Which Is the Saltiest Body of Water on Earth?

Antarctica’s Don Juan Pond is the saltiest body of water on the planet. The Don Juan Pond is a small, shallow, hypersaline lake in Antarctica with a salinity of 44%. Despite being located in one of the coldest places on earth, this pond never freezes due to the salinity level.

Lake Vanda, also in Antarctica, has a salinity of 35%. Other salt water includes the Dead Sea shared by Israel, Jordan and Palestine. Great Salt Lake, Mono Lake, Salton Sea in the US Europe’s Baltic Sea. Check out our list of top 7 saltiest body of water on earth.

Top 7 Saltiest Bodies of Water in the world

Contrary to popular belief, salt water is not only found in the world’s oceans. All over the world there are ponds, lakes and wetlands that are filled with very high levels of salinity. Even weirder, these waters are often much saltier than the ocean.

With a salinity of 3.7%, the Atlantic appears relatively calm compared to other smaller bodies of water that are ten times more salinity. Read on to find out which tiny, very salty pond tops the list.

1. Gaet’ale Pond (Ethiopia)

The salinity of the water in the Gaet'ale Pond is 43%, making it the saltiest water on Earth.

Gaet’ale pond is a small hypersaline lake near the Dallol Crater in the Danakil Depression (Afar, Ethiopia). It is located above a hot spring of tectonic origin and has no obvious inlet or outlet. The salinity of the water in the Gaet’ale Pond is 43%, making it the saltiest water on Earth.

Gaet’ale Pond is the largest of a series of small ponds about 2.5 miles (4 km) southeast of Dallol Spring. It is crescent-shaped with a diameter of about 60 meters (200 feet).

Residents of the nearby village of Ahmedela said the springs were revived in the January 2005 earthquake and created a pond. So, its temperature is 50-55 °C (122-131 °F), which is warmer than the environment.

The salinity of Gaet’ale pond water is mainly composed of calcium chloride (CaCl2) 2.72 mol/kg and magnesium chloride (MgCl2) 1.43 mol/kg. It also contains small amounts of Na+, K+ and NO2 ions. Total dissolved solids is 433 g/kg or 43.3%. Also, small amounts of Fe3+ forms a complex with Cl- and gives water its characteristic yellow color.

Bubbles of odorless gas erupt from the surface of the lake. This could be CO2 produced by volcanic activity. Dead bodies of birds and insects have been found around the pond, indicating that the gas may be toxic to small animals and humans.

2. Don Juan Pond (Antarctica)

Don Juan Pond is a small and very shallow hypersaline lake in the western end of Wright Valley

Don Juan Pond is a small and very shallow hypersaline lake in the western end of Wright Valley (South Fork), Victoria Land, Antarctica, 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) west from Lake Vanda. It is wedged between the Asgard Range to the south and the Dais Range to the north.

On the west end is a small tributary and a rock glacier. With a salinity level of 33.8%, Don Juan Pond is the saltiest of the Antarctic lakes. This salinity allows the pond to remain liquid even at temperatures as low as −50 °C (−58 °F) due to the interference of salts with the bonding of water molecules.

Don Juan Pond was discovered in 1961 by George H. Meyer. It was named for two helicopter pilots, Lt. Don Roe and Lt. John Hickey, who piloted the helicopter involved with the first field party investigating the pond.

Don Juan Pond is a shallow, flat-bottom, hyper-saline pond. It has the second highest total dissolved solids on record, 1.3 times greater salinity than the Dead Sea. Salinity varies over time from 200 to 474 g/L, dominated by calcium chloride.

It is the only Antarctic hypersaline lake that almost never freezes. It has been described as a groundwater discharge zone. The area around Don Juan Pond is covered with sodium chloride and calcium chloride salts that have precipitated as the water evaporated.

3. Lake Retba (Senegal)

Lake Retba lies north of the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal,

Lake Retba lies north of the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal, some 30 km (18 miles) north-east of the capital, Dakar, in northwest Africa. It is named “Lac Rose” for its pink waters caused by Dunaliella salina algae and is known for its high salt content, up to 40% in some areas.

The lake is separated from the Atlantic Ocean only by a narrow corridor of dunes, and is named for its pink waters, which are caused by Dunaliella salina algae. The algae produce a red pigment to help them absorb sunlight, which gives them energy to create ATP. The color is particularly visible during the dry season (from November to May) and less visible during the rainy season (June to October).

The lake is known for its high salt content (up to 40% in some areas), which is mainly due to the ingress of seawater and its subsequent evaporation. Like the Dead Sea, the lake is sufficiently buoyant that people can float easily.

Lake Retba is an important asset to the salt industry, with 3,000 collectors harvesting an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 tons of salt a year. The salt is bought by Senegalese fisherman as a way to preserve fish and also exported to neighboring countries.

4. Lake Vanda (Antarctica)

Lake Vanda is a lake in Wright Valley, Victoria Land, Ross Dependency, Antarctica.

Lake Vanda is a lake in Wright Valley, Victoria Land, Ross Dependency, Antarctica. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) long and has a maximum depth of 69 m (226 ft). On its shore, New Zealand maintained Vanda Station from 1968 to 1995.

Lake Vanda is a hypersaline lake with a salinity more than ten times that of seawater and more than the salinity of the Dead Sea. Lake Vanda is also meromictic, which means that the deeper waters of the lake don’t mix with the shallower waters.

Lake Vanda’s surface is perpetually covered in ice. This is caused by a thermal inversion; as the salt sinks to the bottom of the lake, the purer surface water is able to evaporate. As a result, the top layer of the lake is able to freeze while the 35% saline water on the lake floor heats up to an average of 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Garabogazköl Basin (Turkmenistan)

Garabogazköl Basin

The large saltwater lagoon on the coast of Turkmenistan, the Garabogazköl Basin, is fed by the inlet of the Caspian Sea. At 33 feet deep, Garabogazköl has a salinity of 35 percent, making it one of the largest deposits of ocean salt in the world.

A lagoon is separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land, but is not always connected to a water source. Worried about the shrinking of the Caspian Sea, the authorities blocked the entrances to the lagoon in the 1980s and turned the lagoon into a lake.

When the lake dried up due to lack of water, it became a barren salt pan which ruined the environment and air quality. Ten years later, when the dam broke and the water flowed back into the basin, this error was corrected.

6. Lake Assal (Djibouti)

Lake Assal

Lake Assal is a crater lake in central-western Djibouti. It is located at the western end of Gulf of Tadjoura between Arta Region, and Tadjoura Region, touching Dikhil Region, at the top of the Great Rift Valley, some 120 km (75 mi) west of Djibouti city.

Lake Assal is a saline lake that lies 155 m (509 ft) below sea level in the Afar Triangle, making it the lowest point on land in Africa and the third-lowest point on Earth after the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. No outflow occurs from the lake, and due to high evaporation, the salinity level of its waters is 10 times that of the sea, making it the third most saline body of water in the world behind Don Juan Pond and Gaet’ale Pond.

Lake Assal is the world’s largest salt reserve, which is exploited under four concessions awarded in 2002 at the southeast end of the lake; the major share of production (nearly 80%) is held by Société d’Exploitation du Lac and Société d’Exploitation du Salt Investment S.A de Djibouti.

7. Dead Sea (Israel, Jordan, and Palestine)

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is a Salt Lake located in the Judean desert of southern Israel, bordered by Jordan to the East. With its origin dating back to some four million years ago, it is one of earth’s saltiest bodies of water and is the lowest point on earth. Its arid desert climate features year-round sunny skies, relatively high temperatures, with little precipitation.

The Dead Sea is located at the lowest point on earth, which is thought to be the result of volcanic processes leading to a continuous dropping of land. It is one of the four saltiest bodies of water in the world.

These special conditions are an outcome of its extreme geomorphological structure alongside a harsh desert climate. These create constant dramatic changes that form a landscape that is different from any other in the world.

Also, the unique mineral content of the air, land, and water in the area is globally renowned for its therapeutic qualities, as is evident in that it has been a health resort for thousands of years.

The World’s Most Saline Bodies of Water

This is a list of bodies of water by salinity that is limited to natural bodies of water that have a stable salinity above 0.05%, at or below which water is considered fresh.

Water salinity often varies by location and season, particularly with hypersaline lakes in arid areas, so the salinity figures in the table below should be interpreted as an approximate indicator.

Salinity, g/kg ()NameTypeRegion or countries
433Gaet’ale PondSalt LakeEthiopia
400Lake RetbaSalt LakeSenegal
350Lake VandaSalt LakeAntarctica
350GarabogazköllagoonTurkmenistan
348Lake AssalSalt LakeDjibouti
338Don Juan PondSalt LakeAntarctica
337Dead SeaSalt LakeIsrael, Jordan, West Bank
324Lake Tuz (Tuz Gölü)Salt LakeTurkey
317Great Salt Lake, North ArmSalt LakeGreat Basin, Utah, United States
300Lake BaskunchakSalt LakeAstrakhan Oblast, Russia
300Salty Lake (Lacu Sărat)Salt LakeBrăila, Romania
85–280Lake UrmiaSalt LakeIran
180Little Manitou LakeSalt LakeCanada
153Lake PikrolimniSalt LakeGreece
142Great Salt Lake, South ArmSalt LakeGreat Basin, Utah, United States
120Lake AbertSalt LakeGreat Basin, Oregon, United States