Top Ten Deserts

Central Asian Steppe Deserts

Like the Tibetan Highlands, the Central Asian Steppe isn't quite a desert. Lost in the remote hinterlands of the Eurasian continent and once heavily forested, the steppe has seen centuries of cultivation and overgrazing by animals. It is today a barren landscape of dry, short-grass plain. But dry-land scouts need not be disappointed; in more than one place, spotty vegetation gives way to full-fledged desert. In the west and broken by mountain ranges (the slopes of which are often incongruously green and fertile), the low-lying Karakum and Kyzylkum Deserts start an arid stretch that reaches east to the Takla Makan and Gobi Deserts. The Karakum and Kyzylkum Deserts of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are wind carved and peppered with sand ridges. The Gobi and Takla Makan Deserts, broad, barren, sandy and rocky plains, are further east, where China and Mongolia meet. In Mongolian, "gobi" means "waterless place." Add to that "sandless" and the image of hardened bare rock dropping off into the horizon in all directions and you have an idea of the Gobi. The Takla Makan, by contrast, is one of the largest sandy deserts in the world, famous for its swiftly moving dunes. Long considered secluded and hazardous, these deserts, once on the edge of the Silk Road, have seen new notoriety with renewed interest in adventure travel.

Published: 17 Jan 2003 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »