Deserts are defined by dry weather conditions and low precipitation. They can be found throughout the world, and often represent some of the last remaining wilderness areas.
Deserts are generally considered to be regions that receive less than 10 in (250 mm) of rain per year while also south of the Arctic Circle. Therefore, trees are rarely found in deserts (although there are exceptions, like the Joshua trees of Joshua Tree National Park). Although grasses can be found in some deserts such as high-elevation deserts, they are not common in low-lying deserts.
The stereotypical desert is hot, but not all deserts are. Polar regions, despite the snow that covers these areas, are often very dry; the same is the case with Mongolia and China's desert regions. Mountain deserts are often cold, too. Even stereotypical hot deserts can get cold at night, partly due to the lack of moisture in the air.
- 1 Kalahari Desert. It's in the southern part of the continent.
- 2 Sahara. Dominates the northern part of Africa, reaching the Sahel in the south, which receives wet and dry seasons.
- 3 Namib Desert. A desert located on the Atlantic coast of South Africa, Namibia and Angola. Its coastal location and latitude make it one of the few deserts in which you can see penguins.
The continent is considered a desert, with minimal rainfall along coastal regions and even less in the interior.
- 4 Arabian Desert.
- 5 Gobi desert. Known for being cold.
- 6 Dasht-e Lut and Dasht-e Kavir (Central Iran). Sand, rock and salt.
- 7 Judaean Desert. Also see Hiking in the Judaean Desert.
- 8 Negev.
- 9 Taklimakan Desert (Xinjiang). One of the deserts on the Silk road
Australia as a landmass is mostly made up of deserts or semi-deserts, with relatively narrow fertile areas along coastal areas and the south west region. The largest individual desert is the 10 Great Victoria Desert.
A lot of the dry parts of North America are in the southwestern United States, just over a mountain range or two away from the coast. As you go north into the Great Basin, the elevation increases and you enter high-elevation desert.
- 11 Chihuahuan Desert (includes the White Sands) (Southwestern United States).
- 12 Death Valley National Park (Southeastern California). This national park is the location of North America's lowest point, Badwater (although it is surrounded by mountain ranges). Death Valley is among the hottest locations on Earth, and while it is also very dry, rain that does come can be heavy. There are areas of sand dunes, although at Badwater it is very flat and you can easily see across to the mountain ranges on the sides of Death Valley.
- The 13 Mojave Desert merges into the Baja Californian desert at its southern extent.
- 14 Sonoran Desert (Southwestern United States).
- 15 White Sands National Park (Southwestern United States).
- 16 Atacama Desert. This desert is famous for being extremely dry, even when compared to some other deserts. It is almost as dry as the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica, considered the driest place on Earth.
Even if water is not a severe threat to your life, you can still get dehydrated. Only go hiking in deserts during the wintertime unless you're in a cold desert like the Gobi, since dehydration (especially severe cases that are related to hot weather) may not kill you, but is still not healthy. The same also goes for food and any other supplies which you need in any situation.
- Main article: Arid region safety
The most obvious risk is not getting enough water—always bring extra. Another problem is getting lost or stuck, as deserts are sparsely populated and help may be hard to find. See Arid region safety for details.
Despite the inhospitable environment, deserts are home to many types of dangerous animals, including venomous snakes and scorpions.
Deserts are rarely well-policed, and can be home to criminal or terrorist groups. Always check the relevant travel advisories.
In the heat of the day, travelers can experience mirages that give the illusion of water (or other things). These can be dangerous if the traveler pursue the mirage, wasting precious energy and remaining water.
Even the hottest of deserts can become extremely cold at night. Hypothermia is a real risk without warm clothing.
- Arid region safety is mainly about deserts and how to remain safe in them. The article includes a checklist to help you decide whether or not you should visit a desert, along with a list of items to bring.
- High-elevation deserts are like those found in the Great Basin and Tibet. They have a lot in common with deserts, but can be colder due to the high elevation.
- Mediterranean climates are not the same as deserts (typically wetter), but they have some things in common. They may be like a desert during half of the year.