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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
Algeria (Sahara Desert)
Erg Admer Dunes - Djanet, Algeria
Issaouane Erg, Algeria
Tifernine Dunes, Algeria (part of the Sahara 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Bilbao Dunes (Dunas de Bilbao) - Viesca, Chihuahua
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.
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.
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.
The unusually large and mobile parabolic dunes with their associated
counter ridges are very rare in North America.
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.