Top 10 Deserts and Sandy Landscapes

Top 10 Deserts and Sandy Landscapes

Sand is such a beautiful element – so ephemeral and evasive. The landscapes shaped by sand are changing constantly and are never the same. Vast territories of uninhabited, hot and dry terrain – the deserts have however attracted people for various purposes, even enlightenment. Discovering a desert on a camel provides a truly unforgettable experience.

10. The Gobi Desert

Huge desert sprawls across northern China and southern Mongolia. It is the so called rain shadow desert – a result of the Himalayan range blocking the rain away. It is also the place where the first dinosaur egg was found along with other important fossils.

Why to go there?

Explore the dunes on camels – an authentic way to traveling in the desert.

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Photo by Unknown

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Photo by Unknown

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Photo by Unknown

9. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, USA

The park boasts the tallest sand dunes in entire North America – some reach an impressive height of 230 m (750 ft). The vast area was created after the river Rio Grande has carried the deposits over the past tens of thousands of years. However, this is not a desert – the sand is moist just a few inches under the surface. The area also features alpine lakes, creeks, grasslands and forests.

Why to go there?

An impressive natural wonders, providing great hiking opportunities. However, it can be extremely hot in summer.

Top Sands-Colorado-Photo by Michael Deyoung

Photo by Michael Deyoung

Top Sands-Colorado-Photo by Frans Dekkers

Photo by Frans Dekkers

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Photo by Unknown

Top Sands-Colorado

Photo by Unknown

Top Sands-Colorado-Photo by Witold Skrypczak

Photo by Witold Skrypczak

8. Tassili n’Ajjer, Algeria

Found in the Sahara Desert, a vast mountain range is a spectacular natural wonder. Being a unique geological structure it is listed as a World Heritage Site and a National Park. The plateau is also a favorite tourist destination in the country, since it provides some of the most fascinating views in the area, that are often being compared to the lunar landscape.

Why to go there?

One of the most beautiful places in the country and North Africa. Tassili n’Ajjer is an important natural and historic site worth visiting at least once in your lifetime. It is also said to host the biggest amount of rock paintings in the entire world.

Top Sands-Tassili-Photo by Evan Cole

Photo by Evan Cole

Top Sands-Tassili-Photo by Afrotourism

Photo by Afrotourism

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Photo by Unknown

Top Sands-Tassili

Photo by Unknown

7. Waw an Namus, Libya

This is an indeed unique natural wonder found in the center of the Sahara Desert. The whole area is a volcanic field, that extends 10–20 km (6,2–12,4 mi), making it visible from space. In the middle of it there is a caldera and a cone. Moreover there are three saline lakes, that create a lush oasis. For centuries it has been an important stop for the caravans, that would refill their water supplies. Today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.

Why to go there?

One of the most stunning sites in Libya and the Sahara. A true natural wonder, which is definitely worth seeing at least once in a lifetime. However, every visitor should approach the attraction with care since a lot of damage has been done from careless tourists already.

Top Sands-Waw-Photo by Fouderg

Photo by Fouderg

Photo by George Steinmetz

6. Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

Situated far from the mainland, the remote place is divine. White sandy beaches, crystal clear water, dunes, constantly being sculpted by wind, and a few lodges, offering the ultimate relaxation. Paragliders Jody MacDonald and Gavin McClurg were probably the first to fly here. Mesmerized by the views, the adventurers captured them in the stunning photos.

Why to go there?

Today it is hard to believe that there could exist such a holiday destination as this – totally unspoiled, only crafted by wind and water. Surprisingly there are plenty of activities to do here: fishing, sailing safaris, water skiing, paragliding and more.

5. Rub’ al Khali, Arabian Peninsula

The largest sand desert in the world covers the third of the peninsula, thus the name – The Empty Quarter. Among a variety of minerals, the desert is rich in oil. The largest oil fields in the world are found here. The tourists and photographers are attracted by this vast, constantly changing landscape.

Why to go there?

People come to drive their cars or motorcycles – the site gives an opportunity to drive really fast and participate in a friendly race.

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Photo by Unknown

Top Sands-Rub

Photo by Unknown

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Photo by Unknown

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Photo by Unknown

4. Maranjab Kashan Desert, Iran

Found outside the ancient desert city of Aran va Bidgol, the desert sprawls across the Isfahan province. Other big city near the desert is Kashan, which is packed with museums and architectural monuments, yet is quite undiscovered by the tourists.

Why to go there?

While in the neighborhood, you can explore the desert and have a nice daytrip with cars there. Meanwhile, Kashan has thousands of years of history and is a very interesting town to see.

Top Sands-Maranjab-Photo by Ali Shokri

Photo by Ali Shokri

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Photo by Unknown

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Photo by Unknown

3. The White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA

Situated at an elevation of 1291 m (4235 ft) in the Tularosa Basin, White Sands is a dazzling natural wonder. The dunes are made of gypsum crystals, thus the white color. It is also the largest dune field of gypsum in the whole world. Interesting detail: the dunes are moved not only by wind, but also gravity, which moves them forward, when finally a steep dune crumbles down thus constantly changing the face of the monument.

Why to go there?

It is indeed a unique place, because usually gypsum – a water-soluble substance – is rinsed to the sea. However the basin traps it here, creating these vast white soft fields. The area is also a home for lizards, pocket mouse and insects, that have evolved a white color to merge with the landscape.

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Photo by Unknown

Top Sands-White-Photo by Michael Keel

Photo by Michael Keel

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Photo by Unknown

2. Baja California Desert, Mexico

Found on the wonderful Baja California Peninsula, which lies surrounded with the ocean, thus receiving some humidity despite the low rainfall. The unique phenomenon of incredible desert rivers, flowing from the San Ignacio Lagoon, occurs here – the formations look like giant trees from above!

Why to go there?

The ecoregion features a diversity of animals, reptiles, birds and some scarce fauna. Tourists visit the peninsula to admire the unsoiled nature.

Top Sands-Mexico-Photo by Adriana Franco

Photo by Adriana Franco

The Colorado River delta has hardly seen any Colorado water in the past 30 years. The only water the river delta sees nowadays is seawater. The tidal movement of the sea leaves a fascinating pattern of veins in the mudflats. The 1.5 million acre feet of water that the USA delivers across the border into Mexico is completely used by cities like Tijuana and Mexicali. The majority, though goes into the irrigation of the vast agricultural area that covers the northern part of the delta. The line of agricultural fields slowly moves northwards though due to an increasing salinity of the area.

Photo by Unknown

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Photo by Unknown

1. Namib Desert, Namibia

Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are clay and salt pans in the desert, that are the main attraction in the southwestern African country, part of Namib-Naukluft National Park. The distinctive feature of this location is the red dunes, that add up drama to the overall landscape. The valleys are the result of Tsauchab river, which floats every 5-10 years, but does not reach the Atlantic ocean and dries instead. The mud that is left finally solidifies, making a picturesque cracked ground.

Why to go there?

It is really nice to watch the sunrise in the desert. Do not wander too far from the roads, though, because it will lead you nowhere: the desert stretches for 2000 km along the Atlantic coast, where it is submerged by the cold waters.

Top Sands-Namib-Photo by Rocco Mega

Photo by Rocco Mega

Top Sands-Namib-Photo by Paul Garrett

Photo by Paul Garrett

Top Sands-Namib-Photo by Hougaard Malan

Photo by Hougaard Malan

Top Sands-Namib-Photo by Christopher R. Gray

Photo by Christopher R. Gray

Top Sands-Namib-Photo by Stefan Cruysberghs

Photo by Stefan Cruysberghs