Quick links: Breaking Election Invest Bitcoin Syria North Korea Startups Scandal
The Guardian / Life - Entertain

Great desert adventures: readers’ travel tips

Spectacular night skies, vast red dunes, one of the world’s longest trains and Navajo porridge are among our readers’ highlights in these beautiful ‘sandscapes’


Winning tip: The Canning stock route, Australia

Crossing four deserts, the Canning stock route in Western Australia extends 1,850km from Halls Creek (east of Broome) to Wiluna in the mid-west. The route was established in 1910 to break a monopoly in the beef trade. Much of it is bush track and can be undertaken with a 4WD. However, it is more usual to travel in a small escorted tour – either for the whole or a section of the trail. (Last year my father-in-law undertook a section with a group of volunteers maintaining the waterholes and wells.) The trail crosses a vast and stunning wilderness: from the red dirt of the Kimberley, the Pilbara region’s Lake Disappointment (a huge salt lake surrounded by sand dunes) to the wildflowers that appear in early spring. You may even see a camel or two. The best part of the day is when you set up camp, night falls and the heat subsides, and you sit beneath an endless canopy of bright stars thinking you could be the only people on the planet.
john redston

Profile Readers' tips competition: send a tip for a chance to win a £200 voucher Show Hide

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be featured online and in print, and the best entry each week (as chosen by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet) wins a £200 voucher from hotels.com. To enter the latest competition visit the readers' tips homepage

Was this helpful?

Thank you for your feedback.

The Sahara, Mauritania

Photograph: Alamy

Chinguetti in Mauritania, almost swallowed by sand, is the Sahara at its prettiest. The town is one of Islam’s holiest cities and an architectural delight. The surrounding sand dunes are mesmerisingly beautiful and impressive in size. It’s possible to visit nearby oases on a camel and stay overnight in the desert under the open sky, an unforgettable experience on both full moon and moonless nights. The very adventurous can get to Chinguetti by riding the “first class” carriage (free of charge) on Mauritania’s iron ore train, one of the longest trains in the world (at about 3km). It departs Nouadhibou and Chinguetti can then be reached via Choum and Atar (which has an airport and can be reached by air from the capital, Nouakchott).
GoranLondon

Navajo territory, Arizona, US

Photograph: Alamy

On the last night of our four-day trip in Arizona, my brother and I stayed at Shash Dine Eco-Retreat (cabin sleeping four from £112 a night, shashdine.com). We were able to spend the night on Navajo land in a traditional hogan (a small house made from poles and branches). We spent time taking in the reds, oranges, and purples of Antelope Canyon, exploring the bizarre landscape of toadstools, splashing around Lake Powell, and marvelling at the majesty of the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. That night around the fire we watched the stars while lightning storms rolled through in the distance. The fire kept us warm for hours. Soon enough the sun rose and we were greeted with freshly brewed Navajo tea, porridge, and fresh fruit. Our last stop before we left town was a lookout over the Grand Canyon. Our hosts took us because it is not accessible to the public, being on Navajo land. It was explained that, according to the Navajo, the gods lived in the Grand Canyon. Once more I stood in awe of its greatness; the gods chose the most wonderful place to call home.
Kara Cunningham

Petra, Jordan

Photograph: Alamy

Even without the incredible rock-hewn monuments, Petra would be one of the most captivating of desert landscapes. The Siq canyon is mindblowing enough, cleaving through the rosy sandstone for more than a kilometre, but the puckered eruptions of rock that contain the ancient city are a masterpiece of natural beauty. Blistered red cliffs soar skywards, painted with streaks of purple, rose, ochre and orange. Follow rock-cut steps up to the High Place of Sacrifice, looking out for the colourful strata on the way up, and enjoying a bird’s eye view of the mountains from the top. To round off the desert experience, spend the night in one of the Bedouin camps near Little Petra, reached along a road through more mind-bending rock formations.
marthah

Stargazing in the Atacama, Chile

Photograph: Getty Images

While visiting the Atacama desert, our standout experience was a tour with a retired astronomer. A minibus picked us up at our hotel in San Pedro and we drove out to a collection of fixed telescopes, where for the next two hours we were shown the wonders of the night sky free from light pollution. Wrap up warm. The tour doesn’t run for three nights either side of a full moon.
• Tours from £30, spaceobs.com
Danny Jones

Oatman town, Mojave, US

Photograph: Liz Marr

In stunning scenery along a mountain road between Lake Havasu City and Kingman lies the forgotten town of Oatman. Take away the cars and you have the old wild west – tumbledown wooden buildings and saloon bars. Wander the raised wooden sidewalks with the oh-so-friendly donkeys that roam free in the streets and sometimes the gift shops. Eat and drink at the “old west” cafes when you need to get out of the sun. Don’t forget the Oatman Sidewalk Egg Fry in July when temperatures can reach 50C. Sun block and hats a must!
Liz Marr

Rajasthan, India

Photograph: David Ross

As you approach the city of Jaisalmer through the vast Thar desert, the vegetation becomes ever more sparse. Peering through the windows of your train carriage, you can see the cattle slowly give way to camels. At the end of the line – a 17-hour rail journey from Delhi – is a real desert treat: a city of imposing sandstone forts, intricately carved temples and jaw-dropping Rajasthani havelis (mansions). In a country as populous and frenetic as India, this isolated region on the border with Pakistan feels special. Within an hour of the city walls you feel as if you are days from anywhere. An overnight camel safari is the perfect way to appreciate the beautiful wilderness: cooking and camping under the stars in the Thar gives you an experience of solitude you will never forget. The wonderfully relaxing Hotel Mystic in Jaisalmer (doubles from £28 B&B, mysticjaisalmer.com) makes a great base – and also organises trips into the desert.
David Ross

Cycling the Sonoran, Tucson, US

Photograph: Alamy

You can cycle (my favourite) hike or drive through Saguaro national park, part of the Sonoran desert bordering Tucson. You’ll be blown away by this landscape. Some features are familiar, such as the iconic giant cacti: silhouetted against a desert sunset, they are breathtaking. This desert abounds in birdlife. I’ve been lucky enough to glimpse hummingbirds and vermilion flycatchers. For a fuller understanding of the ecology and more, the Arizona-Sonora museum (desertmuseum.org) is worth a visit.
Moiraash

An enchanting ecolodge, Jordan

Photograph: Alamy

It’s a bumpy old ride to get there, through unmade roads in Wadi Feynan in Jordan, but you are definitely rewarded as you approach Feynan Ecolodge in the rugged Dana Biosphere Reserve. My wife and I threw caution to the (sandy) winds, and hired a car in Jordan to drive deep into the desert for a night at this incredibly peaceful ecolodge, where your only neighbours are wild camels and the very occasional Bedouin goat farmer. While the candlelit dinner was something special, it was lying on the roof terrace watching the stars unfold on a cloudless night that made this an experience to remember.
• Doubles from £124 full board and activities, ecohotels.me
Joe Sunderland

Sandboarding in Peru’s Northern Desert

Photograph: Getty Images

Most people travel to north Peru to surf the coastal waves, but inland at the Northern Desert there’s surfing of a different kind – sandboarding. Take a 30-minute taxi ride from Trujillo to the oasis of La Laguna de Conache. At this small farming settlement, you can rent boards for a few pounds and surf the huge sand dunes. Climbing up is a work-out in itself and coming down is heart-stoppingly fast, so remember to pause at the top for a photo of the endless desert as you perch gingerly on your board. Cool off in the neighbouring reservoir, and even hire a boat to fish for tilapia.
bowbank

The Negev, Israel

Photograph: Northlondonhousewife

Consider a trip to the Negev if you’re visiting Israel. It’s such a small country that nothing is really very far away, but the Negev feels as if it’s a million miles away from everywhere, including the troubles of this region. Hostel Succah in the Desert, near Mitzpe Ramon, has fairly basic cabins (no electricity, no running water, no wifi, no mobile signal) that take you back to a much simpler time and place. There’s a pool at the reception, which is also where breakfast is served. Activities include horse and camel rides, and desert safaris.
Desert cabins from £105 B&B, succah.co.il
Northlondonhousewife

Wahiba Sands and Hajar Mountains, Oman

Photograph: Joe Trevorrow

With three friends I hired a guide and a 4x4 through Nomad Tours in Muscat (£250pp, nomadtours.com) and set out on a very basic camping expedition into the Hajar Mountains in the north of Oman, witnessing stunning sunrises of which I have pictures of, climbing through dangerous desert canyons and seeing a space rocket burn up in the night sky. We then headed south for a night in the Wahiba Sands – a 200 sq km desert with long rolling dunes, herds of bedouin and camels roaming. The desert much is reddish in colour, and comes alive at night with various insects, lizards and jerboas hunting. Dunes rise to around 200 metres in height and climbing them is certainly a workout. The further you head into the desert you find yourself cut off from the dune bashers and civilisation. Temperatures during September when we went hit 49C during midday so we had to make sure all our skin was fully covered. We finally headed out of the sand dunes to Wadi bin Khaled, one of many oasis-like features found in Oman to wash the sand of and refresh.
Joe Trevorrow

ADS