11 Dreamy Desert Destinations You Never Knew Existed

The best way to traverse the desert is by camel | © Homo Cosmicos / Shutterstock
The best way to traverse the desert is by camel | © Homo Cosmicos / Shutterstock
Photo of Jenn Parker
26 January 2018

It might surprise you that one third of our beautiful earth is considered to be desert. Not all deserts have sand or dunes, though, or are blazing hot. The common feature of all deserts is rainfall, or rather the lack thereof. There is something mystifying and captivating about the desert world, which is why some of us seek them out on our travels. If you are a desert devotee, here are some dreamy destinations to add to your wish list.

Arctic Polar Desert, above 75 degrees north

The Arctic Polar Desert takes up parts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia, the highest point being the North Pole. While a vast icy world may not be what comes to mind when you think of a desert, this high point on our planet is just as much a desert as the Sahara. The Arctic Polar Desert is home to a surprising collection of hardy residents, including polar bears, Arctic foxes, multiple species of seals and whales, walruses, and millions of birds.

An endless search for food in an endless desert | © Maksimilian / Shutterstock

Nk’Mip Desert, British Columbia, Canada

Nk’Mip Desert is known as a “pocket desert.” It is located in Canada’s western province of British Columbia. It generally receives less than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rainfall a year, but occasionally receives downpours of snow and rain. This unique ecosystem is home to bears, coyotes, deer, snakes, scorpions, cactus, and enchanting wildflowers. While you’re here you can visit the strange Spotted Lake, which is a sacred lake in Osoyoos believed to have healing powers due to its high mineral content.

Check out those spots | © Galyna Andrushko / Shutterstock

The Wave, Arizona

The Wave is an otherworldly geological formation in North Coyoto Buttes on the border between Utah and Arizona. The undulating reds, oranges, and yellows of ancient sandstone create a psychedelic phenomenon that resembles fiery waves. The sandstone that makes up the Wave dates back to the Great Pangean Desert of the Jurassic Period. You have to win, via a lottery system, a hiking permit before you can make the long trek in to witness this mesmerising desert scene for yourself.

Ride the desert wave | © Tu Le / Shutterstock

Black Rock Desert, Nevada

Most people who have heard of, or visited, the Black Rock Desert in Nevada have done so because of the world-famous Burning Man Festival that takes place every year in the fall. However, the Black Rock Desert is also home to an extraordinary geological work of art. The Fly Geyser is located on the privately owned Fly Ranch and is a polychromatic display of geothermal energy from deep in the heart of the earth. The Black Rock desert, while as harsh and dry as deserts come, still supports a variety of plant and animal life, and the immense space of this place has a strangely comforting effect.

Nevada | © Lukas Bischoff Photograph / Shutterstock

Patagonian Desert, Argentina

The Patagonian Desert is the largest desert in Argentina and the seventh-largest desert in the world. It is also home to the world’s most exquisite collection of petrified trees. This vast landscape was once covered by dense rainforest until catastrophic volcanic activity covered this slice of earth in lava. Around 200 different species of mammals and over 200 species of birds thrive in this spectacular desert ecosystem now. Temperatures typically stay in the range of three to 12 degrees Celsius and it rarely rains.

Serene scene | © alohasalva / Shutterstock

Salvador Dalí Desert, Bolivia

Located in Bolivia’s Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Abaroa, the Salvador Dalí Desert, or sometimes called the Dalí Desert, was named for its resemblance to one of Dalí’s famous dreamscape paintings. While Dalí didn’t actually paint any scenes set in this particular desert, a walk through the arid environment will surely make you feel as if you are in the backdrop of one of his works. The Arbol de Piedra, or Stone Tree, is one of the most famous landmarks here.

Just like a real-life painting | © Anton Shevelev / Shutterstock

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a white-sand desert that has become famous for its seasonal oases. During the brief rainy season, water pools in crystal-clear freshwater lagoons. The contrast between the sugar-white sand dunes and the electric-turquoise water in the middle of a desert is surreal. The dunes and pools of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park are quite remote, but not totally inaccessible, especially now that more and more tour operators are taking intrigued visitors there.

Take a dip in the middle of the desert | © ostill / Shutterstock

Huacachina, Peru

Five hours from Lima, surrounded by giant sand dunes, is Huacachina, a surprising desert oasis. Here, you can fully appreciate the gorgeous desert landscape while also having access to amazing amenities. It feels as if this place shouldn’t even exist; it seems more like a mirage. It’s the site of a great range of exciting desert adventure tours, including dune buggy driving and sand boarding.

It’s not a mirage | © sparc / Shutterstock

Simpson Desert, Australia

Simpson Desert is a massive desert that stretches across the corners of three states in Australia: Northern Territory, Queensland, and South Australia. The immense sand dunes are a vibrant rust color, which makes it one of the world’s most unique desert scenes. The Simpson Desert Conservation Park is located in the center of the desert and is a perfect example of a parallel dune desert.

A red-hot landscape | © totajla / Shutterstock

Danakil Desert, Ethiopia

Dallol is the hottest place on our planet and it’s located in the Danakil Desert in Ethiopia. It is the very epitome of a desert. The landscape is made up of active volcanoes, geysers, and geothermal springs. It is a rather hellish place, but the hot springs make it quite alluring and vibrantly prismatic. There are no paved roads leading into this hostile environment, so the best mode of transportation is by camel, which really adds to the desert experience.

Danakil Desert | © Matej Hudovernik / Shutterstock

Black Desert, Egypt

The Black Desert is a totally deserted orange and yellow landscape where black mountains covered in ancient volcanic matter dot the earth. It is the total opposite of the White Desert, which it neighbors. It is quite a surreal scene that feels almost apocalyptic. It is a fascinating place to photograph, and a desert that deserves a passing visit if you are travelling around Egypt.

A land before time | © Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

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