Journeymarvel – Comprising vast stretches of arid sand, this barren land with its extreme temperatures is a spectacle of emptiness that showcases the spectacular desert landscape. The minimal ecosystem and life challenges faced in this arid expanse make it a unique destination for both scientists and adventurous travelers. This is the portrait of the Lut Desert, recognized as the driest and hottest region on Earth, filled with unique and astonishing natural phenomena.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016, the Lut Desert is situated in southeastern Iran, spanning across three provinces: Kerman, Khorasan-e Jonubi, and Baluchestan. With air temperatures reaching an extreme 80.8 degrees Celsius, the popularly known Dash-e Lut Desert is shaped by steep valleys and deep basins. Covering an area of 2,278,015 hectares, it is mostly surrounded by a buffer zone spanning 1,794,134 hectares.
The name ‘Lut’ is derived from the Persian term ‘dasht Lut,’ meaning an empty land without water and vegetation. Within the Lut Desert, there is an extensive area known as the Gandom Beryan, covering 480 km2, blanketed by black volcanic gravel. As the hottest place on Earth, the Lut Desert has earned the nickname ‘Earth’s Hell’ by NASA. Uninhabitable due to its scorching temperatures, the Lut Desert leaves behind vast expanses of emptiness, ranking as the 25th largest desert globally and offering a significant insight into ongoing geological processes.
The formation of the Lut Desert dates back millions of years, originating from tectonic earthquakes that raised the seabed, increased temperatures, and gradual water evaporation. Initially situated at the bottom of the sea, the entire Lut Desert area became the hottest place on Earth due to black gravel absorbing sunlight, with only a small portion reflecting and surrounding the desert.
In terms of historical events, Marco Polo first visited the Lut Desert in 1271. In the 1920s and 1930s, Austrian adventurer and doctor Alfons Gabriel was captivated by the Lut Desert, conducting investigations into rock formations, observing the surrounding areas, and mapping the region. In March 1937, an explorer named Jibril successfully traversed the central part of the Lut Desert and emerged alive.
Exploration of the Lut Desert continued, with Wilfred Thesiger visiting in 1964. Expeditions persisted until 2015, with the Secret Compass trekking group becoming the first pedestrians to cross the Lut Desert. The expedition, documented by award-winning photojournalist Mark Stratto, was featured in National Geographic in May 2016.
After enduring a lengthy geological process, the Lut Desert now stands as a fascinating attraction, with its unique appeal leaving many in awe. Constructed by Yardang formations stretching 120 km, the Lut Desert consists of the Middle Lut, Northern Lut, and Southern Lut. The Middle Lut is composed of sand, gypsum, and salt desert, while the Northern Lut is surrounded by volcanic hills, sediments, and mountains. The Southern Lut contains more fertile land and vegetation, preserving remnants of ancient civilizations.
The Lut Desert also played a crucial role in the Silk Road, serving as a vital trade route from the 7th to the 11th century. It features stunning sand dune landscapes, extraordinary geological formations such as salt flats, rock paintings, inland lakes, polygons, star-shaped sand dunes, and remnants of ancient seas. Despite its prolonged arid climate, the Lut Desert has the potential for meteorite discoveries, with a small collection known as the ‘Meteorite Valley.’
Known for its extreme heat, the Lut Desert hosts a unique array of flora, including hardy shrubs, desert moss, dry grass, and other desert plants. As for fauna, reptiles, spiders, scorpions, mammals, birds, and various insect species inhabit the desert. Though inhospitable and lacking water sources, nomadic human groups and shepherds occasionally inhabit the oasis areas within the Lut Desert.
The Lut Desert is often hit by sandstorms and strong winds carrying sediment from June to October. These natural events result in significant erosion, the formation of wavy mountains or kaluts, and the emergence of spectacular formations. The kaluts phenomenon spans 80 km in height, 80 km in width, and 120 km in length. Interestingly, the air temperature in the Lut Desert can rise significantly at any given time, attracting tourists and scientists alike due to its high level of curiosity.
During a visit to the Lut Desert, tourists can enjoy the beauty of sand dunes, mountainous regions, deep valleys, pottery fragments, salt lakes, and archaeological sites like dinosaur claw fossils. Additionally, attractions for visitors include ancient buildings, ceramics, jewelry, cultural festivals, and rituals. Tourists can indulge in photography, camel riding, exploring the desert using available transportation, witnessing the beauty of the Lut Desert’s night sky, and hiking. The recommended time to visit the Lut Desert is during the spring and fall seasons. Other nearby attractions include Shahdad Waterfall and Shafi Abad Castle.
The journey to the Lut Desert can be undertaken via the Kerman route, heading towards Shahdad. Along the way to Shahdad, tourists will pass through the cities of Kerman, Yazd, Qom, and Rafsanjan. Shahdad is divided into an open green area for the public and a red and orange area that is not open to the public, requiring guidance from experts when traversing through. Not far from the Lut Desert, recommended camping sites for tourists include Lut Star Ecocamp and Shahdad Desert Camp. Facilities available at these camps include coffee shops, toilets, drinking water, basic supplies stores, bathrooms, electricity, tour guides, parking, internet, and rooms with a capacity of 40 people.
In summary, the Lut Desert stands as a barren land crowned as the hottest place on Earth and inhospitable to human survival. Despite its exotic visual appeal, the Lut Desert often conceals biodiversity and valuable properties within its harsh landscape. Today, the Lut Desert, popular for its natural beauty, has become a key asset for UNESCO as both a tourist destination and a research site.”