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a woman in the dessert
Healthy Travel

How to Travel in the Desert Like a Pro

Are you thinking of a desert getaway for your next trip? Continue reading to learn how to travel in the desert like a pro.

Making up roughly 33% of the earth’s surface, deserts have been home to many people and animals throughout history. Many natural and historic sites have been major tourist attractions in recent years and thus traveling in deserts is more popular than ever.

Learning how to travel in the desert is easy and there are some key things to keep in mind before you go. In this article, we will cover how to prepare, when to go, and what to expect from your desert vacation.


What to keep in mind for desert adventures

It’s hot

Deserts become inhospitable due to extremely high heat making it difficult for plant life. The hottest recorded temperature ever was in Furnace Creek, California with a temperature reaching 56.7°C (134.1°F). With such high temperatures being possible, it’s best to keep this in mind before you go.


It’s dry

woman drinking water in the desert

Deserts are dry and arid places. For somewhere to be classified as a desert it requires less than 25 cm (10 in) of rain in a year on average. That means visiting a desert requires you to bring your own water and shade. Be sure to stay very hydrated if visiting a desert for a long time.


It’s beautiful

You don’t have to look too hard to find some of the most beautiful deserts in the world. The Hoggar Mountains in Algeria or Sud Lipez in Bolivia consistently rank near the top of the most beautiful deserts. The list really goes on and on. Make sure you have your camera ready!


It can be dangerous   

a woman fell in the desert


Deserts are home to diverse ecosystems that have evolved to thrive in harsh conditions. This includes many little animals and critters that are considered quite dangerous. The saw-scaled viper, rattlesnakes, and sometimes even cougars can be found in deserts. Keep an eye out and make sure you have the necessary safety gear. Here are some tips for what to do if bitten by a rattlesnake in the desert.


How to prepare to travel in the desert

Pick a destination

While deserts cover 33% of the earth’s surface, you want to avoid some places and prioritize others. Picking a destination is the first step. Some criteria to consider include activities, accommodations, transportation, and history/natural beauty. The Gobi desert in Mongolia and the Sahara are two of the most popular desserts for tourists but they also span vast distances so you want to narrow them down.


Decide on activities

driving in the desert

Desert vacations offer a ton of activities. These range from hiking to camping or more extreme activities such as quad biking or sand surfing. Riding a camel is always a must-do activity when planning a desert vacation. If there is something you really can’t miss, make sure that activity is available in the place you are going. If you are looking for more fun adventure vacations, be sure to check out this article.


Get the right gear

The right gear is important when learning how to travel in the desert like a pro. Whether it’s the perfect dessert scarf or this simple dusk mask you want to make sure you have the right gear for when you are in the desert. Breathable and light clothing is recommended. Protect your skin from the intense sun while not trapping too much heat. There is a reason nomads have developed such interesting and unique styles.

Also, keep in mind that many deserts are scorching hot during the day but cool down considerably at night. If you are camping in the desert, here are some great healthy camping dinners to try.


When to go

Spring or fall is most likely the best time, climate-wise, to visit a desert. The time of year that spring or fall occurs will depend on the location of the desert. For example, Spring in the Gobi desert is from March 20th to June 21st whereas Spring in Bolivia is from September 22 to December 21.

Going during the right time of year means less extreme temperatures. Also, keep in mind that some deserts are prone to flash floods, where ancient river beds suddenly overflow with water from unexpected rain. These can be very dangerous, so plan to go when they are least likely.


Eight tips on how to travel in the desert

1. Be prepared for the heat

man walking in the desert

Tip #1 on how to travel in the desert is to know it’s going to be hot. Temperatures can be very high in the desert, so don’t stay outside for too long if they are. Go on tours early in the morning or in the evening. During peak heat, try to stay inside and find air conditioning if available. Here are some useful tips for dealing with extreme heat in the desert.


2. Protection from the sun

The sun can be really intense in the desert. Be sure to have lots of sunscreen handy while also covering your skin from extended exposure by wearing loose, breathable clothing.


3. Layer up

Deserts actually get quite cold at night. So you want to be prepared for that also. Camping in the desert can be a surreal experience however many don’t expect to be chilly at night. Bring a sweater and blanket.


4. Don’t stray from the path

If you are hiking or mountain biking in a desert, be sure that you stick to the trails. It’s surprisingly easy to get lost in a desert. Help is not always nearby if you do.


5. Drink tons of water

Staying hydrated is key to enjoying a desert vacation. When spending time in high heat we often sweat much more. This can cause us to become tired and dizzy. Bring a water bottle and always have a fresh supply nearby.


6. Keep an eye on the weather

an image of the desert

We mentioned flash floods and extreme heat. These are two of the biggest risks of traveling in the desert. Make sure you keep an eye on the weather before visiting the desert. This is especially true for hiking in canyons or old river beds prone to flash floods.


7. Find shade or shelter

With few trees to seek shelter from the relentless sun, be sure you have some form of shade, such as an umbrella or canopy to escape to. This is especially true during the hottest time of day.


8. Respect local customs

2 Arab men shake hand in the desert

Deserts are home to nomadic tribes. Each tribe has their own customs and way of life. Many are welcoming and happy to share their culture. However, be sure to show the utmost respect when visiting these tribes. Some basic things about western culture can be offensive to other cultures. Remember you chose to visit these places. So if something doesn’t work for you it might be best not to go.


Final Thoughts

Deserts offer some of the most spectacular vacations in the world. There are countless desert vacations to choose from, each more wonderful than the last. Make sure you are prepared and know what to expect. Deserts are dry, hot, and potentially dangerous places. There is a reason they are so inhospitable to human life. Make sure to stay hydrated, never leave the trail, protect yourself from the sun, and most importantly enjoy an experience of a lifetime.