Lakes in India, are widely recognized for their diverse attributes. They are natural and man-made. Natural lakes are of various types based on salt content in it, namely freshwater, brackish water and saltwater. Brackish water is somewhere in between where freshwater and saltwater are mixed.
Whether you visit a city or a town or the countryside of India, these gorgeous water bodies are bound to grab your attention.
Their spectacular beauty is a treat for the eyes. Many of these lakes and their catchment areas serve as a natural home to wildlife. They provide a source of livelihood to the local communities living on the shore areas.
From a large assortment of magnificent lakes in India, here is our pick of 20 stunning and major lakes.
A Quick Glance Through
|S.No.||Lake||State/UT||Type||Area (Sq km)|
|1||Vembanad||Kerala||Natural – Half Brackish, Half Freshwater||2,033|
|5||Sardar Sarovar||Gujarat||Artificial Freshwater||375|
|6||Pulicat||Andhra Pradesh||Natural Brackish||450|
|7||Indira Sagar||Madhya Pradesh||Artificial Freshwater||627|
|8||Pangong Tso||Ladakh||Natural Saline||700|
|9||Nagarjuna Sagar||AP, Telangana||Artificial Freshwater||285|
|10||Kolleru||Andhra Pradesh||Natural Freshwater||245|
|11||Wular||Jammu & Kashmir||Natural Freshwater||259|
|12||Sambhar Salt||Rajasthan||Natural Saline||230|
|13||Gobind Sagar||Himachal Pradesh||Artificial Freshwater||168|
|14||Dal||Jammu & Kashmir||Natural Freshwater||22|
|18||Deepor Beel||Assam||Natural Freshwater||40.1|
|19||Bhojtal||Madhya Pradesh||Artificial Freshwater||31|
|20||Veeranam||Tamil Nadu||Artificial Freshwater||25|
1. Vembanad Lake
Famed as a prominent backwaters destination in Kerala, Vembanad Lake is the longest lake in India with a maximum length of 96.5 km.
This lake is called by different names as it flows through several parts of Kerala. It is known as Punnamada Lake or Punnamada Kayal in Kuttanad, Vembanadu Lake in Alappuzha and Kochi Lake when it passes through Kochi.
The lake is a major source of freshwater for Kerala and also fulfills the irrigation needs of farming communities living on the shores. It is bordered by three major districts of Kerala – Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Ernakulam.
The most striking feature of the lake is its diversified landscape comprising coastal backwaters, lagoons, mangroves and marshes. Spread over 2,033 sq km, Vembanad lake is amongst the largest lakes in India.
The lake has a unique ecosystem with one half as brackish water and the other half as freshwater, fed by rivers. A barrage built near Thaneermukhom divides the lake into two parts and prevents salt water from entering the freshwater portion of the lake.
Vembanad lake also boasts of being the largest wetland ecosystem in India. The wetland is home to many native bird species and also hosts migratory birds in the season.
A popular bird-watching spot, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is situated on the banks of Vembanad lake. Sprawling 14 hectares, the sanctuary attracts a lot of birding enthusiasts.
Some of the commonly seen birds in the sanctuary are cormorant, egret, heron, Indian darter and white ibis.
The much-celebrated Nehru Trophy boat race (snake boat race) is also held on this lake during the festive season of Onam.
Alappuzha (Allepy) backwaters is one of the most popular holiday spots in Kerala. Boating trips on the lake are quite refreshing. You can book a houseboat for an overnight stay.
The lake is almost 3o minutes drive from Kottayam (13 km), where the nearest railway station is located. From Kochi (57 km), it takes close to 2 hours to reach here.
2. Chilika Lake
Known as an important wintering ground for migratory birds, Chilika lake features at the top in the list of largest brackish water lakes in India. It is spread over 1,165 sq km across Puri, Ganjam and Khurda districts of Odisha.
The lake has also the pride to be known as the second-largest brackish water lagoon in the world after the New Caledonian barrier reef.
Chilika is one of the popular eco-tourism destinations in Odisha. A lot of tourists visit this place during winters, which is the season for the arrival of migratory birds.
The lake is dotted with several small islands including the famous Nalabana island and pear-shaped Breakfast island.
Nalabana Island stretched across 15 sq km is one of the prime areas of the lake where birds flock for nesting and breeding. The island gets submerged during monsoon.
Winter is the best season to visit Chilika lake when you can see thousands of migratory birds. They visit the lake from places as far as Siberia, Mongolia, Iran and Afghanistan.
Recognizing the rich biodiversity in this area, it was established as Nalabana Bird Sanctuary in 1973.
The vast lake is home to some of the highly endangered species. Chilika is the only known habitat of extremely rare Irrawaddy dolphins in India.
The lake is roughly 120 km away from Bhubaneshwar, the capital city of Odisha. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to reach Chilika from Bhubaneshwar.
3. Loktak Lake
About 52 km from Imphal, the state capital of Manipur lies the gorgeous Loktak lake. The word ‘Loktak’ is derived from Lok (meaning ‘stream’) and Tak (meaning ‘the end’). Spanning an area of 287 sq km, Loktak lake is the largest freshwater lake in India.
The lake is fed by the Manipur river and its tributaries which traverse Myanmar and India. Check this post if you are interested to know which are the major rivers in India.
This lake is most famous for its floating swamps, known as phumdis in the local language. Phumdis look like small islands that are formed as a collection of vegetation, soil and organic matter at various stages of decomposition.
The lake’s one more claim to fame is Keibul Lamjao National, which is the only floating national park in the world.
More than 400 animal species are found in this national park. It is the natural home to one of the endangered and deer species, known as Sangai deer. Numerous wetland birds can be seen nesting in the park including migratory waterfowls.
The lake meets the drinking water, irrigation and hydropower generation requirements of the state. As a tourist destination, Loktak lake is one of the most popular lakes in India.
Its unspoiled natural beauty and unique landscapes attract plenty of nature-loving tourists and photographers.
From Imphal, the lake is almost 45 minutes drive. Buses also ply from Imphal to Loktak lake.
4. Shivsagar Lake
An artificial backwater created after the construction of the Koyna dam on the river Koyna is referred to as Shivsagar lake (reservoir). It is located in Satara district of Maharashtra.
Spread over 891.7 sq km, Shivsagar lake is one of the major artificial lakes in India. The lake measures 80 m deep and extends a maximum length of 50 km.
The lake is a catchment area of Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary supports many forms of wildlife including, Bengal tiger, leopard, sloth bear and Indian gaur.
With the backdrop of marvellous Koyna dam, the lake is a prime tourist attraction in Satara. It is popular amongst tourists for speed boating. The lake is almost 200 km from Pune.
5. Sardar Sarovar Lake
The construction of Sardar Sarovar dam on the river Narmada near Navagam in Gujarat created the Sardar Sarovar lake (reservoir). It is one of the most beautiful man-made lakes in India.
At a height of 163 m, Sardar Sarovar Dam is the third highest concrete dam in India after Bhakra (226 m) in Himachal Pradesh and Lakhwar (192 m) in Uttar Pradesh.
Four states of India namely Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat receive water and electricity supplied from this dam.
Stretched across an area of 375 sq km, Sardar Sarovar reservoir (lake) is considered one of the important artificial lakes in India.
The splendid natural beauty of the dam and lake region attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is easily accessible by road through major cities of Gujarat like Ahmedabad and Bharuch.
6. Pulicat Lake
At the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu lies the picturesque Pulicat lake. It is located roughly 60 km away from Chennai city and 14 km away from Sullurpeta, the nearest town to the lake.
Pulikat lake is one of the largest brackish water lakes in India. Area of the lake varies with the tide, from 450 sq km in high tide to 250 sq km in low tide.
Pulicat lagoon is India’s second-largest brackish water lagoon after Chilika lake in Odisha. It is fed by the rivers Arani, Kalangi and Swarnamukhi. The lake is separated from the Bay of Bengal by the barrier island of Sriharikota.
More than 90% area of the lake comes under Andhra Pradesh while a small portion of the lake is in Tamil Nadu.
Andhra Pradesh side of the lake houses a significant portion of the Pulicat lake bird sanctuary. The sanctuary boasts a rich diversity of waterbirds.
Pulicat lake is widely known for hosting migratory birds from far-off places like Siberia and Mongolia. Greater flamingos, painted storks and pelicans are some of the commonly seen migratory birds here.
A 3-day Flamingo Festival held every year in the month of December attracts plenty of tourists to this lake.
By road, the lake is almost 2.5 hours drive from Chennai. Many buses also run from Chennai to Pulicat lake.
You may also like: Pulicat Lake Bird Sanctuary – A Birder’s Paradise
7. Indira Sagar Lake
Damming of the river Narmada near Punasa in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh forms a huge lake, known as Indira Sagar Lake.
It is the second largest artificial freshwater lake in terms of surface area (627 sq km) after Shivsagar lake in Maharashtra.
With a gross storage capacity of 12..2 billion cubic m, it is also fabled as the largest reservoir in India followed by Nagarjuna Sagar (11.47 billion cubic m).
Apart from hydroelectric power generation, this multipurpose dam also supplies water for irrigation to nearby villages. Indira Sagar Lake is regarded as one of the most important lakes in India.
The scenic beauty of the area surrounding the lake and the dam attracts many visitors.
The monsoon season adds to the charm of this place when the gates of the dam are open and water flows with blazing speed. It has become one of the major tourist places of Khandwa.
From Khandwa city, the lake is located roughly 65 km away. It is a little more than 1.5 hours drive by a private vehicle.
8. Pangong Tso Lake
Perched at an impressive altitude of 4,350 m, Pangong Tso lake (Pangong lake) is one of the high-altitude lakes in India. It is a huge lake with an area of 700 sq km.
What makes this lake even more notable is the Line of Actual Control passing through it. The lake extends 134 km in length across Ladakh region of India and Tibet.
Almost one-third length of the lake comes under India and the rest is part of Tibet. This saline lake freezes during winters which then is used as ice skating ground by skaters.
This lake hosts a number of migratory birds and serves as a breeding ground for many of them.
The lake is roughly 5 hours drive from Leh. Buses also ply from Leh to the location of Pangong lake.
Check this post to know more about the best tourist places in Ladakh to visit.
9. Nagarjuna Sagar Lake
The construction of Nagarjuna Sagar dam on the river Krishna created Nagarjuna Sagar Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in India.
Measuring 285 sq km, the lake is spread across Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh and Nalgonda district of Telangana. It is also known as the tallest masonry dam in India built at a majestic height of 124 m.
In terms of water storage capacity, Nagarjuna Sagar (11.47 billion cubic m) is second only to Indira Sagar reservoir (12.22 billion cubic m) in Madhya Pradesh.
It supplies water for meeting power generation, drinking water and irrigation needs of the two states.
The dam and the lake both derive their name from a nearby hillock and island called Nagarjunakonda.
It is a major attraction of Nalgonda. During weekends, a lot of tourists flock here to enjoy boating and panoramic beauty of this place. The unique charm of the lake grows manifold when water gates are open during monsoon.
In proximity to the lake is Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in India.
The sanctuary is a habitat to a diverse form of wildlife such as tiger, blackbuck, sambar deer and many types of reptiles. The lake is roughly 3 hours drive from Hyderabad (165 km).
10. Kolleru Lake
Situated between Krishna and Godavari river deltas, Kolleru lake lies near the city of Eluru in Andhra Pradesh. The lake is fed by seasonal streams, namely Budameru and Tammileru.
Spanning an area of 245 sq km, it is one of the largest freshwater lakes in India. it is an important nesting and breeding site for millions of resident and migratory birds like painted stork and grey pelican.
Recognizing this, the lake was declared as a wildlife sanctuary, known as Atapaka Bird Sanctuary. This sanctuary is a birdwatcher’s paradise visited by many tourists every year.
From Eluru, the lake is almost 40 minutes drive. It is well connected by road from Thrissur and Kochi also.
11. Wular Lake
Nestled in Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir, Wular lake acts as a natural flood reservoir for the state.
The lake was formed as a result of tectonic activities in the region. It is perched at an altitude of 1,580 m and measures a maximum size of 259 sq km.
The wetland area of the lake serves as a habitat for a variety of wildlife. It is a wintering site for many types of waterfowls, like marbled teal, little egret.
Wular lake is also a source of livelihood for fishermen communities living around the lake. The pristine beauty and serene ambiance of this place draw a lot of tourists. The lake is roughly 63 km from Srinagar.
12. Sambhar Salt Lake
Tucked in the lap of beautiful Aravali hills in Rajasthan, Sambhar Salt lake is located almost 80 km away from Jaipur.
The lake surrounds the quaint and historic Sambhar lake town. It is fed by streams from two main rivers namely Mendha, Runpangarh along with various rivulets.
The area covered by the lake varies between 190 to 230 sq km depending on the season. It is also famed as one of the largest saline lakes in India.
This lake is a major source of salt production in the state. It is a favourite haunt of numerous migratory birds, such as flamingos, pelicans, common sandpiper and redshank.
As a tourist destination, it is relatively hidden and less explored. Though this place has featured in some of the famous Bollywood movies, like Veer, Delhi-6 and Highway.
The lake is well connected by road from Jaipur and it is almost 2 hours drive from there.
13. Gobind Sagar Lake
In the Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh lies the scenic Gobind Sagar lake. It was created in 1962 after the construction of a huge hydel dam on the river Sutlej at Bhakra.
The reservoir (lake) has been named after Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru (leader). The lake extends 56 km and encompasses an area of 168 sq km. Standing 225.5 m above its base, Bhakra is one of the world’s highest gravity dams.
This dam feeds electricity to many Indian states, including Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
Surrounded by Shiwalik hills and verdant forests, Gobind Sagar lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in India.
There is a huge water sports complex on the shore of the lake offering speed boating and various types of water sports. Adventure seekers can enjoy kayaking, river rafting and water skiing in the lake.
The lake is a famous refuge for a lot of waterfowls. Many species of crane and goose can be sighted here. It is easily accessible by road from Bilaspur city (91 km) and Chandigarh (164 km).
14. Dal Lake
Famously known as paradise on earth, Kashmir valley is irresistible with its splendid natural beauty and stunning landscapes.
Adding to the exquisite charm of the place is Dal lake situated in the heart of Srinagar, the capital of Jammu & Kashmir. The lake has earned the moniker of ‘Jewel of Srinagar’ and it is also referred to as Lake of Flowers.
Spread over 22 sq km it is the second largest lake of J&K after Wular lake. The lake has been formed by five interconnected lake basins, namely Nehru Park, Nishat, Nigeen, Hazratbal and Barari Nambal.
It is counted amongst one of the most scenic lakes in India. The lake shoreline is embellished with beautifully landscaped Mughal-era gardens such as Nishant bagh and Shalimar bagh.
Dal lake is a popular summer retreat for tourists visiting Srinagar. The imposing beauty of the lake can be best seen by Shikara (gondola-like taxi boat) ride.
From the Lal Chowk (a famous landmark of Srinagar), the lake is roughly 5 km away. It is accessible by road from Srinagar airport (17 km )and Srinagar railway station (14 km).
15. Ashtamudi Lake
Known as the entrance to the Kerala backwaters, Ashtamudi lake measuring 61.4 sq km is the second largest lake in Kerala.
The eight channels (arms) of the lake gave the name ‘Ashtamudi’ to this vast palm-shaped lake.
Located in Kollam district, this lake is one of the most famous lakes in India for backwaters experience. The scenic journey from Kollam to Alappuzha is quite popular amongst tourists.
Ashtamudi wetland is home to a variety of resident birds. It also serves as nesting and breeding sites for migratory birds during the season.
Some of the commonly sighted birds in this area are tern, cormorant and pond heron.
Local communities engaged in fishing and inland navigation services earn their livelihood through this lake.
It is easily approachable by road from Kollam city. From Kollam junction railway station, the lake is roughly 30 minutes drive.
16. Dhebar Lake
A brainchild of Maharaja Jai Singh of Udaipur, Dhebar Lake is also known as Jaisamand lake. It was created in 1685 after a marble dam was built on the river Gomati.
For many years until the construction of Aswan dam in Egypt, Dhebar lake remained the largest artificial lake in the world.
Measuring an area of 87 sq km, Dhebar lake features as one of the largest man-made lakes in India. The historic charm and irresistible natural beauty of this place make it a popular attraction of Udaipur.
In the vicinity of the lake lies the Jaisamand Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary offers opportunities to sight diverse forms of wildlife, such as antelope, wild boar and deer.
The lake is also visited by migratory birds during the season. The lake is close to 2 hours drive from Udaipur city.
17. Pushkar Lake
Tucked in the Aravalli hills, the ancient Pushkar lake in Ajmer is a revered site for Hindus.
Taking a dip in this lake during the auspicious day of Kartik Poornima (Full Moon Day) in the months of October-November holds special importance. It is believed that it cleanses all sins.
Pushkar lake is regarded as one of the most sacred lakes in India. The lake finds its mention in Hindu scriptures and epics, like Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Stretched over 22 sq km, the lake is fed by rainwater. On the shore of the lake lies the holy town of Pushkar.
It houses more than 500 large and small temples. A temple dedicated to Lord Brahma is the most popular amongst all. Pushkar is visited by thousands of devotees and tourists every year.
The other major attraction of the town is the multi-day Pushkar Fair, which is held every year during the Hindu calendar month of Kartik (October-November).
From Ajmer city, the lake is located at a distance of 15 km. It takes about 40 minutes to reach there by taxi.
18. Deepor Beel
Nestled in the Brahmputra Valley in Lower Assam region, Deepor Bill (also called Dipor Bil) lies approximately 13 km from Guwahati city. In the local Assamese language, bil or beel means ‘lake’.
Though the lake spreads over 10.1 sq km during the greater part of the year, it expands up to 40.1 sq km during floods.
Apart from rainwater that feeds the beel during monsoon, it also gets water from the rivers Basistha and Kalmani. The lake also acts as a natural floodwater reservoir for the city of Guwahati.
The area around the Beel has been declared as a sanctuary named Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary. It is home to a large number of birds.
The wetland is visited by numerous migratory birds from Siberia and other far off places. Siberian cranes and pelicans are regular migratory birds to the beel.
Recognizing the diversity of birds in the region, BirdLife International declared it an Important Bird Area.
The sanctuary is home to distinct forms of wildlife including leopard and wild Asian elephant. Check this post if you are interested to know which are the best wildlife destinations to sight elephants in India.
The lake provides a major source of livelihood for the locals by way of fishing and paddy cultivation.
The shore areas of the lake are used for growing paddy when the lake reduces in size. Given the varied purposes it serves, this lake (beel) is regarded as one of the important lakes in India.
19. Bhojtal Lake
The history of the Bhojtal lake dates back to the 11th century when this grand lake was built by the Paramara dynasty King Raja Bhoj.
Situated in the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, it is one of the oldest man-made lakes in India.
Legend has it that once king Bhoj suffered from a skin disease and none of the vaidyas (doctors) could cure him.
The king visited a saint and he told the king to bathe in a water tank that is built from 365 streams.
The King’s men were able to find a place 32 km away from Bhopal. They figured out that it has only 359 streams and it was falling short of 6 streams.
With the help of a Gond Commander Kalia, they found a hidden river. The tributaries from this river brought to the total streams to 365. The magical waters of the tank cured the king’s skin disease.
The lake is also known as Bada Talaab (Big Pond) or Upper Lake. In 2011, it was renamed Bhojtal in honour of legendary king Raja Bhoj. He is also renowned for creating Bhopal city (erstwhile Bhojpal).
Spread over an area of 31 sq km, the lake serves as a major source of water for the city of Bhopal. The lake is fed by the Kolanas river.
Bhojtal lake is a major attraction of Bhopal. You can enjoy boating and exciting water sports in the lake.
Another major attraction near the lake is Van Vihar National Park. The park is maintained as a zoological garden. Wild animals like red fox, hyena, wild cat and jackal can be seen here.
From Bhopal airport as well as railway station, it takes close to 30 minutes to reach here.
20. Veeranam Lake
Built thousands of years ago during the reigns of the Cholas in Southern India, Veername lake is one of the oldest lakes in India. Located in Cuddalore district of Tamilnadu, the lake is almost 235 km from Chennai.
It is fed by the Kollidam river which is a distributary of the river Kaveri. Extending over 25 sq km, it is known as the largest lake of Tamil Nadu.
The lake acts as a source of water for Chennai city though it gets dry for some parts of the year.
When full of water, the sunrise and sunset views at the lake look splendid. It is one of the prime sightseeing spot if you are visiting Cuddalore. The lake is roughly 1.5 hours drive from Cuddalore via Chidambaram town.
Trivia – Major Lakes in India
Vembanad Lake in Kerala is the largest lake in India. It is spread over 2,033 sq km.
Loktak Lake in Manipur is the largest natural freshwater lake in India. It covers an area of 287 sq km.
Shivsagar Lake in Maharashtra is known as the largest man-made lake in India. The lake measures an area of 891.7 sq km.
Chilika Lake in Odisha is the largest brackish water lake in India. The lake is spread over 1,165 sq km.
Over To You Now…
Have you explored any of these magnificent lakes in India? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.
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