11 of the Hottest Places on Earth

Death Valley sand dunes
Walk or sandboard on Death Valley's Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley National Park.

Brocken Inaglory / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

In select countries around the world where the sun is unrelenting and wind rare, temperatures in excess of 120 degrees are fairly typical. You may think such places virtually uninhabitable, but this is not always the case. Many environments with extreme temperatures are often home to thousands or even millions of people who have adapted to withstand their home's hot and dry climate. From vast deserts to bustling cities, the hottest places on earth come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Here's a rundown of 11 of the hottest places in the world.

of 11

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

Afar people mining salt in Danakil Depression

Francois Dommergues / Getty Images

The scorching hot Danakil Depression in Ethiopia's Afar Depression has an average annual air temperature of 95 degrees. This depression is incredibly low-lying, at an elevation of 120 meters below sea level, and tectonically active. The Dallol volcano is in the northeastern portion of the Danakil Depression, and its eruptions raise temperatures more.

The Danakil Depression features some saline lakes and hot springs but receives little rain. To withstand this oppressively hot and dry environment, the roughly 1.4 million Afar people living in this region live nomadic lifestyles and often use camels to carry items. They sell salt from saline lakebeds in nearby markets.

of 11

Tirat Zvi, Israel

Beit She'an Valley

kolderal / Getty Images

Tirat Zvi, founded in 1937, is a religious kibbutz in Israel that sits in the Beit She'an Valley, 738 feet below sea level. Though the nearby Jordan River keeps the region fertile, the valley can get pummeled by the sun in the summer months. From late spring to early fall, the temperature regularly surpasses 104 degrees. Tirat Zvi supports crops of carrots, olives, wheat, and dates. This small kibbutz has roughly 16,000 date palm trees, the largest orchard in the country.

of 11

Kebili, Tunisia

Palm trees in Kebili, Tunisia

cinoby / Getty Images

A small city in central Tunisia, Kebili offers some respite from the North African heat in the winter months. However, in the summer, Kebili's temperatures soar. This region holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the Eastern Hemisphere at 131 degrees, set on July 7, 1931. Despite the desert heat, Kebili is agriculturally productive and fairly popular with tourists, who can often be seen riding camels across the town. The landscape here features an oasis, dunes, and date palm trees.

of 11

Timbuktu, Mali

Photo: Emilio Labrador [CC BY 2.0]/Flickr

Once the site of widespread Islamic teaching and learning, Timbuktu in central Mali has a rich cultural history. Today, collections of ancient manuscripts serve as a reminder of the scholarship that took place throughout the 15th and 16th centuries and contributed to the spread of Islam throughout Africa.

Timbuktu is slowly being overtaken by desertification and this threatens its ancient mosques and earthen architecture. The average temperature is around 86 degrees and the average yearly rainfall is roughly 8.9 inches. Timbuktu is a World Heritage site under close monitoring for climate change concerns.

of 11

Rub' al Khali, Arabian Peninsula

Rub' al Khali in the Arabian Peninsula

Javierblas / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The largest continuous sand desert in the world, the Rub' al Khali covers an area of about 398,000 square miles. This desert spans Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. The climate of Rub' al Khali is categorized as hyper-arid. Average temperatures as high as 123.8 degrees have been recorded in July and August and it rains less than 1.4 inches per year on average.

There is little biodiversity in Rub' al Khali, though geological evidence points to the existence of lakes in the region thousands of years ago that are thought to have supported life (including animal species now extinct). Today, desert shrubs comprise most of the region's vegetation and very few people or animals live here.

of 11

Australian Outback

Australian Outback

Traceydee Photography / Getty Images

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth, and much of its interior Outback is a vast desert. Most of those living here are Indigenous, some thought to have inhabited the Outback for at least 50,000 years. This includes people from the Gunggari, Arrernte, and Yamatji tribes as well as countless others.

Many Indigenous Australians living in the Outback are hunter-gatherers skilled at harvesting the land's natural resources and adapted to withstand the extremely hot and arid climate. During the summer, the Outback becomes one of the hottest places on Earth. In 2003, the surface of the earth here registered 156.7 degrees.

of 11

Death Valley, United States

Photo: Gunther Hagleitner/flickr

Located in the Mojave Desert of California, Death Valley is one of the hottest and driest places on Earth. It holds the record for the highest recorded air temperature of 134 degrees, set in July of 2013.

Oppressive as this landscape may be, it is rich with life. At night, bobcats and kit foxes hunt for rodents in the valley, and bighorn sheep forage in the park's snowy mountaintops. Death Valley only gets an average of two inches of rain per year, but when rain does arrive, wildflowers bloom.

of 11

Flaming Mountains, China

Flaming Mountains in Xinjiang, China

xia yuan / Getty Images

The Flaming Mountains, located in the Tian Shan Mountain range of Xinjiang, China, were named for the flame-like appearance of their multi-colored gullies, with valleys of red sandstone texturing the land. The Flaming Mountains earn their name further with air temperatures of up to 122 degrees. In 2008, the highest land surface temperature of the year went to the Flaming Mountains with a record-breaking 152.2 degrees, registered in the Turpan Basin.

of 11

Lut Desert, Iran

Lut Desert, Iran

Hadi Karimi / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA

Iran's Lut Desert or Dasht-e-Lut, a parched and desolate desert, is often called the hottest place on Earth. This is largely due to the fact that the desert is expansive—over 8,975 square miles—and covered with sparsely vegetated dunes that are heated directly by the sun. It receives little rainfall or wind, making the land more likely to absorb and retain heat. From 2004 to 2007 and again in 2009, the land skin temperature of Lut Desert was the highest in the world. Satellites registered a maximum temperature of 159.3 degrees in 2005.

of 11

El Azizia, Libya

El Azizia, Libya

habib kaki / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

El Azizia is a town located near the Mediterranean Sea in the North African country of Libya. Warm winds from inland blow through El Azizia toward the ocean, heating the town.

On September 13, 1922, El Azizia made history when a weather station there recorded the highest air temperature ever directly measured on Earth: a blistering 136.4 degrees. The record stood for many years until the World Meteorological Organization found the measurement invalid, citing reasons including poor instrumentation and unavailability of similarly high temperatures in the area at that time.

of 11

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Jan Schneckenhaus / Shutterstock

Bangkok is no stranger to extreme temperatures. This smoggy, humid city lies north of the equator in Thailand, a country surrounded by water. Because of its location, Bangkok is both very hot and very humid. It has an average daily maximum temperature of about 92.5 degrees and average relative humidity of 72%. It is hot year-round, with temperatures climbing into the 90s in the summer and winter.

However, despite this extreme climate, Bangkok is the most densely populated city in Thailand with a population of over eight million.

View Article Sources
  1. Kotopoulou, Electra, et al. "A Polyextreme Hydrothermal System Controlled by Iron: The Case of Dallol at the Afar Triangle." ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, vol. 3, no. 1, 2018, pp. 90–99, doi:10.1021/acsearthspacechem.8b00141

  2. "Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census: Population Size by Age and Sex." Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Population Census Commission, Dec. 2008.

  3. "History of Tirat Zvi." טירת צבי- קהילנט.

  4. "Eastern Hemisphere: Highest Temperature." World Meteorological Organization's World Weather & Climate Extremes Archive. Arizona State University.

  5. Bhattacharya, P., et al., editors. Groundwater for Sustainable Development: Problems, Perspectives and Challenges. Taylor & Francis Group, 2008.

  6. Vincent, Peter. Saudi Arabia: An Environmental Overview. Taylor & Francis Group, 2008.

  7. "Southwestern Asia: Most Of Saudi Arabia, Extending Into Oman, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria." World Wildlife Fund.

  8. "Outback Australia - The Rangelands." Australian Government: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

  9. "Finding the Hottest Spots on Earth by Satellite." NASA Earth Observatory.

  10. "Animals." Death Valley. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior.

  11. Laikwan, Pang. "The 'Nature' of Ethnic Tensions: Under the Flaming Mountains as Xinjiang's First Novel." Chinese Shock of the Anthropocene, 2019, pp. 171–201, doi:0.1007/978-981-13-6685-7_9

  12. Mildrexler, David J., et al. "Satellite Finds Highest Land Skin Temperatures on Earth." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 92, no. 7, July 2011, pp. 855–860.

  13. "Lut Desert." Lut Desert. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

  14. "What Does It Mean to Be Hot?" NASA Earth Observatory, 5 Apr. 2012.

  15. El Fadli, Khalid, et al. "World Meteorological Organization Assessment of the Purported World Record 58°C Temperature Extreme At El Azizia, Libya (13 September 1922)." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 92., no. 2, Feb. 2013, pp. 199–204, doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00093.1

  16. "Bangkok Weather." Met Office.