Desert refers to the surface of land which is arid and receives meagre rainfall. The dry area supports sparse vegetation and limited population of people and animals. In the context of India when we talk about desert, we usually end up imagining sand dunes made of golden sands, camels walking towards the horizon, starry skies at night and clad of colorfully dressed up men & women. Seldom has it happened that we sketch the image of Himalayan desert or white salt desert of India that are relatively less travelled, to and less commercialized despite being more romantic than the great Rajasthan Desert.
There are three deserts in India-
The Sandy Desert of Rajasthan
The White Salt Desert of Kutch
The Cold Mountain Desert of the Trans Himalayas


The Sandy Desert of Rajasthan (Thar Desert)

The Great Indian Desert is world’s 7th largest and Asia’s 3rd largest desert and lies mostly in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The desert region has three landforms sand covered Thar, plains with hills including the central dune free city and the semi-arid area surrounding the Aravalli range. The desert is not completely empty but the ecosystem consists of a handful of people living in tiny villages comprising of only a few houses, Great India Bustard, Blackbuck, Chinkara, Desert fox, Bengal fox, Wolf, Desert cat and other animals can be seen here. Camping under stars is one of the best glamping experiences one can have.
Jaisalmer is a most popular tourist destination of Rajasthan and so, there are many options to reach this city. Jaisalmer is situated 568 Km west to Jaipur, and 768 km to Delhi. Nevertheless, you can easily reach Jaisalmer by train, by air and by road from all the major cities of India.

By Train: Jaisalmer railway station is a stoppage for many major trains. You can reach Jaisalmer from Delhi as many direct trains are available in this route. Palace on Wheels, a luxury train has also a stoppage at this station. Jaisalmer has good connectivity with many major cities of India.

By Air: Air way is the most convenient way to reach this town in Rajasthan and it saves a lot of time. The nearest airport is situated in Jodhpur, which is around 271 Km away from Jaisalmer. There are many flights to and from Jodhpur and you can easily get a taxi for Jaisalmer from there.

By Road: There are many taxis and buses available from Jodhpur, Bikaner and many other places of the state. Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation offers daily bus services to reach Jaisalmer from Jaipur. Transportation facility is quite good for this town so you can reach the city from any part of the state.

Thar Desert is approximately 83 Km from Jaisalmer. There are two types of sand dunes-:
Sam Sand Dunes is located at the border of Thar Desert and a perfect place to enjoy camel rides. This place also offers the blissful experience of watching the sunset in front of the widely spread sand.
Khuri is well-known for its glittering golden sand, mud houses and the straw roofs.
Sam Sand Dunes are more commercialized than Khuri

Tourist agencies offer camping opportunities in the dunes and they usually take the travelers to the desert. The camping is usually done in groups but in order to experience the real quietness of the desert, it is advisable to go camping with the traditional Rajasthani local man. The do not have any agencies but a temporary base in a guest house. They provide home-made food and camel safari in non-touristy off beaten paths.
As you walk deep inside the desert, you don’t hear anything but the wind. After the safari there is traditional dance performed by the nomadic tribes

In Thar Desert, every day brings a new range of discoveries: stark landscapes, pristine dunes, rosy sunsets, starry nights, and the realisation that an amazing variety of life could flourish in an unforgiving environment.


The White Salt Desert of Kutch

Only the Great Rann of Kutch deserves to be called the White Desert! The Rann of Kutch is a salt marshy land in Thar Desert in the Kutch district of western Gujarat. The Rann of Kutch is the largest salt desert in the world. “Rann” means desert in Hindi and is derived from the Sanskrit word “Irina” which also means desert.

There are several transport options; one could hire a private vehicle from Bhuj which 102km from Rann, there is regular bus service from Ahemadabad to Rann and plying from Bhuj. The nearest railway station and airport is also in Bhuj. The marshy desert is only 49 feet above sea level. The Rann of Kutch is also home to a wide range of wildlife species such as flamingos and wild asses.

Since the White Desert is in close proximity to Pakistan, Indian army has a base at Rann and they keep on patrolling the area throughout the day. The entry permits at the border check post are handled by Kutch police. Getting the permit is a hassle free process and includes filling up a form, showing your ID proof and paying an entry fee of Rs. 100 per person. And don’t throw the entry slip away. You will have to submit it at the BSF check post right before entering the White Desert.

The government of Gujarat holds a three month long festival known as ‘The Rann Utsav’ every year starting from December to February. This is the main source of income for the locals who welcome visitors from across the globe to savour in local delicacies and to witness the culture and hospitality of Kutch.

At the utsav, there are different cultural events held everyday travellers can stay in tented accommodations in the desert or can also opt for an authentic stay in mud houses a few kilometres away from the desert. Considering the magnitude of the festival, the accommodation at Rann is expensive during season time and hence it is advisable to pre-book if one wishes to visit the white desert during the utsav. Other than the festival months there is no accommodation option available in the desert, in this case one could opt to stay around Rann or could make a day trip from Bhuj.

As you enter Kutch, the rounded mud homes locally known as Bhungas with colorful elaborated patterns on walls add freshness to the otherwise dry landscape. You can either choose to stay in touristy Bhungas where you’ll get comfortable amenities but less interaction with locals or in a homestay.

The accommodation and food provided in a homestay is basic yet authentic. The families haven’t been trained to serve guests but they will do their best to make your stay comfortable. On the other hand, you get ample interaction with the family and a sneak peak in to Kutchi life


The Cold Mountain Desert of the Trans Himalayas

The peaks of Snow Mountains on bright mornings part dense clouds and soar into the skies. Beneath the skies like a world submerged, lies a lost kingdom. Ladakh, the roof of the world opened to tourists only in the last decade. At an awesome altitude, this highland is the bridge between the earth and the sky! Ladakh lies at an altitude of 9000 feet to 25,170 feet. At these heights, you are on the roof of the world! As the highest inhabited land in the world, it holds a fascination for many,for some, there is an enchantment of seeing mountains which had been under the sea for millions of years

Part fantasy, part reality, Ladakh, is where, the forces of nature conspired to render a magically unrealistic landscape.It is a landscape of extremes-desert and blue waters, burning sun and freezing winds, glaciers and sand dunes,and a primeval battleground of the titanic forces which gave birth to the Himalayas.

Ladakh, now a well-known cold desert region in India is located in the northern most state of Jammu & Kashmir. Leh, the capital town is approximately 1000 kilometres from New Delhi and it can be reached by air via a direct flight from New Delhi or by road via Manali or Srinagar

The word Cold Desert really makes us think but the ones who have been there have called it a life changing experience because of its unmatched beauty and unforgettable local hospitality. If one is travelling by road, it becomes difficult not to stop after every turn as every turn revels landscape that will sweep you off your feet. But that is not where it ends as the land is blessed with many other natural wonders. Apart from natural beauty this place is also rich in culture & traditions. Shyok River confluences with Nubra River (also known as Siachen River) to form this enchanting valley that separates the mountain ranges of Ladakh and Karakoram.

Indian citizens are no longer required to obtain any kind of permit (Inner line permit) to visit the valley. Foreigners are however still required to obtain the protected area permit.

Within this one geographic unit lie many settlements, scattered across the landscape at locations that provide marginally improved conditions for habitation, nestled within valleys protected from harsh winds and located near rivulets. The settlements are small, isolated, sparsely populated and their planning is a testament to the harsh terrain and environment.

The mystic valley displays a distinct Buddhist culture that is similar to the Tibetan Autonomous Region.People here are simple folk,they are used to hard labour with colourful customs, myths, beliefs and conventions that contrast with the barren and harsh environment andform the cultural highlight of this region.

There are options available to stay in Nubra Vallley and it starts at Rs 600 for a per room that can be shared by 4 people. Hotels are available for every budget and they are in good conditions. There are cheap budget (Rs 600 – 900) types as well as moderate budget (Rs 1200 – 2000) type’s of accommodation and are good for stay.

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams...” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Booking for Deserts