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Where It Never Rains: the Driest Places on Earth

Water is the key to life. It covers more than 70% of the earth's surface, transported around the globe by clouds and rain. Although rainy days are common to most of us, there are some places on this wet planet where it hardly ever rains.

The lack of water in these regions creates the most dramatic landscapes imaginable. From the scorching deserts of Africa and the arid areas of South America to the jagged terrain of Antarctica, exploring the driest places in the world is an adventure every intrepid traveler should take.

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01Atacama Desert, Chile

Atacama Desert Chile South America olaser / Getty Images

Covering a massive chunk of northern Chile is one of the world's largest deserts – the Atacama Desert. The Atacama is so dry that some weather stations in the area have never recorded rainfall. With no water, even the mountain peaks are free of snow and ice.

Historically, some parts of the Atacama see rain once every ten years. This freak occurrence creates a blanket of colorful flowers and other vegetation to appear across the desert floor. A stunning display by Mother Nature that only lasts for a week but is a true wonder to behold.

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02Wadi Halfa, Sudan

Wadi Halfa city in Sudan

Wadi Halfa receives less than 0.1 inches of rain every year. Although situated on the shores of Lake Nubia, the city's climate is hot and dry due to being at the edge of the Sahara Desert.

You may think that Wadi Halfa's sweltering heat would make it a desolate place to live, but far from it. This picture-perfect desert town is home to more than 15,000 residents. It's also the gateway between Sudan and Egypt and a popular overnight stop for travelers crossing the border.

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03Aoulef, Algeria

Sunset in the giant sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, Timimoun, western Algeria, North Africa, Africa Michael Runkel/robertharding / Getty Images

Surrounded by desert as far as the eye can see is the small Algerian town of Aoulef. Hot winds blow in from the desert and make this town one of the driest places in the world. Aoulef is also the hottest place in Algeria, thanks to scorching daytime temperatures that average around 122 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months.

Luckily, the town is an oasis in the desert, and palm trees provide much-needed shade from the blazing hot sun. The average annual rainfall is less than 0.5 inches, so Aoulef residents see clear skies every day as rain clouds are extremely rare.

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04Luxor, Egypt

Luxor Egypt Karnak Temple Kateryna Kolesnyk / Getty Images

Famous as the final resting place of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, the Egyptian city of Luxor has earned its status as the world's biggest open-air museum. Located on the banks of the Nile, the city is hot, dusty, and very, very dry. This doesn't stop visitors from flocking to Luxor, exploring the Valley of the Kings, and getting lost in the ruins of Karnak Temple.

Luxor bathes in 4,000 hours of sunshine every year, and temperatures can hit 122 degrees in summer. Even when the rare raindrops fall from the sky, the heat evaporates the water immediately. Luxor is a city full of wonder, so avoid the heat and visit during the cooler winter months.

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05Ica, Peru

Ica Peru Huacachina Oasis Julia Chan / Getty Images

On the edge of the Atacama Desert lies Ica, Peru, a city with one of the driest climates in South America. This region is a popular destination for people with asthma who find the dry air eases the condition. Visitors also head to the Huacachina oasis, nestled among the sand dunes, that brings welcome relief from the dryness.

But, Ica was not always as dry as it is today. Fossil evidence of a 4-foot-tall penguin found in 2007 leads scientists to believe the area was cold, wet, and somewhere fish thrived almost 30 million years ago.

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06Al-Kufrah, Libya

Al-Kufrah Libya cultivating circles Bashar Shglila / Getty Images

Al-Kufrah is the driest place in Libya and one of the driest on the African continent. Surrounded by the Libyan Desert that features sand dunes measuring up to 980 feet high, this region receives less than 0.04 inches of rain per year.

However, the land is now fertile, and inhabitants of Al-Kufrah grow crops, including peaches, apricots, and dates, to feed themselves. Water from natural underground springs is transported to the surface and spread with rotator sprinklers, dotting the region with huge otherworldly-looking circles.

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07McMurdo Dry Valley, Antarctica

McMurdo Dry Valley Antarctica copyright Jeff Miller / Getty Images

The glaciers of Antarctica may conjure up images of ice and water, but the polar deserts are some of the driest places in the world. It's believed the McMurdo Dry Valley, found close to the south pole, has not seen rainfall for more than 14 million years.

The valley has almost ice and is snow-free thanks to katabatic winds. These powerful winds can reach 200 mph, heating the cold, dense air and evaporating any water, ice, and snow in their path. It's not the most accessible place, but scientists head to the valley as its environment is similar to that on Mars.

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08Pelican Point, Namibia

Pelican Point Namibia javarman3 / Getty Images

Namibia is a country covered in sand dunes, so it's little wonder that parts of it are arid. Pelican Point is a small peninsula that juts into the ocean and is a popular destination for surfers looking to catch big Atlantic Ocean waves. The dryness comes from the lack of rain as only 0.3 inches falls here annually.

Pelican Point may look like a secluded spot to escape the hustle and bustle of city life as there is only one inhabited building on the peninsula. However, visitors are never alone as the area is alive with seals, flamingos, and seagulls.

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09Iquique, Chile

Iquique Chile coast atacama desert lucasnishimoto / Getty Images

To the west of the Atacama Desert lies Iquique, a coastal city in northern Chile. More than 195,000 people call it home, even though the average rainfall is less than 0.2 inches a year. Unlike many of the driest places in the world, Iquique has a pleasant year-round climate, with rain usually falling during January and February.

Despite its dry air, Iquique is a popular holiday destination with people drawn to the beach resorts, surfing, casinos, and stunning scenery. Iquique is also a free-trade zone where visitors can take advantage of tax-free shopping.

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10Aswan, Egypt

Aswan Egypt Nile River Matt Champlin / Getty Images

The Egyptian city of Aswan is famous for its dam, but its location on the river Nile doesn't save it from being one of the driest cities on earth. It's not unusual for the locals to see no rain for more than 12 months at a time.

Being close to the Tropic of Cancer, Aswan's climate is dry and hot. Even during the winter months, temperatures average around 75 degrees. The city also experiences strong winds that gust up to 100 mph and create sandstorms that intensify the dryness. But, even this can't deter visitors eager to cruise on the Nile and explore Aswan's ancient monuments.

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