The Largest Deserts in the World

The Largest Deserts in the World

desert is a barren area of landscape where little precipitation occurs and consequently living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life. The lack of vegetation exposes the unprotected surface of the ground to the processes of denudation.

Deserts can also be described as areas where more water is lost by evaporation than falls as precipitation. This certainly applies in regions that are subject to “desertification”, where increasing temperatures (i.e. climate change) result in river beds drying up, precipitation patterns changing, and vegetation dying off.

Deserts are often some of the hottest and most inhospitable places on Earth, as exemplified by the Sahara Desert in Africa, the Gobi desert in northern China and Mongolia, and Death Valley in California. But they can also be cold, windswept landscapes where little to no snow ever falls – like in the Antarctic and Arctic.

So in the end, being hot has little to do with it. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that deserts are characterized by little to no moisture and extremes in temperature. All told, deserts make up one-third of the surface of the Earth. But most of that is found in the polar regions.


In terms of sheer size, the Antarctic Desert is the largest desert on Earth, measuring a total of 13.8 million square kilometers. Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, and most isolated continent on Earth, and is considered a desert because its annual precipitation can be less than 51 mm in the interior.

There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 researchers inhabit the research stations scattered across the continent – the largest being McMurdo Station, located on the tip of Ross Island. Beyond a limited range of mammals, only certain cold-adapted species of mites, algaes, and tundra vegetation can survive there.

Other Deserts:

Interestingly, the second-largest desert in the world is also notoriously cold – The Arctic Desert. Located above 75 degrees north latitude, the Arctic Desert covers a total area of about 13.7 million square km (5.29 million square mi). Here, the total amount of precipitation is below 250mm (10 inches), which is predominantly in the form of snow.

The third largest desert in the world is the more familiar Sahara, with a total size of 9.4 million square km. The average annual rainfall ranges from very low (in the northern and southern fringes of the desert) to nearly non-existent over the central and the eastern part. All told, most of the Saraha receives less than 20 mm (0.79 in).In short, deserts are not just sand dunes and places where you might come across Bedouins and Berbers, or a place you have to drive through to get to Napa Valley. They are common to every continent of the world, and can take the form of sandy deserts or icy deserts. In the end, the defining characteristic is their pronounced lack of moisture.

The Largest Deserts in the World :

Rank Name Place and Country Type Area (Km 2 )
1 Antarctica Antartica Cold Winter 14000000
2 Arctic Artic Cold Winter 13985000
3 Sahara North Africa Subtropical 9000000
4 Arabian Desert Western Asia Subtropical 2330000
5 Gobi Desert Central Asia (China and Mangolia) Cold Winter 1000000
6 Kalahari Desert Southern Africa Subtropical 900000
7 Great Victoria Desert Australia Subtropical 647000
8 Patagonian Desert South America (Argentina and Chile) Cold Winter 620000
9 Syrian Desert Western Asia (Iraq, Jordan and Syria) Subtropical 520000
10 Great Basin Desert United States Cold Winter 492000
11 Chihuahuan Desert North America (Mexico and USA) Subtropical 450000
12 Great Sandy Desert Australia Subtropical 400000
13 Karakum Desert Turkmenistan Cold Winter 350000
14 Colorado Plateau United States Cold Winter 337000
15 Sonoran Desert North America (Mexico and USA ) Suptropical 310000
16 Kyzylkum Desert Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) Cold Winter 300000
17 Taklamakan Desert China Cold Winter 270000
18 Thar Desert South Asia (India and Pakistan) Subtropical 200000
19 Gibson Desert Australia Subtropical 156000
20 Dasht-E Margo Afghanistan Subtropical 150000
21 Registan Desert Afghanistan Subtropical 146000
22 Simpson Desert Australia Subtropical 145000
23 Atacama Desert South America (Chile and Peru) Cool Coastal 140000
24 Mojave Desert United States Subtropical 124000
25 Namib Desert Southern Africa (Angola and Namibia) Cool Coastal 81000
26 Dasht –E Kavir Iran Subtropical 77000
27 Dasht – E Loot Iran Subtropical 52000