Deserts of Pakistan: Where Nature Unfolds

Traveling in deserts is more of an adventure and challenging task. Unlike other tourist locations, you won’t get to stay at a luxurious residence or find a restaurant with fine dining. But, many among us are fascinated by the vastness of deserts and the history they hold. For those of you, roaming the deserts of Pakistan and exploring the rich culture and customs must sound exciting. 

Deserts are arid lands with very little precipitation. There is little to no vegetation, and living conditions are harsh. The absence of plants exposes the surface and desert dwellers to scorching heat. There is also a contrasting fluctuation in temperatures of day and night. However, the weather conditions of deserts vary depending on their geographical position. The cold desert of Skardu in Pakistan is one such example. 

There are countless adventurous areas in Pakistan where nature spectacularly unfolds itself. Trekking to Ansoo Lake in the northern areas of Pakistan is nothing short of a challenging feat. Maybe now it’s time to explore the deserts of Pakistan. Let’s see what these arid lands offer in terms of culture, tradition, history, and tourism.

Kharan Desert

Sandy Kharan Desert in Pakistan

Image of Kharan Desert from Google

Surrounded by a large empty basin, the Kharan desert is present in the Kharan district of Balochistan province of Pakistan. The district is mountainous and sandy. The Mountain age of Raskoh covers the district’s northern border.  Geographically, it is in the southwestern region of the province. It is spread across a total area of 20,000 square kilometers.

Sand storms are common in the district to turn the weather extremely dry. Days in summer are hot, but nights are chilly and cold. Mashkel and Boddo river passes through the region. The Desert receives an average rainfall of about 100mm. The majority of water is used for domestic purposes and agriculture. Wheat is the major cash crop of this area.

Balochis are the predominant members of the Kharan community. They speak multiple languages such as Persian, Balochi, Urdu, Brahuvi. Natives mainly consume while, rice, millet. Moreover, locals earn ample revenue from camel and livestock breeding. The small industries of cottage, carpet, and rugs also assist nomads in making the end meet.

Popularity of Kharan Desert

The sandy desert of Kharan is particularly famous for stunning crescent-shaped sand dunes covering the desert bed as far as one can see. The landscape is rocky with tough terrain. Chaghi II, Pakistan’s second nuclear missile test, was also conducted here. The famous Greek king, Alexander the Great, crossed this desert during his quest to defeat King Porus.

Traveling from Islamabad to Kharan Desert

You can adopt two routes for visiting Kharan from Islamabad. Traveling to Kharan via N-50 is the fastest route. According to the road map, it takes approximately 16 hr and 52 mins. The second route is by Sukkur-Multan Motorway. The total time duration through this route is 18hrs and 45 mins.

Thar DesertStunning scene of Thar desert

Photo of Thar desert from Google

Thar desert is the largest in Pakistan, present in the eastern region of Punjab and Sindh. Word That originates from “thul” which refers to the sand dunes in the local language. It is the only subtropical desert in Asia with a major area located in the Rajasthan state of India. Thar is the sixteenth largest desert of the world in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. It is also famously known as the Great Indian Desert. The total area of this ecoregion is 77,000 square miles, out of which 12,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometers) is present in Pakistan.

The desert forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan. The undulating sand dune scatters across the entire region. Some even reach as high as 500 feet. The Indus river borders the desert and irrigates its western regions. The annual monsoon rain spell hardly touches the eastern region of the Thar desert. The average rainfall is comparatively more in the eastern region.

Besides Muslims, the Hindu community forms the majority of the population that resides in the Thar desert. They live in harmony and participate in each other’s festivals and celebrations. Locals usually live in mud houses and depend on rainwater for domestic needs. The small local industries of leatherwork, carpentry, fur dying, embroidery, and agriculture also keep the local economy’s wheel rolling.

Tourism in Thar desert

Deserts in Pakistan are not particularly tourist attractions in Pakistan, But the Thar desert is an exception. Tharparkar district in Sindh is a tourist attraction with rich culture and heritage sites. You might not find luxury hotels and restaurants here, but the culture and desert life are worth visiting. There are numerous historical spots and tourist attractions in Tharparkar and its adjoining regions of Mithi, Islamkot, Chehlar.

In Sindh, it will take you approximately six hours to travel from Karachi to Tharparkar. The carpeted road to the Thar is suitable for a four-wheel-drive or car. For traveling to The historical relics and treasures that you can add to your traveling itinerary include the Thar museum, Gori Temple, Churrio Jabal, and Karoonjhar mountains. Another famous historical treasure in the deserts of Pakistan is the Naukort fort. The square structure is made of burnt bricks that many tourists visit throughout the year.

Thal Desert

Camel in Thal desert

Photo of Thal desert from Google

The list of subtropical deserts of Pakistan also includes the Thal desert. It is a hot and dry desert with a very arid environment. Thal desert covers a total area of 10,000 square kilometers in the Punjab province. The Jhelum and Chenab river plain in the east and the Indus river Plain in the west border the Thal desert. The government of Pakistan is building the Thal Canal between these two river plains. It will irrigate the desert and increase agricultural land.

The geographical and weather characteristics are similar to other deserts of Pakistan. The continually shifting sand dunes cover the desert bed. High-velocity wind and regular temperature variation are the characteristics of the Thal desert. Perennial grasses are commonly found in vegetation in the dry weather of the Thal desert. The locals mainly rely on livestock and agriculture to fulfill their economic needs.

The inhabitants of the Thar desert live in scattered settlements. They belong to different tribes like Bhaghoor, Rhadari, Tiwana, Sial, Bhachar, and Jammamat. The local languages are Saraiki and Punjabi. That desert is highly deficient in terms of infrastructure and resources. The majority of people rely on farming, domestic livestock rearing as the literacy rate is extremely low. Healthcare facilities are also scarce in the region and results in increased ailments. The Agriculture development cooperation is working on the Thal project to improve the region’s economic condition. It can potentially bring prosperity to the region by developing towns and villages.  

Tourism in the Thal Desert

The Jeep rally race is the main tourist attraction in the Thal desert. The event takes place annually where people come to either participate or enjoy the event. The starting point for the race is Head Muhammad Wala. There are a few hotels near the Thal desert-like Bala, Latif Baloch, and Baba where one can reside. The grandeur of the land, spectacular vision of sand dunes, and starry sky is perfect for an unforgettable trip to the deserts of Pakistan.

Cholistan Desert

Image of Cholistan Desert from Google

Among the large deserts of Pakistan, the Cholistan desert is in the southern region of Punjab, Pakistan. It comprises Rahim Yar Khan, Bhawal Nagar, and Bahawalpur districts. The desert is spread across a region of  25,800 square kilometers.  There are shifting sand dunes, with a maximum height of 100m in some regions of greater Cholistan. Raining in the region is scarce and there is a high rate of soil erosion. Temperature can range between 4 to 40 celsius. 

The population of the desert is more than two lacs that mainly resides in lesser Cholistan. The locals live in Gojas, which are semi-permanent mud huts. The residents of the Indus valley always avoid intrusion from foreign intruders. Moreover, desert dwellers have developed many local crafts over the period of time. Livestock rearing mainly consists of camels, which are used for numerous purposes. Camels are used for traveling and transportation purposes. Local woven carpet and crafts rugs from camel skin and wool. 

Moreover, they also utilize camel leather to craft expensive articles such as lampshades and goblets. Besides that, locals also make buttons, earrings, and other items from enamel. Jewelry is another important part of local culture. Women in the Cholistan prefer to wear golden and silver pieces.

Tourism in the Cholistan Desert

Cholistan desert was once every fertile land and support many Indus valley civilizations. It had a large river that was used to irrigate the soil and support people’s livelihood. There are several remains of Harappan culture like Ganweriwal are present in this land. It was economically very prosperous and the center of caravan trade.

During medieval times, several forts built in the Cholistan desert include Marot fort, Bijnot fort, Jamgarh fort, and more. Derawar Fort is a more renowned architectural relic. The remarkable square fortress is present 130 Km away from the Bahawalpur in Ahmadpur Tehsil. It has turned into a tourist spot in the Cholistan desert. 

Katpana Desert

Cold desert in Pakistan

Photo of Katpana Desert from Google

Katpana desert or cold desert is near Skardu, Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan. Compared to other deserts of Pakistan, it is a high-altitude desert. It is because the desert is at an elevation of 2,226 meters from sea level. The cold desert is spread across Nubra in India and Khaplu valley in Pakistan. It is also called the Skardu desert as it is majorly stretched in the Shigar valley and Skardu.

It has an extremely cold climate, particularly during the months of January and February. The temperature in the cold Skardu desert can drop below -125 degrees celsius during the winter season. During the winter season, snowfall usually covers the sand dunes making the site more spectacular for tourism. 

Katpana desert is a must-go tourist attraction in Skardu. Visitors and tourists frequent the region of cold desert adjacent to Skardu airport. Mountains surround it with cold winds blowing in the entire region. Sand dunes are the perfect spot to witness amazing sunsets. Here, the night sky depicts a mind-blowing view of the Milkyway, but the weather is extremely cold. You can also go boating in Katpana lake while locals are traveling across it. 

A one-day trip to the cold desert during summer is highly recommended.  You can choose to travel to Skardu from Islamabad by air or by road. The Skardu cold desert offers stunning views and tourist spots compared to other deserts of Pakistan. 

FAQs

Which is the hottest desert of Pakistan?

The Cholistan is among the hottest deserts of Pakistan, where temperature can rise as high as 50 degrees Celsius during the summer season. Low annual precipitation with draught is possibly the main factor behind the arid climate and harsh summer. 38.5 Degree Celcius is the mean temperature during July, the hottest month in the Cholistan desert.

How many deserts are there in Pakistan?

There are five deserts in Pakistan that differ in terms of weather, culture, and history. Deserts in Pakistan are not particularly tourist attractions in Pakistan, But the Thar desert is an exception. The diverse culture, population, historical sites make it a perfect tourist location.

Which is the third-largest desert of Pakistan?

The Thal desert is the third-largest in the deserts of Pakistan. It has a total area of 10,000 km2. It is present in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Similar to other deserts of Pakistan, that desert is prone to wind-borne sand dunes with fluctuating temperatures in different seasons. 

Where is the Thar Desert in Pakistan?

The largest desert of Pakistan, the Thar desert, occupies the southwestern region of Punjab and the eastern area of Sindh. In Sindh, the desert stretches across Tharparkar and the adjoining region of Mirpurkhas and Umerkot.

Which desert of Pakistan is called a friendly desert?

Thar desert is also the friendly desert of Pakistan. Unlike other deserts of Pakistan, the weather here is very pleasant and suitable for traveling. Visitors can easily access it and explore the historical sites.

Which is the largest desert in Asia?

Gobi desert is the largest desert in Asia. The Gobi desert is in China and Mongolia and stretches across a total area of 1600 km. The weather of the desert is extremely harsh and has rapid fluctuations in temperature. During the winter season, snow completely covers sand dunes.

What is the oldest desert?

Namib desert is the oldest desert present in Africa. It has been here for 55 million years. It mainly consists of mountains, plains, and shifting sand dunes. The weather of this region is extremely arid. Few dry river beds are cut across the region and are a source of habitat for Hartmann’s Zebra.

To conclude

So, are you intrigued to travel across the fascinating deserts of Pakistan and experience the local culture? Do not forget to pack a muffler, headscarf, water bottle, and other necessary items in your backpack. We wanted to familiarize you with the diversity of culture and tourism in Pakistan through this article. Your feedback is always welcomed. 

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