9 Volcano Lakes You Could Die In

There’s nothing like the mystical blue stillness of a perfectly formed crater lake. From the violence of a volcanic eruption comes the timeless beauty of a lake nestled gently in high, crater walls. Whichever volcanic lake you decide to visit, be sure and bring your camera. If you are looking for unforgettably beautiful lakes, here’s where to go first:  

Inferno Crater Lake [Waimangu Volcanic Valley, New Zealand]

Inferno Crater Lake, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, New Zealand | Leave it up to New Zealand to create one of the most drop-dead gorgeous lakes the world has ever seen. This turquoise-blue lake is perfectly framed by green forests and features geothermic stream rising out of the still waters. 

This crater formed during the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera. Deep beneath the water, a geyser causes the lake’s level to rise and fall during a month-long cycle. The lake steams and smells and visitors can access the viewing area from the foot path that wanders through the geo-thermic area. 

Kerio Crater Lake [Iceland]

Kerio, Iceland | Tourists traveling Iceland’s Golden Circle will never have a shortage of wondrous natural attractions to explore. There’s pure white Langjokull Glacier and then there’s the Kerio Crater Lake which has been holding water for at least 3,500 years. 

This red-rock crater stands out against the graying landscape. Green shoots of grass and moss cling to life along the sheer rock walls that fence it in on three sides. The water level doesn’t change according to the rains, but instead is perfectly aligned with the water table. In summer, you’ll catch the unique interplay between the colors of the water, moss and rock. In winter, everything becomes a barren, frosty white. 

Ljotipollur crater lake [Landmannalaugar, Iceland]

Ljotipollur, Iceland | The tranquil waters of Ljotipollur are a stark contrast to the mighty explosion which formed this crater sometime around 1477. Ljotipollur translates as “ugly puddle,” but don’t let that scare you away. This crater’s deep blue water contrasts wonderfully with its red rock sides. Caught at the right light, the crater walls look incredible. 

You may be content to stand at the viewpoint and snap photos, but anglers have to scramble to the bottom for some of the best brown trout fishing in Iceland. The fish are numerous and can be quite large. Make sure you’ve brought down a way to carry them back up out of the crater, or you’ll be struggling up the steep red slope with a bunch of slippery fish to hold onto. 

Crater Lake [Crater Laker, Oregon]

Crater Lake National Park, Ore. | Who hasn’t heard of awe-inspiring Crater Lake? If you haven’t read about it, you’ve seen pictures of the perfectly formed circle-lake with two forested islands at the center. Crater Lake gets its pure blue water from rain and snowmelt only. Without any streams running in or out of it, it takes 250 years for the water in the crater to refresh itself by evaporation.  

While you can snowshoe to the edge of the crater in winter, the area really hits its stride in summer when the ice melts to reveal the lake’s startlingly blue color. Hike, take a ranger tour, ride a boat past the islands, or even go for a swim. Hold your breath when you jump in – the water is freezing. 

Kelimutu Crater Lakes [Flores Island, Indonesia]

Kelimutu Colored Lakes, Indonesia | You may mistake the three colored lakes for the paint-filled depressions in an artist’s pallet. These lakes are just that colorful. Tiwu Ata Bupu translates as Lake of Old People and is usually a deep blue. The other two lakes Tiwu Ko’o Fai Nuwa Muri and Tiwu Ata Polo are only separated by a thin wall and are usually a rotating shade of red and green. 

If you’re visiting Indonesia, you may recognize the lakes from their placement on the 5,000 rupiah banknote. When you visit, most people choose to spend the night so they can catch the lakes with the rising of the sun.  

Yugama Lake, Mt. Shirane [Honshu, Japan]

Mt. Shirane, Japan | Japan’s Mt. Shrane is home to three crater lakes. Yugama at the summit of the mountain is the most famous. Its emerald green color contrasts with the mountain during winter snows and against the yellow-brown crater walls during the rest of the year. 

While Yugama is quite picturesque, it isn’t the sort of lake you want to get too close to. With a pH of 1, it is Japan’s most acidic lake. If you look carefully, you’ll sometimes see bars of sulfur floating on the surface of the water.  Smelly, toxic and fascinating, this lake might not be here forever. If Shirane erupts again, there’s a chance Yugama will be filled in. 

Rano Kau [Easter Island, Chile]

Rano Kau, Easter Island | The giant Rano Kau crater is nearly a mile across and has its own micro-climate. Without the constant whip of the wind off the Pacific Ocean, the interior of the crater supports lush vegetation and vines. Freshwater pools in places at the bottom of the crater, and it’s one of the only reliable water sources on Easter Island. As the thin wall between the crater and the ocean continues to erode, many are worried that the fresh water will drain into the sea and be replaced by the ocean. 

Volcanic crater aside, Rano Kau is also one of the most important heritage sites on Easter Island. The ruined village of Orongo on the ridge between the crater and the sea was once an important village for the Birdman Cult.  

Lake Toba, Samosir Island [North Sumatra, Indonesia]

Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia | Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world believed to have been caused by a super volcano that changed the global climate and killed most of the humans alive 70,000 years ago. Although another supervolcano is not eminent, the area gets many earthquakes and the volcano still a threat. Needless to say, Indonesia’s biggest lake is an exciting place to visit. 

When you visit, you’ll want to take the ferry out to Samosir – the lake’s island. Waterfalls, hotsprings and megalithic sites will keep you busy. 

Blue Lake, Mount Gambier [South Australia]

Blue Lake, Australia | True to its name, Blue Lake is super blue. This crater lake can be found along the slopes of Mount Gambier and is a water source for the nearby towns. People usually photograph Blue Lake when it’s at its bluest, but the lake consistently changes color throughout the year. Take a walk around the lake, or explore the dry lakebed of nearby Leg of Mutton Lake.  

Love unusual lakes? Here are The 8 Most Colorful Lakes You’ll Ever See


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Alyssa Derby

Passionately curious about the world around her, Alyssa Derby is a self-proclaimed wanderlust aficionado. She’s tallied a count of seven countries visited, with New Zealand, Greece and Bolivia next up on the bucket list. To reminisce about past trips, s