Experience breathtaking sunsets, incredible starry skies and vast beautiful landscapes in some of the most spectacular deserts around the world. Whether you want to camel trek across the Sahara, surf the orange dunes of the Namib, encounter colourful cultures in the Thar Desert, witness the sunset in the Western Desert or drive through the diverse landscape of the Patagonian, check out our pick of beautiful deserts – big and small, flat and rocky, hot and cold.
Which deserts would you add to the list?
1. Chile: Atacama Desert
Made up of vast salt lakes and miles of sand, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest in the world with an average annual rainfall of just 1 millimetre. The lunar-like landscape of the Atacama is a truly incredible sight to behold and has even formed the backdrop of many space-themed films, such as Quantum of Solace and Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets.
2. Mongolia: Gobi Desert
A vast land of steepes and mountains, the Gobi Desert is one of the largest in the world and is a treasure chest of fossilised dinosaur bones and eggs. Covering much of southern Mongolia and parts of northern China, the Gobi differs from landscapes like the Sahara or Kalahari, with rocky vistas rather than sandy dunes.
3. Botswana: Kalahari Desert
Stretching 900,000 square kilometres across sub-Saharan Africa, the arid sandy landscape of the Kalahari covers most of Botswana and extends into Namibia and South Africa. Despite its parched nature, the Kalahari is home to a variety of plant life, wild animals and birds, making it a fascinating place to explore on a safari through southern Africa.
4. USA: Monument Valley
While this rocky region of the Colorado Plateau may not be considered a desert in the traditional sense, the vast sandstone clusters and arid climate might have you thinking otherwise. This desert-like landscape is set on the state line of Utah and Arizona and is an incredibly striking place to drive through on a road trip across America.
5. Namibia: Namib Desert
Contrary to the name suggests the costal Namib Desert covers not just Namibia, but also neighbouring Angola and South Africa as well. Stretching 2000 kilometres along the Atlantic Coast it is one of the oldest deserts in the world, features sand dunes of record-breaking heights plus surreal white clay pans too, creating a truly epic cinematic landscape.
6. Argentina: Patagonian Desert
Covering a distance of 673,000 square kilometres in Argentina and Chile, the Patagonian Desert is the largest in the Americas. Due to its size, this vast desert boasts a diverse landscape of made up of shrubby steepes, tall grassland, rivers and valleys plus glacial fields, depending on where you find yourself. A drive through here is simply spectacular.
7. Morocco: Sahara Desert
Covering most of northern Africa – an area almost as large as the United States of America, the Sahara Desert is the hottest in the world, through surprisingly not the largest! Temperatures here can reach up to a scorching 50 C during the height of summer, but at night can quickly drop to below freezing. The orange dunes can reach incredible heights of up to 180 metres and are stunningly beautiful to admire as the sun sets.
8. India: Thar Desert
While India’s Thar Desert may not be the largest or driest in the world, it is perhaps the most culturally diverse covering Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat. Set deep within the desert one can come across colourful cities like Jodhpur and Jaisalmer where age-old traditions continue to thrive surrounded by vast empty landscapes.
9. Jordan: Wadi Rum
Also known as the Valley of the Moon, the ancient desert landscape of Wadi Rum is made up of a stunning valley cut through sandstone and littered with incredible rock formations rising dramatically from the sand. Home to the Bedouin and unforgettable sunrises, this Jordanian desert is the perfect place to get back to nature in its unspoiled form.
10. Egypt: Western Desert
Spread across a distance of 700,000 square kilometres and made up of rising sand dunes, canyons, hidden oases, valleys and mountainous plateaus, the Western Desert is a diverse and magical place to explore on any journey through Egypt. Forming part of it is the White Desert, a surreal lunar-like landscape of white wind-carved rock formations quite unlike any other.