The Lut Desert Iran, also called Dasht-e Lut (meaning Empty Plain in Persian) is a massive salt desert close to Kerman in Iran. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the hottest places on earth!
We included a trip to the desert during the first of our Lut desert trip from Kerman. Stunning rock formations, traditional desert life, ancient Silk Road caravanserai – what’s not to like in the Lut Desert Iran!
Among the other Iran places to visit, make sure to add the Lut desert on your list.
Lut Desert Iran
Iran is composed of several basins, Dasht-e Lut (or Dasht-e Loot) being the largest and one of the driest places on Earth, Dasht-e Kavir the other of the deserts of Iran.
Salt flats cover the east side of the Dasht-e Loot plateau, whereas the center of the plateau features the stunning wind-and rain-carved yardang rock formations called the Kaluts. The landscapes of the Lut Desert are indeed quite different than the Dasht e Kavir desert in the south which has some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, some over 980 ft (300 m).
Hottest Place on Earth
One of the “cool” (pun intended!) Dasht-e Lut facts is that it’s home to the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth.
Recordings from the NASA between 2003 and 2010 show that Gandom Beryan, a dark lava plateau in the Dasht e Lut desert, is the hottest land surface on Earth, the highest recorded temperature on the surface reaching 159.3 °F (70.7 °C) as measured in 2005. Can you picture how this must feel?
Why is the Lut Desert so hot is thought to come from of the dark sand, the color attracting more heat than the usual golden color.
Kaluts Iran Desert
Monument Valley? No, these fantastic rocks are the Kaluts in the Lut Desert, formations called Yardangs created after millennia of wind and erosion. We have not expected such a landscape and spent several hours exploring the area.
Walking among the stunning landscape was one of the highlights of our 3-day trip from Kerman to explore the region. We wished we had spent even more time there.
The Kaluts in the Lut Desert can be an easy day trip from Kerman but overnight is recommended to let you take and soak in the fantastic scenery. Totally recommend if you love incredible outdoors, and the perfect Iran adventure!
Entrance Fees: Free
Silk Road Caravanserai
As we drove from Kerman to the Kaluts, we passed an ancient abandoned caravanserai in the Lut Desert. The scattered caravanserais are a testament of continuous life in the desert, some pieces of evidence even showing human presence going back 7,000 years, and many used during the Silk Road era.
Shahdad, Desert Oasis
Our trip took us to the Shahdad village, an interesting stop some 45 km before the Kaluts. The small village of Shahdad offers a window into the past. Indeed, the town is an actual oasis in the desert, lined up with palm trees, mud-brick houses and, of course, an ancient caravanserai. We had lunch there, sitting under tall palm trees that provided with much-appreciated shade from the scorching sun.
The caravanserai in Shahdad has been restored, but still, present untouched portions that make you feel like stepping back in time. We spent maybe an hour there, walking the old yard, checking the watch towers, and imagining the bustle of ancient Silk Road traders. A recommended visit!
Qanat Underground Water System
One of the other must-see stops in Shahdad is the underground water canals in this Iran desert called Qanats (Kariz). Kārīz (Persian) or Qanāt (Arabic) is an ancient underground channel that helps bring water from the mountain range down to the dry and fertile valleys. Much needed when the desert covers most of the region!
The Persian Qanat system has actually been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site given its importance into bringing water to desert regions and the culture and traditions related to this system. The impact has been so great that this Iran plateau has been referred to as the “Qanat Civilisation.”
The system is also used in and around Turpan, a city in the Xinjiang Province of China, and is said to have originated from Iran; technology probably brought and shared along the earliest age of the Silk Road.
Looking up from the inside of the Kārīz, we could see how deep the villagers had to dig (some 7-8 m / 20-25 feet deep) to access the water in the area. The soil pulled out from the system creates small mounts above grounds. These mounts, as well as the small holes, are the typical marks of a Qanat system. That’s how Bruno got up over a mount made of the dugout soil standing over the water canals underneath.
This view from above shows the regular spacing of these dugout holes (photo from north of Kerman Iran).
Entrance Fees: Free
As we explored the Qanat (Kārīz), men arrived and settled in the cool cavern to enjoy a quick lunch away from the sun. In a few seconds, we were invited to join them as we exchanged our Salam greetings.
Snacking on fresh bread and goat cheese, all washed down with hot tea; we treasured these few minutes of Iranian hospitality, where humanity was surpassing any language challenges.
Ancient Village of Keshit
After our visit to the Kaluts, we resumed the drive to Keshit, some 3 hours away on mostly dirt roads. The goal of our afternoon drive was the small Lut desert village of Keshit.
Arriving in pitch black night, we camped in the oasis in the Keshit Canyon, set under the palm trees and a beautiful sky. A night illuminated by thousands of stars and a full moon that crawled from under the trees. Our first camping in Iran, settled down in our tent for the night, just a lovely moment under the stars! A night of stars and moon in the Lut Desert.
In the early hours of the morning, we visited the old, abandoned side of Keshit. The massive ruins feature the remains of a castle, levy doors, arched hallways, a mosque, storage rooms with perfect standing domes, and many traditional houses with wooden and thatched roofs, inside ovens, and the tandoor oven. The village is close to a lush oasis of warm spring waters and green palm trees.
The area is not on the traditional road between Kerman and Bam, which most visitors travel to, but we enjoyed every second of our morning exploration. Hiking along the Keshit Canyon is also a must-do, where you can access a turquoise pool perfect for a refreshing swim on a hot day.
Entrance Fees: Free
Best Time to Visit Iran Desert
Because of the extreme heat of the Lut desert, the best months to visit are the “coolest” months. Which means that November to March is the recommended period to travel to the Dasht-e Lut desert. So avoid the hottest months of the hottest place in the world to stay away from the hottest temperature on earth!
The Lut desert weather is usually dry with almost no rains.
How to Get to the Lut Desert
Kerman, and then Shahdad, are the best locations to access the Lut Desert.
How to reach Kerman
- By Train
- From Mashhad: 1,050,000 per person.
- By Bus
- Like most of Iran main cities, you can easily travel by. Board one of the many buses, VIP or regular, to Kerman.
- VIP bus tickets from Shiraz and Bandar Abbas would be around 400,000 IRR.
Find out more about what to see and where to stay in Kerman.
How to reach Shahdad
- Take a local bus from Kerman to Shahdad and try hitchhiking from there to the Kaluts. Feasible, but we did not see many cars on that road while we were there.
- Go with a taxi for the day for around 900,000 IRR
- Rent a car with driver and add a few extra days to visit Kerman region: Bam, Rayen, and Mahan. We paid for our car and driver U$100 for three days.
From Kerman, the road crosses the 2,600-m Sirch Mountains, as you reach the village of Sirch. After admiring the 1,000 -year- old cypress tree, the way leads to the small village of Shahdad (near Dehseyf). The Kaluts and that part of the Lut Desert were part of the first day of our 3-day road trip from Kerman. More on this trip coming soon!
For other desert experiences, check out our camel trek in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan in India, the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan, and the Ustyurt Plateau by the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan.
Stay tuned for more adventures
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August 26, 2019 at 4:22 am
We just came back from our almost 1-month trip in China, where we traveled along the ancient Silk Road. Next time, we’ll explore the continuiing parts of the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia and the Middle East, so Iran is on our bucket list! It’s crazy how hot some deserts can get (we visited the Flaming Mountains in Turpan, so yeah we can imagine how hot it must have been in Iran for you guys!)
August 26, 2019 at 8:01 am
We visited Turpan 3 years ago, and some of the nearby sites. Really enjoyed our stay there, and yes, some of the deserts around are no joke either! Definitely recommend Uzbekistan as well, pretty impressive when it comes to Silk Road monuments.
July 12, 2019 at 1:36 am
I always think to visit Iran as it has unique culture and some great natural beauties. Good to see the desert Dasht e Lut and I can imagine how hot it must be as I too live in Middle East near deserts. Oh you spotted that iconic Silk road, what a great place it was for ancient traders.
July 12, 2019 at 9:06 am
Living close to a desert must be such an experience. I am more used to green scenery but I really enjoy every opportunity we have to be in a desert. Such a different feel! Where do you live if I may ask?
July 11, 2019 at 9:51 pm
Wow, I can see why this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I can’t even imagine heat like that and I hope I never will, ha. But these surroundings are so unique and beautiful.
July 26, 2019 at 8:31 am
We experienced a 4th of July in the Death Valley at high noon – that was pretty hot as it was (though I can’t remember how hot!) and definitely hot enough to give me insolation! I also hope I would never feel such extreme temperatures, my brain would probably fry!
July 11, 2019 at 4:17 pm
I always enjoy learning about places that I have never heard of before. The landscapes in this super-hot desert are amazing, and those underground canals for bringing water down from the mountains is ingenious. No wonder UNESCO has recognized it. Your lunch with the local men and the night under the stars sound like a very special experience.
August 9, 2019 at 11:11 pm
Deserts are always intriguing, and the Kalouts even more so. Indeed, meeting the local Iranian in the water underground system was unexpected yet totally appreciated moments. That’s what makes traveling so interesting!
July 11, 2019 at 11:47 am
I’ve always been intrigued by Iran as many years ago it used to be a popular tourist destination for Americans. I have not heard about the salt flats or the Kaluts. I really enjoy visiting areas with fascinating rock formations and think I would enjoy this area very much. I loved the photo of everyone taking cover in a cool spot to enjoy some bites and tea.
July 26, 2019 at 8:33 am
Same here, I think Iran holds that fascination on everyone. Rock formations are always a big draw for us too, and the Kaluts did not disappoint. And yes, it was “cool” in all meanings of the word! When in Iran, do as Iranians do 🙂
July 10, 2019 at 11:04 pm
I would have thought the hottest place on earth was in Australia, but this Iranian desert looks so dry, it’s a matter for debate. I like those places though, they are unique and life is precious. I definitely want to see Iran some day.
November 18, 2019 at 1:46 am
Australia is pretty hot for sure! We had some of our hottest trips in the outback, and I am not sure how much hotter I could have handled. I would definitely not want to be in Lut Desert when it reaches the peak temperatures! My brain would most likely fry!
July 10, 2019 at 3:06 pm
We live in the Arizona desert And we have known temps in the 120s so I can imagine what 150 feels. But there’s beauty in these Iranian badibs and oases!
July 26, 2019 at 11:52 pm
I can’t imagine either! I wonder how it would feel though… But the beauty of the scenery is incontestable!
July 9, 2019 at 7:17 pm
Wow, this is such a remote place. Not many tourists, which is a nice change. I can’t imagine what 70 degrees celsius feels like. But why are people wearing leather jackets in the hottest place on earth? lol.
December 17, 2019 at 2:13 am
I guess wearing jackets prevent you from burning from the sunburn, as opposed to burning from the heat directly! 🙂
July 8, 2019 at 8:05 am
Wow ! Some really cool shots ! Look like some Star Wars filming location ! =p
Love that star lit sky ! These are the little you miss living in big cities.
Thanks for sharing ! =)
November 18, 2019 at 1:47 am
It would for sure be a good backdrop for sci-fi movies, in a Mars-alike landscape. I guess that would be a good test for testing gear in preparing for such a trip, given the high temperatures as well 🙂
July 8, 2019 at 5:01 am
Youe photos are incredible! I hate the heat and avoid it like the plague but it looks like its well worth the visit. What was the temperature on your visit?
January 15, 2020 at 5:12 am
Glad you like our photos! Iran in winter is actually cold, even in the desert during the day. I would say it was around 15-20C / 60-70F, which was actually ideal for walking in the Lut Desert! Summer would be a totally different story 🙂