The Taklamakan Desert (or Takla Makan Desert) is the 15th largest sandy desert in the world, covering 320,000 square kilometers (123,550 square miles). It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The desert is seen mainly by those crossing it on the road between the towns of Hotan and Luntai. The famous Silk Road edges around the Taklamakan Desert so travelers of the past could avoid crossing its dangerously dry center. Mummies dating over 4,000 years old have been found in the region, along with other interesting artifacts. The Taklamakan Desert isn’t on the tourist map at all, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.
The towering red sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert are one of the most spectacular sights to be seen in Namibia. Sossusvlei itself is a clay pan fed by the Tsauchab River. In addition to the sea of red sand dunes, Sossusvlei is also home to the Dead Vlei, meaning “dead marsh”, an eerie white clay pan filled with dead Camelthorn trees. This area is contained within the Namib-Naukluft Park which is in turn a part of the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world. The best time to visit Sossusvlei is at sunrise or sunset when the colors are the most vivid and the sun is not too hot. Accommodation near the area ranges from luxury resorts, to mid-range lodges, to numerous campgrounds.
The world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, is located in Southwest Bolivia. At 10,582 square kilometers (4,085 square miles), the Salar de Uyuni becomes the world’s largest mirror when covered in water. If this fascinating phenomenon alone wasn’t enough to entice tourists to visit, there is also an antique train cemetery in the area, 3km outside the town of Uyuni. Because the Salar de Uyuni is so flat, NASA is able to utilize it to calibrate some of their satellites. While the Salar de Uyuni itself is devoid of wildlife, it is used as the breeding grounds for some species of pink South American flamingos once a year in November. There are hotels for tourists nearby and they are almost all built out of salt blocks, including the furniture.