Outstanding and unique lakes, bays and streams around the world

Below are listed selected unique lakes, sea bays and rivers of the world. These natural landmarks are arranged by the part of the world and in an alphabetic order:


Erta Ale lava lake, Ethiopia
Erta Ale lava lake / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Chinhoyi Caves – Zimbabwe, Mashonaland West. Group of legendary, impressive caves with up to 110 meters deep lakes. Extremely high transparency of water where clouds and birds flying over can be seen from 30-metre depth inside the cave lake.
  • Erta Ale – Ethiopia, Afar. One of the most active volcanos in the world, with constant lava lake (sometimes two lakes) in the crater, known since 1906. None of the other known lava lakes in the world have such a long lifetime.
  • Lake Afrera – Ethiopia, Afar. Unusual, slightly acidic, hypersaline lake 102 m below the sea level. Two endemic species of fish live in the lake. Parts of lake are covered with salt layer, there are observed "attacks" of the lake, when the salt layer is suddenly raised like a big wave.
  • Lake Assal – Djibouti, Tadjourah, Dikhil. One of most saline lakes in the world, its surface is 155 m below sea level. World’s largest salt reserve, with estimated 300 million tonnes of salt. The saline brine of the lake at certain lighting has unusual, bright color. Lake is fed by subsurface geothermal springs.
  • Lake Natron flamingo colony – Tanzania, Arusha. Largest colony of lesser flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) in the world, major part of c. 2,5 million birds stay in this lake.
  • Lake Nyos – Cameroon, Northwest. Crater lake with a pocket of magma, which leaks carbon dioxide in the lake water from below. As a result lake sediments become oversaturated with carbon dioxide. From time to time lake explodes, emitting huge amount of carbon dioxide. Last eruption in 1986 killed 1,700 people.
  • Lake Tele – Republic of the Congo, Likuala. Round freshwater lake deep in swampland and rainforest, possible impact crater. According to local stories in this lake and surrounding area lives mokèlé-mbèmbé – purported giant reptile. This remote area is very rich with rare species of plants and animals including a population of more than 120 thousand gorillas. Many other cryptids reported, such as mahamba – giant crocodile.
  • Mount Nyiragongo – Congo DR, Nord-Kivu. One of the few volcanoes in the world with a nearly permanent lava lake in it, often the largest lava lake in the world. The height of the mountain – 3,470 m. The depth of lava lake has reached up to 600 m. The volcano is very active, with frequent eruptions. Eruptions produce very fluid lava of rare type. The speed of lava flows here can reach 60 km/h and the volcano is very steep. When the walls of the volcano are fractured, lava flows can become very dangerous, as happened in January 1977 and January 2002.
  • Ounianga Lakes – Chad, Ennedi. Group of freshwater lakes in the middle of desert – a unique phenomenon. Relict flora and fauna have been preserved in lakes and around them.
  • Retba Lake – Senegal, Dakar. Lake where the water often is colored in pink. Color is created by algae Dunaliella salina. Lake water has very high salt content.


  • Lake Untersee – East Antarctica. A permanently frozen freshwater lake with extremely high pH – between 9.8 – 12.1. Lake is supersaturated with oxygen (150%), sediments of this lake may produce more methane than any other natural water body on Earth. Contains unique microorganisms.
  • Lake Vanda – Victoria Land. Lake with extremely clear water (and when it freezes – extremely lucid ice) because it is located in enclosed valley sealed off from the winds and thus does not get any dust. One of the saltiest natural waters in the world, containing mostly calcium chloride. The bottom layer is an enclosed hydrological system with specific chemical processes.
  • Lake Vida – Victoria Land. Lake is covered with at least 19 m thick layer of ice – the thickest layer of non-glacial ice on Earth. Below the ice is a hypersaline lake with unique microorganisms.
  • Lake Vostok – central part of the continent. The largest subglacial lake in Antarctica, similar in size to Lake Ontario, up to 1 kilometer deep, with area 15,000 km². Lake water is oversaturated with oxygen, exceeding the level of oxygen in ordinary freshwater lakes 50 times. Lake has been frozen for half a million years at least and here most likely has been developed unique habitat of microorganisms. This habitat has not been reached and investigated yet.
  • Mount Erebus lava lake – Antarctica, Ross Island. One of the few constant glowing lava lakes in the world, located in the crater of the southernmost active volcano.


Jellyfish in Kakaban Lake, East Kalimantan
Jellyfish in Kakaban Lake, East Kalimantan / Riza Nugraha, / CC BY 2.0
  • Ebeko – Russia, Sakhalin Oblast, Kuril islands. 1,156 m tall volcano which contains green lake of acid.
  • Hexagon Pool – Israel, North. Beautiful lake surrounded by hexagonal basalt pillars. A waterfall falls in the pool.
  • Hinatuan Enchanted River – Philippines, Surigao del Sur. Unique monument of nature – deep trench coming from the sea and entering the jungle. It is filled with seawater and reportedly with large sea fish seen in it. The water in this lagoon is deep blue and lucid. Locals consider this place to be enchanted and guarded by superhuman beings.
  • Hot spring of Cayangan Lake (Kayangan Lake) – Philippines, Palawan, Coron Island. In the centre of the lucid Cayangan lake there is powerful hot spring which can be well felt while diving – when one approaches the spring, water temperature rises up to 38°C. Lake has underground connection to the sea – it is layered with hot salty water below and colder fresh water above.
  • Maly Semiachik – Russia, Kamchatka Krai. 1,560 m tall volcano with 500 metre wide, light green, acid lake.
  • Kakaban Jellyfish Lake – Indonesia, East Kalimantan, Kakaban Island. Large, brackish lake, which was divided from the sea in recent times. Contains four species of non-stinging jellyfish, who are abundant here, as well as numerous other marine animals.
  • Kawah Ijen – Indonesia, East Java. Turquoise colored, extremely acid lake with a diameter of 1 km. Acidity – 0.5 pH. Nearly pure deposits of sulfur are located in caldera. The burning sulfuric gas creates very impressive blue flame in the night.
  • Kelimutu crater lakes (Keli Mutu) – Indonesia, East Nusa Tenggara, Flores. System of three closely located crater lakes. Each of the lakes has different, changing color – from bright red to green and blue.
  • Kok-Kol Lake and Aidahar – Kazakhstan, Jambyl. Unusual montane lake which, reportedly, emits sounds – long whistles or sighs. This could be explained with emissions of gas from the bottom of lake. According to stories of many locals sometimes here is seen a monster – Aidakhar – which comes out from the lake and hunts sheep. This monster was been observed also by some scientists but there is no evidence whether it exists in reality.
  • Korpedje Fire Lake – Turkmenistan, Balkan. Stormy lake with a fire fountain in the middle. This is abandoned oil well, which, most likely started to burn in 2002.
  • Lake Yamur – Indonesia, Papua and West Papua. Lake with isolated population of bull shark (Carcharinus leucas).
  • Nakadake Crater Lake (Yudamari) – Japan, Kyūshū. Crater lake with lake, which contains very acidic (from less than 0.5 to 1.7 pH), 50 – 70 °C hot water. Lake water changes color over the time from almost white and azure to emerald green. Lake is sacred, it is located in Aso caldera – one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world, 25 by 18 km large.
  • Satonda Crater Lake – Indonesia, East Nusa Tenggara. This crater lake is connected to the sea and has interesting characteristics which allow to compare this lake to Precambrian marine environments. Here grow stromatolites, lake water has increased alkalinity and red algae biotopes.
  • Zabuye Lake – Tibet, Shigatse. Hypersaline soda lake with sediments of a mineral zabuyelite which is named after this lake. Zabuyelite – lithium carbonate – is used for mining of lithium. Zabuye Lake is one of most important sources of lithium in the world.

Australia and Oceania

Champagne Pool, New Zealand
Champagne Pool / Photo by Mehlführer C, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-2.5
  • Benbow Crater, Mbwelesu Crater and Ambrym volcano acid rain – Vanuatu, Malampa, Ambrym island. In these closely located craters very often are observed nearly permanent, violently boiling lava lakes. Benbow crater is a spectacular, very deep hole with vertical walls. Acid rain formed by the gases from craters has burned approximately 100 km² large plain in the jungle of Vanuatu. Here live specially adapted organisms – insects, orchids.
  • Champagne Pool – New Zealand, Waikato, Waiotapu geothermal field. One of the most impressive and unusual hot springs in the world, 65 meters in diameter, up to 62 meters deep. Spring is filled with 73 °C hot water oversaturated with metalloids and gases, sedimenting bright orange sediments.
  • Daikoku Sulfur Cauldron – Northern Mariana Islands. Submarine volcano north from Farallon de Pajaros. A unique pool of liquid sulfur, one of the few in the world.
  • Green Lake – Kermadec Islands, Raoul Island. Green colored lake in volcanic crater, with acidic water, formed in 1872. Sudden eruption in 17 March 2006 took a life of worker measuring the temperature of water in the lake. Fumarolic activity around it, lake water often changes color.
  • Field of Pink Lakes in Beaumont – Australia, Western Australia. Large group (hundreds) of small lakes with water in diverse colors. Each lake is in a different shade, often – pink.
  • Frying Pan Lake – New Zealand, Bay of Plenty region. This is the largest hot spring in world with a surface area of 3.8 ha.
  • Jellyfish Lake (Ongeim’l Tketau) – Palau, Eil Malk in Rock Islands. Unique marine lake with an area of 5.0 ha, has underground connection to the sea. Stratified in two layers which do not mix. Isolated from the sea 12,000 years and contains a distinct population of two species of jellyfish – endemic Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni and most likely endemic Aurelia sp. Millions of these jellyfishes make strict daily migration around the lake. Four more marine lakes with jellyfish in the nearby islands but Jellyfish Lake is the only one open to tourists. Number of jellyfish has reached up to 31 millions (January 2005), currently some 5 millions.
  • Halemaumau Crater with lava lake, Kilauea – United States, Hawai’i. One of the most active volcanoes of the world, until 2018 contained one of the few lava lakes in the world.
  • Lake Hillier – Australia, Western Australia. Highly unusual lake in flamboyant rose color. Cause of color is not entirely clear, could be explained by the presence of microorganisms.
  • Lake Letas – Vanuatu, Torba, Gaua island. The largest lake of the smaller Pacific Islands. 19.7 km² large crater lake, up to 360 m deep. Near Mount Garet cone the water is warm, stained with sulphur. Lake contains many taboo sites for local people and has high cultural importance. 19 endemic species of plants, several endemic animals, unusual biotopes. Temperature of lake water is 32°C and few aquatic animals (eels and shrimps) can live in this heat.
  • Lake Vui (Lake Voui) – Vanuatu, Penama, Ambae (Aoba) island. Unusual lake in volcanic crater. Water is blue green, with a bitter taste, volcanic crater rises from it. Locals believe that spirits of dead live here. Lake formed some 360 years ago.
  • Milky Way – Palau, Rock Islands, Koror. Cove with bright turquoise colored water. Bottom consists of bright white limestone mud believed to have curative powers although this has not been proven.
  • Rotomairewhenua (Blue Lake) – New Zealand, Tasman. This lake has the clearest water in the world – visibility reaches 80 m. Lake is fed by springs and is located at the height of 1200 m.

North America

Boiling Lake, Dominica
Boiling Lake / Jean & Nathallie, / CC BY 2.0
  • Black Hole of Andros – Bahamas, South Andros. Flooded sinkhole with a layer of violet jelly layer of bacteria at 18 meters depth. Microorganisms have heated the water up to 40 degrees C°.
  • Blue Lagoon (Blue Hole) – Jamaica, Portland. Natural lagoon – sea bay, fed by powerful springs. This 55 m deep lagoon has unusual, deep blue color, which changes as the sunlight changes throughout the day.
  • Boiling Lake – Dominica, Saint Patrick. Flooded fumarole, filled with bubbling greyish-blue water and enveloped in a steam. Diameter of this lake is some 63 m. Temperature of water is 82 – 100 C°. At the late 19th century in the center of lake formed a geyser which was up to 18 m high. Second largest boiling lake in the world.
  • El Zacatón sinkhole – Tamaulipas, Mexico. World’s deepest water-filled sinkhole, 339 metres deep sinkhole with 319 meters deep lake. Floating islands in the lake.
  • Grand Prismatic Spring – United States, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park. This is the third largest hot spring in world, being 91 metres in diameter and 49 metres in depth, with unusually vivid colors.
  • Lago de Oviedo – Dominican Republic, Pedernales. Hypersaline lake with unusual green-yellow water, the color is caused by limestone particles. Saltwater enters from the ocean through caves. Numerous rare animals and plants.
  • Laguna Lachuá – Guatemala, Alta Verapaz. Unusual, rounded lake, possible karst sinkhole. Depth of this lake is 222 m, width – up to 2.6 km. Lake water contains much dissolved calcium carbonate and has light sulphurous smell.
  • Lake Alchichica – Mexico, Puebla. Unique maar lake with high level of endemism, especially noted due to rare stromatolites met only in few locations around the world. Endemic salamander and fish. Renowned location of unusual experiences such as UFO sightings, lights in the lake.
  • Lake Mashū – Japan, Hokkaidō. One of the clearest lakes in the world, located in the caldera of volcano and surrounded by up to 200 m tall cliffs. Now the Secchi disk can be seen in the depth of 20 – 30 m, although in 1931 it was seen in the depth of 41,6 m.
  • Mount Douglas crater lake – United States, Alaska, Kenai. Approximately 160 m wide, highly acidic crater lake with pH of its water reaching 1.1.
  • Pingualuit crater (Chubb Crater) – Canada, Quebec. Well pronounced and well preserved impact crater, 3.44 km in diameter. Formed some 1.4 million years ago, in Pleistocene. Rims of the crater rise 160 m above the tundra. Depth of crater is 400 m, it is partly filled with 267 m deep Pingaluit lake. Lake water is one of the purest in the world.
  • Poás volcano – Costa Rica, Alajuela. 2,708 m high, very active and unusual volcano. Contains Laguna Caliente – lake of extreme acidity reaching up to 0.0 of pH, filled with acid-sulphate-chloride brine of light green color. Lake is up to 50 m deep, 300 m wide, temperature: 22 – 94 °C. Frequent phreatic eruptions may eject this acid up to 1 kilometer high. Sometimes this effect is considered to be a kind of geyser activity but the mechanism behind this phenomenon is different than in true geysers. Another unique phenomenon linked to this monument is acid clouds of Poás Volcano. Around the Laguna Caliente and for several kilometers down from it all the vegetation is stunted brown and black by the extremely acid clouds coming from this lake. As a result here exists one of the most weird "elfin forests" of the world, often adorned with beautiful flowers.
  • Poza Seca – Mexico, Tamaulipas. Unique travertine capped sinkhole: formerly open sinkhole has sealed itself with a limestone lid. Most likely it hides unknown life forms, not investigated.
  • Spotted Lake (Kliluk, Khiluk Lake) – Canada, British Columbia. Weird saline lake which contains various minerals. In the summer much of it evaporates, leacing multiple smaller basins – each in its own color.
  • X’kekén Cenote (Dzitnup Cenote) – Mexico, Yucatán. One of the most photographed cenotes, with beautiful deep blue lake and sun beam lighting it through the ceiling, numerous stalactites. At least 35 m across, distance between the ceiling and water is some 20 m.

South America

Laguna Colorada, Potosí in Bolivia
Laguna Colorada, Potosí/ Valdiney Pimenta, / CC BY 2.0
  • Guanoco Lake – Venezuela, Sucre. The largest natural asphalt lake in world – its surface area is 4 km2. It contains more than 4 million cubic metres of asphalt.
  • La Brea pitch lake – Trinidad and Tobago, Siparia. Natural asphalt lake, the largest in the world. In some areas one can sink in the asphalt if he stands in one place long enough. Water on the surface of asphalt may become sulphurous. Contains unique ecosystem of microorganisms.
  • Lagoa Salgada – Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. Hypersaline lagoon with unique columnar carbonate stromatolites – natural formations by 19 species of cyanobacteria.
  • Laguna Colorada – Bolivia, Potosí. Shallow salt lake with interesting geology. The water of the lake is colored by algae in red and orange colors. In the lake have formed borax islands in white color. Here live the rare James’s flamingos (Phoenicoparrus jamesi) – this is the highest habitat of flamingos.
  • Laguna Roja – Chile, Arica and Parinacota. Bright red lake fed by hot springs, 40 – 50 °C warm, with travertine formations around the lake. Nearby also yellow and green lakes. Lakes are located at 3,700 m above the sea level.
  • Laguna Verde – Bolivia, Potosí. Shallow lagoon 4,300 m above the sea level. The water of this salt lake is rich with magnesium and, reportedly, with copper, giving a bluish green hue to the water.
  • Lake with The Eye – Argentina, Buenos Aires. Very unusual lake with a large island. Lake has circular form and island also is round. This floating island is moving around the lake.

Described unique lakes, bays and streams

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Articles and lists about the lakes:

Lava lakes of the world
Lava lakes of the world in 2019
Lava lakes of the world in 2019 / Wondermondo / public domain
In October 2019 we have seven existing lava lakes on Earth. Three more existed for a longer time in the recent past. Besides this, since the year 2000 short-lived lava lakes and lava ponds existed in 11 more places. Wondermondo has listed them all in this article.

General description

This category includes unusual lakes, sea bays and streams of the world. One though should remember the principle of Wondermondo: here the landmarks in general are smaller than 500 km³, thus here are not included large lakes or long rivers.

There are many factors which can make lakes, sea bays or rivers unusual. Below are listed some kinds of these factors.

Crater lakes

The lake of acid in Ijen Crater, Indonesia
The lake of acid in Ijen Crater / © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, Wikimedia Commons

Summits of volcanoes often have craters which have been shaped by eruptions. In these craters often are forming lakes and often the unusual chemistry and geothermal energy of volcanoes turn them into unique lakes.

Some lakes in volcanic craters consist of acid. It means – there is no acidic water but just – acid. Acidity of some crater lakes is almost 0 pH – thus in the central part of Kawah Ijen (Indonesia) the acidity is 0,13 pH but Laguna Caliente in Poás volcano (Costa Rica) sometimes is close to the nearly impossible 0 pH.

The unusual chemistry causes weird color of many crater lakes. These lakes often are light blue, green, white. Especially interesting are Kelimutu crater lakes (Indonesia) – three closely located lakes, each in its own color.

Under the sea there are even more unusual lakes (!) – such as Daikoku Sulfur Cauldron (Northern Mariana islands) which is a pool of liquid sulphur.

Lava lakes

Lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo
Lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo / Cai Tjeenk Willink, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Some 7 – 12 volcanoes in the world contain lava lakes – basically lakes of molten stone. The largest and most impressive among them are lava lakes of Mount Nyiragongo (Congo DR) and Erta Ale“>Erta Ale (Ethiopia) as well as Halemaumau Crater in Kīlauea (Hawaiian Islands, United States).

Lakes in geothermal areas

There are numerous unusual lakes in the world’s geothermal areas. Similar to crater lakes these lakes have unusual chemistry and temperature but can be even more colorful – such as the gaudy lake of the Grand Prismatic Spring (United States) or Champagne Pool (New Zealand). These lakes can have high water temperature or could be even constantly boiling as Boiling Lake (Dominica).

Lakes in sinkholes

Cross section of South Andros Black Hole in south - north direction, compared with Boeing 747-400
Cross section of South Andros Black Hole in south – north direction, compared with Boeing 747-400 / Gatis Pāvils, basing on S.Schwabe, R.A.Herbert, 2005, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Sinkholes themselves are unusual and impressive landmarks but many sinkholes have lakes in them and these lakes almost always are unusual. Such unusual lakes are El Zacatón (Mexico) with floating limestone islands or Poza Seca (Mexico) which has covered itself with a limestone lid. Very weird are black holes in Bahamas, such as Black Hole of Andros which contains heated, acidic layer of bacteria.

Many lakes in sinkholes are just gorgeous – water here often is lucid and occasional rays of Sun light the lakes in blue color. Such beautiful lakes are some cenotes in Mexico, such as X’kekén Cenote.

Lakes with unusual ecosystems

Jellyfish Lake from air with swarms of jellyfish visible, Palau
Jellyfish Lake from air with swarms of jellyfish visible / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Almost every unusual lake has unusual ecosystem as well. But some are truly weird, such as Jellyfish Lake (Palau) – small, unique lake with millions of jellyfish in it or Satonda Crater Lake (Indonesia) which in some aspects resembles Precambrian environments.

Arid lakes

In the arid areas of the world lakes also have unusual chemistry and ecology thanks to the high rate of evaporation and lack of rain. Some such lakes have unusual color such as the green Laguna Verde (Bolivia) or Lake Natron (Tanzania) which in some areas is bright red.

Sometimes such lakes are covered with a crust of salt, such as Lake Afrera (Ethiopia).

Lakes in Antarctica

Some very weird lakes are located in Antarctica. The extreme weather and often – long isolation under the sheet of ice – have created unique lakes, such as Lake Untersee which is supersaturated with oxygen or Lake Bonney which is saturated with nitrous oxide – "laughing gas".

Legendary lakes

Mysterious Lake Tele, Republic of Congo
Mysterious Lake Tele / Photo courtesy of Tom Klaytor, CC BY 2.0

Nearly all lakes have legends about them but some are just very unusual. Thus, there are many lakes with purported monsters living in them such as the famous Loch Ness (United Kingdom) or Lake Tele (Republic of the Congo).

Unusual streams

Onyx River - the largest in Antarctica
Onyx River – the largest in Antarctica / P.Wright, US Geological Survey, public domain

Some rivers are very special. Thus, in Antarctica there is only one proper river – Onyx River which flows over extremely dry, lifeless plains.

Indecision Creek (United States, Alaska) is a very acidic stream with pH of 1.2 and smell of sulphur. There are some more hot rivers around the world in geothermal areas, some with acidic water.

Some rivers have unusual ecosystems such as the beautiful Caño Cristales (Colombia) which at certain times of the year are colored in bright red and yellow colors by specific water plants.

Unusual bays

Milky Way cove in Rock Islands, Palau
Milky Way cove in Rock Islands / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Some sea bays also are very unusual. There are sea bays with surreal, turquoise color caused by limestone dust – such as Milky Way (Palau) or Chalk Sound (Turks and Caicos).

There are some bays where the bioluminescence is observed more frequently – such as Rockbay in Jamaica or Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico.

Recommended books

Polar Lakes and Rivers

This is the first book to describe the ecology of high latitude lakes, rivers and glacial environments in both the North and South polar regions. From the lake-rich floodplains of the Arctic to the deep, enigmatic waters of Lake Vostok, Antarctica, these regions contain some of the most extraordinary aquatic ecosystems on Earth.

Limnology, Third Edition: Lake and River Ecosystems

Limnology is the study of the structural and functional interrelationships of organisms of inland waters as they are affected by their dynamic physical, chemical, and biotic environments. Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems, Third Edition, is a new edition of this established classic text. The coverage remains rigorous and uncompromising and has been thoroughly reviewed and updated with evolving recent research results and theoretical understanding.

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