What are the 10 largest deserts in the world?

An image of largest deserts in the world

Did you know deserts do not just refer to the hot, sandy deserts? There are so many variations and it is exciting to learn about them because even though they are deserts, they are so different from each other.

Deserts are geographical areas that receive less than 12 inches of precipitation annually. Here are some of the largest deserts in the world and their unique features:


an image of largest desert Antarctica along with map

Area of Antarctica Desert: 14,000,000 sq km

You have thought Antarctica was just a continent but, no. It is also the world’s biggest desert and is considered a ‘polar desert’ or ‘cold desert’. It is 14,000,000 square kilometers. 

Located in the south pole, it receives 20 mm of rainfall annually, and that too in the coastal region.

Arctic Desert

an image of Arctic Desert along with map

Area of Artic Desert: 13,985,000 sq km

Like Antarctica, the Arctic Desert is also called a desert due to low precipitation (50 mm annually). The air is so cold that the rainwater turns into snowflakes when it falls. It lies in the polar region and stretches across the Arctic Ocean. 

Despite the cold climatic conditions, there are different species of birds, walruses, and polar bears who live here.

Sahara Desert

An image of Sahara Desert along with map

Area of Sahara Desert: 9,200,000 sq km

The Sahara is the largest sub-tropical desert in the world. Located in the northern part of the African continent, it stretches from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The name Sahara originates from an Arabian name ‘Cahra’ which means desert.

Surprisingly this subtropical desert has two rivers and twenty seasonal lakes.

The Sahara Desert is growing. According to a study by the National Science Foundation, the Sahara Desert has grown by 10% and will continue growing until people lower the emission level.

Australia Desert

image of Australia Desert along with map

Area of Australian Desert: 2,700,000 sq km

The Australian Desert is all the deserts in Australia combined. Because the entirety of Australia receives 81 to 250 mm of precipitation annually. Australia is a dry country and roughly 70% of the country is said to be semi-arid, arid, or a desert.

Most of the deserts lie in the Western Plateau and Interior Lowlands. The biggest desert in Australia is the Great Victorian Desert.

Arabian Desert

an image of Arabian Desert along with map

Area of Arabian Desert: 2,330,000 sq km

The Arabian Desert is the second largest sub-topical desert but, ranks no. 5 overall. Despite being sandy and barren for most parts, it is rich in natural resources like sulfur and oil. 

It also is home to 102 species of mammals and 310 species of birds. 

Gobi Desert

An image of Gobi Desert along with map and location

Area of Gobi Desert: 1,295,000 sq km

The Gobi desert is the second-largest desert in Asia. It stretches out across Mongolia and China. Despite receiving 194mm of annual rain, the Gobi Desert has very fertile soil and that is one of the reasons why the Gobi Desert is the wealthiest part of Mongolia. Gobi desert has gold and copper mines. 

The Oyu Tolgoi, the world’s third richest copper and gold mine lies in the Gobi desert. Gobi desert is well-known for being the natural habitat for the snow leopard and Bactrian camel. 

Kalahari Desert

An image of Kalahari Desert along with map

Area of Kalahari desert: 900,000 sq km

The Kalahari desert is named after the Tswana word ‘Kgala’ which translates to ‘the great thirst’. The name is fitting as it receives 110mm to 500mm of rain yearly. The Kalahari desert spans across Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.

The desert is the home to meerkats, hyenas, and wildebeest

Patagonian Desert

An image of Patagonian Desert along with map

Area of Patagonia desert: 620,000 sq km

The Patagonia desert spans across Argentina and Chile. It lies in South America and is also known as the Patagonian Steppe as it is rocky shrubland and thorn scrub. Patagonian desert receives 500mm to 700mm of rain in a year.

Armadillos, Llama, Guanaco, and foxes are a few of the wildlife that are found here.

Syrian Desert

An image of Syrian Desert along with map

Area of Syrian Desert: 520,000 sq km

The Syrian Desert or the Syrian Steep in the South merges with the Arabian Desert. It touches several countries in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. It receives 50mm to 600mm of rain in a year.

Stripped hyenas, golden hamsters, Arabian ostrich, and sand cats are native to the Syrian desert. 

The Great Basin

An image of the Great Basin along with the map

Area of Great Basin: 492,000 sq km

The Great Basin lies in the Central West Nevada USA. It lies between the Sierra Nevada and Wasatch Mountain, covering Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and California. 

The Great Basin has a large groove of sagebrush, salt flats, and a dry lake bed. It is well known for the Great Basin National Park which is located in the central part of the desert.

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So these were the top 10 largest deserts of the world. Many people imagine deserts to be dry, arid, and sandy but, ironically Antarctica is the biggest desert in the world and it is very cold.


1. Which desert is larger Antarctica or Sahara?

Antarctica is bigger than the Sahara desert.

2. What is the second-largest desert in the world?

The Arctica desert is the second-largest desert in the world.

3. Why is the Gobi Desert different from the Sahara Desert?

The Gobi Desert is different from the Shara Desert because it is cooler than the Sahara Desert.

4. Is the Syrian desert dry?

Yes, the Syrian desert is the wasteland of Southwest Asia and is all gravel and barren land.

5. What is the Syrian desert known for?

The Syrian desert is known for its ancient settlement.

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