For those of you still complaining about the weather, we present record-setting places that are even hotter than the GCC.
Here we are, lingering somewhere in that month-long period between the Suhail star sighting (24 August) and the official end of summer (23 September) — and the prospect of camping, beach days, and al fresco dining almost feels real. But did you know that intrepid travellers are still flocking to destinations that are among the hottest places on Earth? And contrary to what you might assume, they’re not all deserts. What the likes of Death Valley and Danakil Depression lack in climate, they make up for in otherworldly landscapes, the type you have to see to believe. And unlike the blistering Timbuktu in Mali or Cave of Crystals in Mexico, for example, our five picks are both safe and accessible to tourists. Loose layers at the ready.
Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
It’s hot, it’s harsh, and it looks like something out of a sci-fi flick. And yet, tourists brave the conditions – temperatures surpassing 50°C and poisonous gases that saturate the air – to see striking rock formations interspersed by sulphurous hot springs in shades of yellow, green and orange. It’s no wonder, then, that the Danakil Depression is dubbed the “gateway to hell”. Incidentally, this geological depression was caused by the continental drift of three tectonic plates, and is one of the lowest land destinations on the planet — 125 metres below sea level.
Death Valley, California
It’s said that Death Valley holds the record for the highest air temperature on earth: 56.7°C. A desert valley in Eastern California, it’s a popular tourist spot owing to its unique, almost bizarre landscape that isn’t entirely barren. In fact, you can hike up to Telescope Peak (3,366 metres), take in the panoramic vistas from Dante’s View, tackle the mystery of sliding stones at Racetrack Playa, and tower over Ubehebe Crater from its rim. Warzians, meanwhile, have one very simple reason to visit Death Valley: scenes from A New Hope and Return of the Jedi were filmed here.
Erg Chebbi, Morocco
While the Sahara has been endlessly romanticised, one of its ergs – Erg Chebbi – is ironically considered a “punishment from God” by Moroccans. Legend has it that this large sea of uniquely orange dunes formed by wind-blown sand took shape when weary travellers were turned away. Today, it’s one of the best ways to see the world’s most iconic desert. Admittedly, it takes a couple of transport modes to reach Erg Chebbi: a plane, a car, and a camel included. But needless to say, the views upon arrival make it all worthwhile — just steer clear of the over 40ºC temperatures that persist over summer.
Flaming Mountain, China
Another barren wonder awash in sunset hues, the Flaming Mountains in the Xinjiang region of China attract hordes of tourists (nearly 6,000 daily), heatwaves be damned. In fact, it’s common for them to pose alongside the onsite thermometer that stands 12 metres tall and records ground surface temperatures, which can go up to a whopping 80ºC. As for what makes this site so special? Well, it’s not just the smooth grooves of these red, eroded sandstone hills. The Flaming Mountains really do live up to their name — the ground actually emanates heat at all times, making it one of the hottest places on Earth.
Lut Desert, Iran
Widely known as Dasht-e Lut, the Lut Desert is no ordinary desert. It’s a large salt desert that’s mostly devoid of plant life and inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This arid, subtropical area is swept by strong winds that transport sediment and cause aeolian erosion on a colossal scale between June and October, resulting in some of the world’s most spectacular examples of yardang landforms. A temperature of 70.7°C was recorded here back in 2005, and if you’re up to the task of visiting yourself, you’ll be following in the footsteps of legendary explorers like Marco Polo and Wilfred Thesiger.