Author: Michael Glass

Michael is the founder of Backpacker Travel. He also runs walking tours in San Francisco and is a freelance travel writer. Michael is extremely passionate about travel and loves to explore festivals around the world.

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.

Imperial sand 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

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.

White Sands

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.

Death Valley

The Death Valley desert actually contains very little sand. What sand there is, however, forms beautiful ripples up and down breathtaking dunes. The Death Valley dunes are some of the best protected in the world, having been declared a protected wilderness. This means that there are no off-roading opportunities and sandboarding is limited to a designated area. This also means that you can enjoy almost pristine conditions and a truly serene environment.

Great Sand Dunes Park

Colorado is best known for its Rocky Mountains, but one of the most popular destinations in the state is actually the Great Sand Dunes National Park, where there are no rocky forests in sight. The highlight of these dunes is the Star Dune, which is North America’s tallest sand dune and provides excellent hiking and viewing opportunities. Rest muscles tired from hiking up steep, sandy hills while enjoying the Rio Grande River, whose sand and soil deposits are what caused the dunes to be formed in the first place, nearly 12,000 years ago. The area is packed with great camping options and is the perfect place to spend a long weekend.


When you think of Europe, you may not think of deserts and dunes, but the Great Dune of Pyla, just southwest of Bordeaux, France is actually one of the world’s tallest. While not part of a vaster desert, as other options on the list, this dune does make for a wonderful day trip from Bordeaux and is on its own a site to be seen. Unlike other dunes, the Great Dune of Pyla is surrounded by a dense green pine tree forest, which makes it unique than other destinations.

Mount Tempest

Unlike the Simpson Desert, which is located right in the middle of Australia, far away from its shores, the Mount Tempest Dunes are situated on Moreton Island, right along the ocean. Mount Tempest is the tallest coastal sand dune in the world and is must see. If for no other reason, get to the top of these dunes to soak in their stunning ocean views. There is really nothing like white dunes meeting crystal waters!

Simpson Desert

Go really off the beaten trail and deep into the Simpson Desert to a place where Europeans wouldn’t dare trek when they first arrived in Australia. These days, the Simpson Desert Dunes offer some fantastic hiking opportunities, albeit not for the faint of heart. Unlike other desolate deserts, the Simpson Desert was once a glacier and, as a result, is now home to a number of lakes and a diverse of wildlife. Definitely worth the trip to the center of the continent.

Mingsha Shan

The Mingsha Shan Dunes in China sit in a shifting sand desert and, similar to the Badain Jaran Dunes, they sound as if they are singing to you as you slide down their steep slopes. These gorgeous dunes have a of different colors, from red to black, white to orange, creating a truly beautiful scene. Visit the crescent moon lake, which sits in the middle of dunes and, even with the shifting sand, remains crystal clear blue year-round. Definitely take advantage of the boarding and sliding options so you don’t miss the dunes’ magnificent sounds!