From the salt flat in Bolivia that looks like a cosmic mirror, to the hidden oasis in the deserts of Libya, the arid climates of these harsh landscapes have captured people’s imaginations, been the sets of movies and the stage for pieces of art. If you’d love to walk through the arid deserts of the world and allow your imagination run wild, then here are a few to spark your interest.
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1. Namib Desert, Namibia
Believed to be the world’s oldest desert, the Namib Desert in Namibia is thought to be 55 million years old, when the climate in the region changed to arid and dry. The area receives less than a centimetre of rain each year and temperatures reach up to 45 degrees Celsius during the day and freezing overnight. While the landscape is so harsh, you’d hardly think animals could survive out here, but elephants, lions, zebras and lions all call this region home.
While Antarctica might be surrounded by water and covered in ice, the area is considered a desert because very little water falls from the sky – it receives less rainfall than the Sahara Desert, for example. Antarctica almost doubles its size during winter and the lowest temperatures in the world can be found here, the lowest recorded being -89.6 degrees Celsius.
3. Blue Desert, Egypt
While the White and Black deserts may be well-known natural wonders in the Egyptian Sahara, the Blue Desert is a man-made variety and a work of art. Belgian artist Jean Verame painted several large rocks bright blue as a symbol of peace after the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Agreement of 1979.
4. Wadi Rum, Jordan
It’s easy to see why Wadi Rum in Jordan is often called ‘The Valley of the Moon’. This 720 sq km desert is full of sandstone mountains, narrow canyons and ancient rock drawings that look out of this world and actually became the filiming location for movies such as Red Planet and Lawrence of Arabia.
5. Simpson Desert, Australia
At more than 176,000 sq km, the Simpson Desert is the fourth-largest desert in Australia and covers parts of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland. There are more than 1,100 dunes in the Simpson desert, and is the world’s longest parallel sand dunes.
Read more: 5 weird and wonderful natural phenomena in Australia
6. Sahara Desert, Northern Africa
One of the harshest environments on the planet, the Sahara Desert covers much of Northern Africa including Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Sudan. Dinosaur fossils have been found in the area as well as ancient rock paintings that depict animals such as livestock, elephants, lions and giraffes.
7. Libyan Desert, Libya
While the Libyan Desert is a beautiful place, it’s the Ubari Oasis that really steals the show. The dunes here are thought to be more than 100,000 years old, while a small lake now remains from the time when Lake Mega Fezza took up much 120,000 sq km up until around 5,000 years ago.
8. Gobi Desert
The largest desert in Asia, the Gobi Desert covers more than 1.2 million sq km of China and southern Mongolia and was once part of the great Mongol Empire. The word Gobi means desert, but is called different names in Mandarin including sha-mo (sand desert) and han-hal (dry sea).
9. Monument Valley, United States
The Monument Valley appears now just as it would have thousands of years ago – wild, arid and absolutely magnificent. Located on the border of states Arizona and Utah, Monumet Valley isn’t a valley at all, but rather a flat plain with iconic sandstone buttes.
10. Salar de Uyuni
Easily one of the most photographed places on the planet – especially for Instagrammers – Salar de Uyuni is one of the most recognisable deserts there are. The layer of water the salt flat receives during the wet season makes the surface of the desert reflective, appearing like one giant mirror. At more than 10,000 sq km it is made up of more than 10 billion tonnes of salt, making it one of the largest salt pans in the world.