When people talk about their dream destinations most of the time it involves tropical beaches complete with pina coladas or cascading mountains with glorious powder snow from which to ski down. But, if you were to ask me, I would utter the word “desert.” Now, hear me out, there is more to deserts than just sun and sand. Well, maybe not much more physically, but deserts are some of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen and can change you forever. Not only is the beauty unique, but also the people and animals that decide to survive and thrive in these parts of the world are strong and resilient and have a lot we can learn from them.
Allow me to take you around the globe and visit five of the most spectacular desert destinations you can find and I dare you not to add them to your bucket list.
We start deep in the wilds of Mongolia, the Gobi Desert. Although the Gobi does have one long strip of sand dunes, most of it is not what you picture in your mind when you hear the word “desert.” The Gobi is very mountainous and has an extremely unique landscape due to the entire area being at the bottom of the ocean thousands and thousands of years ago. While visiting the Gobi you can hop on the back of either of Mongolia’s most famous animals: the two humped camels or wild stallions. You can also visit the sight where the very first dinosaur eggs were discovered. Top off your trip by resting your head in a traditional Mongolian ger as you watch the milky way light up in the skies above.
The Sahara, located in Northern Africa is the grandaddy of all deserts. Whether you’re visiting Morocco, Eygpt, Mauritania or a plethora of other African nations, chances are you’ll be able to reach the Sahara pretty easily. The Sahara is the world’s largest hot desert which means there is plenty to see. Visit the tallest sand dunes and why not sand-board down the other side? Trek out to one of the incredible oasis’ and see first hand how people can survive in such harsh conditions. Sleep under the stars during a Sahara Safari and choose whether to travel by camel or 4WD. The Sahara was used as a backdrop for some of the Star Wars movies, which really should be reason enough to plan a trip.
Maybe you’re not quite ready to jump in with the big dogs? Well, Joshua Tree in Southern California is a great place to start. Joshua Tree National Park is filled with, you guessed it, Joshua Trees but is also filled with many other unique flora and fauna. The national park offers many hiking, camping, and horse riding trails all while not being too far out from civilization. Joshua Tree is a great 1-3 day stop and offers adventure without intense isolation.
The Namib, located across a huge portion of Nambia, Angola, and South Africa looks like it’s something out of a sci-fi novel. It also happens to be the oldest desert on the planet. The area is home to some plants and animals not found anywhere else on the globe. Zebras and hyenas are two of the most popular species to see but keep an eye out for anything from leopards to gerbils. Make sure you make it out to Sossusvlei, one of the most photographed places in Africa. The unworldly atmosphere, like something out of a graphic novel, will leave you awestruck. From exploring ghost towns lost to mountains of sand to hot air balloons this is one destination that is guaranteed to be an adventure and a party topper.
Yes, you read that correctly, it is a desert. A desert is anywhere on earth that receives less than 25c of rain a year, and Antarctica is one of them. If you hate the heat, then this is probably the best destination for you. Beyond mad bragging rights of visiting the least visited continent, you also get to view rare and beautiful wildlife like polar bears and emperor penguins. The ice cliffs and vividly blue glaciers are also not to be missed. The most common way to visit the area is by cruise, usually docking from the southern tip of South America. With these organized trips you can kayak, trek, and search for wildlife all while not sacrificing comfort.