Approximately 71% of the Earth consists of water, which is great because we all need water to survive. However, some places receive less than 0.09 inches (2 millimeters) of rain on average per year, qualifying them as hyper-arid deserts. Worse, some areas don’t get rain for years, making them relatively livable.
Surprisingly, 35% of the earth’s surface consists of desert areas which means they are more collimeterson than you might think. Let’s explore 10 of the driest places on earth.
Related: 10 of the last unexplored places in the world
10 Pelican tip, Namibia
If you like sand surfing, chances are you’ve heard of the picturesque Pelican Point in Namibia. Despite being one of the driest places in the world, Pelican Point is constantly inundated with visiting tourists looking to surf its sand dunes that stretch all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Another reason why tourists love this place is that the climate is adaptable. Also, unlike some places on this list, the temperature at Pelican Point isn’t too hot or cold. On average, this place receives about an inch (23 millimeters) of rain, which means that locals enjoy clear skies most of the year.
In this area, the sun shines a total of 2,646 hours a year. According to the Koppen Geiger climate classification, this place is classified in BWk (cold desert climate), therefore it is considered cool arid.
9 Aoulef, Algeria
If you are not made for the heat, then Aoulef is not the city for you. Its annual climate consists of long summers with extremely high temperatures and short winters with relatively high temperatures compared to other places.
According to the Koppen climate classification, Aoulef is BWh (hot desert climate). During the hottest month in the city, which is July, temperatures are so high that they can reach a maximum of 44.1 °C (111.4 °F) and a minimum of 32.6 °C (90.7 °C). F).
Part of the reason this city appeared on this list is that it only receives an average of 0.05 inches (12.9 millimeters) of rain per year. For that reason, it is almost impossible to get any kind of relief from the blazing sun. Due to the low rainfall, the land is mostly covered by sand dunes that sparkle as the sun rises and sets. Tourists from all over the world visit this place to experience its beauty.
8 Dry Valleys, Antarctica
Contrary to popular belief, one of the driest places on Earth is at the South Pole. The Dry Valleys are popularly known as such because they are a collection of valleys with extremely low humidity and little to no ice cover.
The Dry Valleys are the result of katabatic winds. In simple terms, katabatic winds result in dense moist air moving downward at a speed as high as 199mph (320 km/h), thanks to gravity. The wind heats up more as they descend; therefore, by the time they reach the bottom, they are hot enough to cause evaporation of water or ice.
The Dry Valleys are quite large; for context, they extend over 2,900 square miles (4,800 square kilometers), making the area the largest ice-free region in Antarctica. Of course, the valleys are surrounded by the Transantarctic Mountains, which are so high that they block rain cloud formation and sea-flowing ice from reaching the rivers.
Few people live in the Dry Valleys in part because the environment is too dry. Even if you can protect the environment, access to fresh water will be your breaking point because some parts of the area do not experience rainfall for years.
7 Aswan, Egypt
With an average annual rainfall of 0.033 inches (0.861 millimeters), Aswan, in southern Egypt, is definitely one of the driest places on the planet. In keeping with the rest of Egypt, the overall temperature is classified as a hot desert climate, with Aswan having the hottest summer days. Despite the weather, Aswan is home to one of the busiest markets in Egypt and is also a popular tourist spot.
The high temperatures are due in part to the city’s proximity to the Tropic of Cancer. On average, the highest temperature during summer reaches 41.9 °C (107.0 °F), while the lowest does not go below 25 °C (77.0 °F). However, the temperature drops to 46.4 °F (8 °C) during the winter. Therefore, the summers are hot and unbearable, and the winters are pleasant. For that reason, this area experiences the most tourists in its colder months.
In addition to being one of the driest cities, Aswan is also one of the least humid. On average, humidity is around 26%, with an all-time high of 42% and a low of 16%. Thanks to the humidity levels, the skies in Aswan remain fairly clear all year round, with almost 4,000 hours of sunshine per year.
6 Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the most picturesque places in the world, with brilliant sand and stunning beaches. However, most tourists won’t tell you that it is also one of the driest places on Earth. For context, one of their towns, Calama, received no rain between 1570 and 1971, a staggering 400 years. However, cities that receive precipitation only average about 0.04 inches (10 millimeters) a year.
The Atacama is located in South America and can best be described as a coastal desert that stretches for more than 600 miles (965 kilometers). Some towns experience dense fogs that help keep the temperature at a bearable level. However, the average annual humidity is 75%, one of the highest on this list.
Although high mountains surround the Atacama, none of them have glaciers that show how dry the place is. The lack of precipitation can be attributed to the fact that the cold water brought by the Humboldt currents prevents the formation of clouds.
Either way, the Atacama is a leading tourist destination if you don’t mind vast expanses of bare desert. Also, every few years, part of the desert experiences impressive levels of rainfall, resulting in pretty mauve-pink vegetation covering the desert. However, the vegetation is as ephemeral as the rain itself, and things return to normal after less than two weeks.
5 Ica, Peru
Ica is located in southern Peru and is the capital city of the Department of Ica, one of the regions of Peru. The city borders the Atacama Desert, which may be partly why it is quite dry, experiencing little to no rainfall. Surprisingly, the Ica region was not dry until about 30 million years ago. Scientists found whale fossils more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) above present-day sea level dating back to that time. In addition, Ica was home to a 1.5-meter (5-foot) long, now extinct species of penguin.
The region is currently too dry to comfortably support most plants and vegetation. However, the main source of income for the locals is tourism. Many people visit the place during the cold months to surf the sand dunes, climb the mountains and enjoy the picturesque tourist attractions.
Fun fact, if you want to see real life mummies, book that trip to Ica. This is mainly attributed to the fact that it is quite difficult for a well-preserved human body to decompose if the humidity is close to zero. On average, Ica experiences 2.9 millimeters (0.11 in) of precipitation per year and humidity up to 35%.
4 Wadi Halfa, Sudan
Wadi Halfa is a small town with a sparse population located in the northern state of Sudan. Each year, it experiences an average of 4,300 hours of scorching sunshine, making it one of the hottest and driest cities in the world. Considering that Wadi Halfa is part of the Namibian desert, which is subsequently part of the Sahara desert, it’s no surprise that the city is as dry as it is.
Due to the constant scorching sun, Waldi Halfa has one of the highest potential evaporation rates, which can reach 233 inches (5930 millimeters). On average, this area experiences an annual temperature of 80.6°F (27°C) during the coldest months. It is worse during the warm months because the temperature can reach 48 °C (118 °F).
One common thing with most of the cities on this list is that there is little to no vegetation that can successfully grow, and there are almost never any clouds. For that reason, the average annual precipitation is less than 0.1 inches (2.45 millimeters).
3 Rub Al Khali, Arabia
The Rub Al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, is a sandy desert on the Arabian Peninsula. It is relatively large, considering that it is approximately 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) long and 321 miles (500 kilometers) wide. Most of its terrain is covered in sand dunes and gypsum flats, giving the area a picturesque appearance that has grazed the portfolios of many photographers.
The area has many dry lake beds that are believed to have flowed with water approximately 4,000 years ago. For that reason, the terrain is quite dangerous to maneuver unless you are accompanied by professionals. Despite this, tourists frequently flock to the area to partake in the many tourist activities available.
The weather in Rub Al Khali qualifies the place to be on this list. According to the available categories, this one, in particular, falls under the ‘hyperarid areas’. According to records, the annual precipitation level is less than 1.4 inches (36 millimeters), meaning little vegetation or bodies of water could survive.
As for humidity, the annual average is approximately 30%, which makes it one of the least humid locations in the world. Finally, the average temperature is 97 °F (36 °C), but in some years it can reach 124 °F (51 °C).
2 Luxor, Egypt
Luxor is a city in Egypt that got its name from the Arabic term “the palaces”. The city is famous for its tourist attractions, such as the largest open-air museums, temples rich in culture, and one of the driest places in the world.
Temperatures can easily exceed 104 °F (40 °C) in June, July, and August. On the other hand, lows can be as low as 71.6°F (22°C). Judging by the figures mentioned above, it is not recommended to visit the area during the summer unless you can handle extreme weather.
According to statistics, the average climate is dry throughout the year, with some areas not experiencing rain in more than a year. Humidity is on the low side, considering the annual average is 39.9%, peaking at 57% in winter and falling to 27% in summer. For that reason, the area is worth visiting regardless of the season.
Luxor is brilliant all year round, considering it gets up to 4000 hours of sunshine a year. For context, this figure is pretty close to the maximum theoretical duration of sunlight anywhere in the world.
1 Arica chile
It could be said that Arica is one of the driest cities on the continent. Remarkably, it functions as a port despite receiving an average rainfall of around 0.03 inches (0.761 millimeters). The lack of rain, coupled with high cloudiness, causes the area to have high levels of humidity that mimic equatorial regions. However, the intensity of the sun is still as high as in the North Sahara desert.
Arica is located on the “African curve” on the western coast of South America. Due to high humidity, the air often feels humid, but the moisture does not reach the ground. The logic is that the prevailing winds from the surrounding Atacama Desert remove moisture and instead spread hot air around.
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