The Lowest Land Elevation on Every Continent

As counterintuitive as it may seem, many non-oceanic places on the earth are below sea level. Such areas are not only in isolated regions of our planet. Much of the Netherlands is below sea level, as is New Orleans. In both, dikes hold back the incursion of water. But there are low-lying regions of the world that are far deeper. Here are the lowest points on every continent.

  • Lake Assal, Djibouti, Africa

    Lake Assal, Djibouti, Africa

    On the continent of Africa, in Djibouti, is Lake Assal, a giant, highly saline crater lake. Its shores are the lowest elevation in Africa at 509 ft below sea level. Loosely translating to Honey Lake, the salt level of this lake is more than the nearby Gulf of Tadjoura and the further Arabian Sea to the east. Only a 2-hour drive from Djibouti City, swimming in the lake is more of a float because of the buoyant quality of the high salt content.

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  • Canyon of Denman Glacier, Antarctica

    Canyon of Denman Glacier, Antarctica

    The inhospitable environment of Antarctica still holds many secrets, but one marvel that has been uncovered is a canyon below the Denman Glacier. Discovered by the BedMachine Antarctica survey, the bedrock of this canyon is 11500 ft (2 miles) below sea level. For reference, that’s almost half as tall as some of the highest mountains in the world. While it was only recently discovered in 2019, it has been shown to be the deepest point on Earth that is not underwater.

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  • Dead Sea, Jordan, Asia

    Dead Sea, Jordan, Asia

    On the border between Jordan and Israel is the iconic Dead Sea. The shore leading down to the lake is the lowest elevation in Asia at 1410 ft below sea level. Salt levels in this sea are so dense that plant and animal life cannot exist. The Dead Sea was the first health resort in the world, a destination for travelers for thousands of years. Visitors often come float on its surface, where they’ll also see the sparkle of salt formations along its shores.

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  • Caspian Sea, Europe

    Caspian Sea, Europe

    The shore and surface of the Caspian Sea is the lowest elevation in Europe at 90 ft below sea level. The countries of Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Iran surround it. At almost 750 miles, from north to south, the Caspian Sea was once mistaken for an ocean by early people of the area, and it is the world’s largest inland body of water. Today it is known as a source of caviar and oil industries projects.

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  • Badwater Basin, North America

    Badwater Basin, North America

    In the appropriately named Death Valley, in the United States, sits Badwater Basin. This area is the lowest elevation in North America at 282 ft below sea level. Salt flats cover the almost 200 square miles that were once a great lake. Groundwater still appears from time to time, which forms geometric salt polygons along the surface. There is a smaller pool within the area that is spring-fed and features minimal wildlife of the insect and snail variety. Walking through this barren land is a stroll through what appears to be a near-alien environment.

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  • Laguna del Carbón, South America

    Laguna del Carbón, South America

    In southeast Argentina is Laguna del Carbón, within the Gran Bajo de San Julián (Great San Julián Depression). This is the lowest elevation in South America at 344 ft below sea level. Near the city of Puerto San Julián, is a salt lake that covers a 3-mile length and 1-mile width. The clear waters change levels with the seasons.

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  • Lake Eyre, Oceania

    Lake Eyre, Oceania

    The lowest elevation point in Oceania is in Australia, officially named the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, at 49 ft below sea level. As much of Australia is inhospitable to humans, this lake’s nearest major city is Adelaide - almost 435 miles away. Lake Eyre has two distinct seasons that affect its water level but still retains some water in the dry season. At this point, the water is hypersalinated. Though when the desert downpours feed it, there is a salt lake that changes the shoreline to only 30 ft below sea level.

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