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Desert Travel Guide: Top Locations and Essentials to Pack

Written By:
Syra Salam

Deserts are becoming rapidly popular as vacation spots. Be it the Sahara Desert in Africa or Sedona in the United States, people all over the world are thrilled to travel to these beautiful, sandy locations. However, as exciting and riveting as it sounds, trips to deserts get challenging if you’re not fully prepared.

How to prepare for the trip?

What to wear

Clothes that cover your body are necessary for the desert. Lightweight, breathable fabrics that aren’t dark in colour will keep you cool in the scorching heat. Opting for long-sleeved cotton shirts and long, loose-fitting pants will protect your body. For example, from thorny bushes, bugs and other such things. However, you should also keep in mind that the nights can get quite cold so packing a sleeping bag or a hoodie is probably best.

Hats and sunglasses will not only protect you from a heat stroke but also help in case of sandstorms or windy weather. A cotton scarf can also come in handy in such situations to wrap around your mouth and nose. You can even wrap it around your head in place of a hat. The right type of shoes is also important. A shoe that is comfortable and covers your foot to the ankle is the best option, this could include joggers and boots but not sandals.

Protection from the sun

Apart from clothing, it’s vital to pack a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF above 50. This will protect you from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Make sure to apply your sunscreen every 2 hours, at least to the areas that are exposed. A reflective umbrella can also come in handy for protection against the sun. It’s also a good idea to keep a wet cloth on your head, this will keep you cool and help in preventing a heat stroke.

Staying hydrated

It’s no surprise that you’ll be needing loads of water to survive in the hot, dry desert. Keeping a thermos with cold water and drinking twice the amount of water you usually do will keep you from getting dehydrated. Your body tends to lose a lot of salts due to sweating, so eating salty snacks like beef jerky or salted nuts will help with that. Supplementing your water with electrolytes is another great tip to stay hydrated. Apart from this using some facial mist will also help you stay cool in the intense heat.

What vehicle to bring along

If you’re travelling via a travel agency, they’ll probably provide an appropriate vehicle for travelling around the desert. But if you and your companions are in this on your own, you’ll be needing a jeep such as a land rover for driving around the sandy, rough landscape. Make sure to get a thorough car inspection before the trip. Keep spare tires and a roll bar, you need to be prepared for anything.

When to get out and explore

Check the weather forecast and travel accordingly. If the temperatures during the day are very high, opt for doing most of your activities early in the morning or the evenings. Thunderstorms are not an uncommon occurrence in the desert. Keep your eyes on the sky and if you see a storm incoming stay away from the area. Hiring a local guide will help you navigate the desert and prevent you from getting lost as they’ll know the area well.

Top Desert Destinations

Here are a few of the many deserts you can travel to that have been gaining popularity in recent years. 

Sahara Desert

This is one of the, if not the most famous desert in the world. Located in North Africa, it is the largest desert in the world covering a huge section of the continent, nearly 9,200,000 square kilometres! It has varying landscapes from towering dunes to amazing rock formations and even forests. A great way to experience this great desert is to participate in a caravan trip and take a journey on the paths of the nomadic tribes that have walked there for centuries.

Kalahari Desert

Located in southern Africa, it is considered one of the best desert safaris in the world. This glorious desert is covered in near to a million kilometres of red sand. It has several wildlife parks and nature reserves that are great to visit. These reserves and parks are home to lions, wildebeest, giraffes, antelopes, several species of birds and many other exotic creatures. This desert has some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ll ever see.

Thar Desert

Also called The Great Indian Desert, the Thar desert is located in the state of Rajasthan in India. It is the most highly populated desert in the world. This magnificent desert is famous for its wildlife reserves and safaris. But the most exciting part of this place is the fortified city of Jaisalmer that lies at the heart of it. The yellow sandstone fort of this beautiful city is a World Heritage Site. And what’s more, a desert festival is held there every year in February.

Gobi Desert

This legendary desert is spread across northern china and southern Mongolia. It is known for its unique landscape and features such as forests and beautiful dunes. These dunes make an enchanting sound when wind passes by and are thus called singing dunes or Duut Makhan. This desert is also home to many dinosaur fossils that tourists find very impressive. Choosing this desert for a trip is an interesting choice as it is a cold desert and is covered in snow, unlike most deserts.

Rub al Khali

Although this spectacular desert spreads over the Arabian peninsula including Saudi Arabia, it is probably most famous for the luxurious desert safaris in Dubai, Oman and Abu Dhabi. With a beautiful landscape that includes sand dunes, this desert is a popular tourist spot for travellers all over the world. It has posh hotels and glamping resorts all over the place. The desert safari tours in the region include activities like sandboarding, thrilling jeep rides, dinners under the starry sky with amazing performances and so much more!

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