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European Deserts

European Deserts

European Deserts

When you say the word ‘desert’ it is common to think of the sahara, or of large sand dunes. Not often would your mind ever wonder then to Europe and most people would consider this a place with no deserts at all. However this is actually inaccurate and it might surprise you to learn that there are actually hundreds of deserts in the world and that yes, some of these are located in Europe. Meanwhile it might surprise you further to learn that the term ‘desert’ is not so easily defined and that there is actually some contention regarding what should and shouldn’t classify as a ‘desert’. As such there are European deserts as well as European ‘semi-deserts’ that don’t quite make the grade by most definitions.

A semi desert is a ‘semi-arid’ climate or a ‘steppe climate’ and this means that it doesn’t meet all of the definitions necessary to be a desert or not to the same degree. A desert is defined not by the temperature as one may think, or even the presence of sand, but rather by the ‘precipitation’ of the ground. This refers to the amount of water that the soil can hold and thus the amount of plant life and grass it can/could sustain. In the case of a semi-desert then, this is somewhere between that of a desert and a humid climate. Both are in Europe.

Accona Desert: Accona desert is not technically one of the European deserts but an afforementioned semi-desert (semi-arid). Found in Tuscany, Italy, it is notable for its dome shaped formations known as biancane (from the Italian for white).

Deliblato Sand: Deliblato sand is a large sandy area that is situated in the Vojvodina province of Serbia. This is the largest sandy terrain in Europe and is the remains of a ‘prehistoric desert’. It was formed when the Pannian Sea withdrew and is today a nature reserve, but also a popular hunting ground.

Oltenian Sahara: Who knew that Europe had their very own Sahara? The Oltenian Sahara is roughly 800km2 in size and is found in the Romanian province of Oltenia. This is not a natural desert however but rather the result of heavy deforestation in the 1960s resulting in vast sandy areas. The name Oltenian Sahara was created by the press and this is the only one of our European deserts to feature its own ‘sand museum’. Worth visiting just to find out what you could fill such a museum with (presumably sand…).

The Highlands of Iceland: This is a European desert that is an easy example of a ‘semi-desert’ that does not rely on ‘sand’ to be one nor a hot climate. It is ‘effectively’ a desert in that it has volcanic soil that so quickly absorbs precipitation as to allow no plant growth at all in the area.

Piscinas: This is one of the largest European deserts and is found in Sardinia, Italy.

Tabernas Desert: A desert found in Almeria in Spain, making it one that could conceivably be visited during a European holiday.

15 Comments so far

  1. Maurizio   January 30, 2011 10:14 am

    I am one of those people who didn’t know that european deserts exist. Although I have traveled around europe. I just wasn’t informed about this thing.

    So thanks for letting us know about the european deserts. I’m going to look for some pictures now.

  2. Sorane   January 30, 2011 10:53 am

    I hope these will be the only european deserts we will have in the future. Desertification is a big problem nowadays. European deserts are useful for some adventures, though. But please make sure you are prepared for visiting the european deserts.

  3. bona sera   January 30, 2011 3:10 pm

    Accona Desert is quite cool. I don’t get it why people don’t like visiting european deserts. As long as you’re with a special trained guide, you shouldn’t have any problem. But be advised, you should never leave the group.
    European deserts are as fun to visit as any other around europe.

  4. Raluca :D   January 31, 2011 6:29 am

    Hmm, interesting facts. I did not know that the precipitation level is the one that defines a desert. I thought that a desert is defined by temperature.
    Anyway, as far as I know, most of our European deserts are semi-deserts. So I am still not sure if we have any real european deserts around.

  5. stanka   February 1, 2011 5:42 am

    European deserts don’t even compare with other deserts like the one from Asia, Gobi and from Africa, Sahara.
    European deserts aren’t real deserts, with sand and almost no rain or no vegetation. Like you said they are semi-deserts or deserts just by name, not natural. For example the one from Iceland or Romania, they aren’t real deserts.

  6. Swanson   February 1, 2011 12:50 pm

    I totally agree with stanka. I am happy with our current european deserts. I hope we will not get to have the same deserts as Africa. I find this scary. We should make sure no other european deserts will appear.

  7. Nelson   February 2, 2011 1:23 pm

    Excepting Deliblato Sand, I haven’t seen any other european deserts. It is located in Serbia. I didn’t like it at all, seriously. I don’t know how someone can enjoy a desert.
    Anw, I wouldn’t want any other european deserts.

  8. Brown   February 5, 2011 11:03 am

    Haha, funny thing. I thought this post was about “european dessert”, not “european deserts”.
    Anyway, I’m not that aware of the european deserts situation. Didn’t even know that there were any european deserts, lol. Thanks for the tip.

  9. valentin   February 9, 2011 6:43 am

    Hahaha … like Brown, instead of European deserts I read desserts. (funny)

    I know just few things about European deserts. For example, Oltenian desert: I know about it existence and how it becomes a desert.
    I hadn’t known about Deliblato Sand. Hmm, it is interesting because it’s a large sandy area and I shoud have known about it. I guess it is very good for sandboarding. <3

  10. fred   February 15, 2011 12:41 pm

    I like European deserts or deserts in general just for sands sports. Last summer I even did sandboarding. I almost died.However, I only fractured my leg, but I had so much fun doing sandboarding.

    Also I’m a huge fan of sand rails. I would like so much to try one of these sand cars in some European deserts. :D

  11. Jimmy   February 16, 2011 6:28 pm

    I guess when I think of Europe, I do not think of them having deserts. I tend to think more forest. But the Deliblato Sand sounds very interesting. I am very interested in prehistoric items and this desert sounds great.

  12. Maxwell   February 19, 2011 12:12 pm

    I do not think of deserts when I think of Europe. I have a tendency to think of mountains for some reason. I am glad that this article was on here for me to realize that in fact they do have deserts. I guess we must have skipped that in history class.

  13. Belle   March 17, 2011 2:10 pm

    I would love to go and see Deliblato Sand. Prehistoric anything just holds my attention. Plus I am sure that it holds true beauty being a European desert. Hope to travel there one day.

  14. Nakato   March 22, 2011 7:15 am

    I’ve never visited any European deserts. I hadn’t known that even exits European deserts. Interesting article you wrote…
    I don’t like deserts because vegetation almost doesn’t exist there. I like to be surrounded by nature.

  15. Tim Chirnin   August 27, 2012 5:55 pm

    The Piscinas desert is 5 sq Km. and the Oltenian is 800 sq. km, yet you call the Piscinas one of Europe’s largest. The Tabernas in Spain is also much larger than the Piscinas. Another indication of the inaccuracies found through out the internet.

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