A desert can be defined as a region or landscape that receives little precipitation – usually of less than 250 mm per year. Deserts lack or have little vegetation and are generally hostile for plant and animal life. Deserts can be classified as either hot or cold and are found across all continents, covering approximately one-third of the earth’s land surface. The largest desert in the world is Antarctica. However, the world's largest hot desert is the Sahara.

1. Antarctica - 14,000,000 sq km 

Antarctica is the largest desert in the world, covering 14,000,000 square kilometers. It is located in the extremity of the southern hemisphere and contains the geographic South Pole. Antarctica receives about 200 ml of annual precipitation. 98% of Antarctica is covered in by ice. Antarctica has no permanent residents.

2. Arctic Desert - 13,985,000 sq km 

The Arctic Desert is the second largest desert in the world. This polar desert covers an area of 13,985,000 square kilometers. The desert is located in the North Pole and partly occupies parts of territories claimed by Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Alaska. The Arctic Desert receives precipitation of less than 50 cm per annum in the form of snow. The Arctic experiences cold winters and cool summers with temperatures of −40 degrees Celsius in winter and 15 degrees Celsius in the summer.

3. Sahara Desert - 9,000,000 sq km 

The Sahara Desert occupies 9,000,000 square kilometers. It is the third largest desert in the world. The Sahara Desert is also the world’s largest hot desert. The desert occupies most of North Africa. It is bound by the Red Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Sahel to the south and the Mediterranean to the North. The average hot temperature of the Sahara exceeds 38 to 40 degrees Celsius during the hottest months. Most parts of the Sahara receive less than 20 mm of rainfall with its central and eastern part having no precipitation at all.

4. Australian Desert - 2,700,000 sq km 

The Australian Desert is the fourth largest desert in the world. These subtropical deserts occupy 2,700,000 square kilometers which translates to about approximately 18% of the Australian mainland. The deserts are situated in the interior lowlands and western plateaus of the country. The Australian Deserts receive more than 100 mm of rainfall per annum. They include the Great Victoria Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Tanami Desert, Simpson Desert, and many other deserts.

5. Arabian Desert - 2,330,000 sq km 

The Arabian Desert is the fifth largest desert in the world. The desert is located in western Asia and covers an area of about 2,330,000 square kilometers. This subtropical desert occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula. The climate of the Arabian Desert is characterized by very high heat with seasonal night freezes. The major parts of the desert receive annual precipitation of around 100 mm per year.


In addition to forming alluring natural landscapes, deserts support plant and animal life. These plants and animals have acquired special adaptations that allow them to survive the harsh desert climate. Deserts are also home to humans, except for the Antarctica Desert which has no permanent residents.

The 5 Largest Deserts in the World
RankDesert NameSize (Sq Km)
4Australian Desert2,700,000
5Arabian Desert2,330,000