Last Updated on August 6, 2022
Desert destinations all over the world have something magical about them. Traveling through the desert offers unique views, breathtaking sunsets, endless expanses of sand as far as the eye can see, unique cities and towns, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
There are people who visit the desert as tourists, and those who decide to experience it to the fullest, enjoying desert activities such as desert safaris, camel rides, dune bashing, sandboarding, camping under the stars and all that the desert has to offer.
Below, a list of the most beautiful desert gateaways in the world and the best ways to discover and experience them.
Top Desert Travel Destinations
Sahara Desert – Northern Africa
The Sahara is the most famous hot desert in the world and also the largest: it occupies about a quarter of the enormous African continent and crosses as many as eleven countries, while it continues to expand due also to climate change.
In such a vast area, you will find different landscapes: sand dunes, of course, but also rocky deserts, semi-arid areas and even steppes and forests. The best way to experience the Sahara is certainly to participate in a caravan trip, on the tracks of the nomadic tribes of the past.
Sahara Desert Adventures
Gobi Desert – Mongolia
The legendary Gobi desert is located in Central Asia, between the countries of Mongolia and China. It is characterized mainly by bare rock and famous for being historically populated by nomadic shepherds.
The Gobi desert is a cold desert positioned on a plateau, which means it is not unusual to see it covered in snow during the year, making it an interesting choice for desert travel.
Gobi Desert Adventures
Simpson Desert – Australia
The Simpson Desert is located in the heart of the Australian continent – the so-called Outback – and extends for almost 600 thousand square kilometers. The sand, between which once flowed a long river, is formed here in gigantic dune systems, up to ten meters high.
Alternating with these are shallow clay depressions and Lake Eyre, the world’s largest salt lake, about fifteen meters below sea level. If you manage to see it on one of the rare occasions when it is full, you can turn to the Lake Eyre Yacht Club, a group of friendly local sailors, for a tour.
Simpson Desert Adventures
Salar de Uyuni Desert – Bolivia
Covering more than ten thousand square kilometers, this gigantic Bolivian salt desert is one of the most extensive deserts in the world, as well as being one of the most fascinating places on the planet.
The white spaces stretching as far as the eye can see create a surreal environment, where it is possible to take funny pictures thanks to the absence of perspective. A unique way to cross it is the Wara Wara del Sur, a train that runs through four stations in a span of about fifteen hours.
Salar de Uyuni Desert Adventures
Wadi Rum Desert – Jordan
Also known as the “Valley of the Moon,” the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Characterized by sandy mountains of various colors, interspersed with deep canyons, this valley of granite rock has its highest point in Mount Jebel Rum, and even soft sand dunes for sandboarding.
Between rock carvings and castles in the desert there is no shortage of things to see, and it is definitely worth a tour of at least a couple of days. In Wadi Rum many films have been shot on lunar landscapes, such as some scenes of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Wadi Rum Desert Adventures
Thar Desert – India
Also known as the Great Indian Desert, this desert region, mostly located within the borders of Rajasthan, includes predominantly sandy areas, with a transitional belt consisting of thorny savanna.
In the heart of the Thar desert lies the beautiful fortified city of Jaisalmer, surrounded by very long walls, where the Jaisalmer Desert Festival is held every year in February.
Thar Desert Adventures
Namib Desert – Namibia
A desert of dreamlike charm, the Namib is considered among the oldest in the world. Very high dunes of red sand, which change color and shape with the work of the wind, interspersed with skeletons of acacia trees that create surreal places.
An experience not to be missed is to fly over the desert with a panoramic flight in a hot air balloon or on board a small plane.
Namib Desert Adventures
Kalahari Desert – Botswana
The Kalahari desert is made up of nearly a million square kilometers of red sand and is located in Botswana (and partly in Namibia and South Africa). Within it are several nature reserves, such as the Central Kalahari Wildlife Reserve, the Khutse Wildlife Reserve and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The Kalahari is one of the best desert safari destinations in Africa.
Kalahari Desert Adventures
Sonora Desert – North America
This desert (sometimes also known as the Gila Desert) is located between the United States and Mexico, is characterized by a wide variety of plants that can withstand heat and drought, such as the Saguaro cactus, a characteristic species of cactus typical of this desert that can reach a height of more than ten meters.
Everything can be better known thanks to the museum located on the edge of the desert, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: 400 thousand square meters (mostly outdoors) dedicated to the desert ecosystem of the area.
Sonora Desert Adventures
Rub’ al Khali Desert – Arabian Peninsula
The Rub’al Khali (“Empty Quarter”) covers most of Saudi Arabia, this sand desert of 650 thousand square kilometers. This iconic desert offers dazzling yellow sand dunes which are extremely popular amongst desert dwellers and adventure seekers, above all in the areas of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman.
Desert safari tours in these regions include activities such as sandboarding, a camel ride, a dinner under the stars with a show and the adrenaline-filled dune bashing tour by jeep – just about anything the desert has to offer, you can find it there.
Rub’ al Khali Desert Adventures
Mojave Desert – United States
The Mojave is one of the best deserts to visit in North America. Characterized by water-carved canyons, salt basins, leftover ancient lava flows, yucca forests and sand dunes, this desert region is situated on a plateau that spans four states: California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
The Mojave Desert is full of surprises, here you can also find a landing base for the Shuttles returning from space missions.
Mojave Desert Adventures
Atacama Desert – South America
This desert between southern Peru and Chile is located in a region of great mineral wealth and is home to three protected natural areas: Pan de Azúcar National Park, La Chimba National Reserve and Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve.
The Atacama Desert is considered the driest place on Earth, with areas that receive less than 1mm of precipitation per year, and some which haven’t seen any rain in hundreds of years.
Atacama Desert Adventures
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