 by Eduard Holthof:

16. Cholamu Lake, 5,486 meters = 18,000 feet, Sikkim

Cholamu Lake (Chola Mu Lake) in Sikkim, India is the source of the river Teesta (Tista). Here is a web page at Sikkiminfo describing the notable high lakes of Sikkim, usually without elevations given (Copyright©1999-2001, Sikkim Computers & Systems(P.) Ltd.):

The picture in that link looks substantially different than the yak picture below. Is there something amiss?

This page says Cholamu Lake is at 18,000 feet. The article is from Down to Earth journal (Vol 7, No 3 June 30, 1998) Copyright © CSE Centre for Science and Environment.

The lake is near Donkiala Pass at 18,500 feet. So 18,000 feet for the lake itself sounds reasonable. (At Travel O Mart, Copyright ©2001 Sunrise Group Of Companies.)

17. Gurudongmar Lake, 5,243 meters = 17,200 feet, Sikkim

Niladri Mukherjee, originally from Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India (now located in New Jersey, USA) sent me this beautiful picture of Guru Dangmar Lake. He reports that the Government of Sikkim tourism information lists the lake at 17400 ft above sea level.

Copyright October 2005 by Niladri Mukherjee. You can see his other photos at:

I would like to get a GPS reading of the elevation of Gurudangmar Lake to resolve these discrepancies in elevation. Karamjeet Singh also has an excellent web page on the high Himalayan lakes. It lists Chandratal Lake at 15,500 feet.

Arun from Bangalore, India reports that there is a sign by Gurudongmar Lake listing the elevation at 17,100 feet. Gurudongmar and Cholamu Lake are in a sensitive border area of Sikkim. Access and photographs there are restricted by the Indian military.

Himalayan Travel Trade Journal reports "an altitude of 5,074 m above mean sea level":

18. Orba Co Lake, 5,209 meters = 17,090 feet, Tibet

Orba Co in Tibet is at 17,090 feet (5,209 meters). It's notable also for containing several islands. This web page "Island Superlatives" by Josh Calder asserts that they are the highest islands in the world:

The following web pages from X-SAR Mission X2 contain slides of remote sensing data near Xizang Zizhiqu in the Himalayas.
I think that's Orba Co Lake below in the upper right-hand corner. I count three islands. The image was taken on October 3, 1994.
The following image from April 11, 1994 shows Orba Co in the upper left-hand corner, with ice covering about 3/4 of the lake's surface.

In the August 28, 2000 issue of "Wit and Wisdom" they mention Lake Orba Co as containing the highest island in the world. There is also a paragraph about Tibet.

19. Laguna Glaciar, 5,038 meters = 16,529 feet, Bolivia

Laguna Glaciar lake is a glacial lake near Sorata in Bolivia at 5,038 meters above sea level. The lake has gotten much larger during the last 50 years due to the warming climate in that area. Special thanks to Bo Loevschall of Denmark for bringing this lake to my attention, and for supplying the picture below:

Here is a commercial site (containing mountain photos) by Eduardo Pretell. He's got a nice photo of Laguna Glacial available as a print.

20. "Imja Glacier Lake", 5,010 meters = 16,437 feet, Nepal

Imja Lake is forming by glacial melting and did not even exist in 1960. Feel free to skip it on that basis if you don't want to count this one as a lake.

The BBC carried a news story about the flood dangers of this lake, and mistakenly put the elevation at 6,000 meters.
The correct lake level is 5,010 meters (16,437 feet).

Some organizations are working to prevent an outburst flood on Imja Lake, in order to protect downstream populations.

21. Lake Ccascana, 4,920 meters = 16,142 feet, Peru

Lowell Scott writes: "I just stumbled across your website while looking for some information on lakes I saw last month on a trek through the Vilcanota range in Peru. Your site mentions Laguna Ccascana in a section about Laguna Sibinacocha, both of which I saw. I thought you might like to have a photo of Ccascana."

Scott estimated the elevation of Laguna Ccascana to be 4,920 meters from the topo map. Lake Ccascana is just to the northeast of Lake Sibinacocha, and much smaller. Both lakes are in the Ausangate trekking circuit east of Cuzco, Peru.

22. Lake Tilicho, 4,919 meters = 16,138 feet, Nepal

Is Lake Tilicho in Nepal at 5,200 meters (17,060 feet)?

More likely Lake Tilicho is at 4,919 meters (16,138 feet):

Here are some pictures of Lake Tilicho, © Photo by Santosh Pokhrel:

Andrei Andryushin, Denis Bakin, and Maxim Gresko went diving in Lake Tilicho in September 2000. The title of the article below is "No One Will Ever Dive Higher or Report on the Unknown Expedition".

23. Suraj Tal Lake, 4,883 meters = 16,020 feet, India

Anil Borkar of Bombay, India submitted the following description and picture of Lake Suraj Tal:

In the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, at the altitude of 4883 meters (16,020 feet) lies the lake Suraj Tal. This lake is just below the summit of famed Baralacha pass. The river Bhaga originates from this lake. One of the most adventurous roads in the world, Manali to Leh and Ladakh, passes along this lake.

Borkar determined the lake elevation from the Geological survey of India. Additional links:

24. Lake Sibinacocha, 4,835 meters = 15,863 feet, Peru

Qente Adventure Trips can get you to Sibinacocha Lake and Ausangate Mountain:

The lake is 15 km in length and 2 km wide. That's a good size. I wonder how deep it is?

Dr. Hillary Hamann at Colorado College does high-altitude research on the Sibinacocha watershed:
She puts the elevation of the watershed at approximately 4800 meters.

This page has a nice picture of the lake by Bernard Cathelain (in French):

This page at Aventours puts Laguna Sibinacocha at 4,800 meters also:

Inca Explorers puts the lake level at 4,835 meters up on the Cordillera Vilcanota, so I'll use that figure. That's 15,863 feet.
That trip description mentions another even higher lake: Laguna Ccascana (4,930m)!

Reader Georges Welterlin sent me the following link at TrekEarth. It shows a gallery of high Andean lakes above 12,500 feet:

25. Lake Manasarovar, 4,727 meters = 15,508 feet, Tibet

NASA declares: "At an altitude of 4,727 m (15,510 ft), Lake Manasarowar is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the world." I don't distinguish between freshwater and saltwater lakes. I wonder why they do? This report has some interesting satellite photographs of Manasarovar Lake:

Anil Borkar of Bombay, India sent me the following picture of Lake Mansarover, with Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the foreground:

26. Lake Namtso, 4,718 meters = 15,479 feet, Tibet

This page states that Lake Namtso in Tibet (China) is the highest lake in the world. The altitude of Lake Namtso is 4,700 meters (15,420 feet) and the surface area is 1,940 square kilometers. This lake does not have a size problem! In China they call it Namco Lake (or Namucuo), and list the height at 4,718 meters (15,479 feet).

Anil Borkar from Bombay, India sent me the following photo and links for Lake Namitso:

27. Rush Lake, 4,694 meters = 15,400 feet, Pakistan

Rush Lake (Rush Phari) appears to be the highest lake in Pakistan. I asked Nisar Malik (see Karambar Lake) about this one and he said he might try to bag it with his sailboard next season if the lake is big enough. EcoExpeditions in Stavanger, Norway arranges trekking adventures in Pakistan; they can get you to Rush Lake:

Deník India 00´ - 7 has a picture of Rush Phari (Rush Lake):
Search for "Rush Phari" and click on the "U jezera" link. That page is in Czech.

28. Laguna Lobato, 4,640 meters = 15,223 feet, Chile

Laguna Lobato is high on the Chilean Altiplano. Like Schwarzsee ob Sölden in Europe, Lake Lobato illustrates the scientific value of high lakes. Dr. Mark Abbott of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Alexander Wolfe of the University of Alberta extracted sediment cores from the bottom of Lobato Lake in 2003 and used their contents to date the activity of a nearby silver mine at Cerro Rico de Potosi. Unlike the surrounding mountain terrain, high lakes collect material instead of losing it to erosion. Consequently, their bottom sediments contain a valuable record of past history for those who can manage to extract and read it.

The following article is from the Pitt Chronicle - September 29, 2003:
Here is a similar article in Scientific American - September 26, 2003:
And on - September 28, 2003:

29. Tsho Rolpa Lake, 4,600 meters = 15,092 feet, Nepal

Here is some information from a Dutch initiative to prevent flooding disaster in Nepal (March 30, 1995). "At an elevation of 4600 meters, high above the villages in the Rolwaling Valley in Northeast Nepal, some 40 km from Mount Everest, lies Tsho Rolpa lake (2.6 km long, 0.5 km wide, 132 m deep): a giant liquid time bomb of 70 million m3 of water."

So Tsho Rolpa lake is at 15,092 feet. Here is a gorgeous picture of the lake by Seth Sicroff:

Tsho Rolpa Lake is formed by a glacial moraine that partially blocks the flow of meltwater from the glacier. Due to global warming, there is more meltwater these days than there used to be. Glacial moraines, "constructed" naturally from rubble and glacial till, don't make very strong dams. The danger is that the moraine dam will burst in a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) and inundate the villages downstream in the valley. Here are some good pictures of the hazard mitigation project:

I "discovered" this particular high lake just by reading a news story about its flood potential. It was not listed or claimed to be a very high lake at all. Probably there are other high lakes in Nepal worthy of mention in this list before Lake Titicaca, but I don't know what they are.

Here is a view from the Apollo spacecraft of Ngangla Ringco in Tibet, site of the world's highest large island, at 15,510 feet (sent to me by Josh Calder):
From that photo it should be obvious that there are many lakes in the Himalayas higher than 15,000 feet. So I'll cut off the Himalayan lakes here and list other notable high lakes in other parts of the world below.

30. Lewis Tarn, 4,587 meters = 15,049 feet, Kenya

The highest lake in Africa is one of the tarns (small glacial lakes) on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. According to Google Earth, the highest qualified lake is Lewis Tarn at 4587m.

There are actually three high tarns on Mt. Kenya:
Harris Tarn: (0.15144° South, 37.31941° East), 4763m, 65x45m
Simba Tarn: (0.14851° South, 37.32223° East), 4603m, 45x35m
Lewis Tarn: (0.16143° South, 37.31053° East), 4587m, 115x90m

Lewis Tarn is the only one that exceeds one hectare in surface area, therefore Lewis Tarn is the highest lake in Africa. Harris and Simba are "pools" by the terminology defined on the Highest Lake home page. Nonie Hodgson went swimming in Lewis Tarn on 15 June 2014 as part of her adventure to swim the highest lake on every continent.

Mawenzi Tarn on the slopes of Kilimanjaro is another high one. Mawenzi Tarn is at 4,330m, or 14,210 feet. And if none of those do it for you, there's always Lake Michaelson on Mt. Kenya at 4,000 meters!

31. Lake Chungara, 4,500 meters = 14,765 feet, Chile

Lago Chungará is in Lauca National Park near Arica, Chile. Arica has the lowest annual average rainfall in the world (0.03 inches), so we should be thankful that there's any water there at all, let alone this beautiful lake! Here are some web sites that mention Lake Chungará:

Go Chile has an on-line guide to Lauca National Park:

The following web site is by Pablo Sepúlveda, describing mountain bike tours in the park:

Here is geological information on the volcanic peaks nearby:

See also Discover Chile Tours:

Adventure Associates

32. Yamdrok Tso, 4,488 meters = 14,724 feet, Tibet

Anil Borkar of Bombay, India told me about this lake near Lhasa, and also sent the picture below. There appear to be roads near this lake, so you can probably drive to it.

Anil also contributed some links giving additional information:

33. Karambar Lake, 4,272 meters = 14,012 feet, Pakistan

I'll introduce this lake by reprinting a letter I received:


A month and a half ago I was desperate to find some info on the high lakes of Pakistan. I did not find anything anywhere but I did find your site and the definitions of a lake!!! I have just returned from my trip and have some info for you (would love to send photos but dont know if your hotmail account will take it!). My trip was to windsurf high lakes and I did just that, now only if Guinness will approve my record:).

1. Sheosar Lake (Blind Lake) 4142m (Approx Length 2.3km Width 1.8km and average depth 40m) Lat N 34deg 59' 30.35" Lon E 75deg 14' 43.42" 13:17:08Z on the 15th of July 2003

2. Karambar Lake (High Point Lake) 4272m (Approx Length 3.9km Width 2km and average depth 52m) Lat N 36deg 53' 03.26" Lon E 73deg 42' 44.03" 08:35:09Z on the 27th of July 2003

3. Sirkhan Jui (Red Lake) 3786m (Approx Length 2km Width 0.8km average depth 28m) Lat N 36deg 52' 59.19" Lon E 73deg 25' 49.68" 13:52:29Z on the 29th of July 2003

I suppose all these classify as lakes according to your parameters!?


Sheosar is in the Deosai Plains - nearest known major town SKARDU
Karambar is in the Ishkoman Valley - nearest known major town Gupis - GILGIT
Sirkhan Jui is at the top of the Ishkoman Valley on the border with Afghanistan at the Wakhan Corridor. (Overlooking the famous Oxus river).

I hope this adds to your data base of lakes and I would appreciate an email when (if) you update your page. If you would like photographs please let me know.

Best wishes,
Nisar Malik
Islamabad Pakistan

Nisar used a GPS to determine the altitude and location of the lakes; however, the lengths, widths and depths are approximate. He says they employed a very rudimentary kit and methods to work those measurements out. He sent a picture, too (Copyright 2003 by Nisar Malik below). Check out that gnarly glacier coming down the mountain behind him!

Nisar Malik has completed a documentary film of his high-altitude sailing adventures. This movie will be aired in Asia in November 2003, and in the USA by National Geographic in May 2004. See Malik's web site for further details:

34. Lake of the Moon, 4,215 meters = 13,829 feet, Mexico

Lake of the Moon is the highest lake in North America, beating out my Pacific Tarn by 125 meters, or 409 feet. (Drat!) Lake of the Sun (700 x 250 m) and the smaller Lake of the Moon (190 m diameter) are both in the crater of Mexico's Nevado de Toluca volcano. Laguna del Sol is the western lake. You can drive a car all the way to the lakes. Search the web for pictures and trip reports.

On 21 May 2013 Australian Nonie Hodgson continued her quest to swim in the highest lake on every continent ("The Seven Splashes"?) by taking a swim in the Lake of the Sun and the Lake of the Moon. Nonie reports:

I have just returned from going to Mexico to swim in the highest lake in North America. I went to Laguna del Sol and Laguna de La Luna. I swam in both as it turns out that Lake of the Moon is higher than Lake of the Sun.
I have checked on Google Earth which confirms this. Laguna de La Luna is 4217 m and Laguna El Sol is 4207 m. I walked into Laguna de La Luna until I could touch no more with my arm up stretched. So it is also definitely at least 2 m deep. And also qualifies by size being more than 100m across perpendicular widths.
The temperature of the lakes was 12.6 and 12.5 degrees [Celsius] where I measured and the pH 8.5 and 8.

35. "Emerald Lakes", 4,200 meters = 13,780 feet, Irian Jaya

"Emerald Lakes" are at the Base Camp for Puncak Jaya and Carstenz Pyramid, on the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea north of Australia. One of these is the highest lake in New Guinea, and the highest lake in Oceania. Climber Gavin Bate mentions them in one of his dispatches:

Base Camp for Carstensz Pyramid (4884m) and Puncak Jaya (4862) is at 4,200m:

Here might be a picture that shows a lake at Puncak Jaya Base Camp. Look on the right side of the Carstensz Pyramid album, photo 7:

In response to my request for confirmation, Gavin Bate wrote:

Hello Carl,

Thanks for your email. I was climbing Puncak Jaya as part of my Seven Summits Millennium Expedition and yes, the base camp we used was on the south side. It was quite difficult to get to. The lakes are at about 4200m and I have no idea how deep they are! In size no more than a quarter mile long by a few hundreds wide. And they are beautiful and emerald in colour. I think I have a slide or two of them taken from high up on the mountain looking down but they are not particularly good, we had quite poor visibility and there was a lot of low cloud and rain. Typical for that region.

All the best in your research,

Gavin Bate
I have taken Gavin's lead in unofficially naming the group "Emerald Lakes." I thought of "Puncak Lakes", "Carstensz Lakes", and "Jaya Lakes", but - those names just didn't do it for me.

Bjorn Grotting at sent me the following link to reports of scientific expeditions to the Puncak Jaya area in the early 1970s, including a section on the high lakes:
Clicking there leads to an on-line version of the following publication:
Hope, Geoff S, et al (Editors) 1976 The Equatorial Glaciers of New Guinea (Results of the 1971-1973 Australian Universities' Expeditions to Irian Jaya: survey, glaciology, meteorology, biology and palaeoenvironments), Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema.
Go to Section 7 "The Lakes", by James A. Peterson.

36. Sheosar Lake, 4,142 meters = 13,589 feet, Pakistan

Tahir Kayani alerted me to this high lake. It's one of Pakistan's collection of stunning Alpine lakes.

37. Lake Titicaca, 3,800 meters = 12,464 feet, Bolivia

Lake Titicaca in Bolivia is the highest navigable lake in the world (by big boats) at 12,464 feet. The obvious question is, "How big are those big boats?" The obvious answer is, "¡Más grandes que esas pocas balsas de goma que usted transporte de los weenies a la tapa de montañas en sus tentativas inútiles 'prueba' que su piddly poco charco es el lago más alto!" (Translation from Spanish to English: "Bigger than those little rubber rafts that you weenies haul to the top of mountains in your vain attempts to 'prove' that your piddly little puddle is the highest lake!")

Here is a nice informative web site about Lake Titicaca at Crystalinks, Copyright 1995-2002 by Ellie Crystal.

38. Lake of Lovers, 3,300 meters = 10,827 feet, Caucasus

Lake of Lovers is a high alpine lake on the southern slope of Mt. Elbrus, in the Caucasus mountains of southern Russia. Lake of Lovers is the highest lake in Europe, using the crest of the Caucasus mountains as the watershed divide between Eastern Europe on the north and Asia on the south. Nonie Hodgson of Australia discovered this lake and told me about it. Nonie supplied the elevation and the exact location (43.27932 degrees North, 42.442932 East). Marina, her travel guide from Pyatigorsk, told her the local name of the lake. Nonie plans to swim in the highest lake on every continent! We will follow her adventures with great interest.

(Right-click for higher resolution.)

On this map from, Lake of Lovers is northwest of Azau, in the left-center of the image.

39. Matscherjochsee, 3,185 meters = 10,450 feet, Austria

Matscherjochsee is a small lake on the mountain pass named Matscherjoch in the Austrian-Italian Alps. Special thanks to Professor Roland Psenner at the University of Innsbruck in Austria for telling me about this lake, and for supplying the map below. The location is 46°47' North and 10°40' East. The lake is about 0.8 hectares in area, which is smaller than my definition of a lake on the main page. However, Matscherjochsee is named on the map and historically significant, so I'm not going to disqualify it even if it isn't quite big enough! "Matscherjochsee" is pronounced just like it's spelled.

40. Schwarzsee ob Soelden, 2,800 meters = 9,183 feet, Austria|2|navi.asp?4|1

Analyses of six different organic pollutants highly resistant to breakdown, (known as POPs - Persistent Organic Pollutants), were undertaken for Greenpeace on fish out of lake Schwarzsee ob Soelden which is located 9183 feet [2800 meters] high up in the Oeztal Alps in Austria. This lake is the highest mountain lake in Europe in which fish are found. It is far away from local sources of pollutant and draws its water solely from the neighbouring mountain tops. The pollutants found in the water enter almost entirely from the atmosphere.
Um . . . what about lakes without fish?

The Greenpeace report has some beautiful photos of high lakes: (German language)

"Schwarzsee ob Soelden" means "Black Lake above Soelden", the main village in Oetztal. Roland Psenner told me that this lake is the classical "highest lake in Europe", and they've been studying it for 20 years. Schwarzsee ob Soelden and Matscherjochsee are close to the site where Oetzi, the 5300 year old ice man, was found in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991.

Claude Hansen at the University of Innsbruck in Austria sent me a picture of Lake Schwarzsee ob Sölden:

41. "Ruapehu Crater Lake", 2,505 meters = 8,220 feet, New Zealand

"Ruapehu Crater Lake" is the highest lake in New Zealand, unless there is something higher lurking in the Southern Alps. The lake is in the summit crater of Mt. Ruapehu volcano on the North Island. There are excellent pictures at Volcano World:

High Adventure Around the World, by Alan Ingram:

"Ruapehu Crater Lake" is about 400m wide and 600m deep. It changes all the time. The water temperature has been measured at 60 degrees Celsius! Mt. Ruapehu itself is 2,797m high, and has a ski resort on it.

The crater lake poses a threat to downstream populations:
The lake level is at 2,505 meters high as of April 2001. It's filling up again.

Special thanks to Dr. Andrew Sturman and Janet Bray of the Geography Department at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch for assisting me with this information.

42. Lake Cootapatamba, 2,050 meters = 6,726 feet, Australia

"Lake Cootapatamba, one of four glacial lakes in the Kosciuszko area, is the highest lake in Australia at 2050 m asl. It is relatively small and shallow, being 3.4 ha in area and 3.1m deep (Timms 1992). The fauna of the lake is of interest because of the presence of Kosciusko endemics and of other species restricted to the uplands of southeastern Australia;" ("Lake Cootapatamba", by Brian V Timms, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308; 2008). Thanks to Nonie Hodgson for bringing this lake to my attention.

The Wikipedia article has a nice picture of the lake:

43. Blue Lake, 1,900 meters = 6,234 feet, Australia

Blue Lake is in the same region as Lake Cootapatamba, near Mt. Kosciusko.

Tim Gorlay of the AUSA Club simply could not resist going windsurfing on Blue Lake:

Here is a technical report about the lake:

44. Lake Péwé, 550 meters = 1,804 feet, Antarctica

This is kind of a stretch, but here we go. The United States Board on Geographic Names has a database here: Search Antarctic Names.

The database lists 142 lakes in Antarctica. They are frozen most of the time, at least at the surface. Only five of those lakes have an elevation listed, and Lake Pewe is the winner at 550 meters above sea level. The closest contender is Lee Lake at 300 m. So Lake Pewe is officially the highest lake in Antarctica. Here is what the USGS says about Lake Pewe:

A small lake at 550 m elevation on the uppermost Koettlitz bench, 0.5 mi E of Blackwelder Glacier in Victoria Land. Named in recognition of the glacial geomorphological work done in the Koettlitz Glacier area by Troy L. Péwé (Péwé Peak, q.v.) of the University of Alaska. It was near this lake that members of the VUWAE, 1960-61, found a note left by Péwé, reporting observations on glacial erratics. Named by the VUWAE party.

Péwé passed away on October 21, 1999. He was a world expert on permafrost. Lake Pewe has the following lat-lon coordinates: -77.944464° South, 164.279475° East. The lake is blue in satellite photographs, not white, and this coloration confirms that it once was liquid water. Lake Pewe is 57 km from McMurdo Station and 6 km from the coast. The lake is 408 meters long and 320 meters wide. Google Earth agrees with the surface elevation of 550 meters. Here is a screen shot:

Lake Pewe
Imagery by Digital Globe and Google Earth. Click for larger image.

How ironic that the highest continent has the lowest highest lake!

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