Sandboarding, dune bashing, stargazing and mountain biking are just a few of the activities that you can engage in when visiting a desert destination. Deserts actually make up approximately one-third of the earth’s land area and are some of the most ecologically diverse places on the planet. Outlined below are five deserts that will have you feeling like you’ve landed on another planet and provide you with a good dose of vitamin D.
Namib Desert – Namibia
Dating back to approximately 80 million years, the Namib desert is arguably one of the oldest in the world. Located on the southern coast of Africa, it is home to diverse wildlife, including elephants that can go days without water and darkling beetles, that store humidity from the morning fog. It’s thanks to this coastal fog that the Namib desert is home to a large variety of fauna and flora, including the impressive Medusa Head. An airplane or hot air balloon ride is a wonderful way to observe the animals, admire the beautiful dunes, as well as the changing colours of the landscape. If you chose to go on a walking tour and climb the famous Dune 45, best to do so at sunrise as the shifting colours and contrasting shadows will have you awe-stricken.
Mojave Desert – USA
Are you a Star Trek fan? How about Planet of the Apes? If so, then you’ll recognize the Trona Pinnacles of the Mojave Desert, a unique geological feature created approximately 10 000 years ago. Spanning the states of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah, the Mojave Desert can also be identified by the famous Joshua Trees and Zabriskie Point, located in Death Valley, North America’s hottest and driest spot. You can choose to tour the desert by foot, car, bike or on horseback. The many hiking trails available provide the opportunity to spot wildlife, flora, rock formations, sand dunes and salt flats. Just make sure you don’t get too close to the Jumping Cactus!
White Desert – Egypt
“Ice-cream Cone” and “Mushroom” are just examples of the names that have been given to the calcium rock formations found across the landscape of the White Desert. As in most deserts, sunrise and sunset offer you a spectacle of colours that, in the White Desert, are reflected on the calcium formations that gave it its name. Many spend the night there camping with Bedouin guides and are lucky enough to catch a full moon, giving the area a glow that will stop you in your tracks. Daytime is best for activities such as sandboarding and enjoying the Bahariya oasis located nearby, with its hot springs, palm trees and fresh fruit.
Atacama Desert – Chile
Imagine waking up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise, looking over a geyser field where steam and water are erupting? You then warm up in a geothermal hot spring before getting ready to trek through the salt caves and climb sand dunes. If we’ve managed to entice you so far, you should head to the Atacama Desert in Chile. Receiving only 0.0004 inches of rainfall a year and located 8000 feet above sea level, this is the driest place on earth and is known for its Mars-like landscape. Every evening, you can stare at the sky and observe distant galaxies, as well as clusters of shining stars. The Atacama Desert is considered one of the best places in the world for astronomy and really is a stargazers’ paradise.
Gobi Desert – Mongolia
One of the reasons the Gobi Desert stands out from the others in this list is that it can get extremely cold in winter when the average nighttime temperature drops well below -10 degrees Celsius, although summers are very hot. This climate does not however deter tourists from visiting this fossil-rich desert where you can sleep in a traditional yurt like the nomadic people of Mongolia, climb the Khongor sand dune, one of the most impressive in the world, and ride an actual camel. Yes, you may be offered a “camel ride” in many countries but remember that if they only have one hump, they are dromedaries! You can even time your trip with the annual Thousand Camel Festival when hundreds of the endangered Bactrian camels participate in competitions such as racing, polo and best-decorated camel.
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Until next time, travel safely!
Written by: Nadine Ishak