The Hokkaido region of Japan is the northernmost region in the country. It is the second largest of Japan’s islands. It is a mountainous region, full of incredible sights, and less populated than the largest island to the South, Honshu. Numerous parks and other wilderness areas both protect these unique natural treasures and educate visitors about them.

The lakes of Hokkaido are famous worldwide. The rugged and wild geography of Hokkaido has produced lakes that look like no other on Earth. Visiting these lakes is a must if you are on Hokkaido. Here are the eight most famous lakes in Hokkaido.

1) Lake Toya

View of Lake Toya in spring. Photo Credit: WAKASARESORT Co., Ltd.

Lake Toya is the third largest caldera lake in Japan. The depression was formed during a massive eruption 110,000 years ago and filled up with water to form this spectacular lake.

It sits between Toyako and Sobetsu located in the northwestern part of Muroran city. Toya Lake is 43 kilometers around. 58 sculptures have been placed around the edges of the lake, creating unique artistic scenes that interact with the lake.

Lake Toya is one of Hokkaido’s most important and popular tourist attractions. Numerous resorts, onsens (hot spring baths), and campgrounds can be found around the lake. The mountains of the area, especially Mt. Showa-shinzan and Mt. Usu, are popular hikes and also help make the lake so picturesque.

One of the interesting places to visit in Lake Toya is Uzusan Ropeway. The surrounding views from the top of the mountain are picturesque. Usually the area is packed with a lot of tourists in autumn.

2) Lake Shikotsu

Lake Shikotsu and some ice sculptures at the venue of the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival, Chitose. Photo Credit: Shikotsuko.com.

This is one of the clearest lakes in the world and is rated as the most transparent lake in Japan, making it a great location for water recreation like kayaking. Lake Shikotsu is located near Chitose City. The lake spans an area of 78.4 kilometers squared and is 265 meters deep. It is one of the many caldera lakes in Hokkaido and is surrounded by a trio of tall mountains.

Outdoors activities are very popular at Lake Shikotsu, including kayaking, canoeing, and fishing, as well as diving and snorkeling during the summer. Once you get on the water, the view through the lake is incredible. You can also enjoy views of the lake by hiking all around it. The hiking trails are a bit wild, though the shortest allows for you to summit Tarumae Mountain in about an hour, making it a nice day trip that does not eat up the whole day. You can find many restaurants, hotels, and onsen all around the lake, though the area is rarely crowded.

Every year, the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival is held from Late January to Mid February. This popular ice festival can be visited from Sapporo city as part of your day trip.

3) Lake Akan

Lake Akan and Mount Oakan. Photo Credit: SUPER FANTASTIC Kushiro Lake Akan.

Lake Akan, part of Akan Mashu National Park is another very clear lake. Because of this, the lake is famous for its unique moss balls, or marimo. This caldera lake 26 kilometers around and sits at 420 meters above sea level. Most people see the sights of Lake Akan via a sightseeing boat.

There are four islands in the lake: Ōjima, Kojima, Yaitai Island, and Chūrui Island. Sightseeing tours stop at Chūrui Island. Winters here are very cold, so most people tour the lake in summer and fall, though the frozen lake offers opportunities for ice fishing and a chance to see some of the purest snow in the world.

You’ll also see a fireworks show where the fireworks are launched from the lake’s frozen surface as well as the Lake Akan On-Ice Festival that runs from early February to mid-March.

4) Lake Mashu

Lake Mashu. Photo Credit: Kpravin2 at Wikimedia Commons.

This caldera lake has incredibly clear water and is so pristine that visitors are not allowed to touch the water. When you visit Lake Mashu, you can see the lake from a pair of observation decks along the western and southern sides of the lake.

The western platform has no facilities but does offer free parking, while the southern one features a toiler, a food stand, and a large shopping area but parking does cost 410 yen. There is a seven-kilometer hiking trail from the western observation deck along the caldera’s rim to the summit of Mount Mashu-dake, offering incredible views of the lake.

5) Lake Kussharo

Lake Kussharo during winter. Photo Credit: pakku at Wikimedia Commons.

This beautiful caldera lake in the Akan Mashu National Park is considered the largest caldera lake in Japan. An Onsens and hotels dot the lake’s shores tourists can easily find either open air or indoor bath with nice views of Lake Kussharo.

Lake Kussharo is an outdoors resort area. Visitors can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, hiking, fishing and much more. Expert guides are available from the area’s many businesses. You can also enjoy the many hiking trails through the wilderness around the lake. Lake Kussharo is a sportsman’s dream.

6) Lake Onneto

Lake Onneto during summer. Photo Credit: Ogiyoshisan at Wikimedia Commons.

Lake Onneto is one of the smaller caldera lakes in Hokkaido, only 2.5 kilometers around and 10 meters deep. It sits alongside Ashoro town. The lake is sometimes called the “Lake of Five Colors”. Depending on the season, weather, and location, the water can appear anywhere from azure blue to emerald green and more.

It is considered by many to have the most beautiful water in Hokkaido. The water of Lake Onneto is so acidic (ph 6) that fish cannot live there, though the Uchida crawfish and the Yezo Salamander have adapted to these unique conditions. There are only a few facilities around the lake, including several onsens and a few lookout points, as well as many trails.

7) Lake Onuma

Lake Onuma and Mount Komagatake in the background. Photo Credit: Nanae Onuma International Tourism and Convention Association.

Considered one of the best places to see fall leaves in Hokkaido and top in Hakodate, Lake Onuma is a very popular recreational spot. There are many hiking trails around the lake. Four small islands sit in Lake Onuma.

You can take a sightseeing boat around the lake and there are many paces o eat, shop, and stay on its shore. While autumn is the most spectacular season to see Lake Onuma, it is still a lovely area to visit during any season.

If you plan on visiting Hakodate in the fall, be sure to pay a visit to the lake and once you reach there, you will be overwhelmed by its surrounding landscape.

8) Shiretoko Goko Lakes

An amazing view of one of the lakes of The Shiretoko Goko Lakes. Photo Credit: Wikimedia commons.

These five small lakes sit in the middle of a large, wild forest at the base of Shiretoko Mountain Range. An elevated path runs along the lake and helps keep this unique wilderness safe. You can see a wide range of wildlife here, from rare birds to bears.

There are different rules every season so that visitors can keep themselves and the wildlife safe, but every season offers something different to see. Depending on the season, a few walking trails are also open to visitors. Few places in Japan offer such a diverse and untouched wilderness.