Patagonia and other adventure travel destinations

Water at the Top of the World: Ojos Del Salado Lake

The Ojos del Salado lake in the Andes is the world’s highest lake. It is situated on the eastern face of Ojos del Salado, the world’s highest active volcano. The volcano and lake are part of the Andes mountain range, straddling the Chilean and Argentinean borders. No adventure vacation to South America is complete without a trek up to the Ojos del Salado lake, so here’s what you need to know.

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Ojos del Salado lake: The basics

The Ojos del Salado lake lies on the mountain’s eastern face, at an altitude of 6,390 metres. That may be difficult to picture, but this is high. The peak of the volcano itself is only marginally higher, at 6,893 metres.

How does Ojos del Salado stack up throughout the world?

To give some sense of scale, let’s compare Ojos del Salado with Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia. Ojos del Salado and Aconcagua are (sort of) neighbours, give or take about 600 kilometres. Aconcagua stands at 6,961 metres above sea level, and there is only one other higher mountain anywhere int he world: Mount Everest at 8,848 metres.

Suffice to say, Ojos del Salado has the highest lake in the world, and comes pretty close in the overall height stakes.


Is the Ojos del Salado lake worth seeing?

Despite its height, the Ojos del Salado lake is relatively modest in appearance, and may not even meet the specified size requirements to be considered a lake. Nonetheless, it’s the world’s highest body of water, and that should count for something. Some visitors are underwhelmed by the lake’s relatively small size – its diameter is little more than 100 metres.

If you are interested in sightseeing and hiking in general, Ojos del Salado is worthwhile. See the lake, and give yourself some more time to hike even further and perhaps reach the summit.


Getting to the Ojos del Salado lake

You can hike to the Ojos del Salado lake, and you don’t necessarily need to be an expert to do so, either. The lake is accessible from both the Argentinian and Chilean sides of the Andes. Chile is better equipped for tourists, though it can be expensive. Some consider the Argentinian side to be preferable, as there are fewer rules and regulations – and access is often cheaper than in Chile. However, the Argentinian authorities take no respsonsibility for hikers’ safety, so for inexperienced hikers or those trekking alone, the Chilean side may be the safer bet.


Comparing Ojos del Salado and other lakes

Behind the Ojos del Salado lake, there are various lakes throughout the world at similarly high elevations. Naturally, Ojos del Salado lake tops the table. The next three highest lakes are all in Tibet. In descending order, they are:

  1. Lhagba Pool: At 6,358 metres above sea level, this is the highest of the Himalayan lakes. It’s a pretty mysterious place.
  2. Changtse Pool: This one stands at 6,216 metres. The Changtse Glacier contributes to this lake.
  3. East Rongbuk Pool: The East Rongbuk and Changtse glaciers both contribute to the East Rongbuk Pool. You’ll find this one at 6,100 metres.

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