The desert is fast becoming one of the most coveted off grid getaways. With many people turning their backs on the traditional ‘fly and flop’ beach holidays in favour of a more holistic back-to-nature vacation, and with spring approaching – there’s no better time to book your desert trip.
Whether you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of survivalist movies like Into The Wild, (or are just looking to switch off your data roaming) there’s something unbeatably magical about sleeping beneath the stars, abandoning all social media and throwing yourself into the ultimate comfort-free zone.
MILLE rounds up some of the world’s best desert camping spots – all you’ll need is a Swiss army knife and a fully charged speaker to get the vibe right.
Al Qudra Lakes – Dubai – UAE
Al Oudra is a series of artificial lakes in the middle of the desert in Dubai. With outstanding scenery, migratory birds and fabulous sunsets, these manmade lakes attract more than 130 species of birds such as falcons, eagles and flamingos – remember to bring binoculars.
An overnight stay is recommended – just make sure you pack the right equipment. There are perfect camping spots everywhere in Al Qudra, especially south of the lakes. And the best part? You don’t need four-wheel drive to access the location.
To get there, head from the center of Dubai towards Al Ain Road and then exit to Jebel Ali, it should take you for about 30 minutes to get there.
Jebel Akhdar – Oman
The mountain of Jebel Akhdar is the Middle East’s answer to the Grand Canyon and is located 155km away from the capital of Oman, Muscat. With an altitude of more than 3000-meters above sea level, you can escape the sweltering climate of Oman and take a hike up the mountain, camp for the night and have some serious downtime. However, because of the altitude, it can get cold at night so be sure to pack warm clothes if you are staying for the night. You won’t regret the silence, the beautiful sightseeing and the breathtaking sunrise and sunsets.
The mountain is littered with small villages that you can walk through, villagers are warm and welcoming so don’t be surprised if they offer you in for tea or a snack.
If camping isn’t your thing, the Alila Hotel should be your Plan B. It is a beautiful hotel inspired by ancient forts with a spectacular view, a spa and a pool that overlooks the Canyon.
Access: You’ll need a four-wheel drive as sedans are not allowed. As you head along the northwest expressway out of Muscat, towards Seeb, exit on Nizwa/Salalah and head towards Jebel Akhdar. Once you arrive, we recommend stopping at the checkpoint’s visit center and grabbing a map with full details about where to visit (and more importantly – the GPS coordinates).
Bandar Khayran – Oman
Bandar Kahyran is another great camping spot in Oman. It’s a natural reserve that’s south of the capital, Muscat. Bandar Khayran is the best place to go if nature and wildlife are your thing- there’re loads of birds, fish and turtles thanks to the locations close proximity to rock mountains, desert and sea (which is beyond breathtaking). Do approach the local fishermen – they’ll take you out on their boat for a small fee.
The beaches are tourist-free so you can have the beach all to yourself and even go scuba diving.
Access: You’ll need a 4×4 if you want to explore the location the way it should be done. It’s about 50km away from Muscat. Head Towards Route 1 and then to Al Bustan St. it shouldn’t be long but be sure to drive safe as there is a lot of construction work and the streets are pretty narrow.
Grand Canyon – Arizona – USA
There is no better place in the world than the Grand Canyon. When night falls and the stars come out – there’s no better view to fall asleep to. The best time to visit is in the spring as the climate is just right.
There are a lot of great camping spots throughout the park, especially Mather Campground and North Rim Campground.
Mather Campground is one of the most famous campgrounds in the Canyon – it’s a very cute site and you can spot wild deer every now and then, so keep your eyes peeled. It’s pretty close to a market and café so all those home comforts aren’t too far away.
Access: From north Arizona Road 64. North Rim Campground is up North Mather Campground and is unfortunately open only for a short season every year.
Access: It’s a 15-minute walk away from Mather Campground
Namib Nauklauft Park – Namibia
For the more courageous, Namib Nauklauft Park is in the heart of the Namibian desert, and despite looking so desolate – it actually offers a vast array of accommodation. This otherworldly coastal desert is a vast expanse of rocky terrain with the clearest skies that are perfect stargazing.
There is no better way to discover the desert than to rent a 4×4. However, make sure you watch out for wildlife when driving at night, and always carry cash for gas as most gas stations do not accept card.
Access: The easiest way is to take the Express Train from Windhoec (the capital of Namibia) to Swakopmund (the nearest city to the desert). The good news is that you can take your car on the train with you, but due to availability we recommend reserving your seat on the forehand.
Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world – and is the ultimate (unobvious) camping spot. Because of its high altitude you can both freeze and burn, so be sure to pack warm clothes and a high SPF sunscreen. Nothing will equal a view like this, especially at sunset.
You can stay at one of the hotels on the border, like the Palacio de Sal (the first ever hotel to be totally made of salt). There are other similar hotels nearby but we highly recommend this one – its service is unbeatable.
To get to know the region the proper way, we suggest taking a tailor made tour with Red Planet Expedition. They have good comfortable cars and the guide is exceptional. They have lots of bespoke tours depending on the season, so all you have to do is to choose what suits you and book your trip.
Access: The main access to Salar de Uyuni is from the city of Uyni. You can get there by plane as there is a small airport.