34 Biggest Deserts in the World Locations, Size Discussed
Biggest deserts in the world are those which exceed 50,000 km2 in total area, such as; Antarctic Desert (14,200,000 km2), Arctic Desert (13,900,000 km2), Sahara Desert (9,200,000 km2), Great Australian Desert (2,7000,000 km2), and Arabian Desert (2,330,000 km2).
In total, there are 34 large deserts in the world, as shown in the table in the first section below.
This article discusses the biggest deserts in the world, in terms of their locations, sizes and examples, as follows;
List of Biggest Deserts in the World
Below is a list of all large deserts in the world exceeding 50,000 Km2, including their names, area of coverage, and locations.
It shows that the Antarctic, Arctic, Sahara, Great Australian, and Arabian Deserts, are apparently the overall biggest deserts in the world, and each of them is discussed after the table, in order for their characteristics to be used for the general understanding of large deserts in the world.
Desert Area (Km2)
Desert Location(s) (Continental)
Desert Locations (National)
Eastern Europe, Northern America, Northern Asia, Northern Europe
Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Jan Mayen, Norway, Russia, Svalbard, Sweden, United States
Western Asia Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Mexico, United States
Canada, United States
Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia
Great Australian Desert
Great Victoria Desert
South Australia, Western Australia
Botswana, Namibia, South Africa
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Central, Southern Africa
Angola, Namibia, South Africa
Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland
Eastern, Central, Northern, Western Africa
Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, Western.Sahara
Central, Northern America
Mexico, United States
Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekista
1). Antarctic Desert (14,200,000 km2) (as one of the Biggest Deserts in the World)
The largest desert in the world is the Antarctic Desert, which occupies a total area of approximately 14.2 million square kilometers.
The Antarctic Desert is larger than the Sahara Desert by roughly 5 million square kilometers or 55.6 percent. Unlike the Sahara which occupies only a portion of the African continent, the Antarctic Desert stretches over most of the continent of Antarctica.
Antarctica is called the largest desert in the world because, though it is a continent, most of its landmass experiences cold desert climate (BWk) and exhibits characteristics typical of a desert.
Among the types of deserts, Antarctica falls under cold or polar desert type mostly because of its high-latitudinal position that places it geographically out of reach of the degree of solar intensity occurring at the equator.
Other large, cold deserts like Antarctica are; Gobi (1,295,000 km2) and Ladakh (59,146 km2) deserts.
2). Arctic Desert (13,900,000 km2)
While the Antarctic desert is the world's largest, the Arctic Desert is the second largest desert on Earth.
It covers approximately 13.9 million square kilometers, and stretches across three continental landmasses including eastern and northern Europe; northern America and northern Asia, as well as countries like Canada, Greenland, United States, Russia, Sweden and Finland.
The Arctic is called a desert due to its low humidity and low precipitation conditions, which are typical of arid regions. Like the Antarctic, the Arctic Desert experiences cold desert climatic conditions (BWk), meaning that both ecosystems share some characteristics such as the desert animal species and desert energy pyramids that can be found in them.
Temperature levels in both Antarctic and Arctic polar deserts are generally lower than those of hot and dry deserts like the Sahara, due to differences in their respective geographic positions.
3). Sahara Desert (9,200,000 km2) (as one of the Biggest Deserts in the World)
In addition to being the largest desert in Africa, the Sahara Desert is the world's 3rd largest desert, as well as the largest hot desert on Earth .
With an areal coverage of approximately 9.2 million square kilometers, the Sahara Desert occupies roughly 8% of the Earth's total landmass.
Parts of Africa spanned by the Sahara include the central, eastern, and western zones; and countries like Niger, Mali, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and Morocco.
The Sahara Desert is unique for its harsh climate (BWh according to Köppen classification) , which allows only a few plants and animals to survive. Its large mass implies that the Sahara has significant influence over regional climatic conditions in parts of Africa where it occupies.
4). Great Australian Desert (2,7000,000 km2)
At roughly 3 million square kilometers, the Great Australian Desert is the largest desert in Australia.
Another name used for the Great Australian Desert is the Great Victoria Desert (GVD); which is the largest of smaller deserts that make up the Great Australian Desert, stretching across the western part of Australia .
The Great Australian Desert is relatively diverse in its geography, having low and high-rising landforms, and significant wind erosion activity. It also hosts a significantly-large population of camels , as part of its native organic population and energy pyramid/food chain primary consumers.
In general, the largest deserts in Australia include; Great Victorian, Great Sandy , Tanami, Simpson, Gibson, Strzelecki, and Little Sandy Deserts. These deserts combined are what constitutes the Great Australian Desert.
5). Arabian Desert (2,330,000 km2) (as one of the Biggest Deserts in the World)
Also called the Rubʿ al-Khali sand desert; the Arabian Desert is the largest continuous-sand region in the world, and occupies a significant portion of the Arabian Peninsula in southwestern Asia.
The Arabian Desert is called Rubʿ al-Khali as this word means "Empty Quarter” or "Barren Land" in Arabic, which denotes the low biodiversity and almost total absence of plants in the Arabian Desert.
With a total area of approximately 2.3 million km2; the Arabian Desert is largely centered in Saudi Arabia, and also traverses other Arabian countries like Qatar, Yemen, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.
The biggest deserts in the world are those whose total area is larger than 50,000 square kilometers.
While there are 34 of such large deserts currently identified on Earth, the five (5) biggest deserts in the world are;
1. Antarctic Desert (14,200,000 km2)
2. Arctic Desert (13,900,000 km2)
3. Sahara (9,200,000 km2)
4. Great Australian Desert (2,7000,000 km2)
5. Arabian Desert (2,330,000 km2)
1). Mamtimin, B.; El-Tantawi, A.; Schaefer, D.; Meixner, F. X.; Domroes, M. (2011). "Recent trends of temperature change under hot and cold desert climates:Comparing the Sahara (Libya) and Central Asia (Xinjiang, China)." Journal of Arid Environments 75(75):1105-1113. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2011.06.007. (Accessed 10 April 2023).
2). Peeters, P. J.; Jennings, S.; Carpenter, R. J.; Axford, G. (2005). "Assessing the abundance and impacts of feral camels in the Great Victoria Desert." Available at: https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=AU2019114308. (Accessed 10 April 2023).
3). Ross, R. (2022). "The Sahara: Earth's largest hot desert." Available at: https://www.livescience.com/23140-sahara-desert.html. (Accessed 10 April 2023).
4). Ruscalleda-Alvarez, J.; Moro, D.; van Dongen, R. (2021). "A multi-scale assessment of fire scar mapping in the Great Victoria Desert of Western Australia." International Journal of Wildland Fire. Available at: https://www.publish.csiro.au/WF/WF21019. (Accessed 10 April 2023).