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A lake is a a body of fresh or saltwater, normally found in a basin (a sunken area or one with lower elevation than the area surrounding it) surrounded by land.
Lakes can be formed naturally via several different Earth physical processes, or they can be artificially created by humans, such as in old mining craters or by damming a river.
Earth is home to hundreds of thousands of lakes that vary in size, type, and location. Some of these lakes are located in very low elevations, while others are high in mountain ranges.
This list featuring Earth's 10 highest lakes is arranged by their altitude. Some of the highest are only temporary lakes, as they exist in extreme locations in mountains, glaciers, and volcanoes and consequently freeze solid in the winter or drain in the fall.
Many have not been reached by western explorers and have been identified only by satellite photography. As a result, their existence may be in dispute, and a few appear to have gone extinct.
Ojos del Salado
Cesar Hugo Storero/Getty Images
Elevation: 20,965 feet (6,390 meters)
Location: Chile and Argentina
Ojos del Salado is the world's highest active volcano as well as the world's highest lake. The lake is on its eastern face. It's only 100 meters in diameter, so its small size leaves some visitors underwhelmed. Still, it is the highest pool of water on the planet.02of 10
Lhagba Pool (extinct)
Matteo Colombo/Getty Images
Elevation: 20,892 feet (6,368 meters)
The Llagba Pool, located a few miles north of Mount Everest, was once considered the second-highest lake. However, satellite images from 2014 showed that the lake has dried out. Llagba Pool is now considered extinct.
Punnawit Suwuttananun/Getty Images
Elevation: 20,394 feet (6,216 meters)
Changtse Pool is meltwater that has developed in the Changtse (Beifeng) Glacier, near Mount Everest. But after examination of Google Earth images, Changtse Pool, too, appears not to exist.04of 10
East Rongbuk Pool
Elevation: 20,013 feet (6,100 meters)
The East Rongbuk Pool is a temporary lake of meltwater high in the Himalayas. It forms when melting snow meets at the eastern tributary of the Rongbuk Glacier and the Changtse Glacier. The pool drains at the end of the season and becomes dry.
Valerio Pillar / CC BY-SA 20
Elevation: 19,520 feet (5,950 meters)
The stratovolcano containing the lake, also known as Cerro Pili, may be extinct. When it was known to exist, it was only 10 to 15 meters in diameter.06of 10
Cerro Walter Penck/Cerro Cazadero/Cerro Tipas
Peter Giovannini/Getty Images
Elevation: 19,357 feet estimated (5,900 meters)
Cerro Walter Penck (aka Cerro Cazadero or Cerro Tipas) is just southwest of Ojos del Salado.07of 10
Tres Cruces Norte
Peter Giovannini/Getty Images
Elevation: 20,361 feet (6,206 meters)
Nevado de Tres Cruces volcano last erupted 28,000 years ago. The north face is where the lagoon sits, part of the larger national park.08of 10
Albert Backer/Wikimedia Commons
Elevation: 19,410 feet (5,916 meters)
Location: Bolivia and Chile
High Andean lakes such as Lake Licancbur are analogous to former Martian lakes as the surface of the Red Planet dried up, and are being studied to learn about what they may have been like. Lake Licancbur is slightly saline and may be heated geothermally. It is near the Atacama Desert.09of 10
Stanley Chen Xi, landscape and architecture photographer/Getty Images
Elevation: 19,130 feet (5,831 meters)
The name, which is also the name of the volcano where it is located, likely comes from the volcano-warmed waters; the lake is a crater lake at the volcano's summit.10of 10
Sean Caffrey/Getty Images
Elevation: 19,032 feet (5,801 meters)
Ridonglabo Lake is also in Mount Everest's neighborhood, at 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) northeast of the peak.