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
from our travel around the world!
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