Last Updated on August 4, 2022

Stunning landscapes can be enjoyed from the top of a desert sand dune, and many recreational activities such as sand boarding and dune bashing can be enjoyed on these peaks. But where can you find the most extraordinary dunes, those as tall as mountains?

All over the world, sand dunes are the natural result of decades, centuries, and even millennia of windblown sand and the harshest weather conditions, forming in arid desert regions or, sometimes, as leftovers from ancient lakes and ocean beds, or from volcanic activity. There are many different types and shapes of sand dunes, and the so-called “star” dunes are usually the tallest and largest in size.

There are plenty of unique, spectacular deserts all over the globe. The biggest dunes on the planet are found in South America, specifically in Argentina and Peru. Unsurprisingly, you’ll also find very tall peaks in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East, from Namibia to Iran.

Going further into continental Asia, huge mountains of sands are found in the desert between China and Mongolia. Even Europe, which does not have any true deserts, is home to some impressive sand hills. Let’s find out which are the largest dunes around the world:

The Highest Sand Dune on Earth: Duna Federico Kirbus. Bolson de Fiambalà, Catamarca, Argentina

World’s Tallest Sand Dunes

Duna Federico Kirbus - The tallest dune in the world

Duna Federico Kirbus – Catamarca, Argentina

The Duna Federico Kirbus is the highest dune in the world, measuring a whopping 1234 meters in height (2845 above sea level). It was named after Argentinian journalist and researcher Federico B. Kirbus who discovered its real height. The dune is part of the Bolsón de Fiambalá, a semicircular sand valley filled with huge sand hills.

Height: 1234 meters / 4048 feet


Read also: Sand Dune Surfing in Argentina

Highest Sand Dunes in the World: Duna Grande / Cerro Marcha

Duna Grande – Nazca, Peru

Duna Grande, sometimes also called Cerro Marcha, is the tallest dune of Peru, a country filled with vast sand dune fields. It is located in Vista Alegre, in the province of Nazca in the Ica region.

Height: 924 meters / 3031 feet


Read also: Sand Dune Surfing in Peru

Highest Sand Dunes in the World: Duna Cerro Blanco.

Cerro Blanco – Nazca, Peru

Another huge dune near Nazca, Cerro Blanco is sometimes considered the tallest dune in the world – with an altitude of 2080 meters above sea level, but with a rocky base of approximately 1300 meters, and a sand slope of “only” 780 meters (hence losing the contest with both its neighbor Duna Grande and Duna Federico Kirbus in Argentina). Cerro Blanco is one of the most popular sandboarding destinations in Peru, and also one of the most challenging, requiring a 3-hour hike to reach the top before sliding on a very steep slope.

Height: 780 meters / 2559 feet


Read also: Sand Dune Surfing in Nazca

Highest Sand Dunes in the World: Badain Jaran Desert Mongolia / China

Badain Jaran Dunes – Gobi Desert, China

The Badain Jaran desert in Inner Mongolia, China has the largest stationary dunes on Earth. The Wushumu dune is the tallest peak with over 500 meters in height.

Height: 528 meters / 1732 feet


Highest Sand Dunes in the World: Dasht-e Lut's sand dunes (Rig-e Yalan).

Rig-e Yalan Dune – Lut Desert, Iran

The Rig-e Yalan dunes are the highest sand dune in the Lut desert in Iran. The sand hill area expands for 150 km north to south, 70 km east to west. The Lut desert also happens to be the hottest desert on Earth.

Height: 480 meters / 1574 feet


Read also: Sand Dune Surfing in Iran

Highest Sand Dunes in the World: Dune 7 Namibia

Dune 7 – Namib Desert, Namibia

The tallest peak in Namibia takes the name of Dune 7, because it is the seventh dune one encounters after crossing the river Tsauchab. It is located in Walvis Bay and a popular dune climbing spot.

Height: 383 meters / 1256 feet


Highest Sand Dunes in the World: Big Daddy dune namibia

Big Daddy – Sossuvlei, Namibia

Another very tall dune in the Namib Desert, the so-called Big Daddy dune, located in the Sossuvlei area.

Height: 325 meters / 1066 feet


Read also: Sand Dune Surfing in Namibia

The Tallest Sand Dunes are often Star-shaped dunes.

Tallest Sand Dunes in North America

Highest Sand Dunes in the US: Star Dune - Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Star Dune – Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

The Star Dune at the Great Sand Dunes National park in Colorado is the tallest dune in North America, measuring about 230 m from base to top. The dunes are also a popular sandboarding destination in Colorado.

A “star” dune is a type of dune with a morphological structure similar to that of a star or pyramid, and they are usually the tallest and steepest types of dunes.

Height: 230 meters / 750 feet


Read also: Sand dunes in Colorado

Highest Sand Dunes in the US: Eureka Dunes  - Death Valley National Park, California

Eureka Dunes – Death Valley National Park, California

The Eureka Dunes are the tallest dunes in California, located in the remote Eureka Valley, an enclosed basin at 3000 foot elevation located northwest of Death Valley. These are amongst the tallest dunes in the United States.

Height: 146 meters / 480 feet


Read also: Sand surfing in California’s Mojave Desert

Click here for a complete list of sand dunes in the US

Tallest Sand Dunes in Europe

Tallest Sand Dune in Europe: Dune of Pilat - France

Dune du Pilat – La Teste-de-Buch, France

The highest dune of Europe is located the Dune du Pilat, located in France. It extends for over 600 meters in the French department of Gironde, near the Arcachon basin. The white sand hills are more than 120 meters high and with their 60 million cubic meters of sand accumulated and shaped by the wind they have incorporated houses, roads and even a forest.

The natural landscape of the immense quartz dune is truly surprising for the shape, color and light it gives between the beach and the forest. Dune du Pilat is constantly changing and has a color that varies from white to pink gold, enhanced by the blue of the sea and the luxuriant forest that surround it. 

Height: 102 meters / 334 feet


Read also: Sandboarding at Dune du Pilat

Read Also: What are sand dunes and how are they formed?

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