Thought I’d try something different this post… Sand dunes are one of my favorite things to photograph, and I’ve been fortunate enough to walk on some of the most amazing dune fields in the world. Here’s how I rank them.
1. Sossusvlei, Namibia
Far and away the coolest dunes I’ve ever seen. Reddish sand rises to amazing heights in one of the driest deserts in the world. And hidden within the dune walls is Dead Vlei, a hauntingly beautiful graveyard of ancient camel thorn trees.
2. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
No other dunes in the U.S. match the ethereal beauty of White Sands National Monument. I visited for the first time this year and can’t wait to go back again.
3. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, California (Death Valley National Park)
I’ve visited this dune field more than any other, by a large margin, and I never get tired of it. The setting is a big part of the appeal: nothing but desolate vastness in all directions
4. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
A photogenic dune field bordered by mountains. My first visit to this park was far too short.
5. Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah
The pinkish hue of this relatively small dune field is unique and beautiful.
6. Swakopmund Dunes, Namibia
Not nearly as impressive as Sossusvlei, but small touches – like fences vanishing into the sides of the dunes – give it a compellingly lonely vibe.
7. Imperial Sand Dunes, California
A massive dune field I’ve visited often but haven’t nearly explored in full. It loses points for the heavy dune buggy traffic, but it’s so large that finding unmarked sand is just a question of how far you’re willing to walk.
8. Huacachina Dunes, Peru
The majesty of these towering dunes is marred by ubiquitous trash and yells of “Woooo-hoooo!” from tourists in dune buggies.
9. Khuri Dunes, India
This somewhat small dune field was scrubby and crowded with people when we visited, but the camels (and the camel drivers) made it much more interesting.
10. White Sand Dunes, Vietnam (Mui Ne)
Much of the sand is crusty, scrubby, and covered with tracks from people sliding down the dunes on plastic mats. But the place still has a core beauty and it’s possible to find some incredible patterns in the sand.
11. Panamint Dunes, California (Death Valley National Park)
A nice, relatively small dune field that just doesn’t offer much over the more easily accessible Mesquite Dunes.
12. Kelso Dunes, California
A small dune field with interesting character but few areas of vegetation-free sand. One visit was probably enough.
Of course I’ve hardly even scratched the surface when it comes to visiting the world’s dunes. The Sahara, the Gobi – most of the largest deserts in the world are still blank spots on my travel map. But I hope to chip away at them over time. If anyone has recommendations for amazing dune fields I should be sure to see, I’d love to hear them.