The 9 Most Extreme Deserts in the World


7. Sahara Desert

If someone says desert, you likely think of miles of rolling sand dunes, winds gusting along across them. You probably think of a sweltering sun and maybe a caravan traveling by camel through the area. Welcome to the Sahara Desert, the world’s largest hot desert—and the prototype for all other “deserts.” The Sahara is such the textbook desert that its very name is just the Arabic word for desert and it’s sometimes known as “The Great Desert.” The Sahara spans nearly 9.5 million km (3.6 million miles) in Northern Africa, making it the third-largest desert, after the Arctic and Antarctic. While the Sahara does have ergs (or sand seas) and dunes can be over 180 m (590 ft) tall, most of the geography is hamada, or rocky plains. The Sahara is comprised of several “subdeserts,” such as the Libyan desert, which rivals the Atacama as the world’s driest place.

Sahara Desert

6. Kalahari Desert

The Sahara is Africa’s most famous desert; in fact, it’s probably the most famous desert in the world. That means that the Kalahari, located in the southern portion of the African continent, gets relatively little attention. Even though it’s not as expansive or as well-known as its northern cousin, the Kalahari is impressive in its own right. Although only parts of the Kalahari can be classified as a “true” desert, receiving less than 10 inches of rain per year, the Kalahari is thought to cover around nearly 1 million km (or 350,000 miles). Its age is also impressive: geological studies show it seems to have been in existence since the continent of Africa was formed, around 60 million years ago. Summers here reach extreme temperatures, daily temperatures sometimes soaring close to 45°C (113°F). The Kalahari is also notable for its characteristic red sands.

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