biggest deserts in the world

Biggest Deserts in the World

Where Are the 25 Biggest Deserts in the World? And What is Officially a Desert?

A desert isn’t simply a desert: geologists differentiate between sandy, rocky and salt deserts as well as icy wastes (including the two largest in our list of all biggest deserts on earth). However the definition is the same for all of them: a desert only earns the title if less than 5% of its area is covered with vegetation. Together with all the “semi-deserts” around 10% of the earth’s surface is classed as desert.

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Biggest Deserts in the WorldLocationArea (sq km)Area (sq miles)Notable Characteristics
Antarctic desertAntarctic14,000,0005,405,430Ice desert with an average ice thickness of about 2.2 km. Low-temperature record of -89.2 degrees (measured at Vostok research station).
Arctic desertCanada, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Russia, Finland13,400,0005,173,769Ice desert with temperatures as low as -60°.
SaharaEgypt, Mali, Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Tunisia, Mauritania9,400,0003,629, 360Of course, Sahara in Africa is not just one of the biggest deserts in the world. It’s the largest sandy desert on Earth. And ca. 37 times bigger than the UK. Located in 11 countries, about 45 mm of rain p.a., extreme temperature fluctuations between 60° to minus 10° C.
Rub al Khali (Arabian Desert)Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen2,330,000899,618About 9 times as large as the UK, lies to the east of the Sahara on the Arabian Peninsula. With about 10 mm of rainfall a year, the 2nd biggest deserts in the world is one of the driest.
GobiMongolia, PR China1,290,000498,071Extremely dry, sandy desert with temperatures between 30° (daytime) and -65° C at night. 33 mm of rain p.a., extends south to within 70 km of Beijing.
KalahariBotswana, Namibia, South Africa930,000359,075Mostly (red) sand desert. In the north (Botswana) it borders on the animal rich Okavango Delta.
Patagonian DesertArgentina640,000247,105Rock and gravel desert. Ideal backdrop for Westerns, average rainfall 100 mm / year.
Syrian DesertSyria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia500,000193,051Covers about 65% of the Syrian land area.
Great Basin DesertUSA (Colorado, Utah)492,000189,962Located in the Sierra Nevada Ranch. Considered one of the so-called “cold deserts”, to the east are the Rocky Mountains.
ChihuahuaMexico / USA362,600140,000Pronounced “She-wow-wah”, the famous White Sands dunes are found here.
KarakumTurkmenistan350,000135,135Very sparse but rich in mineral resources such as petroleum.
Great Victoria DesertAustralia650,00025,097Situated in the middle of the continent and about three times larger than the UK. 150-220 mm rain annually, particularly worth seeing: the crescent-shaped dunes of clay.
TaklamakanPR China337,000130,116In English: “no return”. Silk Road desert with Kara Buran sandstorms.
KyzylkumUzbekistan, Kazakhstan298,000115,058Its name means red sand. Rich in natural resources and fossils.
Great Sandy DesertWestern Australia285,000110,039So hot and dry that it is uninhabitable in many parts.
SonoraUSA (California) / Mexico260,000100,386Home of the famous “Saguaro Cacti” which grow up to 15 m high.
TharIndo-Pakistan. Border260,000100,386About the size of Great Britain.
SimpsonCentral Australia, Queensland176,50068,147Largest sand dune desert in the world. With daily high temperatures of up to 58º Celsius, guaranteed to help you work up a sweat. Even if you just want to take a quick look at the “Big Red” dune. It wasn’t until 1936 that a “white man” (Edmund Colson) succeeded in crossing the desert.
LutIran166,00064,093Biggest desert in Iran, salt desert.
GibsonWestern Australia156,00060,232Named after Alfred Gibson who died during the first crossing in 1873.
AtacamaNorthern Chile105,00040,541Geologists consider it to be the driest desert in the world. It only rains about every 30 years. Since the cold Humboldt stream of the Pacific rarely develops rain clouds. Up to 6,000 meters high in places.
An Nafud (aka Al-Nefud or The Nefud)Saudi Arabia103,60040,000The desert with red sand in the northern Arabian Peninsula is known for its sudden trade winds. And high dunes (up to 180 meters). To the south it borders the larger Rub al-Chali. An up to 80 km wide, natural pebble and sand strip (Wadi Adhanah) forms its boundary
DanakilEthiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti100,00038,610Hot! Daytime temperatures over 50°C on a nice day! Dry! About 2cm (1 inch) of rainfall a year. Plenty of volcanoes.
NamibNamibia81,00031,274Extremely arid desert. Home only to plant life – the welwitschia, which can survive for up to 1000 years.
MojaveUSA65,00025,097Home to the famous Death Valley. The hottest place on earth (heat record: 57° C).
NegevIsrael12,0004,633Accounts for more than half (about 58%) of the State of Israel.

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