From soaring African sand mountains to misty coastal dunes, deserts in all forms have fascinated people for centuries. The beauty of a landscape that ripples and changes with the wind, the silence that reigns supreme and the miracles that its inhabitants must accomplish to survive; there are so many reasons why deserts utterly captivate. It’s a terrain where life is rare and existence is an endless battle, yet beauty resides in every corner and these harsh environments serve as a perfect reminder of just how precious life is. Our selection of drop-dead gorgeous deserts delivers astounding vistas at every angle…
The Hoggar Mountains, Algeria
Located in the south of Algeria, this desert makes you dizzy – simply peering up at its steep peaks and soaring craggy cliffs is enough to give even the most grounded visitor the giddies. It’s awe-inspiring not just for its size either; wild, raw, extreme natural beauty is found in abundance in this harsh region.
Sud Lipez, Bolivia
Sud Lipez is the most extravagant of altitude deserts – rich in colour, it’s home to sun-scorched, copper-hued volcanoes and vivid turquoise lagoons. It’s also a close neighbour to the world’s largest salt flats, Salar de Uyuni, one of the most astounding, otherworldly terrains on the planet.
A jewel of northern Chad - sand, water and labyrinths of wind-sculpted rock all reside in the Ennedi, known as an ‘Eden in the Sahara’. A World Heritage Site, it’s an ecological haven that’s home to remarkable biodiversity.
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Parque Nacional dos Lencois Maranhenses, Brazil
It’d be easy to dismiss the paradise-like, crystalline lagoons that form between the sand dunes of Parque Nacional dos Lencois Maranhenses as a mirage. Beautiful and otherworldly, they have a surreal part Sahara/part Seychelles vibe. Go between July and September when the lakes are full and a dazzling emerald blue.
An alien-like landscape of lucid colour with acid pools, salt pans and lava lakes, this volcanic desert in Ethiopia is one of the hottest, and harshest, places in the world. And yet, life is still present here – the spectacle of camel caravans carrying blocks of salt cut from the desert is worth the trip alone.
Also known as The Great Indian Desert, the Thar is the most densely populated desert in the world. Visiting its golden, ever-shifting dunes goes hand in hand with getting to know its inhabitants, who are famed for their warm hospitality.
An endlessly moving mass of sand that stretches for more than 1,200 miles along the Atlantic Ocean, the Namib is the oldest desert on the planet, with the highest sand dunes. The only source of humidity here comes from coastal fog – a gift from the sea that transforms the arid desert into a vast natural habitat for countless flora and fauna.
The Sahara is the largest desert in the world, stretching its sandy reaches across 3.6 million square miles. It’s a vast and varied terrain of dusty mountains, expansive plains, plateaus and legendary dune fields that peak and trough against the horizon. To lose yourself in the Sahara is a wonderful way to find yourself.
In northern Chile, there is a desert so arid, silent and harsh that it gives off the impression it’s been lifted straight from the moon: the Atacama Desert. The red ridges of the Valle de la Luna (the Valley of the Moon) inside the desert are a beautiful, mystical blend of stone, sand and wind that will convince you of the Atacama’s magical character.
White Desert, Egypt
Spires of bright white limestone sculpted over time jut into the sky throughout Egypt’s White Desert – it’s an unusual natural open-air exhibition; one where the wind is the artist and the land is the canvas. Go during sunrise or sunset to see the unusual, otherworldly rock formations illuminated in magnificent orange and yellow.
Dasht-e Kavir, Iran
In the heart of Iran, a slice of beauty can be found within Dasht-e Kavir. The region’s soaring, extensive dunes undulate under the whims of the wind and the oases that spring from the sand appear like havens of peace in hostile ground. If you look close enough, hidden treasures are all around this sacred desert.
Located around 3,300 feet above sea level, the Gobi Desert is a mammoth region that’s comprised of extensive steppes, mountains and sandy desert. A wild place to experience life like an authentic nomad, either on horseback or camel, switching off from the modern world and connecting to nature is just another day at the office here.
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