The classic travel question, mountains or beach? Do you prefer to take some time lounging on the sand or climbing towering peaks? Well, why not combine both? If you just can’t decide between the two, sand dunes may be the answer. Mountains of sand offering the opportunity to hike, board, camp, or just chill.
The mother of all deserts, the epicenter of all sand dunes, the Rub’ al Khali is a massive desert that spans across several countries in the Arabian Peninsula. This vast, unbren desert sprawls on and on and on and can be pretty intimidating to the average traveler. If you have it in you to make the trek into these dunes, though, you will not be disappointed. You can step totally off the grid and go for days on days in this incredible natural wonder. Just make sure to take an experienced guide and lots of food and water!
Chile has excellent skiing and gorgeous mountains, but it also has some really great dunes. There are several locations spread out throughout Atacama, each equally as beautiful and offering excellent options for adventure sports enthusiasts. Check out Valle de la Muerte, Cerro Dragon, Medanoso or Cerro Iman if you want to try your hand at world-class sandboarding.
Cerro Negro is not technically a sand dune, but it made our list because it does have some of the coolest sandboarding options in the world and is essentially a black sand dune. This is actually an active volcano whose slopes are made of an ashy black sand that makes for excellent boarding. Don’t just go for the volcano, though, spend some time in the surrounding area which is quaint and beautiful and just a really tremendous place to visit.
Located in Chihuahua, Mexico, the Samalayuca Dune Fields offer every sand related activity you could imagine, including sandboarding, ATVs, Jeeps and even bubble soccer! While in the neighborhood, take some time to explore the Samalayuca mountains where you can find cave paintings believed to be over 1,500 years old. At night, sip on sotol, the locally distilled liquor and gaze up into the wide-open skies full of stars.
Roll (literally) down the massive sand dunes of Médanos as you enjoy one of Venezuela’s prettiest sites and you will not regret it. The extremely fine sand of these dunes allows you to easily jump or roll down them, without needing a sled or board, totally free of charge. The Médanos dunes show off some of what makes Venezuela spectacularly beautiful and so much than what the news has shown as of late.
Love sandboarding? You will the Huacachina Dunes in Peru! These dunes encircle a naturally formed lake and locals will tell you that its sulfur-rich water has healing powers. The sandboarding here is awesome! This area actually hosted the Sandboard World Cup in 2017 and sandboarders rave about the incredible speed they are able to get gliding down the dunes. Huacachina has set itself up as the perfect place to visit, with a number of restaurants and bars situated along the lake, which welcome sandboarders after a long day on the dunes.
If you are a Star Wars r, get to the Imperial Sand Dunes as quickly as possible. This is where scenes from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi were filmed. These dunes are well-situated for a day trip from Yuma, Arizona or for a stopover on a longer road trip along the popular Route 8. Four wheelers and dirt bikers will be in heaven here, where you can race across sprawling dunes at your leisure, so long as you have a permit. A permit will also allow you to camp under the stars in the middle of sprawling sand mountains.
Little Sahara in Utah offers a great of calm and adventure. Head to the vehicle-free zone to take a leisurely hike in a protected area where there is a surprisingly diverse of wildlife. This area is perfect for bird watching. If you prefer getting your adrena running, there are tons of options everywhere outside the protected piece of the desert. These dunes are packed full of off-roading trails.
Can you think of anything cooler than sand dunes made of crystals? Not only are the dunes of White Sands National Monument composed of gypsum crystals. They are also home to what scientists believe is the largest concentration of Pleistocene tracks in North America, meaning you are right at the heart of the ice age. With constantly shifting sands, who knows, maybe you will stumble across mammoth bones.