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Sand Dunes around the World

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Sand Dune Information

What is the World's Largest Desert?

A desert is a landscape or region that receives very little precipitation - less than 250 mm per year (about ten inches). Approximately 1/3 of Earth's land surface is a desert.

The largest areas on Earth that fit this definition are the polar regions. Antarctica has a surface area of about 14 million square kilometers (5.5 million square miles), making it the largest desert in the world.

But we are looking for sand dune type deserts and sand covers only about 20 percent of World's deserts.

There are five basic types of dunes: crescentic, linear, star, dome, and parabolic

The most common dune form is the crescentic. Crescent-shaped mounds generally are wider than long. The slipface is on the dune's concave side. These dunes form under winds that blow from one direction, and they also are known as barchans, or transverse dunes.

The largest crescentic dunes on Earth, with mean crest-to-crest widths of more than 3 kilometers, are in China's Taklimakan Desert. Some types of crescentic dunes move faster over desert surfaces than any other type of dune.

Straight sand ridges typically much longer than they are wide are known as linear dunes. Linear dunes may occur as isolated ridges, but they generally form sets of parallel ridges separated by miles of sand.

Radially symmetrical, star dunes are pyramidal sand mounds with slipfaces on three or more arms that radiate from the high center of the mound. They tend to accumulate in areas with multidirectional wind regimes. Star dunes grow upward rather than laterally. Star dunes may be the tallest dunes on Earth.

Star dunes dominate the Grand Erg Oriental of the Sahara. In the southeast Badain Jaran Desert of China, the star dunes are up to 500 meters tall and may be the tallest dunes on Earth.

Oval or circular mounds that generally lack a slipface, dome dunes are rare and occur at the far upwind margins of sand seas.

U-shaped mounds of sand with convex noses trailed by elongated arms are parabolic dunes. Sometimes these dunes are called U-shaped, blowout, or hairpin dunes, and they are well known in coastal deserts. Unlike crescentic dunes, their crests point upwind.

Occurring wherever winds periodically reverse direction, reversing dunes are varieties of any of the above types. These dunes typically have major and minor slipfaces oriented in opposite directions.


Middle East - Sand Dune Locations

Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter) - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Yemen

The Empty Quarter (Rub' al Khali in Arabic), has the world's largest expanse of unbroken sand, encompassing the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The desert covers some 250,000 square miles (the area between 44°30'-56°30'E., and 16'30'-23°00'N).  The Empty Quarter is 1200 km long and 650 km wide, and is among the largest continuous deserts in the world.

Photos:


Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter)   Ad Dahna Sand Cordon - Saudi Arabia

Links:

United Arab Emirates

  • Liwa Oasis, UAE (Empty Quarter)

Liwa Oasis is located south-west of Abu Dhabi on the edge of the biggest sand desert in the world, the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter). The Liwa Oasis is known as the playground for 4x4 dune-bashing or wadi bashing. Tours are available that include 4 x 4 (mostly Land Cruisers), camel rides and sand boarding.

Photos:

Dune Bashing Tours, UAE

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  • Moreeb Hill, UAE near Liwa Oasis, Abu Dhabi

In the United Arab Emirates, Moreeb Hill (Al Moreb Hill) is the place for organized drag races. With a reported 50 degree slipface, and a 300m long hill climb, it is a perfect place for sand drags. Moreeb Hill is supposedly the tallest dune in the UAE, and one of the largest hill climbs in the world.

Moreeb Dune (aka "Scary Mountain" or Tel Moreeb) is located south of Liwa Oasis, UAE.

Al Saad Hill Climb Challenge.

Photos:

  Moreeb Hill, United Arab Emirated  Moreeb Hill near Liwa Oasis, UAE

Moreeb Hill, Liwa  Moreeb Hill - Abu Dhabi

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  • Badayer (Al Badayer), UAE

Sand dunes closest to Dubai.  Very popular area for ATV, UTV and Sand Cars.

Links:

An Nafud Desert, Saudi Arabia

This desert of western Saudi Arabia is famous for gigantic sand dunes, some reaching over 100 ft. high.

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Wahiba Sands, Oman

Isolated sand dunes in the eastern corner of Oman near the Hikman Pennisula.

Characterized by north-south orientated linear dunes that are up to100m tall and 2km apart. Approximately 180km (north to south) and 80km (east to west) - about 15,000 square km.

The Wahiba sand dunes are just off the Muscat-Sur highway.

Tours depart from Muscat hotels.

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Khor al- `Udeid, Qatar

Khor Al-Udeid ("The Inland Sea") is located in the most south-easterly part of the country and has Qatar's most impressive sand dunes which rise to 40 meters in height around a bay.

4 x 4 trips to the area are available through local tour companies.

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Israel

  • Ashdod Sand Dune

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  • Negev Desert

Western edge of the Negev Desert.  Sand Dunes 

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Iran

  • Maranjob Dunes - Dasht-e Kavir Desert (Kavir Desert)

This plateau of north-central Iran is often referred to as the "Great Salt Desert." It's the largest desert in the country and is mostly uninhabited wasteland covered with crusty salt ridges.

Links:

  • Dasht-e Lut (Lout Desert)

Roughly 480 by 320 kilometers (300 by 200 miles), Dasht-e Lut is a large salt desert in southeastern Iran.

This region of eastern Iran is an arid, wind-blown desert, completely surrounded by mountains. In the summer months, it can be one of the hottest and driest spots on the planet.

Dasht-e Lut Desert - Sand Dunes

Links:


Africa - Sand Dune Locations

Sahara Desert

The Sahara is located in North Africa, the West portion of the broad belt of parched land that extends from the Atlantic Ocean eastward past the Red Sea. Sand dunes of Africa are dominant in the Sahara Desert (northern Africa) - Interactive Satellite Map of Sahara Desert. The Sahara is the world's largest hot desert, and second largest desert at over 3,500,000 square miles. Dunes within the Sahara Desert are found in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. 

An erg (also sand sea or dune sea) is a large, relatively flat area of desert covered with wind-swept sand with little to no vegetation cover.

Sahara Desert - Northern Africa

Algeria (Sahara Desert)

  • Erg Iguidi 
    Sahara dunes, Erg Iguidi - Algeria

  • Erg Admer Dunes - Djanet, Algeria
    Erg Admer Dunes - Djanet-Algeria

  • Issaouane Erg, Algeria
    Issaouane Erg Dunes, Algeria   Issaouane Erg Dunes, Algeria

  • Tifernine Dunes, Algeria (part of the Sahara Desert)
    TifernineDunesAlgeria-1.jpg (115021 bytes)

    Satellite Image - Google Maps

Egypt (Sahara Desert)

Photos:

Links:

Libya (Sahara Desert)

Photos:

Links:

Tunisia (Sahara Desert)

Photos:

Links:

Mauritania Sand Dunes, Mauritania (Sahara Desert)

Mauritania sand dunes, Mauritania

Links:

Chebbi Dunes of Merzouga, Morroco

Erg Chebbi dunes also known as Merzouga dunes.

Links:

Namibia - Namib Desert (Southwestern Africa)

  • Sossusvlei Dunes

    The famous Sossusvlei sand dunes are arguably the world's tallest sand dunes (1,000 feet). The area is considered to be the oldest desert in the world.

    Photos:

    Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia
       Namib Desert - Sand Dunes

Links:

  • Oranjemund Dunes

Oranjemund dunes is used responsibly as a recreational area by the Oranjemund Off-Road Club. They work together with the government to ensure the safety and preservation of the dunes. 

Links:

  •  

  • Kalahari Desert

Extensive dunes are found in the southern part of the Kalahari Desert - Namibia, South Africa and Botswana

Links:

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Canary Islands (Spain)

The Canary Islands are just off the coast of Morocco, so the dunes there will be covered with Africa instead of Europe.

  • Dunas de Maspalomas, Gran Carnaria

South end of Gran Carnaria.

Links:

  • Corralejo Sand Dune, Fuerteventura

North end of Fuerteventura.

Links:


Asia - Sand Dune Locations

China

The desertification of China

  • Badain Jaran Desert

  • Ming-Sha Dunes - Gobi Desert
    The Gobi Desert (Mongolian for "waterless place") is an extensive desert area of southern Mongolia and northern China. The largest desert in Asia, it is also known as Shamo, the Chinese word for “sand desert.” The Gobi, which is about about 1,000 miles in extent from east to west and about about 600 miles from north to south, has a total area of 500,000 square miles. The Gobi is the world's largest cold winter desert, made up mostly of mountains, rocks, grasslands, salt flats and sand dunes.

Photos:

Links:

  • Taklimakan Desert

The Taklimakan Desert in northwest China is a vast region of sand desert sitting in a depression between two high, rugged mountain ranges. Taklimakan's rolling sand dunes stretch out over about 125,000 square miles in the Xinjiang region of China.

The Taklimakan is China’s largest, driest, and warmest desert in China and the world’s largest shifting-sand desert. 85 percent of this area consists of mobile, crescent-shaped sand dunes that may reach a height of 100 to 200 m and are virtually devoid of vegetation. Largest sand-only desert in the world.

Located farther from the ocean than almost any place on Earth.

Photos:

Taklimakan Desert, China

Links:

  • Tengger Desert

Tengger Desert covers about 36,700 square km and is in the Gansu Province in China.

Mongolia

  • Khongorin Els ("Singing Sands") - Khongor Sand Dune

These dunes are 20 km wide and 100 km long, and up to 800 m high. Individual dunes reach heights of up to 30 m. Mongolia 's largest sand dunes. 

Photos:

Khongorin Els, Mongolia - Gobi Desert

Links:

 

  • Honguriin Els or Hongor Sands

Hongoriin Els stretch for more than 180 km (112 miles) with  heights of 15-30 m.

Photos:

Links:

  • Satellite Image - Google Maps

 

  • Har Nuur

Park. Three large but shallow lakes - Har Us Nuur, Har Nuur and Dorgon Nuur. 


Photos:

Har Nuur (Black Lakes), Mongolia

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Turkmenistan

Unknown Sand Dune - Satellite Image - Google Maps

Unknown Sand Dune (along Caspian Sea) - Satellite Image - Google Maps

  • Kara Kum Desert

This desert of south-central Turkmenistan is a large mass of sand known for its towering sand dunes extending in all directions. It's about 115,000 sq. miles in size.

Links:

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Kazakstan

Unknown Sand Dune - Satellite Image - Google Maps

  • Qizilqum Desert (Kyzylkum)

  • Moyunqum Desert (Moin Kum)

Uzbekistan

Unknown Sand Dune - Satellite Image - Google Maps

Unknown Sand Dune (Kyzylkum Desert?) - Satellite Image - Google Maps

  • Kizil-Kum Desert

India

  • Thar Desert

The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is a desert located in western India and southeastern Pakistan.

The sand dunes are of three types longitudinal parabolic, transverse and barchans. The first type, running NNE-SSW, i.e. parallel to the prevailing winds, occurs to the south and west of the Thar. The transverse dunes, aligned across the wind direction, to the east and north of Thar and barchans, with the conclave sides facing the wind in the interior, predominant in Central Thar.

Thar Desert - India and Pakistan   Thar Desert - India

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Pakistan

  • Cholistan Desert or Rohi Desert

Cholistan Desert  is located in the province of Punjab, Pakistan. It continues as the Thar Desert in the eastern part of the province of Sind in Pakistan as well as in India.

The desert was under perennial regular irrigated cultivation till 1200 BC and under seasonal regular irrigated cultivation till about 600 BC. The area turned into arid and desolate desert with drying up of River Hacra.

Links:

 


Pacific

Japan

  • Tottori Sand Dunes

The Tottori Sand Dunes are located near Tottori City, Honshu, Japan.

Photos:

Links:

Fiji

The Sigatoka Sand Dunes are located directly west of the mouth of the Sigatoka River the second largest river in Fiji. They are the product of fluvial erosion in the coastal hinterland and coastal dune forming processes. The extensive dune system covers an area of 650 hectares and comprises a series of parabolic sand dunes of various ages and activities.

Designated Fiji's first national park.

Windblown and rugged, they stand around 5km long, up to 1km wide and on average about 20m high, rising to about 60m at the western end.

  • Sigatoka Sand Dunes

Links:


Europe - Sand Dune Locations

France

  • Dune of Pilat, France
    The Dune of Pilat, situated at the entrance of the Bay of Arcachon, opposite the Point of Cap Ferret, is the biggest sand formation of Europe. Measuring 105 meters* high, 2700 meters long, 500 meters wide and with a volume of 20 million cubic meters of sand, the "Big Dune" is the most visited spot of the coastal area, with over 1 million visitors per year.

    Links:

Germany

  • Monte Kaolino, Hirschau Germany
    Monte Kaolino is Europe´s biggest sand hill. 
    Photos:

    Monte Kaolino, Hirschau Germany

    Links:


Australia - Sand Dune Locations

Deserts of Australia - Wikipedia

Simpson Desert

Located in arid central Australia, the Simpson Desert Region is centered on one of the world’s largest internal drainage basins. This region includes Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest lake and the fifth largest terminal lake in the world.

The Simpson Desert contains the world's longest parallel sand dunes, running north-south. These static dunes are held in position by vegetation. There are more than 100 parallel sand dunes, some that stretch as far as 200 kilometers.

Nappanerica Sand Dune or commonly known as Big Red is the Simpson Desert's largest dune.

Links:

Sturt Stoney Desert

Natterannie Sandhills?

Strzelecki Desert

Tirari Desert

Great Sandy Desert

Parallel linear sand dunes

Moreton Island - Mount Tempest

Mount Tempest on this Island is probably the highest dune in the world, reaching 280 metres above sea level. This Island is the second largest sand mass in the world.

Links:

Stockton Bight Sand Dunes - Port Stephens

Covering an area of over 2,500 hectares along the 32km long Stockton Beach. Dunes of brilliant white sand climb up to 30 meters high with slopes up to 60º are popular with sand boarders.

4x4 tours in the area will take you to ‘Sandboard Hill’. ATV tours are also available. Tours drive along Stockton Beach and to the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes.

Located on the coast, north of Sydney and just north of Newcastle.

Links:

Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Fraser Island is 125km long and over 160,000 hectares in area.

Fraser Island is strictly 4x4 territory. Seventy-Five Mile Beach is an actual highway that runs up the surf side of the island.

Links:

Tarkine Coast

Henty Dunes, Tasmania

The Henty Dunes most magnificent Sand Dunes in Tasmania. They are located just north of Strahan on Tasmania, Australia.

4x4 and ATV tours are available.

Links:

Thurra Sand Dunes -Croajingolong National Park, Victoria

Second highest Sand Dunes in the southern hemisphere.

The dunes consists of one sand hill that is over 100 meters high and very steep. It is a couple of hundred meters wide and completely devoid of vegetation.  The dune terminates in the river making it a favorite for sand boarding.

The dunes lie within the Croajingolong National Park.  Camping is available. Croajingolong National Park is in the far eastern corner of Victoria, about 450 km east of Melbourne and 500 km south of Sydney. The dunes are near Point Hicks Lighthouse.

Links:

Yeagerup Dunes

The coastal Yeagerup Dunes are a series of vast mobile sand dunes which are steadily moving inland swallowing up forest lakes and woodlands as they go.

The dunes lie within D'Entrecasteaux National Park, south of Perth.

Links:

 

New Zealand - Sand Dune Locations

Te Paki Sand Dunes

Links:


South America - Sand Dune Locations

Brazil

Brazil is dotted with many large coastal sand dunes and long beaches.  Most areas have some type of dune buggy tours or rentals and sand boarding available. 

The sport of sandboarding originated in Brazil in the southern state capital of Florianópolis in 1986. 

Northwestern Brazil by Dune Buggy

  • Lençóis Maranhenses National Park - Coastal Dunes
    The coastal dunes are classified as a parabolic or blowout dune formations. The dunes span more than 40 miles in length, cover an total area of 300 square kilometers and invade the continent over 50km (31 miles) from the coast.

Photos:

Coastal Dunes of Brazil   Coastal Dunes Brazil

Links:

  • Dunas de Genipabu, Natal

Genipabu Beach, located in the city of Extremoz, State of Rio Grande do Norte, is famous for its giant dunes and the exciting buggy rides. Very long stretch of beach - from Genipabu, just north of Natal, along 250km of dunes uninterrupted until Areia Branca. 

Dunas de Genipabu Ecological Park - Considered the second largest urban park in Brazil. It includes 1,172 hectares of land.

Links:

  • Dunas de Joaquina (Joaquina Dunes)

Birth place of the sport of sandboarding.

Links:

  • Duna por do sol, Jericoacoara

Dune Buggy tours available. Sandboard rentals available.

Duna por do sol, Brazil sand dune

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  • Ilha do Cajú (Cashew Island) - Delta do Parnaíba

Before flowing out into the ocean, on the north of Piauí and Maranhão, river Parnaíba becomes separated in five branches. It forms, then, a maze of fresh and salty waters called Delta do Parnaíba. There are 83 islands with dunes and immense beaches.

The island of Cajú has been protected since 1991 and the only access is by boat.

Links:

  • Mangue Sêco Dunes (Mange Seco)

Dune Buggy tours are available. Small fishing village.

Mangue Seco - Dune Buggy

Links:

  • Porto Alegre Sand Dunes

Photos:
Porto Alegre Sand Dunes, Brazil

Links:

Peru

  • Cerro Blanco
    With a vertical drop of 3858 feet, Cerro Blanco most likely wins the honor of biggest vertical drop of any sand dune in the world. 

    Photos:

Links:

  • Huacachina Oasis

Huacachina Oasis is a small desert oasis that consists of a quiet lagoon that is fed by an underground river and is surrounded by sand dunes and palm trees .Sandboarding and sand dune tours in dune buggies are popular.

Photos:

Huacachina Oasis, Peru

Links:

Chile

  • Dunas de Ritoque

Links:

  • Sandsea

  • Atacama Desert

Venezuela

  • Medanos Dune de Coro

    Links:


Mexico - Sand Dune Locations

Acatita Dunes (Las Dunas de Acatita), Chihuahua

In the Zone of Silence?

Links:

  •  

Bilbao Dunes (Dunas de Bilbao) - Viesca, Chihuahua

Located in Viesca, 65 km ( 40 mi ) east of Torreon . The dunes are only 45 minutes from Torreon in car. This desert area consists of a group of sand dunes that were formed by erosion of the nearby mountains of Sierras de Parras, El Marmol and Jimulco. Sandboarding rentals are available.

Links:

Great Desert of the Altar (Gran Desierto del Altar)

AltarDesert-1.jpg (46952 bytes)   AltarDesert-2.jpg (88270 bytes)

Baja Peninsula in western Mexico - 1800 x 2400 JPEG (599.1KB) - NASA image

Links:

Gypsum Dunes (Dunas de Yeso) - Cuatro Ciénegas

White gypsum salts blown from evaporating lakebeds form the dunes. Active dunes up to 6-9 m high encroach upon streams, posos, older dunes and the surrounding plains.

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Samalayuca Sand Dunes (Dunas de Samalayuca)

50 kilometers south of Ciudad Juárez

Links:

Vizcaíno Desert in Baja California Sur

Roughly triangular desert on the west coast of the central Baja California peninsula, just south of Vizcaíno Bay and Guerrero Negro.

Links:

 

Los Arenales Plaster Dunes, ?


United States - Sand Dune Locations

Sand Dunes of Alaska

  • Great Kobuk Sand Dunes - Closed to vehicles

Sand Dunes of Arizona

Sand Dunes of California

Sand Dunes of Colorado

Sand Dunes of Idaho

Sand Dunes of Michigan

Sand Dunes of Nebraska

  • Sand Hills - Largest dune field in the Western Hemisphere

Sand Dunes of Nevada

Sand Dunes of New Mexico

Sand Dunes of Oklahoma

Sand Dunes of Oregon

Sand Dunes of Texas

Sand Dunes of Utah

Sand Dunes of Washington

Sand Dunes of Wyoming


Canada - Sand Dune Locations

Athabasca Sand Dunes, Saskatchewan

Located in the remote northwest corner of Saskatchewan, Canada. Likely the most northerly sand dunes in the world. Located on the south shore of Lake Athabasca, the crescent-shaped dunes are among the largest dunes in North America. Sand dunes cover 2,000 sq. kilometers.

There are no surrounding communities or facilities available.

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Great Sand Hills, Saskatchewan

The sand dunes in Great Sand Hills are located in the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan near the town of Sceptre. It is the largest dune area in the southern prairies of Canada, comprising over 2,000 square km.

Links:

Greenwich Dunes, Prince Edward Island

The unusually large and mobile parabolic dunes with their associated counter ridges are very rare in North America.

The Prince Edward Island National Park was officially expanded in 1998 when 6 square kilometers of the Greenwich Peninsula were transferred from the provincial government to Parks Canada. Parks Canada has implemented a development plan which has controlled access to the dune field and prevented pedestrians and motorized vehicles from trespassing on sensitive areas.

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Middle Sand Hills, Alberta

The Middle Sand Hills are located about 50 km north of Medicine Hat, on the west side of the South Saskatchewan River. This dune field covers an area of nearly 400 square km.

Links:

Spirit Sand Hills, Manitoba

East of Brandon, Manitoba. Carberry Sand Hills.

Links:


If you have any information, corrections and/or photos that you would like to share
Please contact us


Google Earth Interface by DuneGuide.com

Fly around the dunes with DuneGuide.com's Google Earth place marks

Google Earth place marks (kmz file) from DuneGuide.com:

Worldwide Sand Dunes - Dunes all around the world.

Just United States Sand Dunes:

U.S. Dunes Open for OHVs - United States dunes that you can ride on.

U.S. Dunes Closed to OHVs - United States dunes that you can't ride on


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