Lake Baikal, Russia
Coordinates: 53 0 N 108 0 E
Total area: 12,160 square miles (31,494 sq km)
Overshadowed by its more immodestly-named North American cousins the Great Lakes, Russia’s Ozero Baykal, or Lake Baikal, is no less a remarkable expanse of water itself. At 5,714 feet (1,743 m), the deepest lake also happens to be the oldest freshwater body on the planet. Formed roughly 25 million years ago, this narrow blue crescent in southern Siberia occupies a rift in the Earth’s crust that has filled with miles of accumulated sediment from the numerous rivers that feed into its icy depths. Fringed by mountains and the steppes of Mongolia, the crystal clear waters of Baikal support a wide variety of fish as well as the only species of freshwater seal, plus they represent almost one-fifth of the unfrozen fresh water on Earth, more than the total volume of all five Great Lakes.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.