The word desert is not strange to an average human creature, but you might not know about the largest deserts in the world, their location, sizes and other classifications, here we have a well-detailed post about the biggest deserts in the world.

Nevertheless, most people misconstrued the best definition on the desert is, thinking dessert is the surface area covered with sand only. 

It’s worthy of notice to let us understand that a lot of factors are put into consideration when defining a desert – vegetation sparse, precipitation volume, temperature range, soil types and condition, and other factors that support the existence of the living creature. 

Generally speaking, a desert is defined as an empty or unfertile landmass of a landscape, which has little precipitation (>250 mm annual rainfall), thereby making living conditions hostile and inhabitable for plant and animal life. 

Desertification occurs when a landscape experience denudation – a situation where a landmass surface is exposed to direct sunray due to a lack of protection from vegetations.

Around 1/3 of earth’s land surface is a desert – incorporation of arid and semi-arid. These parts are one of the world’s major ecosystems types that support an extensive community of unique plants and animals that had adapted to such a toxic environment, which construed them into a nomadic lifestyle. 

Classification of Deserts

Deserts are found in every continent of the world but vary in sizes, and types, which are classified as;

  • Polar Deserts
  • Subtropical Deserts
  • Cold Winter Deserts
  • Cool Coastal Deserts

Most of these deserts are to the extreme with regards to temperature range – Hot or Cold, but their annual rainfall is usually below 250 mm.

What is the largest desert on Earth? This article thus visualizes the 20 biggest deserts in the world, their uniqueness, and others discussed in-depth. 

List of The Largest Deserts in The World

Below is a well-detailed list of deserts in the world, according to Atlas map and other legitimate sources;

1. Antarctic Desert

Antarctic Desert
Antarctic Desert – one of the biggest deserts in the world, the coldest in the world.

Desert Name: Antarctic Desert
Desert Type: Polar   
Surface Area: 5.5 million mi² (14.25 Million km2)
Location: Antarctica, Antarctica.

The whole continent, which is the fifth-largest in landmass, is reckoned as the world’s largest desert. Situated next to the South Pole, which makes it the coldest, driest, and the windiest continent on the planet, which nearly multiplies into twice of its size in winter due to icing around its edges.

One thing that distinguished Antarctica from other continents in the globe is the possession of the highest average elevation when compared with the fact that the whole landmass in Antarctica is marked as a desert. The annual rainfall stood below 200 mm, with a temperature (-89 0C), which makes it extremely unbearable for any living creature to adapt and survive.

Most people residing in Antarctica planet are temporary residents, which are mostly scientific scholars plus their supportive personnel ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 depending on the period of the year, because of the extremes temperatures and inadequate water supply. Due to the sun off scowl of the ice, sunburn and vision complications are significant health challenges with people residing in Antarctica.

2. Arctic Desert

Arctic Desert - Top 20 biggest deserts in the world
The Arctic Desert is the second largest desert in the world.

Desert Name: Arctic Desert
Desert Type: Polar
Surface Area: 5.4 million mi² (13.99 Million km2) 
Location: Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

The world’s second-largest desert in the context of detailing a collection of three North Pole islands located above 75 degrees North Latitude, occupying about 5.4 million square miles, which cut across over three major continent – North America, Asia and Europe, and over seven countries of the world – Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia. 

The Arctic Desert is characterized by some distinct features of high winds which distributes the snowflakes evenly on the atmosphere, thereby creating such an impression of persistent and continuous snowfall, a dip in the annual temperature to about -40 degrees Celsius and below, little precipitation of any form annually recorded, renowned for its’ tourism attractiveness because of the inhabitants of extinctive animals that inhabited in the Antarctic regions, such as the dinosaurs and Muttaburrasaurus animals. 

The Arctic Desert is exceptionally vulnerable to climatic change. In recent years, have been raised the reduction in the amount of sea ice in the area. 

The depletion of the Arctic Desert sea ice in that region had raised the alarm over its dangerous influence on global water levels.

3. Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert - Largest desert in Africa
The Sahara Desert is the largest desert in Africa, also one of the biggest deserts in the world.

Desert Name: Sahara Desert
Desert Type: Subtropical
Surface Area: 3.5 Million mi2 (9.06 Million km2)
Location: Northern Africa, – Africa.

The largest scorching desert in the globe, which couples as the third-largest barren landmass spread across 3.5 million square miles, which is over 16 times the size of France landmass. 

This desert inhabits most of the land in North Africa – Mauritania, Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and Niger, with exception to the fertile Maghreb districts, the Atlas Mountains, and the coastal region next to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Sahara Desert exhibits the significant features of a subtropical desert type of been a barren rocky landscape, presenting an unstable marine and stable continental air masses, thereby resulting in an arid, tropical climate, with a hyper-arid core part – which implies zero vegetation around the region. The majority of its rivers are intermittent or seasonal.

4. Arabian Desert

Arabian Desert - The second hottest desert in the world
The Arabian Desert is the second hottest desert in the world and also one of the largest deserts.

Desert Name: Arabian Desert 
Desert Type: Subtropical
Surface Area: 1 Million mi2 (2.59 Million km2)
Location: Arabian Peninsula, Asia.

Located in western Asia is the Arabian Desert, which spread over most of the Arabian Peninsula – from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan. The fourth-largest and the second hottest desert on earth are enriched with crude oil, thereby making it an oil-producing region in the world. Rub’ al-Khali, the center of the desert, forms the largest continuous body of sand in the world.

The one Million square miles Desert region is arid, oscillating between normal, hot temperature range and seasonal nighttime cold all year round, with an annual rainfall range between 30 mm to 100 mm. 

5. Gobi Desert

Gobi Desert - Largest deserts in the world
The Gobi Desert has rare animals and also mountains.

Desert Name: Gobi Desert 
Desert Type: Cold Winter 
Surface Area: 500,000 mi2 (1.29 Million km2)
Location: China and Mongolia – Asia.

The 500,000 square miles of total landmass covers north-western and northern China, and spread towards southern Mongolia is otherwise referred to as the Mongolia Gobi Desert or the rain shadow desert, because of its proximity to the Himalayan Mountains blocks rainfall, which is a natural habitation to sets of the rarest animals and a perfect natural landscape.

The desert, like other deserts, is considered as a lifeless desert, courtesy to the distribution of the mountains, which averts the rain-causing monsoon air breeze from reaching the Gobi. Kindly note that the majority of the Gobi Desert surface is exposed bared rock, which is all year round cold, with some occasional frost seen on its dune. 

6. Kalahari Desert

Kalahari Desert Red Dunes
Kalahari Desert is the second largest desert in Africa.

Desert Name: Kalahari Desert 
Desert Type: Subtropical 
Surface Area: 360,000 mi2 (0.93 Million km2)
Location: Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa – Africa.

The largest, massive, and the first semi-arid Kalahari savanna Desert, located in the southern African region in the Africa continent. The desert with a total landmass of 360,000 square miles spans into Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, supporting the existence of animals and plants, when compared with other deserts in the world, despite its lower annual precipitations.

The surface is covered mostly with red sand and no permanent surface water drainage, with exception to the Okavango river, which seems to be the eternal river of the Kalahari Desert, flowing into the delta in the northwest of the desert. 

The second-largest desert in Africa is a natural habitat for some plants, especially the cactus species and shrubs, which comprised most of the desert plants. It has seasonal swamped pans, dry valleys, and salt pans. 


7. Great Victoria Desert

Great Victoria Desert - Austrailias largest desert
Great Victoria Desert is the largest desert in Australia.

Desert Name: Great Victoria Desert 
Desert Type: Subtropical 
Surface Area: 220,000 mi2 (569,797 km2)
Location: Western Australia and South Australia – Australia.

The No 1 Australia desert, which doubles as No seven largest desert in the globe comprises of numerous small sandhills and gibber plains – a grassland space of a relatively packed pebbles surfaces. 

The Great Victoria Desert stretches over 220,000 square miles on the Australian soil, covering from the Gawler Ranges in the south, down to the Eastern Goldfields region at Western Australia.

The Great Victoria Desert is characterized by Thunderstorms, with an average annual record of about 15-20 thunderstorms. It also featured unpredictable yearly precipitation of about 220 to 250 mm. At spring, its temperatures range from 32 °C to 40 °C, while the desert records 18 °C to 23 °C during winter.

8. Patagonian Desert

Patagonian Desert - Largest Desert in Argentina
Patagonian Desert is the largest desert in Argentina and the 8th in the world.

Desert Name: Patagonian Desert 
Desert Type: Cold Winter 
Surface Area: 200,000 mi2 (518,000 km2)
Location: Argentina – South America.

Sharing an international border with the Colorado River, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Andes Mountains to its north, east, and west, respectively, the 200,000 sq. Miles desert is the world No 8th desert located in Argentina and spans over to Chile. Referred to as Patagonia Steppe or Magellan Steppe, it is a cold-temperate desert with temperature hardly above 12 °C and an average annual temperature of 3 °C.

The largest and the most extensive desert in Argentina is relatively windy desert, courtesy to the descending mountain air, experience about seven months of winter, and five months of summer.

9. Syrian Desert

Syrian Desert - Largest deserts in the world
Syrian Desert

Desert Name: Syrian Desert 
Desert Type: Subtropical 
Surface Area: 190,000 mi2 (492,000 km2)
Location: Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, Middle East – Asia.

Bādiyat Al-Shām in Arabic is an arid wilderness situated at southwestern Asia down to the north, covering the Arabian Peninsula (The Arabian Gulf [North axis’ s], east Jordan, south Syria, and west Iraq), sharing boundary with the Orontes Valley, the volcanic field of Harrat al-Shamah, the Euphrates on its west and east polar, receiving an average annual rainfall of less than 125 mm.

10. Great Basin Desert

Great Basin Desert
Great Basin Desert is the largest wilderness in the USA and has rocky stones.

Desert Name: Great Basin Desert 
Desert Type: Cold Winter 
Surface Area: 190,000 mi2 (492,000 km2)
Location: United States – North America.

The largest wilderness in the United States of America and the 10th in the world is a landmass of about 190,000 square miles, which bordered with the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada range, the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts on its east, west, south and north coast respectively.

The Great Basin Desert is characterized by precipitation of less than 250 mm annually, with the prevailing breeze from the Pacific Ocean blowing over Sierra, making it loses most of its moisture as rain while the air cools.


11. Chihuahuan Desert

Chihuahuan Desert
Chihuahuan Desert

Desert Name: Chihuahuan Desert 
Desert Type: Subtropical 
Surface Area: 175,000 mi2 (362,000 km2)
Location: Mexico – North America.

The Chihuahuan is known to be North America’s largest desert, which spans over from the United States southwestern coast down to the Central Mexican Highlands. 

It features magnificent sparse of land, covered with lush grass, which is endangered by human activities due to overpopulation, water disuse and improper management, animal herd overgrazing, and ignorance in the importance of desert’s ecological. 

12. Kara-Kum Desert

Kara-Kum Desert

Desert Name: Kara-Kum Desert 
Desert Type: Cold Winter
Surface Area: 135,000 mi2 (350,000 km2)
Location: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan – Asia.

The Karakum Desert – Turkmen Garagum or Gara Gum, which is translated to Black Sand – represents one of the most comprehensive deserts on the planet, located within one Central Asian country – Turkmenistan. 

It covers about 80% of the Turkmenistan territory, and it is an epic-center for the country’s economic development.

The home to the Darvaza Gas Crater, laundress for its oil and natural gas deposits are of 135,000 square miles in area, extending some 500 miles from west to east and 300 miles from its northern axis down to its south, bordering with the Sarykamysh Basin by its north, ancient Oxus River valley on the northeast and the Garabil uplands and Badkhyz towards its southern pole.

13. Colorado Plateau Desert

Colorado Plateau Desert
Colorado Plateau Desert

Desert Name: Colorado Plateau Desert 
Desert Type: Cold Winter
Surface Area: 104,200 mi2 (269,900 km2)
Location: Southwestern, United States – North American.

The natural and beautiful Colorado landscapes cover over a large region of the south-west part of the United States of America, making it a unique Plateau in North America. 

Colorado Plateau Desert is associated with the distribution of shrub vegetation types, also regards as the creosote bush

The land of color and canyons has been part of the Sonoran Desert, stretching towards San Gorgonio in the south, to the Colorado River delta in the north. 

14. Taklamakan Desert

Taklamakan Desert
Taklamakan Desert

Desert Name: Taklamakan Desert 
Desert Type: Cold Winter
Surface Area: 123,550 mi2 (320,000 km2)
Location: China – Asia

The great desert of Central Asia, the Taklimakan Shamo, which implies Wade-Giles romanization, is regarded as one of the planetary widest sandy deserts, occupying the central area of the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, specifically in the Tarim Basin of western China. 

It was spanning over the sum of about 123,550 square miles, which spread to about 600 miles from its west to east and 260 miles from the northern axis down to its south pole. The desert elevation ranges from a little below 4,000 to 4,900 feet above the sea level.

15. Kyzyl-Kum Desert

Kyzyl-Kum Desert
Kyzyl-Kum Desert

Desert Name: Kyzyl-Kum Desert 
Desert Type: Cold Winter
Surface Area: 115,000 mi2 (297,000 km2)
Location: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan – Asia.

The Red Sand Desert of the Uzbek Qizilqum, located in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, covers a landmass of approximate 115,000 square miles, lying within the river Syr Darya and the river the Amu Darya in the Aral Sea. 

Kyzyl-Kum Desert has an annual precipitation range of 100 to 200 mm with numerous isolated mountains which cleft reaching up to 3,025 feet and mainly several surrounded waterbodies, with its precipitation occurring mostly at the winter and spring, which gives life to the sand ridges which supports the plant growth that serves as pasture for desert animals and other small settlements. 

16. Great Sandy Desert

Great Sandy Desert
Great Sandy Desert s the second largest desert in Australia after the Great Victoria Desert.

Desert Name: Great Sandy Desert 
Desert Type: Subtropical
Surface Area: 110,000 mi2 (285,000 km2)
Location: North-Western Australia – Oceania.

The Western Desert of northern Western Australia is regarded as the second largest desert in the continent, which spans over the Indian Ocean beach to the Kimberley Downs, further down towards the Tropic of Capricorn and the Gibson Desert. 

Canning Desert derived its name from the broad span of salt marshes, which intertwined with Triodia Spinifex grass and the avalanche sandhills of the sedimentary Canning Basin with the stock route of 1,000 miles in length over Lake Disappointment to Halls Creek.

17. Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert
Sonoran Desert is the hottest desert in Mexico.

Desert Name: Sonoran Desert
Desert Type: Subtropical
Surface Area: 120,000 mi2 (310,800 km2)
Location: The United States and Mexico – North America.

The Sonoran Desert is popularly referred to as Desierto de Altar by the Mexican and other Spanish speakers, which is an arid landmass of 120,000 square miles, covering from the southwestern axis of the Arizona, southeastern parts of California in the United States, down to the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, covering up to the half of the state of Sonora to its west. 

Other deserts within the region that are such hot and dry include the Colorado and Yuma deserts.

The Desierto de Altar operate under the subtropical climate, which receives precipitation of 75 to 380 mm of rainfall per year, with most of the rain received during the monsoon – July to September every year, where little thunderstorms ignite torrent of rainfall. But at around December and January, lighter precipitation is experienced with no record of frosts. 

From research, it was observed that the hottest part of the desert is closer to the lower Colorado River. At peak, the Sonoran Desert reaches up to 50 C.

18. Thar Desert

Thar Desert
Thar Desert

Desert Name: Thar Desert
Desert Type: Subtropical
Surface Area: 77,000 mi2 (200,000 km2)
Location: India and Pakistan, Asia.

The Thar Desert of the first arid, which is of sandhills sediment on the Indian subcontinent is otherwise regarded as the Great Indian Desert, is located at the hotter hemisphere zone of Rajasthan state in the northwestern spans of India, as well as in the Punjab Sindh provinces of eastern Pakistan.

It is covering approximately 77,000 square miles within the said territory, bordering with the plain of Indus River used for irrigation purpose at its west, the Punjab Plain towards its north, the Aravalli Range at the southeastern coast, and with the Rann of Kachchh towards the southern axis. 

The climatic condition of the subtropical desert is persistently high at its latitude, with precipitation extremely lower (<50 mm). The underlying reason was researched to be due to the prevailing southwest rainy season winds bypass the arid region down to the east.

19. Gibson Desert

Gibson Desert
Gibson Desert

Desert Name: Gibson Desert
Desert Type: Subtropical
Surface Area: 60,000 mi2 (155,400 km2)
Location: Central Western Australia – Oceania.

The arid zone located inside the interior of Western Australia which lies to the south of the Tropic of Capricorn boundary between the Great Sandy Desert to its northern axis and the Great Victoria Desert towards its southern region also made it on our list of the largest deserts in the world. 

The Gibson Desert likewise shares its border with the Northern Territory border at its east, with varieties of desert animals finding solace inside of it, because of the present of Triodia desert grass that spread over the vast and dry landmass of sandhills.

The climate within the hemisphere is considered generally to be hot, with its summer reaching its maximum temperatures rise to over 40 C. In comparison, the winter season records the maximum decrease to 18 C and minimum winter temperatures dip to 6 C.

20. Simpson Desert

Simpson Desert
Simpson Desert is the fourth largest Australian desert.

Desert Name: Simpson Desert
Desert Type: Subtropical
Surface Area: 55,000 mi2 (143,000 km2)
Location: Central Australian, Australia – Oceania.

The Simpson Desert is also one of the largest deserts in the world which is mostly uninhabited arid region for any living creature spans over 55,000 square miles at the central Australia of the Oceania continent belt. The desert’s climate is exceedingly dry like its previous arid zone found in the Oceania continent, receiving less than 125 mm of cloud precipitation annually. 

However, Simpson desert is strategically located to receive periodic temporary flooding in some areas, which are caused by rainfall outside the arid region to flows into the desert. This feature makes the desert distinctive from another arid zone, thereby making the Triodia (Spinifex) grass to be nurtured between the dune crests.

Apart from the Triodia genus growths, there are found inside the arid zone the mulga trees – a type of acacia scrub – and an abundance of wildflowers.

Certainly, this post is filled with every detail you might need about the largest deserts in the world, and if you have any contribution to make kindly make use of the comment box.

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