A journey in a desert is, certainly, a unique adventure: kilometers of sand, rocks, dunes, scenographies evoking lunar landscapes, extraterrestrial. But the deserts are not all the same, although at the first look you may say so. Here are the most spectacular deserts of the world.
1. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Although is not the most famous desert in the world, Salar de Uyuni is considered to be the most beautiful, maybe because, unlike the others, it’s made of a salt. The views really seem to be extraterrestrial: active volcanoes, cactus, geysers, all “lighted” by the white of the salt, merging with the blue of the sky.
It’s world’s most famous desert, often chosen by writers as the ideal scenario for their work of art. The biggest desert in the world, with an area of over 8,000,000 sq km, Sahara was not always like this: there were times when this area was covered by glaciers, than it was partially flooded by the sea.
The diversity of climatic conditions has left important imprints on the soil. There is a type of landscape, called serir, which consists mainly of large areas covered with round rocks, indicating that the water flown in this area. Another type of landscape is the hammada, or rocky desert composed mainly of lava. There are ergs, sandy desert, which is one tenth of the total area of the Sahara desert.
The vegetation volume is reduced in Sahara; but it seems that only few drops of watter are enough for the well-adapted plants to survive.
3. Gobi, Mongolia
Its landscapes are sad, but fascinating: arid and rocky lands, in bright colors, punctuated by shrubs and bushes, small sands areas (only 3% of the surface), some wild animals (such as the wild donkey named kulan), lots of caves and, from place to place, a slat lake. In the 1920s, Roy Chapman Andrews and his men revealed over one hundred dinosaur fossils, dated 70 million years old, from Velociraptor, to Tyrannosaurus rex and Protoceraptor.
Considerable areas of the Gobi desert are covered with so-called tektites, a few-centimeters-long pieces of rock , with glassy look, some scientists saying that they might be pieces of meteors.
4. Wadi Rum, India
Wadi Rum is part of the valley with the same name, which, millenniums ago, was separated by a river, today gone. This desert impresses with his special colors, red in certain areas. A characteristic of the place are the imposing Shar mountains, made of basalt and granite, with a hight of over 1,600 m. Surprisingly, although it’s arid, this region is populated, and not only by Bedouins, but also by the tourists in the area (mostly climbers), and the citiy of Wadi Rum has a pretty modern look.
Thar desert in India, is the seventh largest desert in the world, and his birth is still a controversy: some claim that the desertification of the area is relatively recent (4,000 years ago), but others claim that it is over 10,000 years old.
The Desert of Patagonia is the biggest desert on the American continent and most of his area is in Argentina, in the meridional Patagonia, with small areas in Chile. It’s a desert where it snows, and with temperatures below 12°C. The area surrounding the desert has lot of different characteristics, depending whether they are close to the mountains or the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA scientists are using Atacama’s desert terrain for testing instruments they want to send to Mars, for discovering other life forms. In Atacama desert, is regestered one of the biggest day/night thermal amplitude in the world: 30°C during the day, while during the night the temperature drastically drops to around 0°C.
The population is very rare. The cities were built around natural oasis, like San Pedro state, founded around 1450, with a population of around 5,000 people today. Just like its name suggests, the Moon Valley area looks very much alike the surface of the Moon, because of the salt make the soil look white and having a “lunar” consistency.
Usually, when we say “desert” we think of lots of sand and high temperatures, but there are other elements describing a desert, too. One of them is the ice we find in Antarctica. Millions of cubic km of water cover the area, where only the scientists live, plants and animals that managed to adapt to such a harsh climate.
It is the world’s fourth biggest desert and covers around 520,000 square kilometers between Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. It’s a desert with red sands, with an atypical area on the shores of the Okavango river, very rich in flora and fauna, aria labeled as natural monument by UNESCO
The Mojave Desert is located in the United States, in an arid Californian area. Mojave it’s also the location of the Edwards AFB military base (US Air Force airport), and an alternative lading zone to Cape Canaveral, for the shuttles returning from missions.