Sand dunes are some of the world’s great natural wonders. Formed by winds that sculpt their spectacular shapes, they provide needed coastal protection from ocean waves whipped up in storms. Some of the most spectacular, such as those found in Sossusvlei, Namibia, were formed thousands if not millions of years ago, when there were ancient lakes and seas in areas now inland. We have gathered some of the most spectacular photos of sand dunes we could find for your enjoyment.
7. Arabian Desert, Saudi Arabia
This dune in Saudi Arabia is simply stunning. With the dune’s perfectly formed ridge, this image could almost be an abstract painting.
The sand being blown at the top of this dune in the Arabian Desert gives an indication of how the small ripples in sand dunes – and dunes themselves – form.
Arabian Desert, Saudi Arabia
A lonely piece of vegetation takes center stage in this beautiful image.
In the Arabian Desert, you will find everything from quicksand to the gorgeous red dunes of the type seen here.
The Arabian Desert also encompasses the vast Empty Quarter (Rub’ al Khali) which covers almost one third of the Arabian Peninsula including southern Saudi Arabia.
Sand dunes are not all the same. Here, a crater has formed.
This is an example of a longitudinal dune. These are also called Seif dunes, after the Arabic word for sword.
Image: olivier PEYRE
6. Sossusvlei, Namibia
Centuries of sand built up around dry lake beds in Namibia’s magnificent Sossusvlei make for some of the most incredible dunes on Earth. The name of this place means ‘dead end marsh’.
The colors found in Sossusvlei range from deep orange to rust and pink, and are due to the dunes’ high iron content and subsequent oxidation process that occurs. The older the dune, the more intense is its color.
Image: Joachim Huber
Little grows in the clay pans at the base of the dunes but small scrub bushes, seen here at Sossusvlei Desert, Namibia.
Dune 45 is made of five million-year-old sand and stands 557 feet tall. The dunes at Sossusvlei are some of the highest in the world. Another dune called Big Daddy towers overhead at a height of 1,246 feet.
A stunning example showing how the winds have literally swept the sides of Sossusvlei’s Dune 45.
Image: Julien Carnot
A smoothly sloping dune in Sossusvlei… The valley between dunes is known as a slack.
Image: Edgar Barany C
A magical dune in the north of Venezuela, with a wonderful play of shadow in the shot.
4. Death Valley, CA, USA
A dramatic sky highlights the golden dunes of Death Valley in this next image.
Zigzags in the sand give an ineffable beauty to this dune in Death Valley.
The dunes are fairly fixed in position as the winter winds come from the north while the winds summer from the south – nature balancing itself out.
The landscape here is almost lunar. This image shows the drifts, curves and ripple of the sand dunes to be found here in one of the hottest places on Earth.
It may look like Christmas in the desert, but this is sand, not snow at Death Valley.
Image: Erik Ogan
This Death Valley dune looks like it is crowned with jewels along its ridge. The shapes and lines are spectacular.
These are the Eureka Dunes in Death Valley. Large areas of dunes like these are called dune fields, and at almost 700 feet in height, these are some of North America’s highest.
3. Sahara Desert, Morocco
Large dune fields are called ergs. The stunning Erg Chebbi in Morocco is 13 miles long, three kilometers wide and almost 500 feet tall.
A spectacular sun lights up the dune fields in Morocco’s Sahara Desert.
2. Sahara Desert, Libya
This longitudinal dune is part of Erg Awbarim, located in the area of the Sahara Desert known as Fezzan, in Libya.
Winds have created a complex set of Sahara Desert dunes shown in this beautiful image rich in soft colors and curves.
Image: Thomas Vandenberghe
1. Gobi Desert, Mongolia
The brilliant blue sky makes a fantastic contrast to the glowing yellow sand in this photograph from the Gurvansaikhan National Park, in the northern edge of the vast Gobi desert.
We have seen a large range of the incredible sand dunes that mother nature has built. They are mammoth examples of her abstract palette.