Deserts tend to be foreboding places. By definition, they’re the harshest corners of the globe where water is the scarcest. You kind of need a plan if you’re going to one. Otherwise, well, your thirst will be the least of your worries. That being said, deserts are also deeply beautiful and unique. They are vast seas of sand filled with amazing canyons, diverse wildlife, and vistas that stretch beyond the horizon — all of which make for great travel destinations where you can collect amazing memories.
With all of that in mind, we thought we’d cobble together a list of the 16 deserts around the world that are “must-stops” for the wary vagabond. These are the deserts that we all have to see at least once in our lives. They’re far-flung, intrepid, and engrossing spots to visit on this planet. And they’ll leave you in awe. Just don’t forget the water and sunscreen.
THE EMPTY QUARTER — ABU DHABI, UAE
Right outside of the megalopolis of Abu Dhabi, you’ll find one of the largest empty spaces on the planet — The Empty Quarter (called the Rub’ al Khali locally). This seemingly endless sandy desert stretches far into Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen from the UAE. It’s quite literally the largest sand desert in the world and covers an area the size of Texas. It’s so big that the high winds create 1,000-foot high sand dunes. The Empty Quarter is immense in every way.
How to get there: Fly into Abu Dhabi and find yourself a jeep tour into the wilds.
Where to stay: Treat yourself to a little Emirati luxury and stay at the Qasr Al Sarab Resort.