Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan/Kazakhstan/Russia/Azerbaijan/Iran
Yes, you read correctly. It’s called “sea”, but it is actually a lake.
Why? What makes it a lake?
Well, a sea must be connected somehow to the open ocean – usually, like in the case of the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, it’s pretty clear where and how it joins, so is therefor obviously a sea. It can just be by a river that connects them though. However, the Caspian Sea, while there are rivers leading into it (including the Volga River, Europe’s longest river), there are none leading from it, and therefor it is technically a lake.
So why was it called the Caspian Sea and not the Caspian Lake in the first place?
Easy. They didn’t know it wasn’t a sea when they named it that. Due to its immense size and the fact that the water is salty, they just presumed it was a sea.
Whatever the definition though, the Caspian Sea also happens to be the world’s largest inland body of water. With a surface area of 371,000 km 2 , that also makes it just slightly bigger than Germany, roughly the size of Japan. If it was a UN recognised country, it would be the 63 rd biggest country in the world. If you include Garabogazköl , which is a lagoon on the edge of the Caspian Sea, within Turkmenistan, it would overtake Japan and Norway and be the same size as Zimbabwe.
The Caspian Sea is famous for its oil. Oil wells have been in use here since the 10 th Century, and now the coastal areas are rife with oil drilling.
There are plenty of great places to visit around the Caspian Sea, but our favourite, by far, is Avaza in Turkmenistan. Have a look at our Turkmenistan tours if you’d like to go for a swim in the Caspian!
Aral Sea, Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan
The Aral Sea – possibly the world’s biggest man-made natural disaster. Yes, it’s a disaster concerning nature, but very much caused, or at the very least heavily contributed to, by humans.
Formerly the fourth largest inland body of water in the world, with a surface area of 68,000 km 2 (roughly the size of Georgia – the country), it’s now actually several small lakes, with an overall size of well under a tenth of its original size. A series of rehabilitation programs have been undergone, some with some success, some with none, however it is overall very slightly bigger than it was at its lowest point, which was in 2010.
So why did this happen?
There are plenty of situations where you can lay blame on several, or at least a couple of factors. This one is pretty cut and dry though. In the 1960s several agricultural programs were implemented, leading to 90% of the inflow being diverted before it reached the Aral Sea itself. A vast body of water like that can certainly survive a bit of abuse, and of course natural environmental factors might lead to the inflow being smaller some years than others, but this was too much. And it does seem now that it’s past the point of no return. The Aral Sea is gone and a new desert is born.
We love visiting the Aral Sea, and do so on most of our Uzbekistan tours. It’s a bit grim, but we think it’s fascinating. And what better way to learn about it than to visit for yourself!
Read more about the Aral Sea here .