Deserts are one of the most fascinating places on earth, and they are found just about everywhere – from Asia, Africa and Australia, to South America and even Antarctica!
And if you have never been to one, you’re missing out on some incredible experiences.
Think of an endless vista of golden-hued sands and a night enveloped under a canopy of stars. Think of colourful tents and bejewelled camels, and imagine yourself photographing sand dunes and arid grasslands…Dreaming already?
We have some really wonderful desert experiences for you to add to your ‘be-there-one-day’ list!
A lot of tourists head to Rajasthan for its beautiful palaces and forts but end up being equally enamoured by its stunning desert landscapes and desert safaris. We’ll tell you why. Rajasthan is home to the Thar Desert and it covers about 61% of its total geographic area. Three of its most popular cities — Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner — are a part of the Thar Desert. Visitors to this region can avail of different types of experiences – from camel safaris, day treks to overnight trips. A lot of these trips offer a display of the local culture and you can expect anything from traditional singing, dancing to even a night of storytelling! You will find yourself among world travellers, gathered comfortably around a roaring campfire as local women in their beautifully embroidered outfits break into a song and a dance. There’s also a Desert Festival, an annual event that takes place in February every year. Held three days before the full moon, it is a blend of colours, traditions, folklore and a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself into the rich Rajasthani culture. Plan a trip for 2023 and we promise that you won’t be disappointed.
Sahara Desert, Morocco
The Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert, and when you are in Morocco you should aim for this once-in-a-lifetime desert experience. There are many ways to explore and immerse yourself in authentic experiences – from staying with a semi-nomadic family to listening to local music. It would be a good idea to at least devote two days to the Sahara Desert; if you are staying in Marrakesh or Fez please remember that it will take almost an entire day to get to the Desert from both these cities. But once you are there, you can look forward to a sunset camel trek, a desert camp special meal and of course star gazing. You could also do three days of glamping and devote time to night photography, rolling in the golden sands (yes, that’s a thing!) and taking in a Sahara sunset. Most people who have been to the Sahara Desert in Morocco and with enough time on their hands speak of their experience as one of the most magical ones ever.
The Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Did you know that the Mongolian Gobi Dessert is, among other things, the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world? So if you love all things dinosaurs, this should be on the top of your list. But even if you are into tranquil evenings and experiencing some really unique culture and traditions – Gobi Desert would tick all the boxes. A lot of travellers feel very privileged to be able to experience, and to be invited to a nomadic Mongolian home in the Gobi. Most often than not, you would be offered milk tea and sweets, and even a drink that is made of fermented camel milk. How many of us can boast of an experience like that? You can also stay in a traditional tent called ‘ger’ and include a visit to the world renowned Khermen Tsav. A canyon made of rocky formations, this natural wonder is a sight to behold and is registered with UNESCO as a wonderful natural valuable.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
If you have seen ‘The Lawrence of Arabia’ (the original one), you cannot be immune to the charms of the Wadi Rum. It is said to be inhabited since pre historic times, and boasts of some magnificent attractions and experiences. Most visitors to the region want to take in the Khazali Canyon, Lawrence’s Spring, the giant sand dunes and of course everything that the desert tours offers. From jeep tours, camel treks, trekking the Wadi Rum with a Bedouin guide and experiencing the Bedouin hospitality – there’s something for everyone.
You may also want to check out Jack Goddard’s beautiful piece about Jordan if the country has caught your fancy and you want to see more of it.
Kalahari Desert, Botswana
The Kalahari Desert in Botswana has three main game reserves, and attracts wildlife lovers from across the world. From bird watching, game viewing, boat cruises to camping, there is so much to do and see here. The Kalahari Desert is a semi-arid savannah and many believe that it cannot be classified as a desert in the strictest sense of the term. That is because it receives a higher amount of rainfall than other deserts but this makes it truly unique. Exploring the Kalahari Desert on a safari gives you the perfect opportunity to spot antelopes, elephants, cheetahs, and leopards. If you plan your trip between January to March, you may also get to witness the Great Migration, and that will be a sight you won’t easily forget.
These five desert experiences make for perfect escapades, but we would love to hear from you – do you have a personal favourite? Or if you have a list of your own, do share what makes it to your top five!