This study describes the origin, bedrock geology, geomorphology, hydrological stability and physical and chemical characteristics of a representative set of 29 lakes in the ice-free parts of the Ulu Peninsula, James Ross Island, located close to the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Based on these features, six different types of lakes were defined: stable shallow lakes on higher-altitude levelled surfaces, shallow coastal lakes, stable lakes in old moraines, small unstable lakes in young moraines, deep cirque lakes and kettle lakes. We observed a significant relationship between lake type and water chemistry. Bedrock, lake age and morphometry together with altitude were the most important factors underlying the observed limnological variability. Our results further suggested possible nitrogen limitation in the lake ecosystems. However, physical factors such as low temperature and light were also likely to be limiting.