Desert destinations

When all your travel options have dried up, explore the world’s desert lands. These dry desert destinations are extreme by their very nature. Before you head off into the sun, there are a few important things to think about.

Extreme weather

Spring and fall are the best season to plan your desert adventure. Summer is obviously too hot to have much fun. With temperatures exceeding 130°F it’s dangerously hot outside. Thunderstorms roll through the desert quickly and can become violent, so be sure to watch the weather. If you’re going to the desert, you’re probably aware of the sun. To avoid sun exposure, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, wear light clothing that covers your whole body and lather on the sunscreen. Plan you hiking activities in the early morning and late evening to dodge the hottest part of the day. Bring at least a gallon of water for each day, plus a little extra. You’re in the desert, which means you can’t rely on finding water out there if you run out.

Matt Westenburg

Local expertise

It’s easy to get lost among the sand dunes, so make sure you know where you’re going whether you’re driving or hiking. Local park rangers and guides can offer expert tips on the best places to explore. The condition of the trails and roads changes frequently, so it’s helpful to know the current state. If you stumble across a mineshaft, avoid the temptation to explore its deep, dark shafts. These mines are old and filled with toxic materials. People die every year trying to wander through these tunnels and you don’t want to be one of them.

Now that you’ve thought through all the logistics, here are our top three desert destinations:

Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert is the world’s hottest destination. Covering most of Northern Africa, you can travel across the gorgeous sand dunes in a camel caravan and sleep under millions of stars. There’s obviously no water, but surfers can try their luck at sand surfing down the towering dunes. A Sahara spa day involves being buried in the sand up to your neck. Locals swear it relieves achy muscles and limbs.

Matt Westenburg

Atacama Desert

Located in Chile, the Atacama Desert receives an average rainfall of just 1 millimeter a year, making it the world’s driest desert. It’s lack of vegetation helps to create an eerie, moon-like surface that’s often used to film space movies. Outside of San Pedro, the Valley of the Moon offers spectacular sunset views of the mountains and tours through Chile’s largest salt flat. Stargazing and sand surfing are other popular desert activities.

Death Valley

For a domestic desert destination, Death Valley National Park offers spectacular views from Dante’s View and Zabriskie Point. The unique landscape features sand dunes, salt flats, mountains, craters and more dramatic natural scenery. The park is the hottest, driest and lowest area in North America. Furnace Creek is fairly central and has the park visitor center among other amenities. If you’re not ready to tackle the desert on its own, Death Valley is a popular day trip for Las Vegas vacationers.