The southwestern USA has desert mountains and canyons. They are famous and have extensive tourist infrastructure with national parks, national monuments, state parks, roads, trails, etc. However, they are not unique:

Valles Calchaquíes, Argentina:

Garganta del Diablo
Garganta del Diablo, Valles Calchaques, Argentina (source: Wikimedia Commons).

Tianshan, China:

Tian Shan
Keziliya Canyon, Xinjiang, China (source: Cultural China). Location on Panoramio.

Where is the closest to western Europe to find such landscapes? Southwest USA, Argentina, and China, are all rather far away. Are there similar landscapes closer to western Europe, but mostly overlooked and unknown? What I'm looking for is a landscape that a casual (American) observer, believing the landscapes in xyr country to be unique, might confuse for being in Utah or Arizona. The semi-arid landscape of southern Spain does not meet this criteria. Searching Google Images for Rif or Atlas mountains doesn't really show similar landscapes either — but Google Images is not the most reliable source. Do such landscapes exist in the Sahara or Middle East?

1 Answer 1


There are many other landscapes in the Sahara, although I am not sure whether any of them really fits the bill. I suspect most of it is actually more arid than the American West (but you could perhaps find some similarity with the Death Valley).

Here are a few suggestions (not that most of these places is easy to reach or can boast of any significant tourism infrastructure).


In particular the Guelta d'Archei in Chad. It's a desert canyon but the dromedaries are obviously not typical of the American West.

Guelta d'Archei

Desert plateau with butte

You can find buttes and mesas, other typical landforms of the US west, in the Sahara. For example on the Assekrem plateau (Algeria) in the Hoggar mountains.


Other ideas

Maybe something in Djibouti or the Wadi Rum in Jordan? Also, Saklıkent Canyon in Turkey (not very arid, perhaps slightly reminiscent of Zion canyon, although I am not sure whether that's what you are after).

Here is Petra in Jordan (which is of course famous for its rock-cut architecture, again not necessarily something you would associate with the American West):

Petra (Jordan)

(All pictures are from Wikimedia Commons: Guelta d'Archei, Assekrem, Petra)

  • Great! Now it's just a matter of studying if anyone in any of those areas is likely to abduct heathen tourists from sinful countries...
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 23:22
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    @gerrit Petra should be easy, the rest not so much!
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 23:25
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    Yup, Petra's a massively popular welll-established tourist attraction and Jordan (so far, touch wood) has a good track record for safety and security. Djibouti and Turkey are pretty secure. The rest I believe are out in pretty lawless areas where banditry etc are an issue... Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 8:29
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    I could add the Omani Jebal Shams to your list, but it's not as near as Petra.
    – Alexander
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 12:16

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