The Lut Desert, also known as Dasht-e Lut, is an extreme landscape in a vast variety. The hyper-arid desert is one of the hottest and driest places on the planet. Those who brave a visit will soon discover the beautifully strange scenery that make this place one of most special geological area in the world.
In the Persian language ‘Lut’ refers to bare land without water and devoid of vegetation. The property is situated in an interior basin surrounded by mountains, so it is in a rain shadow and, coupled with high temperatures, the climate is hyper-arid. The region often experiences Earth’s highest land surface temperatures: a temperature of 70.7°C has been recorded within the property.
Between June and October, this arid subtropical area is swept by strong winds, which transport sediment and cause aeolian erosion on a colossal scale. Consequently, the site presents some of the most spectacular examples of aeolian yardang landforms (massive corrugated ridges). It also contains extensive stony deserts and dune fields. The property represents an exceptional example of ongoing geological processes.
The Lut Desert is divided into three geographic units: North Lut, Central Lout and South Lut. The most alluring portion of the Lut Desert is, the Centeral Lut. In terms of geomorphology, Central Lut is divided into three main portions: Pediment, Kaluts (Yardangs) and Sand dunes. The Pediment is situated in south of the Shahdad region with the width of 5 to 10 kilometers in strips and it is covered with sand, silt and salt.
The Sand dunes are situated in the south of central Lut. The height of these sand dunes is up to 480 meters. In order to reach the dunes, you'll need to do a tour with a 4WD and experienced guide.
The wind also strips hard rocky outcrops bare of soil, which leaves extensive stony desert pavements (hamada) with sand-blasted faceted stones (ventifacts) across about 12% of the area. An extensive, black stony desert covers the basaltic Gandom Beryan plateau in the northwest of the core zone. The stony deserts in eastern Lut cover, as a rubbly veneer, extensive pediplains, which are rock platforms that truncate bedrock and gently slope away from the foot of neighbouring hills.
Sands transported by wind and washed in by intermittent streams have accumulated in the south and east, where huge sand-seas have formed across 40% of the property. These areas consist of active dunes some reaching heights of 475 m and are amongst the largest dunes in the world. The Lut Desert displays a wide variety of forms, including linear-, compound crescentic-, star-, and funnel- shaped dunes. Where sands are trapped around the lee of plants at the slightly
wetter margins of the basin, nebkhas form to 12 m or more in height, arguably
being the highest such features in the world.
Dissolved minerals evaporated from incoming streams result in white efflorescence of crystals and evaporate crusts down river beds, in yardang corridors and in salt pans (playa). Small landforms result from the pressure effects of crystal growth, including salt polygons, tepee fractured salt crusts, small salt pingos (or blisters), salt karren and gypsum domes. The region has been described in the past as a place of ‘no life’ and information on the biological resources in this area is limited. Nevertheless the property possesses flora and fauna adapted to the harsh conditions including an interesting adapted insect fauna.
The Lut Desert protects a globally-recognized iconic hot desert landscape, one of the hottest places on earth. It is renowned for its spectacular series of landforms, namely the yardangs (massive corrugated ridges) in the west of the property and the sand-sea in the east. The yardangs are so large and impressive that they can be seen easily from space. Lut is particularly significant for the great variety of desert landform types found in a relatively small area. Key attributes of the aesthetic values of the unspoilt property relate to the diversity and sheer scale of its landforms; a visually stunning mosaic of desert colours; and uninterrupted vistas across huge and varied dune systems that transition into large flat desert pavement areas.
Due to its remoteness from major population centers and its extreme environmental conditions, including extreme heat and lack of water, much of the Lut Desert is inaccessible and therefore naturally protected. Apart from some small private landholdings in villages in the inscribed area and buffer zone of western Lut, the majority of the land within the Lut Desert is state-owned.
Within the property, only the western edge includes settlements (there being 28 villages, the largest with just over 700 people). In the buffer zone there are 15 villages and Shahdad town with a population of nearly 6,000. The region has evidence for habitation going back 7,000 years, however this has always been around the periphery of the area, because the aridity of the property rendered most of it uninhabitable.
Knowledge on the biodiversity and ecological values of the property is limited and would benefit from greater investigation to better understand the linkages between geoheritage, biological and ecological diversity.