Top 10 Most Beautiful Deserts in the World

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We read about them in adventure stories and see them in films, but we rarely have the opportunity to experience them with our own two feet. The majestic beauty of the world’s deserts is something that the inaccessibility and remoteness of them all has not only kept them off of our travel radar, but has also kept them in pristine condition, a huge benefit to those who end up making there way out to one. Here are some deserts to consider if you decide that you’re ready to take on this kind of adventure.

The White Desert, Egypt
The White Desert, Egypt via By Daniel Csörföly (Photos taken by Daniel Csörföly, Budapest, Hungary) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. The White Desert, Egypt

The White Desert is a national park that spans across The Sahara and gets its name from the chalk rock formations that cover it, giving the illusion that it’s a fresh layer of snow is covering the desert instead of sand. Winds and the hands of time have carved these rock formations into unique shapes that make this area a true natural wonder. Here are some tips for your trip to the national park.

  • Make sure to bring along enough water. This area is even more arid than other deserts in Egypt and staying hydrated is something one must be constantly aware of.
  • The best way to see the desert is to take an overnight tour. The temperatures will cool off as soon as the sun begins to go down and the colors of the sunset will leave you in awe. Once the night falls, take a look up and you’ll see the stars as you’ve never seen them before.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia via I, Luca Galuzzi [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

2.  Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Located in southwest Bolivia are the world’s largest salt flats and one of South America’s most awe-inspiring destinations. It’s well known for the mirror illusion created by the rainy season, where a layer of water rests atop the salt, causing the ground to become reflective. Here are some tips for enjoying Salar de Uyuni.

  • The reflective ground can create the illusion that you are walking on water, so don’t forget to bring a camera to have some fun with this!
  • Most of the guided tours available are multi-day/multi-destination tours, so keep in mind that your tour may not begin or end in Salar de Uyuni when planning your visit.
  • Due to the rough and remote terrain, most people enter the salt flats desert with a 4×4 car. It’s recommended that you do the same and make sure you are equipped with emergency transponders in case of emergencies.
The Great Victoria, Australia
The Great Victoria, Australia via By Diliff (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

3.  The Great Victoria, Australia

The Great Victoria is the largest desert in Australia and a true natural beauty. The majority of people living in this sparsely populated area are of indigenous tribes, providing visitors with a unique cultural experience as well. Here’s how to make the most of your time in this desert down under.

–  There is a stretch of land between Laverton and Warburton with no services (fuel, food, water) that is about 348 miles long. Make sure you are well prepared for this.

The Namib, Namibia
The Namib, Namibia via By No machine readable author provided. Calips assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

4.  The Namib, Namibia

At 55-million years old, the Namib in Namibia is the world’s most ancient desert. Due to the extreme lack of rainfall, the region is almost totally barren, giving visitors the opportunity to see completely untouched nature. Some of the sand dunes here are exceptionally high, with many exceeding 300 meters. Keep the following in mind when planning your adventure to the Namib.

  • Check out Ground Rush Adventurs for extreme activities such as skydiving over the Atlantic Ocean or Alter Action to go sandboarding on the dunes.
  • Being one of the safest countries in Africa, many of its visitors choose to take a self-driven safari through its desert and this is a great option for couples and families. The Skeleton Coast is a great place to start.
Karakum, Turkmenistan
Karakum, Turkmenistan via By flydime (http://www.flickr.com/photos/flydime/4671890969/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

5.  Karakum, Turkmenistan

The Karakum desert takes up more than 70% of Turkmenistan and has had a recent surge in popularity due to the discovery of a cavern full of natural gas in 1971, which scientist set ablaze thinking they could quickly burn it all off, but has continued to burn and has since been named “The Door to Hell”.  Here are a couple of tips to visiting Karakum.

  • Crossing the desert by train allows for hands-free spectacular views. Travel time in total is about 16 hours, but feel free to stop off and visit at various points.
  • The gas crater (the Door to Hell) is very remote, so make sure you have everything you need before leaving one of the small surrounding villages.
The Sahara, Northern Africa
The Sahara, Northern Africa via See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

6.  The Sahara, Northern Africa

Stretching across the northern countries of Africa and almost as large as the U.S. is the Sahara. It’s the largest and one of the most well known deserts in the world and has been home to the Berber and Beja peoples for centuries. Here are a few pointers for visiting this desert of dreams.

  • Camp in traditional tents in Morocco for a unique cultural experience and the clearest views of the stars on Earth.
  • The best time to visit is between October and May.
  • Keep in mind that a lot of the countries housing the Sahara are in periods of conflict and political turmoil and it may not be safe to visit all of the places you may wish to see at the moment. Always check your country’s homeland security site for travel warnings.
Chihuahuan, USA/Mexico
Chihuahuan, USA/Mexico via By daveynin from United States (Chihuahuan Desert Uploaded by Fredlyfish4) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

7.  Chihuahuan, USA/Mexico

You’ll find one of the most biologically diverse deserts in the world at the U.S./Mexican border. Its warm summers and cool winters allow it to host a variety of wildlife within its various mountain ranges and valleys. The Chihuahuan is the second-largest desert in North America and prettyeasily accessible. Here are a couple of tips for experiencing it.

  • There are many walking trails that run through the desert that you can easily do in 1-2 hours. Take advantage of some of these to see animal and plant life up close.
  • Because it lies both in Mexico and the U.S., always keep in mind which side you are on and how close to the border you are. You don’t want to catch yourself on the wrong side without the proper documents!
Taklamakan, China
Taklamakan, China via By Colegota (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 es (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/es/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

8.  Taklamakan, China

The Taklamakan is located on the ancient Silk Road trading route in northwestern China and is the second-largest shifting-sand desert in the world. This desert is filled with history and here are a few things you definitely don’t want to miss out on when visiting.

  • Xian, home to the famous Terracotta Warriors and the easternmost point of the Silk Road.
  • The Great Wall of China a Jiayuguan
  • Explore the Buddhist caves at Kuqa
  • Check out the southern trading city of Khotan.
Rub’ Al Khali, Saudi Arabia
Rub’ Al Khali, Saudi Arabia via By Original Uploader (w:fa:File:RUBALKHALIUAE.11.jpg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

9. Rub’ Al Khali, Saudi Arabia

Rub’ Al Khali, meaning ‘Empty Quarter’ is part of the Arabian Desert and is the largest sand desert in the world at over 250,000 square miles. There are very few settlements here, hence the name. Keep these tips in mind when planning your adventure there.

  • Alcohol is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. This is important to note, as I’m sure you’d like to stay out of trouble.
  • Visits to many areas require a permit from the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development. Make sure to take care of obtaining these permits before heading out and exploring.

– Signing up for an overnight tour is probably the easiest and best way to experience the desert. The company will take care of all permits and prior arrangements for you can just relax and enjoy the adventure.

LencoisMaranhense, Brazil
LencoisMaranhense, Brazil via By Patriiick (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

10.  LencoisMaranhense, Brazil

Ok, you’ve got me. This technicallyisn’t a desert, but the look and feel to this national park is definitely desert-like. Large sand dunes fill the area anddue to a phenomenon where rainwaters collect in between these dunes, there are various turquoise oases throughout the park. You can find this park just outside of the Amazon basin in northeastern Brazil and here are some tips to having a desert experience in this technically not-a-desert area.

  • Just after sunrise is the best time of day to visit when the sun is low and a range of shadows and color come into view. The temperatures are also lower at this time.
  • May – September are the best months to visit, just after the rainy season and before the oases dry out.
  • No fees or permits are required.
  • You must bring your own food and water. There are no places at the park to purchase anything other than at lodging offered by locals. This is not always reliable so make sure you have plenty.

Have you ever visited any of the deserts on this list? Are there any deserts we’ve left off that you think we should’ve included? Let us know and tell us your story in the comments below!

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Kara Head

Graphic Artist/Writer/Filmmaker.

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