Thal desert, Pakistan
Stretching 190 miles from north to south and 70 miles along the breadth Thal is a vast desert between the Sindh and Jhelum rivers in the Punjab area of Pakistan. It is very close to Pothohar Plateau and the landscape is similar to the Cholistan deserts. Thal has a tropical climate with an annual rainfall of 250 mm. Before the partition of India and Pakistan it was mainly inhabited by Hindus and Sikhs but after the partition the dominant population has been of the native Muslims.
Thal desert had been suffering from acute shortage of water, so a unique canal system known as The Thal canal system, consisting of a man –made canal was introduced to relieve the natives.
Far from being dead and desolate, Thal is lush green in February and March. The land is used for the cultivation of green chickpeas (hara choliyan).Entering the desert otherworldly scenery of a green sea stopped only by the golden sand dune where the glittering sand occasionally rises up in undulating waves.
Living in a ‘dera’, interacting with the natives, sitting around a campfire, and watching the ecstatic sunsets and enjoying nomadic life, which seems more free and serene than our ordinary lives are some of the few pleasures one can experience while on a trip to Thal desert.
Iran: Dashte-Kavir and Dashte-Lut
Iran is making its mark on the bucket lists of travellers despite its relatively poor economy. Most people visit Iran for its unique architecture, exquisite cuisine, intricate handiworks, elaborate bazaars, and rich heritage. However, beyond Tehran, geographical marvels of this Central Asian country remain largely unexplored.
Dashte-Kavir and Dashte-Lut are two of the major attractions for travellers willing to go an extra mile. They are respectively the 26th and 27th largest deserts of the world. The former is also known as Kavir-e-namak or the Great Salt Lake. The route to and through these deserts, moreover, provide an opportunity to plunge into everything Persia has to offer.
Hidden on the borders of Iran’s vast central deserts, lies a gem hardly anyone knows about. In the Zard-Kuh, a 4200m-high mountain range bordering these deserts, hide the most unexpected geographical finds: on the edge of the hot desert is a series of sub-tropical glaciers.
Start with the semi-arid desert encircling Isfahan, reach the colossal snow-capped peaks, visit the city of Shar-e-Kord, the so-called “Roof of Iran” at 2,070m above sea level, taste the best kebabs and yogurt of the world on the way, witness some of the most surreal waterfalls, spend time with the local nomads who dot the landscape, and feel at home in a countryside unlike any other in Asia.
The Simpson Desert, Australia
Hundreds of kilometers of sand hills stretched out beneath a mesmerizing blue sky, The Simpson desert of Australia presents a venture one can never forget. It consists of 1100 parallel sand dunes some of which are 200 kilometers long. Rivers like Old Andado, Colson or Hay run for tens of kilometers. Blessed with a diverse form of life, Simpson is home to an incredible array of birds, animals and plants. In certain places like Purnie Bore, underground water bubbles to the surface and turns the desert into an oasis where life thrives, and has the longest parallel dunes in the world. With no towns or cities there are only a hand full of Aboriginal Outstations in the north and north-west, and a few pastoral stations.
A major part of this desert comprises of four national parks (or conservation reserves). May, June and July are the ideal times to visit. One of the best views on Earth can be found here! You won’t believe the number of stars you’ll see. Furthermore, the city of Alice Springs is a good home base for further exploration of the desert. It is accessible by bus or plane from other major cities. Another popular attraction accessible from Alice Springs is The Red Sandstone of the Chambers Pillar, which rises out of the flat red base of the desert and the pillar showcases the names of 19th century explorers who crossed this region.
To explore the depths of the Simpson Desert you will need to plan ahead before departure. It’s best to attempt this journey during the months of May and October so you can avoid the extreme heat of the desert. You can experience the shifting colors and mesmerizing lines of the desert by travelling on your own or by organized tours, allowing you to leave the driving in the hands of an expert but no matter how you approach this particular desert, it will surely enchant you.
Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India
Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is a large arid region that covers an area of 200000 km sq. (170000 km sq. in India, and the remaining 30000 km sq. In Pakistan) situated between India and Pakistan. Hundreds and thousands of people, both local and foreign, visit this sprawling dry region in the north-western part of India, and enjoy its large variety of flora and fauna.
Every day, from early morning, the tour starts from Jaisalmer with a 50 km Jeep drive to the camp. Tourists, with their exploring enthusiasm, are awestruck when viewing the breathtaking sunrise amidst the great sheets of sand. Sunrise is something not to be missed, where everything seems ethereal and magical. Also, it’s imperative for a tourist to witness the changing hours in the desert so as to fully experience the breathtaking beauty of this place that’s otherwise unknown to the people of the country.
Sadly, this beautiful place is hardly visited because of prejudiced notions of people, who believe that deserts are not places to be visited. Stretches of sand in the desert are interspersed by hillocks and sandy and gravel plains. Due to the diversified habitat and ecosystem, the vegetation, human culture and animal life in this arid region is very rich in contrast to the other deserts of the world. Also, the wildlife species that are either extinct or hardly found in other landscapes are present in abundance here. So wildlife enthusiasts can easily enjoy their time exploring this part of the world.
Furthermore, desert festivals are highly enjoyed by the local people during winters. These festivals not only highlight the culture of the desert dwellers, but also bring in the light, the local flora and fauna of the area. Camels, undoubtedly, form an integral part of desert life, and the camel events during these festivals bear a testimony to this fact. These festivals end with the shows of dance and music, where the audience gets hypnotized by the illusion of mirages and the enchantment of the sandy dunes.
Known more for its sprawling, majestic mountains and serene lakes, for the famous Khardung La, Tso Kar and Pangong lake, the cold desert regions in Ladakh are a must visit to add to your experience of desert trips. A desert is probably the last place you’d expect to travel to on your trip to Ladakh yet the village Hunder in Nubra valley is gradually gaining acclaim as a tourist attraction.
Along with the inexplicable calm one feels when among nature’s magical creations, the visual and scenic beauty of the sandy landscape as you walk on the road that cuts through it, leaves you spellbound and in awe. And to balance the Romantic aesthetic are strange undulating patterns that the melted snow makes on the sand dunes and a few shrubs here and there along the road.
Book a Bactrian camel, (which you will hear be called backtwain, backtrain and even bacterial by some!), and let yourself be soothed by the setting sun or the clear star spangled sky at night. Hunder, as well as the neighbouring Diksit and Shyok valley abound in guest houses and hotels, the clear Shyok River, peaceful monasteries including the golden Maitreya Buddha and lovely little streams to sit by and breathe in beauty.