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© Eric Lo | Getty Images

The arid beauty of

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park in the United States is often dismissed as a bone dry and blistering hot place. And although accurate, this certainly doesn’t mean it’s dull and lifeless. Quite the contrary! Few wilderness areas have been so abundantly blessed by Mother Nature. 

Discover Death Valley
Spot On Death Valley 02 Intro Map

A lively landscape

Death Valley is a region of extremes. With more than 2.5 million football fields of protected nature, this is the largest wilderness in the US (excluding Alaska). Death Valley is also the hottest and driest National Park in the country. This is because of its unique setting: the valley – part of the Mojave desert – is surrounded by mountains that block most of the rain showers. Because of these natural rain ‘bouncers’, temperatures can climb above 50 degrees Celsius on an average summer day. 

If you are expecting a monotonous lunar landscape, you will be pleasantly surprised! The menacing name was the brainchild of a group of lost gold seekers with few fond memories of the area, but the park is actually teeming with life. The sun, wind and water have forged a unique landscape, packed with geological highlights.

Destination: Death Valley, USA
Location: on the border of California and Nevada, 260 kilometres west of Las Vegas.
KLM-connection: at least 8 daily flights from Amsterdam to Las Vegas, with only one stop.

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Spot On Death Valley 04 Devils Goldcourse

Devil’s Golfcourse

A golf course made of salt crystals

Picture the worst golf course in the world: rock-hard grass, bumps, cracks and holes everywhere. Can you imagine this? Well, this doesn’t even begin to describe the famous salt plain of Death Valley: a course so jagged that one of the oldest descriptions says that only the devil could play golf here. The salt crystals are a remnant of the ancient salt lake that has evaporated over time. The wind and rain have further eroded the landscape, transforming it into a Swiss cheese. A definite hole-in-one for fans who love intriguing landscapes. 

Spot On Death Valley 05 Darwins Falls Videoloop

Darwin Falls

Cool off in the desert

Darwin Falls is proof that not all water in Death Valley has evaporated: it is one of the loveliest of a handful of waterfalls that splash down the rocks in the park. This 24-metre-high waterfall is fed by an underground spring, ensuring a year-round flow of water. Tucked away in a small gorge, Darwin Falls offers hikers a welcome spot to cool off in the desert. And the surroundings also benefit: around the falls, nature is lush and green and local quails come here to quench their thirst. 

Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View

The most beautiful view in Death Valley

To truly appreciate the arid beauty of Death Valley, one must head to greater heights. For example, Zabriskie Point: the best lookout to admire the National Park in one postcard perfect view. The hills of stone sediment are laid out like a crumpled tablecloth towards the horizon, framed by a cathedral of red rock. Looking for more views? Dante’s View also guarantees a sweeping vista across the valley.

Spot On Death Valley 06 Zabriskie Point

Eureka Dunes

Mysterious humming in the towering sand dunes

Don’t worry, your ears aren’t deceiving you. The monotonous hum you hear in the Eureka Dunes is produced by grains of sand rubbing together in the wind. There are some other interesting aspects to these 200-metre-high sand dunes. Whenever there is a rain shower, the water is sucked up like a sponge and stored below the surface. This allows the Eureka Dunes to sustain three species of plants that only occur on this island of sand in the northern section of Death Valley. The loveliest of the 3 rare species is the Eureka Dunes evening primrose; at night, its white flowers poke out above the sand. 

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Artist’s Palette

Deep purple and pastel green rocks

Just when you think that Death Valley has revealed all of its surprises, there is the wilderness near Artist’s Palette with its dazzling array of colours. Elsewhere, the national park is dominated by grey-brown hues, but here the rocks look as if an enormous painter’s easel has toppled over. Colours range from deep purple to pastel green and from light pink to deep blue, the result of a series of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago that created these layers of stone. Exposure to water caused chemical reactions that gave these rocks their diverse colours.