What do you think of when picturing the largest deserts in the world? Huge, empty spaces of hot sand? Well, deserts can actually be hot and cold. With a long history of nomadic lifestyles, these deserts across the globe are truly spectacular. One-third of the Earth’s land surface is desert – aka, little precipitation and a harsh landscape that supports only sparse vegetation and a limited population of people and animals.
Largest Deserts In The World
1. Antarctica – 5.5 million square miles
Yep, Antarctica is a desert. When it snows here, the snow doesn’t melt and builds up over many years to make large, thick sheets of ice, called ice sheets. A desert of ice, basically.
2. Sahara – 3.3 million square miles
The Sahara is the largest hot desert in the world, famous for its iconic sand dunes. Covering the majority of northern Africa, this desert is about the size of the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii).
3. Arabian – 900,000 square miles
Humans have inhabited the Arabian desert for more than 2.6 million years. A large part of the Arabian Desert lies within Saudi Arabia, with parts also in Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Iraq and Jordan.
4. Gobi Desert – 800,000 square miles
This vast desert in northern China and southern Mongolia is famous for its dunes, mountains and rare animals such as snow leopards and Bactrian camels. As for the name ‘Gobi’? It comes from Mongolian gobi, meaning “waterless place”.
5. Kalahari – 360,000 square miles
The Kalahari Desert stretches across eastern and southern Namibia, large parts of Botswana and the north-western area of South Africa. Technically, it receives too much rainfall to still be strictly considered a desert.
6. Patagonian Desert – 260,000 square miles
The largest desert in Argentina, the Patagonian Desert, or Magellanic Steppe, is a cold, winter desert where it rarely rains and the average temperature is just 3°C.
7. The Great Victoria – 250,000 square miles
With red sand dunes, stony plains and dry salt lakes, the Great Victoria desert in Australia is the largest desert in the country. It’s also a a must-visit. It’s a popular spot for 4×4 tours and reptile and bird spotting.