Unique Deserts Worth Visiting

Some may turn their noses to the word desert. Hot temperatures, dry wastelands and in some cases poisonous animals commonly linger in these areas. Although some deserts do have their downfalls, there are some unique and truly beautiful deserts that are worth seeing at least once in a lifetime. Here’s a small list of unique deserts around the world that have a unique aspect, that you should add to your travel bucket list.

Unique Deserts Around the World

Namib Desert, Namibia

The Namib Desert is an internationally popular destination. Located in Southern Africa, it’s believed to be the oldest desert in the world. The Namib is a barren land that stretches over 2,000 km. Just like most deserts, rain is very minimal, at less than 1 cm of rain per year. Although the land is virtually rainless, the air is at a near saturation point, making fog fairly common.

Namib hosts various activities, including national park walks, ghost towns, guided tours, and more.

Unique Deserts Around the World: Namib Desert, Namibia Springbok Antelope
Springbok Antelope on Namib Desert, Namibia: Photo credit Luca Galuzzi – www.galuzzi.it

Taklamakan Desert, China

Located in the Northwestern region of China, the Taklamakan Desert is one of the largest shifting sand deserts in the world. The name is believed to originate from a word meaning ‘to abandon’, or ‘leave behind’. It’s also known as a place of ruin or sea of death, as it’s a waterless death trap.

It’s believed by locals that treasures lay deep beneath the shifting sands, and mummies have been found in the desert, dating back at least 4,000 years.

If you plan a visit, you can take a guided tour of the desert, but it’s not recommended to go on a trip into the desert alone!

Taklamakan desert
Taklamakan Desert: Photo by Pravit / CC BY-SA 4.0

Painted Desert, Arizona, United States

Near the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert is one of two Painted Deserts in the world, alongside the other located in Australia. The desert is known for it’s beautiful, vibrant colours, making it’s name very fitting.

The desert spans over 93,500 acres and is housed in the Petrified Forest National Park. The desert has multiple attractions and things to do.

Count Chocula Grand Falls Painted Desert Arizona
Count Chocula – Grand Falls Flood after the spring melt in the Painted Desert: Photo on Flickr by CEBImagery / CC BY-NC 2.0

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Spanning over 4000 square miles, the Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world.

Located in Bolivia, the Salar de Uyuni get it’s name from the Spanish word ‘Salar de Tunupa’ which means ‘salt flat enclosure. The flat contains various elements and compounds such as sodium, potassium, and lithium, which makes it a popular mining location for lithium.

There are also various tours available, including accommodation. Make sure you come prepared, though.

Piles of Salt Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Piles of salt at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: Photo by Luca Galuzzi – www.galuzzi.it

Lencois Maranhenses, Brazil

Lencois Maranhenses is a desert located in the Lencois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil. With giant sand dunes, ranging in size and sloping, they hold small pools of water from the common rainfall. Because of these pools, the desert gets the nickname of ‘The Flooded Desert’. The pools are truly a sight to see, that you will rarely see anywhere else.

The desert is only accessible by ATV, or guided tours that are available.

Lake in Lencois Maranhenses, Brazil
Lake in Lencois Maranhenses, Brazil: Photo by Vitor 1234 / CC BY-SA 3.0

Atacama Desert, Chile

Stretching from southern Peru, down into Northern Chile, the Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world. The desert has been said to go up to 4 years without any rainfall. And some studies show that the desert may have not seen significant rainfall for over 400 years.

Because of the extreme dryness, and cloudless days, this makes the Atacama Desert ideal for astronomy. It is said to be one of the best places for observatories in the world, and is home to the biggest ground telescope in the world.

Snow Comes to the Atacama Desert
Snow Comes to the Atacama Desert: Photo credit ESO/S. Guisard

2 Responses

  1. Why you should visit South America's salt flats | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] salt flats is towards the end of the rainy season in March. For a while, a shallow lake covers the Salar de Uyuni. You’ll sacrifice a visit to the mighty cacti on Incahuasi Island as it’s cut off by deeper […]

  2. Swakopmund Namibia: Ocean meets Desert - Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] The Namib Desert stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to deep inside Namibia. Neither Angola to the north nor South Africa knows of such extremes. I should though, for I have been deep into this harshest of desert places where nothing grows, and only scorpions scuttled into my sleeping bag at night. No wonder early German settlers chose cooler spots like Luderitz, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund Namibia to settle. For there at least the ocean fog rolls in at night permitting a quieter sleep. […]


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