Can you go on a desert adventure with kids in tow? In this article, we share family friendly activities you can experience in deserts around the world with little adventures!
I have always had a thing for deserts. The first time I experienced one, I was 7. My parents were curious about Tunisia and true to our family travelling style, they satisfied that curiosity by getting into the car, loading it up with supplies and heading South. Two days and a ferry passage from Sicily to Tunis later, we were in the middle of the Sahara, taking in the powerful beauty of powdery dunes and sun beaten roads!
That experience stayed in my mind as one of the most beautiful travel moments in my life and as a parent, I would love to be able to give my kids a travel gift as good as that one.
We had a taste of the desert earlier this year, when we visited Joshua Tree, California, and since then I have been looking for more desert adventures suitable for kids we could add to our travel wish list. As always, I found great inspiration in experienced family travel writers.
In this post, I share their top picks for desert adventures with children.
Let’s become desert explorers in….
The Thar desert, India
By Katja, from Globetotting
Forming a natural border between India and its neighbour Pakistan is the vast Thar desert. Also known as the Great Indian Desert, this large, arid area is filled with brilliant rolling sand hills.
One of the best ways to experience the desert is to visit the golden city of Jaisalmer located towards the north of the state of Rajasthan. This city, on the sandy planes of the desert, was once an important trading post on the Silk Route. Today, visitors come to witness the fort of Jaisalmer, an enormous sand-coloured citadel that stands in the centre of the city.
Filled with narrow twisting lanes, cafes and guesthouses, a royal palace and Jain temples, it’s a fascinating place to discover. Visitors also come to experience the desert and from Jaisalmer there are plenty of tour operators waiting to take you across the sand dunes by camel. Families can opt for a half-day or full-day excursion on these ships of the desert, or even an overnight camping adventure underneath the magical desert sky.
By Jurga, from Full Suitcase
Namibian desert and in particularly Sossusvlei is one of the most beautiful deserts in the world! There are many things one can do here, including hot air balloon rides, quad biking, scenic helicopter flights and more…
However, our kids were too young for all of this when we visited. Instead, we got up well before sunrise and drove deep into the park, to Deadvlei, to see the dunes colour red as the sun rises.
Standing there in the middle of the desert and watching it come to life with not a soul anywhere near us was an amazing experience. We packed picnic breakfast and sat there surrounded by the 900 year old dead trees watching a group of small antelopes in the distance. An hour or two later the place was filled with tourists and it felt completely different. Still beautiful, but not comparable to that magical feeling we had at sunrise.
What the kids enjoyed the most was climbing the world’s highest sand dunes and then running and rolling down all the way to the bottom. Fun (and sand everywhere) guaranteed! Here you can read more about traveling in Namibia with kids
By Kevin from Wandering Wagars
Huacachina, Peru is a desert oasis town located just outside of the city of Ica. Situated about 4-hours from the countries Capital of Lima. This sleepy little tourist town hides a secret. Huacachina is actually the extreme adventure portal of the region. And these adventures aren’t just for adults.
Huacachina features gorgeous hikes through the massive sand dunes. You can also tear through the desert on monster dune buggies or ATV’s. Or you can try your hand at sandboarding down dunes that range between a few dozen to nearly one hundred meters high.
A combined dune buggy / sandboarding tour will run about 50-60 Soles. Hiking can be done without a guide, and the views of the oasis at sunset are worth the effort of getting to the top. After a day of adventure you can always relax in the town at one of the great restaurants, or rent a paddle boat for 10 soles and experience the waters of the oasis. Find here all you need to know to go sandboarding in Huacachina with kids and accommodation options nearby
Wadi Rum desert, Jordan
By Keri from OurGlobetrotters
I had heard Wadi Rum was beautiful, but nothing quite prepares you for the vast open plains and dramatic sandstone mountains. Jumping into the back of the pickup in Rum village driven my our Bedouin guide (only native Bedouin from Rum are allowed to do this), we are whisked off on our Arabian adventure!
Much of the highlights we are shown in the morning relate to historical sites of significance from Lawrence of Arabia and climbing dramatic sand dunes. A traditional Bedouin lunch is prepared for us before we explore dramatic natural sandstone arches and canyons – the colours slowly changing and the mountains seemingly growing larger as the sun descends. Our 3 children jumped out at every stop with an abundance of enthusiasm and nothing could stop them studying every ant and insect they found and climbing every rock they could find.
Their sense of adventure and love for the desert absolutely exploded this day. But nothing could top their excitement at the fact we were on our first camping trip! ok I’ll admit it was closer to glamping, a family tent had been provided for us and after another traditional meal in the communal tent, we cuddled up inside the warmest cosiest beds you could ever imagine! Through an open window we saw the most amazing star-filled sky you could imagine and utter, indulgent silence (it was the best night sleep I think I’ve had in 7 years!!)
You can check prices and details about Bedouin Camp here
Wahiba Sands, Oman
By Shea of Conversations with my sister
Our visit to Oman certainly fulfilled my romantic notion of sunsets over towering sand dunes, while the thirst for adventure was quenched exploring a Wadi, surrounded by an Oasis, in a part of the desert which used to be a seabed.
This unique country offers an enticing combination of historical settlements, diverse landscapes, ecological history and, as far as a family friendly travel destination is concerned, you can be guaranteed a sincere welcome from the patriotic locals.
‘Glamping’ in the desert is a must-do for all adventurous family travellers. In the heart of the Wahiba Sands, surrounded by towering sand dunes, you can camp over night at a desert resort, choosing between a touch of luxury or a more traditional Bedouin experience.
While you are in the area a visit to Wadi Bani Khalid should definitely be on your itinerary. The contrast of a green oasis, surrounded by the textures of sand and stone, is something which really needs to be seen to be appreciated, especially when you attempt to comprehend how millions of years ago these very peaks formed the seabed of the ocean.
You can check out prices and details of camping experiences in Oman here
Sharqiya Sands, Oman
By Nichola from Global Mouse Travels
My favourite desert experience with kids was staying in Sharqiya Sands in Oman.
It’s about two hours outside of Muscat but feels so remote. We stayed with the Bedouin nomads here where they have set up a semi-permanent camp. The children rode the camels and drank camel milk and we all hiked to the top of the sand dunes to watch the sun set, sending beams of orange and red shooting across the sand.
As dusk came we gathered around the nomads, sharing dates and strong black coffee while the children played, racing up the dunes and sliding back down again. We stayed in small huts and after all the excitement of the day the children slept well. We were hot and distracted by mosquitos but wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
There’s something so magical about sleeping in the desert, you think it will be silent and eery but it’s filled with the sounds of the desert wildlife. In the morning the red sand was covered with tracks, all different and testament to the nocturnal activities. We loved our stay in Oman’s desert and can’t wait to return.
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort, Dubai
By Leona from Wandermust Family
You may not think deserts are a great place to take babies, but we were determined to have a desert experience while living in the Middle East. Bab al Shams desert resort seemed to be the perfect solution (check prices here).
An easy 40 minute drive from Maktoum airport, Bab al Shams exudes Middle Eastern luxury but with a traditional desert feel. Guests can chose from a variety of activities from dune bashing, desert bike rides or falconry and camel rides all with the safety and luxury of 5* hotel. The perfect place for a family to experience the desert.
Qatar desert, Qatar
By Emma from Wanderlust and Wet Wipes
We live in Qatar so it makes sense that I’d write about desert adventures here. There are loads of different things you can do in the dunes of Qatar!
Dune Bashing. You can do this through a company or in your own (4WD) car. We weren’t confident the first time (not sure Ill ever be) so hired drivers to take up and down the dunes. I went in the kids car and I was still screaming (the kids thought was hilarious)! We finished with lunch and a rest in a desert camp by the water.
Singing Sand Dunes. We were lucky to go with a crowd of people when we went – over 30 families! We hung out playing in the sand for the afternoon and watched a spectacular sunset before having a camp fire s to cook sausages and toast marshmallows!
Inland Sea. We drove here with the help of an Ooredoo App! The sea is flat calm and shallow – lovely for the kids. We took a picnic and had a fab day. I’d recommend taking something to give everyone a break from the sun – we ended up parking the cars at an angle so we could get some shade!
Pinnacles Desert, Australia
By Sally-Ann from Tips 4 Trips
Australia is made up of 35% of desert, most of which is flat barren sand in the middle of the country. However, the Pinnacles Desert in Western Australia is not like that.
Located less than 5 km from the Indian Ocean the Pinnacles Desert differs from the typical Australian desert; it is little wonder 250 000 people a year pay $12 per car to drive the 4 km yellow sandy one-way loop within the 17 500 hectare site.
They come to see and explore the striking alien looking landscape of rock formations jutting out of the sandy soil. These 500 000 year old rocky formations come in varying shapes and sizes. Some are only knee high and others tower above you at 5m in height. It is unique, unusual and no one quite knows how and why Pinnacle desert exists. It is just one of nature’s wonders. extending up out of the sand.
Moreton Island, Australia
By Christine from Adventure, Baby!
Moreton Island is the third largest sand island in the world. Comprised of 98% sand, it’s a place where you can find plenty of the stuff. While Moreton Island is best known for its stunning beaches and wildlife, it’s also home to the tallest coastal sand dune in the world, Mount Tempest, which is 285 metres high.
If you’re feeling fit you can climb it and admire the view from the top, but you can also try sand tobogganing down some of the smaller sand hills.
At 30 metres tall these are no small hills, but the aching legs are worth it when you whoosh down the other side at top speed. Find all you can see and do at Tangalooma here
By Melanie from Your Family Can Travel
Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park is located in the southern region of the Northern Territory, Australia. Many people outside of Australia know Uluru by its former name – Ayers Rock.
The massive sandstone monolith is sacred to the local Aboriginal people and is central to their beliefs about creation, also known as The Dreamtime. As a result, the local people have requested that visitors do not climb Uluru.
Circumnavigating Uluru via the base walk is 10.6km on a fairly even track. The walk should be started early in the day to avoid intense heat and be sure to carry plenty of water. Bike hire, including children’s bicycles, is also available. Shorter walks, including wheelchair/stroller accessible grade are available in several places.
The 1km walk to the Mutitjulu waterhole is especially recommended for younger children, as the short, easy walk begins with ancient aboriginal rock-art caves, and ends at a picturesque waterhole. Guided tours are available.
Be sure to visit the Cultural Centre to learn more about the traditional owners, regional plants and animals, watch local artists at work and stock up on snacks and drinks. Toilets and a picnic area are located adjacent to the Cultural Centre.
Death Valley, USA
By Nicci from Travel With Boys
Driving through Death Valley, you would be excused from thinking you had arrived on another planet. The landscape is harsh but incredible and well worth seeing with your family, no matter what the temperature is. From sand dunes to salt flats, and mountains of every conceivable colour, Death Valley constantly changes as you explore further into the park.
We were brave enough (or just plain crazy) for spending the day at Death Valley during the peak of summer 2017, but luckily most sightseeing can be done by car with a few short walks.
Badwater Basin was an insane 52 degrees Celsius when we were there and the 800m walk from the car out onto the flats is not something I will ever attempt again in summer. Our favourite places to visit (which were cooler in the low to mid 40’s) were Zabriskie Point, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the Furnace Creek Visitors Centre. Also check out Dante’s View and the Devils Golf Course.
Remember to pick up the National Park newsletter, which will help you decide where to go with the amount of time you have available and tell you how the kids can get their Junior Ranger Badge.
I hope you enjoyed this selection of desert adventures! If you are considering a trip to a desert, pin it for later!
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