A Travel Guide to the Deserts of Iran

It is very common to hear from people living all around the world, especially the ones who have not been traveled to Iran, that Iran is a country with hot and arid weather condition. This is due to the fact that about one-third of Iran is desert. There are two main deserts and many smaller ones in the country. However, if you look at the map of Iran more carefully, you will understand that in addition to the deserts, about one-third of the country is mountains. There are also jungles, lakes and many rivers in different corners of the country. Here, we are going to briefly introduce the main deserts and the most visited areas in Iran.

Major Deserts of Iran

Kalut Shahdad Desert

Dasht-e Lut

The Dasht-e Kavir

Dasht-e Kavir or Kavire Namak, or the Great Salt Desert, is the largest salted desert in central of Iran plateau. It is situated in the southeast part of the Alborz Mountain which covers an area of about 800 km (500 mi) by 320 km (200 mi). The desert has a total surface area of about 77,600 km2 (30,000 mile2).

The desert is located at an altitude of about 700 meters (2,300 feet). Here, winter is quite cold, while summer is scorching hot. The desert receives little rain and snow each year. However, the surrounding mountains on all side, provide plenty of runoff to create vast seasonal lakes, marshlands, and playas. Temperatures can reach 50 °C in summer, and the average temperature in January is 22 °C.

The only plants that could adapt this weather condition are species like shrubs and grasses on mountain tops and Mugwort which is the most widespread plant.

Wild sheep, camels, goats, and Persian leopards are common in mountainous areas, and Persian gazelles live in parts of steppe and desert areas of the central plateau.

It is possible to access the Dasht-e Kavir from Aran and Bidgol, Choopanan, Mesr Village, Khor and Biabanak, Naeein, Jandagh, and Garmeh Village.

Some of the best attractions of Dasht-e Kavir are Kavir National Park, Houze Soltan, Houze Ghilooghe, Sefidab Caravanserai, and Sirjan Salt Swamp.

The Kavir-e Lut

Kavir-e Lut or Dasht-e Lut is the first natural item from Iran which was inscribed on the UNESCO's World Heritage List. The maximum annual rainfall is approximately 100 mm. The average altitude of the desert is almost 600m above the sea level with the lowest point close to “khabis” is almost 300m above the sea level.

The desert covers an area of 51,800 km2 (20,000 mile2) with 320 km (200 miles) from northwest to southeast and about 160 km (100 miles) wide. While the eastern part is a low plateau covered with salt flats, the central part has been sculpted by the wind into a series of parallel ridges and furrows.

Kavir-e Lut spreads between three provinces of Iran; Sistan and Baluchestan, Kerman and South Khorasan. The most sights and attractions of the desert are in Kerman Province, near the city of Kerman, to be more specified in Shahdad Village. There are a number of ecolodges in Shahdad, so if you are looking to travel to this amazing area and see the sunlight in Kaluts, be sure that there is always a vacant place to stay!

Most visited deserts in Iran


Maranjab Desert

Maranjab Salt Lake is situated about 100 kilometers to the eastern part of the Qom, and 50 km to the north-east of Aran and Bidgol. The lake has a triangle shape which covers an area of 1800 km². The average depth of the lake is about five meters, and the deepest point of it is 50 meters.

In addition to being one of the most beautiful deserts of Iran, the main usage of the Maranjab salt lake is for salt extraction. As a suggestion, we highly recommend visiting the salt lake area with a professional local guide since the surrounded lands of the lake are swampy.

To access the Maranjab Salt Lake, there are two main roads:

  1. From Aran county, after driving about 35 kilometers you will see the signs of the lake.
  2. From Maranjab Caravanserai, there is only 10 kilometers distance from the lake.

The best sights to visit in the Maranjab Desert are Sand Dums, Aran and Bidgol Salt Lake, Maranjab Castle, a Caravanserai and a Qanat next to it.

Mesr Desert

Mesr desert is actually a desert village located at the Central District of Khur and Biabanak County in Isfahan province. The desert is 45 km far from Jandag county and 371 km far from Yazd.

Mesr Desert is a unique desert of Iran due to the breathtaking scenery. The area is one of the most attractive tourist attractions in Iran. Mesr Desert tours are one of the most popular daily desert tours from Tehran and nearby cities. While the area is so hot and arid in most time of the year, there are beautiful and majestic gardens and date palm trees in the area. If you are looking forward to some outdoor activities at the heart of a desert, you will definitely enjoy camel riding, safari, and trekking in sand dunes. You will also be amazed by the beautiful night sky and observe stars so near to your face.

Mesr and Farahzad villages are the areas in which you can easily find accommodation to stay in for a night or even a few days. Khur Salt Lake, beautiful Date Gardens, the amazing sky at night and Chal Eskanon are only a few places that you can enjoy visiting during your travel to Mesr Desert.

 Shahdad Desert

At the heart of the Lut Desert, there is an area with incredible sight of Shahdad desert. Shahdad Desert is located in the eastern part of Kerman city. The most popular landscape in the desert to visit is the magnificent Kaluts in the area. The Kaluts is situated exactly in an area in the east and northeast of Shahdad Desert.

The Kaluts generate by extreme soil and water erosion. They extend from northwest to the southeast of the district. The best time to visit Kaluts is from December to March. However, if you are interested in observing the stars at night, the best time to travel to this magnificent area is from June to September.

In addition to beautiful natural sightseeing in the area, there are historic castles and ancient water reservoirs to see.

Varzaneh Desert

To get to Varzaneh Desert you have to drive approximately a hundred kilometers from Isfahan or two hundred from Yazd. The area is notable for its amazing sand dunes. Tourists who are looking forward to staying at a camp next to the fire setting usually choose this place.  However, if you are interested in watching the stars in the silence of a desert, this is the place!

There is a village near this area; Kharanagh, which has a history of more than 1000 years. All the building at this village were made by dry mud. The village is almost ruined, however, you can find great views for photography! There is also a beautiful caravanserai at Kharanagh Village which dates back to at least 400 years ago.

Pigeon towers, Anahita Temple, Ghoortan Citadel, Gavkhooni Vetland, Mirmiran House, Historical Bridge, and Jameh Mosque of Varzaneh are all the places that you can visit in Varzaneh Desert.

Halvan Desert

Halvan Desert is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions near Tabas. It is famous for its magnificent date gardens, which is unique considering the fact that the area is at the heart of a desert. Moreover, the architecture of the village and a castle in the center of the village is eye-catching. 

The best way to access the Halvan Desert and the sand dunes are from Tabas. The area of this desert is covered with sands and is located in the eastern and northern parts on the margin of the salt marshland, the central desert marshes, and the Salt Khor Lake. The sand dunes can be navigated on foot and safari vehicles are also provided.

Halvan Desert is one of the most popular areas for people interested in watching the sky and stars.

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