latgest deserts in the world

Top 15 Largest Deserts in the World You Must Explore

Top 15 Largest Deserts in the World You Must Explore

To explore the largest deserts in the world is a desire of so many tourists. They offer arid ecosystems and on average receive over 250 millimeters of preceipe per year. Antarctica is the largest desert around the globe. Yet the Sahara is not the largest one.

Moreover, there is a small amount of water available for other organisms and plants, on account of exceeding evaporation as compared to annual rainfall. Even though different deserts discover a reason to survive. Since the deserts remain far from the moisture, they remain dry.

Sandy stretch is the common reason for precipitation in a desert. Dividing into four types coastal, cold, semi-arid, as well as hot, and dry, dunes offer just 10% of the deserts in the world. Also, there are significantly lesser ratios of animals and plant life in the deserts.

On the other hand, Antarctica contains a lot more water in the form of ice, so, its ice maintains the water balance that turns into liquid during the summer season. Therefore, deserts are of different types such as warm, hot, and cold deserts

In this List we have organized 15 Top Largest Deserts in the World You must visit and explore.

1. Sahara Desert

The world’s third largest and hottest desert is the Sahara, covering 3.5 million squares of wind-swept and arid panoramas. You will surprisingly get to know that Sahara is continuing to grow larger.

Most probably, tourists think of the subtle Sahara of Northern Africa as fertile land, mind mapping the camels, and rolling dunes on the deserts. Furthermore, the Sahara can receive almost a precipitation of between 4 and 10 inches a year.

Expanding from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean to the north, the Western Sahara stretches to the Atlantic Ocean.

Sahara Desert

2. Arctic Polar Desert

This desert receives approximately no precipitation of the dry air and frigid temperatures as well. There is snowfall over here, but still, it melts very little. You will witness the two largest deserts around the globe on the planet.

The Arctic Polar Desert is the second largest in the world. Having the polar tundra of Greenland, Russia, and Canada. Although this desert is dry, it features several polar bears, walruses, and hardy bird species.

Arctic Desert

3. Arabian Desert

The Arabian Desert, the world’s second-largest subtropical desert, dominates most of the Arabian Peninsula in Asia, covering approximately 1.0 million square miles (2.6 million sq. km). This vast expanse is characterized by barren, sandy landscapes, yet it harbors surprising riches in natural resources like oil and sulfur. Summer temperatures soar to highs of fifty degrees Celsius during the day, plummeting drastically at night. Native to this harsh environment are locusts and dung beetles.

Encompassing nearly the entire Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian Desert blankets the region in shifting sands and seasonal winds. Within its bounds lies the Rub’ al-Khali (the Empty Quarter), one of the planet’s largest continuous sand expanses. Despite its forbidding name, Bedouin tribes have traversed these sands for centuries, guiding their herds of camels, sheep, goats, or cattle into the desert during the rainy winter months and returning to cultivated lands as the dry summer sets in. However, today, only an estimated five percent of the Bedouin population continues to live as (semi)nomadic pastoralists.

Arabian Desert

4. Gobi Desert

The Gobi Desert stands as Asia’s second-largest desert and the fifth-largest worldwide. Positioned along the border of China and Mongolia, it holds historical significance as a pivotal location along the ancient Silk Road.

This desert falls under the rain shadow category, where nearby mountain ranges hinder rain systems from reaching its terrain. In Gobi’s case, the Tibetan Plateau to the southwest acts as the barrier, preventing precipitation from reaching its vast expanse. Another renowned example of a rain shadow desert is the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.

Contrary to its harsh reputation, the Gobi Desert teems with diverse species, including the Bactrian (Mongolian) Camel, Black-Tailed Gazelle, Gobi Ibex, Gobi Bear, and even the elusive Snow Leopard. While vegetation is sparse overall, certain plant species have adapted admirably to survive the desert’s harsh conditions. Notably, the Saxaul tree stands out for its ability to retain moisture within its bark, thriving across the varied ecoregions of the Gobi Desert.

Gobi Desert

5. Kalahari Desert

The Kalahari is a subtropical desert situated in southern Africa, extending across parts of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. It ranks as the eighth largest desert globally, covering an area of 0.22 million square miles (0.56 million sq. km). What’s intriguing is its classification as a semi-desert, receiving an average of four to eight inches of rain annually, but up to twenty inches during exceptional wet years—ten more than the typical threshold for desert classification. This region is inhabited by diverse wildlife, including meerkats, hyenas, kudus, and wildebeests.

Kalahari Desert

6. Patagonian Desert

The Patagonian Desert in South America ranks as the world’s sixth-largest desert, sprawling across Argentina and Chile, and covering approximately 260,000 square miles (673,000 square kilometers). Bordered by the towering Andes Mountains and the vast Patagonian Steppe, it hosts a variety of plants and animals, including the Southern Beech Tree and the Patagonian Cypress.

For millennia, the Tehuelche people have inhabited this land, descendants of ancient artists who painted the cave art found at the UNESCO heritage site known as Cueva de las Manos. Exploring these caves offers a journey back in time, revealing the early human presence in this remarkable desert landscape.

Patagonian Desert

7. Great Basin Desert

The Great Basin Desert sprawls across the western United States, covering a vast area of 190,000 square miles (492,000 square kilometers), including parts of Nevada, Utah, California, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming. It’s a tough place to live, with its high elevation, rough landscape, and very little rainfall, making it one of the most barren regions in the country.

In this desert, you’ll find large patches of sagebrush, salt flats, and dried-up lake beds. Despite its harsh conditions, it’s home to various plants and animals that have adapted to survive here. It’s not just a desert; it’s also a significant area for anthropology and natural history.

Evidence of Native American communities that lived here thousands of years ago can still be found, along with some of the oldest living plants on Earth. One famous example is the “Prometheus Tree,” a bristlecone pine that was over 4,000 years old before it was unfortunately cut down in 1965.

 Great Basin Desert

8. Antarctic Polar Desert

Antarctica, the biggest continent and the largest desert globally, is a freezing expanse at the South Pole, spanning a colossal 5.5 million square miles (14.2 million square kilometers). Despite its icy appearance, it’s also the windiest continent and houses one of the driest spots on Earth—the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Interestingly, this region is the only place on Earth completely devoid of microbial life.

Surprisingly, despite its vast ice sheets, Antarctica receives merely 0.8 inches (2 centimeters) of precipitation annually. Sadly, this title of the world’s largest desert may not hold for much longer. With the impact of climate change and unprecedented ice melting at the poles, polar deserts like Antarctica could diminish in size in the years to come. This poses serious threats, including rising sea levels and irreparable damage to these crucial and delicate ecosystems.

Antarctic Polar Desert

9. Syrian Desert

The Syrian Desert, also called Badiyat ash-Sham, stretches over 190,000 square miles (492,000 square kilometers) across parts of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq in the Middle East. It’s a tough place with vast stretches of dry sand and gravel plains, rocky mountains, and occasional dry riverbeds known as wadis.

Just like other harsh environments, the Syrian Desert is home to only the toughest nomadic groups. The famous Bedouin tribes settled here between the first and fourth centuries C.E., and many still live their traditional way of life. Sadly, these groups and their land face threats from various environmental issues like oil drilling, overgrazing, and rising temperatures due to climate change.

10. Karakum Desert

Spanning over 135,000 square miles, the desert in Central Asia envelops around 70% of Turkmenistan’s territory. Aptly named the “Black Sand” desert, it owes its title to the dark soil beneath its sandy surface. The desert harbors several notable features within its vast expanse, including the planet’s second-largest irrigation canal, the Karakum Canal. This canal stretches across the desert, transporting water from the Amu Darya River in the north to communities located in the southern regions.

Karakum Desert

11. Thar Desert

The Thar Desert, found in India and Pakistan, ranks among the world’s largest deserts. It’s famous for its expansive dunes and rich cultural history.

This desert is home to some of the world’s largest animal species, including the Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Fox, and Blackbuck. It’s also a popular destination for tourists, offering opportunities to explore its ancient cultural heritage and vibrant wildlife.

Thar Desert

12. Libyan Desert

The Libyan Desert is one of the world’s hottest, driest, and least explored deserts. It is located in North Africa and is known as the Great Sand Sea. The desert has a rich history, as it was home to the ancient Berber and Greek civilizations. It is said that the desert was once a green oasis and is now a vast expanse of sand and rock.

Some interesting facts about the desert are that it has been used as a backdrop in movies like Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia. It holds wildlife, ranging from camels to flamingoes.

Libyan Desert

13. Great Australian Desert

For ages, the Great Australian Desert has captivated people’s imaginations, earning its place as the fourth-largest desert globally. It’s believed to have endured for over five million years and is nestled in the southern reaches of Australia.

Encompassing more than 2.7 million square kilometers, this expansive desert is a haven for a rich variety of wildlife, including kangaroos, emus, and dingos.

Despite its harsh conditions, life perseveres in this desert, with hardy plants such as wildflowers, succulents, grasses, and shrubs thriving amidst the arid landscape. Remarkably, the Great Australian Desert ranks among the driest spots on our planet, receiving less than 8 inches of rainfall annually.

Great Australian Desert

14. Great Victoria Desert

The vast expanse of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest desert lies in the heart of central Australia, known as the Great Victoria Desert. Encompassing approximately 134,000 square miles (348,750 square kilometers), this arid landscape showcases a myriad of thriving ecosystems amidst its challenging terrain.

Defined by expansive dunes, salt pans, and sparse vegetation, the Great Victoria Desert presents an imposing yet captivating panorama. Setting itself apart from typical deserts, it boasts ancient rocky formations like the Victoria and Mann mountains, which delineate its expansive borders and diverse topography.

Despite its arid reputation, the Great Victoria Desert teems with a remarkable array of species. Specially adapted flora such as saltbush and spinifex grass dot the environment, while a variety of fauna, including numerous bird species, prickly devils, and the iconic red kangaroo, call this desert home.

For millennia, Aboriginal communities have thrived within the Great Victoria Desert, leaving behind a cultural legacy deeply intertwined with the land. Today, its remote and pristine nature renders it a crucial conservation area, safeguarding the survival of rare plant and animal species in this harsh climate. With its vast dimensions and rich biological diversity, the Great Victoria Desert stands as a symbol of life’s resilience and adaptation in one of the planet’s most challenging environments.

Great Victoria Desert

15. Taklamakan Desert

Located in Southwestern Xinjiang in Northwest China, the Taklamakan Desert, also known as the “Sea of Death,” spans an impressive 320,000 square kilometers, posing a formidable challenge for adventurers.

With a history dating back to ancient times, this desert served as a vital trade route for merchants and nomads. Legend has it that even Marco Polo traversed its expanse. From its undulating dunes to the sparse vegetation, the desert’s beauty is truly captivating.

Prepare yourself for extreme temperatures ranging from -20 to 40 °C, making it one of the harshest environments known to mankind. So, it’s essential to equip yourself accordingly before embarking on your journey.

Taklamakan Desert

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2 Comments

  1. I haven’t had a chance to visit many of these. Beautiful photos that make visits look quite appealing.

  2. Desert landscapes are so unique and so beautiful! I would love to visit all the destinations on this list! It’s funny, I’ve never really considered a Polar Desert before, what an amazing thing to experience!

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