The Deserts Of Asia

The Ordos Desert in Mongolia.
The Ordos Desert in Mongolia.

18. Ordos Desert

Also known as the Mu Us Desert, the Ordos Desert is located in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China. The desert spans an area of about 90,650 square km. The Kubuqi Desert in the north and the Maowusu Desert in the south make up the Ordos Desert. The desert is surrounded by the Great Bend of the Yellow River and mountain chains. Montane grasslands and shrublands constitute the vegetation of the region. Przewalski's gazelles, Przewalski's horses, Bactrian camels, snow leopards, etc., are found here. Small scale farming is practiced in the oases of the desert. Cattle ranching is an important activity here. Soda deposits in the Ordos Desert are heavily mined.

17. Lop Desert

The Lop Desert is a desert located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The desert hardly exhibits any variations in relief being almost perfectly flat. The desert has poor biodiversity with sparse natural vegetation. Only about 36 species of plants grow here. 23 species of mammals, 91 bird species, 7 reptilian, and 1 amphibian species have been recorded in the Lop Desert. The desert serves as one of the last refuges of the wild Bactrian camel. The Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve was created to conserve this camel species in 2001. The region is subject to violent sand storms during the spring season.

16. Karakum Desert

The Karakum Desert is located in Central Asia where it covers nearly 70% of the total area of Turkmenistan. The desert region is extremely sparsely populated. The desert is rich in oil and natural gas deposits. A chief attraction here is the Darvaza gas crater or the "Door to Hell, a continuously burning crater set on fire intentionally by geologists to check the spread of methane gas. The world’s second largest irrigation canal, the Kara Kum Canal traverses the desert. The Trans-Caspian Railway crosses the Karakum Desert. The oases in the region are noted for cotton cultivation.

15. Kyzylkum Desert

Occupying an area of 298,000 square km, the Kyzylkum Desert is the world’s 16th biggest desert and is located in the doab region of Central Asia. The desert is currently shared by the countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. The landscape of the desert features extensive plain land with sand dunes, takirs, and oases. The oases of the desert are inhabited by small human populations. The notable fauna of the Kyzylkum Desert includes the Russian tortoise, Desert monitor, saiga antelope, Bukhara Deer, common pheasant, golden eagle, and others. The exposed rock formations in the desert have also yielded fossils whose study have contributed significantly to paleontological knowledge. The desert is famous for its rich mineral deposits of copper, gold, uranium, oil, and natural gas.

14. Registan Desert

The Registan Desert is located in southwestern Afghanistan. The sandy desert features sandy plains, rocky areas, clay-covered areas, and small sandy hills. Nomadic tribes inhabit this desert. Recently, the desert has been observed to migrate westwards into agricultural areas. This migration has triggered a crisis situation in the region and displaced communities and destroyed villages.

13. Dasht-e Margo

The Dasht-e Margo (meaning "Desert of Death”) is a desert in Afghanistan in the Helmand and Nimruz provinces of the country. The desert occupies an area of about 150,000 square km. The landscape of the desert features rocky-clayish plains and masses of sand.

12. Thal Desert

The Thal Desert is located in Punjab Pakistan near the Pothohar Plateau. The desert area is inhabited by small pockets of population that are spread out over the large expanse of the desert. People here often travel long distances for their daily living needs.

11. Kharan Desert

The Kharan Desert is a mountainous, sandy desert found in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. The Chagai-II, the second nuclear test of the country was executed at the desert in 1998. Little agriculture is practiced in the region. The settlers here are mainly engaged in the carpet weaving business.

10. Indus Valley Desert

The Indus Valley Desert is a remote and desolate area of northern Pakistan. The desert encompasses an area of 19,501 square km in the country’s northwestern Punjab Province. The desert area experiences extremes of climate ranging from extremely hot summers to freezing winters. The striped hyena, caracal, urial, Indian leopard, and the Indian wolf are the notable mammalian fauna of the Indus Valley Desert. Little farming or grazing activities are carried out here. Hunting is prevalent in the region and thus the wildlife here face constant threat.

9. Cholistan Desert

The Cholistan Desert occupies an area of 26,300 square km stretching from Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan to the Thar Desert of India. The Hakra River runs through the desert and many settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization are found along the banks of the river. The desert is inhabited by semi-nomadic tribes who migrate through the desert in search of food and fodder. The Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally, an annual Jeep rally, is hosted in this desert.

8. Maranjab Desert

The Maranjab Desert is an Iranian desert located in the Aran va Bidgol, Isfahan Province. The desert is one of the best destinations for off-roads trips in the country. Wolves, hyenas, monitor lizards, chameleons, sand cat, eagle, etc., are some of the notable fauna of the desert habitat.

7. Polond Desert

Also known as the Mozaffari Desert, the Polond Desert is a desert located in Iran’s South Khorasan Province. It is part of the Mozaffari Protected Area. The sand dunes and sandy hills of the Polond Desert with the mountains in the backdrop offer stunning landscapes to those visiting the area. Among the tourist attractions here is the Cheetah's Tail, a sand dune that is shaped like the tail of a cheetah. The Ferdows Hole-in-the-Rock, a geological attraction, is also present in this desert.

6. Dasht-e Loot

Also known as the Loot Desert, the Dasht-e Loot, the 25th biggest desert on Earth, is located in Iran. Here, it occupies parts of the Baluchistan, Kerman, and Sistan provinces of the country. In 2016, the desert was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The desert features a plateau, ravines, sinkholes, salt flats, and a series of furrows and ridges, and vast expanses of sand. The sand dunes found in the southeast of this desert are among the world’s tallest sand dunes attaining a height of about 980 feet. The land surface temperature at Dasht-e Loot often reaches 70.7 °C making it one of the hottest places on our planet.

5. Dasht-e Kavir

The Dasht-e Kavir, also known as the Great Salt Desert, is located in the central Iranian Plateau region. It encompasses a total surface area of about 77,600 square km. It is the world’s 23rd biggest desert. The Dasht-e Kavir features vast areas of salt marshes like the 1,800 square km large Daryahcheh-e Namak. It also hosts a protected ecological zone named as the Kavir National Park. Although the desert receives little precipitation, run-offs from the surrounding mountains create large marshlands, playas, and temporary lakes in the desert. Sand and pebbles constitute the desert soil. Mugwort is the most common plant growing here. Birds like sandgrouses, larks, ground jay, etc., live here. The mammalian fauna of the Dasht-e Kavir include camels, goats, Persian gazelles, Asiatic cheetah, etc. There is negligible human habitation in the region.

4. Taklamakan Desert

The Taklamakan Desert is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. It is surrounded by mountains to the north, south, and west and the Gobi Desert to the east. The Taklamakan Desert occupies an area of 337,000 square km which is nearly equal to the size of Germany. 85% of the desert comprises of shifting sand dunes making it the second largest shifting sand desert in the world. Two cross-desert highways exist on the Taklamakan Desert. The desert has been described in several accounts of ancient travelers who have described it is a dangerous desert that can easily claim lives of those who stray away from the known paths.

3. Thar Desert

The Great Indian Desert or the Thar Desert is a massive desert in the Indian subcontinent’s northwestern section. It forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan where 85% of the desert area lies within India and the rest in Pakistan. Several protected areas of India and Pakistan like the Desert National Park, the Tal Chhapar Sanctuary, and the Rann of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary serve to protect the unique flora and fauna of the desert habitat. The biodiversity found here is quite rich in contrast to other desert regions of the world. The blackbuck, Indian wild ass, chinkara, desert fox, caracal, etc., are the notable fauna of the desert. 141 species of migratory and resident birds can be found here. The Thar Desert is the world’s most densely populated desert and has a population density of 83 per square km.

2. Gobi Desert

The Gobi Desert located in northern and northwestern China is Asia’s second largest desert and the world’s fifth largest desert. It lies in the rain shadow region of the Tibetan Plateau. The desert is famous in history as the home of several cities along the historical Silk Route. It was also a part of the great Mongol Empire. The desert spans across an area of 1,295,000 square km. The landscape of most of the Gobi Desert features bare rock instead of sand. Fossils of early mammals, prehistoric human artifacts, and dinosaur eggs have been discovered in the Gobi Desert.

1. Arabian Desert

The Arabian Desert, the largest desert of Asia and the fourth largest desert in the world, is located in Western Asia. The massive desert of about 2,330,000 square km stretches across most parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Despite the extreme conditions, the Arabian Desert hosts some desert-adapted species like the oryx, gazelles, sand cats, lizards, etc. Many species of the desert have become extinct due to overgrazing and hunting. There is very little vegetation in the region. The desert also has areas with treacherous quicksand.


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