Discover the 8 Most Beautiful Deserts on Earth

Written by Emilio Brown
Updated: September 7, 2022
Image Credit Alexxxey/Shutterstock.com
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Deserts cover around a third of the earth and are some of the most dangerous habitats. Extreme heat, deadly animals, and vast barren wastelands can be found in deserts. Deserts are very different when compared to other habitats. Large sandy hills, flat salt plains, and canyons are some of the unique things found in some deserts around the globe, and there is also plenty of other scenery to enjoy. Here are 8 of the most beautiful deserts on earth.

1. Painted Desert

Over the years, the erosion of these rocks has resulted in the formation of badlands terrain within the desert.

iStock.com/Laura Ragsdale

Located in the northeastern portion of Arizona near the Four Corners area is the Painted Desert. This desert is known for its bright red and lavender colors. The area is made of siltstone, mudstone, and shale, which are easily eroded. These rocks are abundant in iron and magnesium, which is where they get their pigment.

Over the years, the erosion of these rocks has resulted in the formation of badlands terrain within the desert. As natural elements like wind and water continue to expose more layers of rock, fossilized plants and animals, dinosaur tracks, and evidence of early human life also become exposed.

2. White Desert

Bahariya Formation
White Desert National Park helps protect this landscape and several different wildlife species.

Simona Weber/Shutterstock.com

Northwest of central Egypt in the Farafra Depression in the Sahara Desert is the White Desert. This beautiful desert is known for its white sands and large white chalk rock formations. The white desert is not actually white; it’s more a reddish-orange color, but white sand collects and makes it look like snow has fallen on the desert. The white sand comprises either quartz, white calcium, or limestone.

A rock formation known as crystal mountain is the pinnacle of the White Desert as it is completely made of crystal. The White Desert National Park helps protect this landscape and several wildlife species. Endangered species like the rhim gazelle and dorcas gazelle make this desert their home. Other animals in the park include the sand cat, fennec fox, barbary sheep, and jackal.

3. Pinnacles Desert

While the main attraction of this desert is the large stone pillars, the local plants and animals also provide beautiful scenery.

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The Pinnacles Desert is found in Nambung National Park in Western Australia. This stunning desert contains thousands of limestone pillars. These structures formed about 25,000-30,000 years ago after the ocean receded. Over time wind swept the sand away and exposed these tall yellow pillars to the elements which have been slowly eroding the limestone.

The limestone pillars in this desert vary in size; some are only a foot high, while others can reach over 11 feet tall. While the main attraction of this desert is the large stone pillars, the local plants and animals also provide beautiful scenery. Kangaroos have often been seen grazing on plant life in the early morning. Other animals like emus, bobtails, carpet pythons, and sand goannas also make their home in the Pinnacles Desert.

4. Taklamakan Desert

Around 85% of the Taklamakan desert is sand.

Pravit / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

Northwest China is home to the Taklamakan Desert, the world’s second-largest shifting sand desert. Approximately 85% of the desert is made of shifting dunes ranging in height from 60-300 feet. This desert extends about 600 miles from west to east and is bordered by the Tien Shan, Kunlun, and Pamirs Mountain.

Taklamakan Desert sits in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, so there is very little water, which is considered hazardous to cross. Plant and animal life are very sparse; most species are only found within the outer regions of the desert. Plants such as nitre bushes, reeds, and tamarisk are some of the only vegetation found within the desert.

5. Namib Desert

The Namib desert sits right on the ocean’s edge, so desert geology differs depending on the distance from the sea.

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The Namib Desert, also known as the Namib Sand Sea, is a cool coastal desert in Africa that is approximately 1,200 miles long. It is thought to be one of the oldest and driest deserts in the world. The Namib desert sits right on the ocean’s edge, so desert geology differs depending on the distance from the sea. Sand seas are found near the coast, while gravel plains and mountain outcrops are found more inland.

The Namib Desert’s dry climate reflects the lack of bodies of water on the surface, and most rivers run underground and are usually dry most of the year. Due to the climate, the dry air from the desert causes heavy fog and strong ocean currents, which have been shown to cause problems for ships and even cause shipwrecks.

6. Antarctica

Iceberg in Antarctica
When snow does snow, it doesn’t melt, so over the years, it builds into ice sheets.

robert mcgillivray/Shutterstock.com

Not all deserts are hot sandy wastelands; some are cold and icy. Antarctica is the coldest place on earth and receives less than 8 inches of rain or snow a year. When snow does snow, it doesn’t melt, so over the years, it builds into ice sheets. The rest of the landscape comprises glaciers, ice shelves, and icebergs.

Temperatures in Antarctica vary between 14.0 °F and −70.6 °F. Because of its location on the Earth, Antarctica faces the sun all summer, so it’s always sunny, and it faces away from the sun all winter, so it is always dark. No plants besides moss and algae can survive the harsh environment of the continent though it is home to animals like penguins and seals.

7. Thar Desert

The Thar desert is also the most populated desert in the world and has a population density of over 80 people per km2.

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The Thar Desert is also known as the Great Indian desert, and it is the largest desert in the Indian subcontinent. This desert is around 91,990 mi² large and has habitats like sand hills, plains, salt lakes, and thorn forests. It is also the most populated desert on earth, with larger areas of the desert used for agriculture. The Thar desert has open sandy landscapes with beautiful desert sunsets. The Thar desert is also the most populated desert in the world and has a population density of over 80 people per km2.

8. Salar de Uyuni

The Salar de Uyuni gets an average rainfall of 5 inches and is the world’s largest sand desert.

iStock.com/elleon

Located in Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world and covers 4,086 square miles of space. This desert is relatively flat and remains a dry lake that existed 44,000 years ago, and a crust of salt covers the ground. The Salar de Uyuni gets an average rainfall of 5 inches and is the world’s largest sand desert.

The shiny and vast flat landscape of the salt lands and clear blue skies make for a scene. When rain does fall, a thin layer of water forms on top of the salts, making an illuminated mirror. Its beauty is why it has been used in movies like Star Wars.

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Picture of a desert
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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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