20 Sep

Ten Must See Deserts

I don’t know why but I have a thing for deserts. I like being able to see forever and wonder about the variety of life that manages to survive in such a seemingly inhospitable environment. A little while ago I boldly proclaimed that I would like to visit all the deserts in the world…maybe this top ten list will suffice. Three I have already visited – that leaves only seven to go!

1. The Gobi Desert

The Gobi straddles China and Mongolia – two countries that seem about as ‘out there’ as you can get. Having recently followed Sherry from Ottsworld and Dave&Deb from ThePlanetD on their epic Mongol Rally I can see that it will be a challenging place. Their stories of driving with no map and no roads sound adventurous at best and crazy most of the time! But the barren-ness and grasslands have a haunting beauty about them that seems so compelling.


Photo Credit: JulyInIreland

2. The Sahara Desert

The Grand-daddy of them all. Its name alone conjures up images of great sand dunes as far as the eye can see; strings of camels loping across; and nomads making their way. It is huge; stretching across thirteen African countries; taking in some 3.5 million square miles. I certainly couldn’t see all of it…but one day I want to see part of it.

Sahara Dreaming

Photo Credit: GirlUnmapped


3. The Atacama Desert

The driest place on earth. And it rained while we were there. Seriously! We arrived in Iquique to find overcast skies and a slight drizzle coming down. Not at all what I expected from a desert town – but it is a desert town on the coast and coastal patterns still play a part. In truth the driest place is farther inland and south in the Antofagasta region. We spent four days on a bus traveling through the Atacama Desert. It most often resembled a moonscape; flat, devoid of features, with only small rocks scattered on the surface as far as the eye could see. It was surreal.

Atacama desert

Photo Credit: oenvoyage


4. The Thar Desert

In the Rajasthani district of Northern India, the Thar Desert in inhospitable and yet still people eke out a life here. It was a scrubby, barren looking landscape punctuated by small villages and herders along the way.

Photo Credit: me


5. The Great Western Desert

Stretching through the ‘outback’ of Central Australia, this desert is also home to Uluru (Ayers Rock). I really don’t have much desire to visit Australia but this large desert filled with folklore, myths and legends makes it a possible destination in the future.

Uluru glowing

Photo Credit: Peter Nijenhuis


6. KaU Desert

There is a desert in Hawaii! I have long wanted to visit Hawaii, not for its beaches, but for the volcanoes. Learning that there is a desert on the island of Hawaii that lies in the shadow of the great volcano Mt. Kilauea puts the tropical island  near the top of my must see list. Volcanoes and deserts – now that would be a dream destination!

Hawaii Trip May 2011

Photo Credit: Crouchy69


7. Wadi Rum

Visiting Wadi Rum was like taking a trip back in time. True enough, we raced around the flat sandy expanses in an dilapidated jeep rather than on horse back or camel, but it was easy to imagine a time when camps here were filled with Bedouins doing trade rather than with tourists seeking an experience. The steep walls of the mountains and their pink hued sandstone coloring made for dramatic sunsets. The desert is still almost completely uninhabited and so, sitting on a rock watching the sun sink below the horizon, it was easy to feel as though we were the only people in the great expanse.


Photo Credit: me

8. The Mohave Desert

This desert is part of a dream Western USA road trip that has been cooking in my mind for some time. Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana; kind of a ‘wild west’ trip that would take in deserts and canyons, plains and Big Sky country. That’s the problem when thinking of leaving my ‘home and native land’…there are still so many places nearby that need to be seen!

Red desert scene

Photo Credit: Jason Morrison


9. The Arctic

The Arctic is indeed a desert. With its snow and glaciers you might not think so but it meets the definition with its limited yearly precipitation. Having spent many months in the tropical regions of Asia, I am much more inclined to heat than cold but my first chilly winter in Calgary, Alberta is just about upon us so maybe I will be prepared for a visit sooner than I think! Norway, Sweden and Finland are all within the Arctic zone lending some civility to the thought of visiting the coldest place on earth.


Photo Credit: sbotten94

10. The Chihuahua Desert

Okay, mostly I like the name but this second largest desert in North America might just be a reason to visit Mexico again. Although straddling the drug war fatigued US/Mexican border it may not be the safest place to be out in the middle of nowhere!


Photo Credit: heartfeltrobot


Seems that people either love deserts or hate them…what about you? Which have you visited?

12 thoughts on “Ten Must See Deserts

  1. Well, I have visited none of them, but hope to be visiting the Gobi in 2013. My husband spent 2 years in Mongolia and he says it’s unbelievable. His friend from there befriended me on Facebook and seeing their pictures of “camping” in the desert is just fascinating. Out in the NW, we’re so used to camping with tons of trees surrounding us…out there, there’s just NOTHING. I can’t wait to see the skies at night.

    Lovely post! I would love to go to Hawaii mostly because islands freak me out in a wonderful way. Just crazy to think being out in the middle of the ocean relying on what seems like a tiny patch of land.
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  2. I also have a thing for deserts :) I have spent some time in the Sahara in northern Mali and southern Morocco. I am going back to the edge of the Sahara in January for festival au desert: http://www.festival-au-desert.org/. Deserts are special places and I feel like they give the traveler a very heavy, mind bending experience (in a good way). I would love to get to some of the others on your list at some point :P
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  3. At first I thought this was about 10 Must See Desserts and I got all hungry thinking about them. But then I realized I was just a really bad speller. Deserts are awesome! I spent my early years in 29 Palms near Joshua Tree in the Colorado Desert so there is a special place in my heart for such places. The photo of Wadi Rum is just amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that before.
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  4. I also thought it said desserts too – but deserts are just as good.

    I have been to two of the ones mentioned – the Atacama – and LOVED our visit there, as well as the Chihuahua Desert. There’s something very compelling for me about the desolate scenery you find in the desert and I’m always in awe of the way nature adapts.

  5. I’ve only visited one of these deserts and it’s not even the Aussie one. The Mojave was definitely strikingly beautiful.

    I can also attest to the beauty of the NSW outback. I’m sure it compares pretty well to its western equivalent (albeit with less famous rocks).
    Auss recently posted..Guest Post: Waking Up in Belfast

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  7. I’m also a fan of deserts, hence the sandy pic next to my name. It was taken in my favourite desert – the Egyptian Sand Sea, which is the Egyptian part of the Libyan Desert. Huge swathes of it are perfectly flat and there’s almost nothing there.
    Steve recently posted..Planning a trip to Myanmar

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