Straddling the borders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the formidable Kyzylkum (literally ‘Red Sand’) forms a vast area of parched dunes (here known as ‘barchans’) and baked clay flats. Visitors may sample its distinctive atmosphere on short camel treks around the shores of Aydar Kul Lake, a 160-mile-long (250-km) body of brackish water that was formed following a botched dam project during the Soviet era.
Based in a traditional Kazakh yurt camp, you can venture across the sands to the lakeshore, feasting on freshly baked bread dipped in camel’s milk for lunch, and bedding down under rainbow-coloured quilts at night. Wildlife is sparse, but you may be lucky enough to spot one of the rare monitor lizards that inhabit the region, and which grow to over 5 feet in length! Herds of wild Przewalski’s horses may also occasionally be sighted when exploring the desert on camelback.