We’re just entering spring and still a few months away from summer, but if you’re already dreading the impending heat, know this: It could be a lot worse. There are places on the planet so hot that a 100-degree day would seem mild. Places so hot that locals talk about phenomena like melting lights and spontaneously-combusting trees. Places so humid you could cut the hot air with a knife.
A lot of the world’s hottest places are far removed. They’re so remote that they often lack the ground-based thermometers and weather stations used elsewhere, which means much of the heat info is sourced from satellites. Many are deserts, but some are cities, small towns, and jungles.
We’ve rounded up the hottest places on earth, likely far hotter than even the hottest day in your hometown.
Death Valley, California
While somewhat disputed, the hottest temperature on record was registered in our very own country. In July of 1913, in Furnace Creek, California, the mercury read 134 degrees F. Some think a sandstorm caused superheated material to confuse the weather equipment. Others think it was just a hotter-than-normal kind of afternoon. Either way, the tiny town within the larger Death Valley is no stranger to scorching weather, registering record temperatures almost annually.
Flaming Mountains, China
You can’t call a range the Flaming Mountains unless they’re practically on fire. The lifeless-looking strip of red topography resides within the Taklamakan Desert and routinely breaks 122 degrees F. And with so much radiation from the rocks, it can often feel hotter. An unverified soil surface reading in 2008 read 152.2 degrees F!
How do locals cope? Long ago, the Chinese would beat the heat with silk or even bamboo clothing. The latter material is still used to cover beds and things like car seats today to insulate from the heat. There’s also a tendency to enjoy a cup of mung bean juice, which is believed to be able to cool your core temperature.
Lut Desert, Iran
Iran’s Lut Desert looks like another planet with its dramatic plateaus and countless colossal sandcastles that dot the salty desert. One of the hottest areas within the Lut is called Gandom Beryan, Persian for “toasted wheat.” It’s believed that here, some wheat was left out and roasted by the sun in a matter of a few days.
The Sahara is the largest hot desert on earth, pretty much making up the entire top half of Africa. It’s a sunbaked mass of some 3.6 million square miles that are easily identifiable from outer space. It’s a place of few clouds and harsh heat. In fact, where there is water, it evaporates at the quickest rate anywhere on earth. There is sand almost everywhere, and it draws heat immensely. Ground temperatures often surpass 170 degrees F in the Sahara, warranting special shoes or, better still, a trusty camel.
El Azizia, Libya
This town of about 25,000 in northwestern Libya was believed to have the hottest temperature recorded on earth for many years until it was disproved back in 2012. Regardless, it’s home to extreme heat, as well as an ancient trade route that led up to nearby Tripoli. The landscape is pretty quintessential when we think of scorching deserts, with its golden sand dunes, occasional oases, and cloudless skies. Here, residents tend to be much more active at night, taking on chores and going to the market in the wee hours when it’s more tolerable outside.
A cactus-strewn expanse in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, the Sonoran Desert bakes. It’s a surprisingly diverse place in terms of biology, and it’s even home to a rare jaguar population. The rather large region is home to Phoenix, a city so hot most simply stay indoors during the summer months. Here, in July, temperatures average in the mid-90s, and it’s quite common to break 115 degrees during peak heat hours.
The heat of Bangkok is a deceptive one. The Thai city is never setting any all-time highs, but it’s so consistently warm year-round that it’s one of the hottest inhabited places around. And there’s often very little relief at night when so many cities cool off. Locals like to combat the warmth with things like boat transit, fresh fruit juices, squirt guns (which are especially popular here), or food dishes that are so often spicy they distract you from the hot weather.
Kuwait City, Kuwait
The capital of Kuwait is one of the hottest cities in the Middle East and the world. With a population of more than 4 million, it’s also one of the hottest metropolises out there. Here, average summer highs hover around the stifling 115 degrees F mark. Strangely, it’s also quite cold during the short winter, with lows dipping into the 40s. The heat, which dominates most of the year, can feel even more extreme due to common sandstorms.
Extremely remote and set in the far north of Ethiopia, Dallol is a tiny village known for setting records. It’s the hottest year-round spot in the world, with the average annual high temperature coming in at a blistering 106.1 degrees F. A study that took place over six years in the 1960s determined that the record low over that stretch was a remarkable 70 degrees F.
Earth’s most famous tropical rainforest may be veiled in trees, but it’s still damn hot and humid. Granted, it’s misty, and rainfall is common, but it’s also very close to the equator and quite toasty. A thick type of heat pervades here, the kind you can feel in your lungs with every breath. With an average temperature of more than 80 degrees F, it’s always warm and amplified by off-the-charts humidity levels.
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