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  • Top 5 desert travel destinations

    Atacama, photo by Robin Fernandes

    Plodding through the desert, knee deep in sand and either in scorching hear or bitter cold doesn’t sound like everyone’s idea of a holiday, but some deserts (despite the generally bad rep of their kind) are climbing up on the hierarchy of travel destinations.

    Trips into the Sahara and other similar places surrounded by tales and legends are becoming popular, regardless whether you choose the luxury route, or if you travel like the locals did for the past thousands of years. Despite being more or less inhospitable towards humans, deserts have some of the most stunning landscapes on the planet. Here are our picks for the top 5 desert travel destinations in the world, should you decide to measure your endurance through a mind-blasting trip.

    Gobi, Mongolia

    The largest desert in Asia stretches over parts of China and Mongolia, and is cold and unforgiving – it’s not rare to see frost or snow covering its dunes, unless you visit in summer, when temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius.

    And yet, it is home to the rear Bacterian camel, wild ass, and the only species of bear that lives in the desert. The Mongolian railway crosses the desert, but if you want more than a glimpse of Gobi, you can join a tour from Ulaanbataar, the Mongolian capital.

    Taklamakan, China

    Gobi, photo by Michael Eisenriegler

    Taklamakan is a sandy desert in northwest China, bordered by the Kunlun Mountains, Pamir Mountains and Tian Shan, and has been called pleasant names like the ‘desert of death’, and ‘the point of no return’.

    Little vegetation can survive the treacherous shifting dunes of Taklamakan, but some bushes were planted and an irrigation system were set along the Tarim Desert Highway that connects the cities of Luntai and Minfeng. Fuel up, pack some water and snacks, and cross the desert on an unforgettable road trip.

    Syrian Desert

    Syrian Desert, photo by yeowatzup on Flickr

    The Syrian Desert (part of which is actually located in Jordan and Iraq) is rocky and mountainous, calm, and it makes you wonder why anyone would have ever wanted to live in the middle of it.

    However, the ruins of Palmyra, an ancient oasis city, are found at the heart of the Syrian desert. The city was a caravan stop for those crossing the desert, and it is a sight for sore eyes if you are on a tour of the desert and in need of some rest.

    Great Basin, USA

    The Great Basin has valleys, lakes, mountains and deserts, as well as huge cities like Reno and Las Vegas. But if you’re strictly interested in the desert part of the Great Basin (but still not interested enough to hike out into the desert on your own), either take a road trip on Route 50, the loneliest road in America, or take a train trip on the California Zephyr.

    Atacama Desert, Chile

    Taklamakan, photo by Tom Skrinar

    The driest desert of the planet, with only 1 mm of rain per year. Despite these less than propitious conditions, there are plants and animals living in Atacama, but other than that it has few inhabitants.

    It has a few oases and towns, some of which date back to the times of the Inca, as well as more than enough abandoned mining towns. There are lots of tours going out into the Atacama, either for the archaeological sites, or for the amazing stargazing opportunities it offers.

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