The Earth is home to an incredible variety of landscapes, from lush tropical rainforests to snow-capped mountains. However, there are also places on our planet where rainfall is extremely scarce and the land is bone-dry. In this article, we will explore the top 10 driest places on Earth, from deserts to the harsh terrains of polar regions, and learn about the unique conditions that make them so arid. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of extreme dryness.
10. Aoulef, Algeria
Average annual rainfall: 12.19 millimeters (0.48 inches)
Aoulef is a town and commune and capital of Aoulef District, in Adrar Province, south-central Algeria. It has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh), with long, extremely hot summers and short, very warm winters.
Aoulef is often quoted as one of the hottest spots worldwide. Daytime temperatures consistently approach 50°C (122°F) in summer and nighttime temperatures routinely remain above 30°C (86°F). July average is 46.8°C (116.2°F).
The average annual rainfall is extremely low in Aoulef, with only 12.19 millimeters (0.48 inches), making the area one of the driest places in the world. The sky is nearly always clear throughout the year and cloudy days are extremely rare.
9. Pelican Point, Namibia
Average annual rainfall: 8.13 millimeters (0.32 inches)
Pelican Point is a narrow peninsula situated in Namibia, Southern Africa, known for its extreme dryness. It is located in the Namib Desert, one of the world’s oldest and driest deserts. The region receives very little rainfall, with an annual average of just 8.13 millimeters, and temperatures can soar up to 45°C (113°F). Due to the harsh conditions, very few plants and animals can survive in the area. However, the stark beauty of the desert landscape, coupled with the sight of seals, dolphins, and pelicans, makes Pelican Point a popular tourist destination.
Related: The Largest Deserts on Earth
8. Iquique, Chile
Average annual rainfall: 5.08 millimeters (0.2 inches)
Iquique is a coastal city located in northern Chile, South America, known for its dry and arid climate. The region is part of the Atacama Desert, considered one of the driest places on Earth. Iquique receives very little rainfall, with an average of just 5.08 millimeters per year. The city’s location on the coast also means that it experiences cool ocean currents and a low level of humidity.
Despite the harsh conditions, Iquique is a popular tourist destination, with attractions such as its sandy beaches (it is counted among Chile’s premier beach resorts), surfing, and paragliding.
7. Wādī Ḥalfā, Sudan
Average annual rainfall: 2.45 millimeters (0.096 inches)
Wādī Ḥalfā is a small town located in the Northern state of Sudan, Africa, and is known for its extreme dryness. It is located in the Nubian Desert, which is one of the hottest and driest regions in the world. The area receives very little rainfall, with an average of just 2.45 millimeters per year. Many years usually pass without any rainfall falling on the ground at all. From May to September the average highs exceed 40°C (104°F).
Each year, Wādī Ḥalfā receives the highest mean amount of bright sunshine with an extreme value of 4,300 hours/year which is equal to 97-98% of sunlight beaming down on land yearly.
Despite the harsh conditions, Wadi Halfa has a rich cultural heritage and is known for its traditional markets, as well as its close proximity to Lake Nasser, a popular tourist attraction.
6. Ica, Peru
Average annual rainfall: 2.29 millimeters (0.09 inches)
The city of Ica is the capital of the Ica Region in southern Peru. It is known for its extremely arid climate and dry landscapes, which are the result of the region’s proximity to the Atacama Desert. The Atacama is one of the driest deserts in the world, and its aridity extends into the Ica region, creating conditions that are harsh and challenging for life.
The dryness of the Ica region has a number of consequences for the people and ecosystems that live there. The lack of rainfall means that water is a precious resource, and many communities in the region rely on groundwater and irrigation systems to support agriculture and other economic activities. The dry climate also means that the region is prone to sandstorms and dust storms, which can have negative impacts on human health and infrastructure.
Despite the challenges posed by the region’s dryness, Ica is home to a number of unique and thriving ecosystems. The Nazca Desert, for example, is known for its spectacular sand dunes and is home to a variety of plant and animal species that are adapted to the harsh desert environment.
The region is also known for its vineyards, which produce some of the best wines in Peru, thanks in part to the dry climate, which helps to control pests and diseases that can damage the grapes.
The region’s dry climate has also made it ideal for the preservation of pre-Columbian mummies, as the lack of humidity prevents human remains from decomposing.
About 30 million years ago, this region was not dry. In 2007, scientists discovered fossils of penguins that used to inhabit the area. One species was over 4.5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and had a foot-long (0.3 meters long) body, while another smaller species was also found in the same region.
5. Luxor, Egypt
Average annual rainfall: 0.862 millimeters (0.034 inches)
Luxor is a city located in southern Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile River. It is a popular tourist destination, known for its ancient temples and historic landmarks.
One of the most famous attractions in Luxor is the Karnak Temple Complex, which is the largest religious building ever constructed. The complex is a vast open-air museum, featuring a variety of temples, chapels, and other structures that date back over 4,000 years.
Another notable landmark in Luxor is the Luxor Temple, which was built in the 14th century BC and is dedicated to the Theban triad of the cult of the god Amun. The temple is well-preserved and features a large entrance, a peristyle court, and a sanctuary.
The Valley of the Kings is also located in Luxor, where many of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom era, including Tutankhamun, were buried in elaborate tombs. The valley contains over 60 tombs, many of which are decorated with intricate paintings and carvings.
Luxor is also home to several museums, including the Luxor Museum, which houses artifacts from ancient Thebes, and the Mummification Museum, which displays the tools and techniques used to mummify pharaohs and other important individuals in ancient Egypt.
The climate of Luxor is extremely hot, arid, and sunny year-round, in all seasons, with a low seasonal variation, with some 4,000 hours of annual sunshine, very close to the maximum theoretical sunshine duration.
The city experiences very little rainfall and high levels of humidity, which can make the weather feel even hotter. The city experiences very little rainfall and high levels of humidity, which can make the weather feel even hotter.
The hottest temperature recorded was on May 15, 1991, which was 50°C (122°F) and the coldest temperature was on February 6, 1989, which was -1°C (30 °F).
4. Aswan, Egypt
Average annual rainfall: 0.861 millimeters (0.0338 inches)
Aswan (formerly spelled Assuan) is a city located in southern Egypt, about 230 km (142 miles) south of Luxor. Like Luxor, Aswan has a dry and arid climate, which is typical of the desert regions in Egypt.
The city experiences hot temperatures throughout most of the year, with average highs in the summer months of June to September ranging from 40°C (104°F) to 45°C (113°F). The winter months from December to February are milder, with average highs of around 25°C (77°F) and lows of around 10°C (50°F). However, even during the winter, the city remains dry, with very little rainfall.
Like Luxor, Aswan receives 4,000 hours of annual sunshine. It is one of the sunniest places on Earth.
In Aswan, the highest record temperature was 51°C (124 °F) on May 22, 1973, and the lowest record temperature was -2°C (28 °F) on January 6, 1989.
Aswan is located on the banks of the Nile River, and one of its most famous landmarks is the Aswan High Dam, which was built in the 1960s to control the flooding of the Nile and provide hydroelectric power to the region. The dam created Lake Nasser, one of the world’s largest human-made lakes, which has become a popular tourist attraction for boating and fishing.
Another popular attraction in Aswan is the Philae Temple, an ancient temple complex that was built on an island in the Nile River. The temple was relocated to higher ground on Agilika Island in a UNESCO-driven rescue effort in the 1970s to avoid being submerged by the rising waters of Lake Nasser.
3. Kufra, Libya
Average annual rainfall: 0.860 millimeters (0.0338 inches)
Kufra (Al-Kufrah or Al-Khufrah) is a basin and oasis group in the Kufra District of southeastern Cyrenaica in Libya. In the middle of the Sahara Desert, Kufra is the driest point in Africa and one of the driest places on Earth.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Libya launched in Kufra a great cultivation project aimed at developing agriculture in the desert, one of Libya’s largest agricultural projects. Only about 2% of Libya’s land receives enough rainfall to be cultivated.
LEPA irrigation is provided by fossil water beneath the ground surface, the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, a non-renewable source and the only accessible water resource in the area. Rotors (high sprinkler that rotates) provide irrigation and the obtained circles have a diameter of about 1 km and can be observed from space.
Kufra region also played a minor role in the Western Desert Campaign of World War II.
2. Arica, Chile: the driest city on Earth
Average annual rainfall: 0.761 millimeters (0.03 inches)
Arica is a city located in the northernmost part of Chile, near the border with Peru. The city is known for its arid climate, which is one of the driest in the world. It is known as the driest inhabited place on Earth, at least as measured by rainfall: average annual precipitation is 0.76 mm (0.03 inches)
The city’s arid climate is due to its location in the Atacama Desert, which is one of the driest places on Earth. The desert’s extreme aridity is caused by a combination of factors, including the cold Humboldt Current offshore, the high altitude of the Andes mountains to the east, and the stable atmospheric conditions that prevent the formation of clouds.
Unlike many other cities with arid climates, Arica seldom sees extreme temperatures throughout the course of the year. This makes the city an ideal destination for tourists seeking warm and sunny weather. Arica has a number of beautiful beaches, including the popular El Laucho Beach and La Lisera Beach, which are known for their clear waters and warm temperatures.
Usually regarded as the driest place on Earth (which is not true, it is the second driest place in the world), the surrounding Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on Earth. Some areas have not received rain in more than 500 years.
Flowering desert phenomenon in Atacama
But, there’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth: the “flowering desert” (desierto florido). The phenomenon consists of the blossoming of a wide variety of flowers between the months of September and November in years when rainfall is unusually high.
When rainfall occurs in the Atacama Desert, even in small amounts, it can trigger a rapid response from the dormant seeds that are scattered throughout the desert. These seeds are able to remain viable for many years, waiting for the right conditions to germinate and grow. When the rains finally come, the seeds quickly sprout, and within a few days, the desert floor can be transformed into a vibrant carpet of colorful flowers.
The phenomenon is not predictable, as it depends on weather patterns and the amount of rainfall in the region. However, it typically occurs during the months of August to October. The flowering period can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the amount of rainfall and the intensity of the bloom.
The blooming of flowers in the Atacama Desert is a rare and beautiful spectacle that attracts tourists from all over the world.
1. McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica: the driest place on Earth
Average rainfall per year: 0 millimeters (0 inches)
The driest place on Earth is Wright Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. It is hard to believe that the Earth’s driest place is at one of its poles, but this is the truth. It’s in Antarctica: the McMurdo Dry Valleys. They are a row of snow-free valleys located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound.
The region is one of the world’s most extreme deserts and includes many features including Lake Vida and the Onyx River, Antarctica’s longest river. The Friis Hills in Taylor Valley, one of the McMurdo Dry Valleys haven’t seen water in 14 million years. (Source)
The Dry Valleys are so named because of their extremely low humidity and their lack of snow or ice cover. They are also dry because, in this location, the mountains are sufficiently high that they block seaward flowing ice from the East Antarctic ice sheet from reaching the Ross Sea. At 4,800 square kilometers (1,900 square miles), the valleys constitute around 0.03% of the continent and form the largest ice-free region in Antarctica.
The unique conditions in the Dry Valleys are caused, in part, by katabatic winds; these occur when cold, dense air is pulled downhill by the force of gravity. The winds can reach speeds of 320 kilometers per hour (200 mph), heating as they descend, and evaporating all water, ice, and snow.
Too dry? Too hot? See the Top 10 Wettest Places on Earth.
- Aoulef on Wikipedia
- Iquique on Wikipedia
- Wādī Ḥalfā on Wikipedia
- Ica, Peru on Wikipedia
- Luxor on Wikipedia
- Aswan on Wikipedia
- Kufra on Wikipedia
- Arica on Wikipedia
- Valle de la Luna (Chile) on Wikipedia
- Atacama Desert on Wikipedia
- McMurdo Dry Valleys on Wikipedia
- Average rainfalls are taken from Live Science
- Header image from Deposit Photos
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