150 Inspiring, Beautiful & Funny Desert Quotes

As a Californian, I learned to love the desert from my aunt, who would go out into the harsh landscapes of Death Valley and Joshua Tree and shoot the lunar, otherworldly landscapes of the desert in stark black and white.

I’d watch, plugging my nose, as she developed those photos in her small Oakland darkroom studio. Like an alchemist, she’d turn nothing special into something incredible: simple white paper into beautiful yet unsettling scenes from another world.

Those photos always fascinated me: the trees like something out of Dr. Seuss book, the vast nothingness dotted by surreal vegetation, the shocking difference it showed to the lush Northern California landscapes of vineyards and redwoods trees. It hardly seemed like it belonged it my home state, yet there it was.

When I finally got out into the deserts of California and the American Southwest, I truly started to understand how absolutely beautiful this part of the world is — and how unforgiving. The colors I had once only seen in black and white came to life, and I realized how unique a place our deserts are.

The desert landscape is full of contradictions: at once beautiful and merciless, blooming and barren, serene and chilling.

It’s a place that will swallow you up if you let your guard down, but also a place that will let your heart expand in a way that few other places on this planet can.

I’ve tried to explain my simultaneous love for the desert and wariness of it so many times, but been unsuccessful. So I’ve curated these beautiful desert quotes that capture its many sides: its beauty and its harshness, its struggles and its gifts, its life and its death.

I hope these quotes about the desert will hopefully inspire you to travel widely and tread lightly in our beautiful deserts. Enjoy!

Psst: I’ve found some great Instagram spots in Joshua Tree that may come in handy, as well as this Palm Springs getaway guide!

Desert Quotes About Its Beauty and Challenges

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“Water, water, water….There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation.” ― Edward Abbey

“Alone in the silence, I understand for a moment the dread which many feel in the presence of primeval desert, the unconscious fear which compels them to tame, alter or destroy what they cannot understand, to reduce the wild and prehuman to human dimensions. Anything rather than confront directly the antehuman, that other world which frightens not through danger or hostility but in something far worse – its implacable indifference.” ― Edward Abbey

“This was the desert, everything all at once, whether it was needed or not. What survived had learned to save, live carefully, and keep a low profile, even appear to be dead for long periods. Perseverance and patience.”― James Anderson

“The desert could not be claimed or owned–it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names… Its caravans, those strange rambling feasts and cultures, left nothing behind, not an ember. ”― Michael Ondaatje

“Simplicity is the heart of everything. If you look to the desert, apparently the desert is very simple but it’s full of life, it’s full of hidden places and the beauty is that it looks simple but it’s complex in the way that it expresses the soul of the world or God.” ― Paulo Coelho

“Night poured over the desert. It came suddenly, in purple. In the clear air, the stars drilled down out of the sky, reminding any thoughtful watcher that it is in the deserts and high places that religions are generated.” ― Terry Pratchett

“In the desert you become a discoverer. You discover your soul, which had been submerged in vain pursuits, which had been lost in the coils and toils of modern life.” ― Ameen Rihani

“The desert and the ocean are realms of desolation on the surface. Both worlds are deceptive, dangerous. Both, seething with hidden life. The only veil that stands between perception of what is underneath the desolate surface is your courage. Dare to breach the surface and sink.” ― Vera Nazarian

“For all the toll the desert takes of a man it gives compensations, deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of the stars.” ― Mary Hunter Austin

“Time has a way of burying things, shifting like the desert and swallowing entire civilizations, erasing them from map and memory. Always, in the end, everything returns to dust.”― Jessica Khoury

“I am convinced now that the desert has no heart, that it presents a riddle which has no answer, and that the riddle itself is an illusion created by some limitation or exaggeration of the displaced human consciousness.” ― Edward Abbey

“I had to clear up my messy life. By letting go of the debris and filth, I have come to a deeper, more soulful beauty and clarity like an oasis in the desert.” ― Sharon E. Rainey

“Your will is free means: it was free when it wanted the desert, it is free since it can choose the path that leads to crossing the desert, it is free since it can choose the pace, but it is also unfree since you must go through the desert, unfree since every path in labyrinthine manner touches every foot of the desert’s surface.” ― Franz Kafka

“No man can live this life and emerge unchanged. He will carry, however faint, the imprint of the desert, the brand which marks the nomad; and he will have within him the yearning to return, weak or insistent according to his nature. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match.” ― Wilfred Thesiger

“I would not sacrifice a single living mesquite tree for any book ever written. One square mile of living desert is worth a hundred ‘great books’ – and one brave deed is worth a thousand.” ― Edward Abbey

“Take care that the voice of God and the Devil sound one in the same in the desert. Trust your instincts. You were not put on this earth to be naïve, blindly optimistic, or passive; you are here to be vigilant, to survive.” ― M.B. Dallocchio

“The desert wears… a veil of mystery. Motionless and silent it evokes in us an elusive hint of something unknown, unknowable, about to be revealed. Since the desert does not act it seems to be waiting — but waiting for what?” ― Edward Abbey

“Why are the desert blooms that spring to life after a monsoon so magnificent? The answer is – their impermanence. The lush growth and blooming flowers do not last very long here in the desert, and this new growth only happens once a year. If this growth was never-ending, we would soon take it for granted. Likewise, our human lives. What makes them so special and unique? Our fleeting impermanence.” ― Alaric Hutchinson

“Life is a desert of shifting sand dunes. Unpredictable. Erratic. Harmony changes into dissonance, the immediate outlives the profound, esoteric becomes cliched. And vice versa.” ― Ella Leya

“We all have our own deserts. That may not be the same as my desert, but we all have to cross them to find a purpose in life and be free.” ― Yeonmi Park

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“All at once the desert was everywhere, and I was overcome with a feeling of relief. Sand, rocks, hills—the whole landscape was tinted the same shade of orange as the sky.” ― Jasmin Darznik

“Desert beauty was ‘sublime’ in the way that the romantic poets had used the word- not peaceful dales but rugged mountain faces, not reassuring but daunting nature, the earth’s skin and haunches, its spines and angles arching prehistorically in sunlight.” ― Julene Bair

“It is easier to accept the message of the stars than the message of the salt desert. The stars speak of man’s insignificance in the long eternity of time; the desert speaks of his insignificance right now.” ― Edwin Way Teale

“From the beginning, the highway has always lacked grace-those who worship desert gods know them to favor retribution over the tender dove of forgiveness… You need a new kind of prayers to negotiate with this land.” ― Luis Alberto Urrea

“I saw the desert, it grew upon me. There are times, when I have sorrows, that I hunger and thirst for it.” ― Isabel Burton

“If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found.” ― Terry Tempest Williams

“In the desert, in the pure clean atmosphere, in the silence – there you can find yourself. And unless you begin to know yourself, how can you even begin to search for God?” ― Father Dioscuros

“This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaro standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite.” ― Dorothy B. Hughes

“I would enter the desert alone, to leave in the sand endless footprints only to be obliterated by the wind, to walk the same path each day expecting the same path tomorrow, and perhaps to cease wondering at the bloom and wither of lilies only to linger for death. But no, even in the desert, I would seek a new sanctuary, to contemplate a grain of sand in a sea of dryness.” ― Leonard Seet

“The vastness of the desert frightened her. Everything looked too far away, even the clouldless sky. There was nowhere you could hide in such emptiness.” ― James Carlos Blake

“It is like being in the desert. At first you listen to the absence of sounds and call it silence. Then suddenly you may be taken by the presence of stillness where you are one with listening itself.” ― Jean Klein

“You get a very different type of education if you go out to the desert, to the places of power, places where it is easy to cross over from one dimensional plane to another, where power hovers, so to speak.” ― Frederick Lenz

“The true call of the desert, of the mountains, or the sea, is their silence – free of the networks of dead speech.” ― Freya Stark

“Across the desolation lay a supreme indifference, the casualness of night and another day, and yet the secret intimacy of those hills, their silent consoling wonder, made death a thing of no great importance.” ― Fante J

“The day here is a something without value, a mere torment suffered by living creatures as they await the night. Night is deliverance.” ― Tayeb Salih

“Drowsing, they take the noble attitude of a great sphinx, who, in a desert land, sleeps always, dreaming dreams that have no end.” ― Charles Baudelaire

“Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.” ― Taisen Deshimaru

“Long before I ever saw the desert I was aware of the mystical overtones which the observation of nature made audible to me. But I have never been more frequently or more vividly aware of them than in connection with the desert phenomena.” ― Joseph Wood Krutch

“It is true there is a scent in the desert, though there may be no flower or tree or blade of grass within miles. It is the essence of the untrodden, untarnished earth herself!” Rosita Forbes

“Too much good fortune can make you smug and unaware. Happiness should be like an oasis, the greener for the desert that surrounds it.” Rachel Field

“I will fill myself with the desert and the sky. I will be stone and stars, unchanging and strong and safe. The desert is complete; it is spare and alone, but perfect in its solitude. I will be the desert.” ― Kiersten White

“The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the physical self. That is what I had experienced in the midst of the Mongolian steppe. How vast it was! It felt more like an ocean than a desert landscape. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, cut its way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon. This was the only perceptible change in the surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love.” ― Haruki Murakami

Love Quotes About the Desert

“The dunes are changed by the wind, but the desert never changes. That’s the way it will be with our love for each other” ― Paulo Coelho

“Love is wild; its whole beauty is in its wildness. It comes like a breeze with great fragrance, fills your heart, and suddenly where there was a desert there is a garden full of flowers.”
― Osho

“Nothing is all bad. There are very beautiful flowers in the desert amidst the spikes and thorns. Just don’t let them take over. In the garden of love there is little room for prickly things.” ― Kate McGahan

“I knew I was a grain of sand in the vast desert that never ended and he was a sparkling star in the sky.” ― Aleena Yasin

“The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.” ― Edward Abbey

“I love like I’m thirsty. Can I offer you a tall glass of Sahara sand?” ― Unknown

“If my love were an ocean, there would be no more land. If my love were a desert, you would see only sand. If my love were a star- late at night, only light. And if my love could grow wings, I’d be soaring in flight.” ― Jay Asher

“It is poetic and lyrical; words that spill forth like cool waters into the dusty dry rock bed of the Soul desiring love. It has been said that I’ve lived in the desert all my life and do not know what it means to be wet.” ― H. Raven Rose

“She thirsted for love, but found only a mirage. Some hearts are a desert you can die wandering in.” ― John Mark Green

“The field of the soul must be watered by the rain with tears of love; otherwise it will become a desert.” ― Sorin Cerin

“In the desert of the heart, tears do not touch the ground.” ― Charles de Leusse

“I was like a desert and she came into my life as the storm” ― Avijeet Das

Short Quotes About the Desert

“Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert.” ― Michael Ondaatje

“On your journey to your dream, be ready to face oasis and deserts. In both cases, don’t stop” ― Paulo Coelho

“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Once again there was the desert, and that only.” ― Stephen King

“Any thoughts of guilt, any feelings of regret, had faded. The desert had baked them out.” ― Stephen King

“If you spend enough time in the desert, you will hear it speak.” ― Nnedi Okorafor

“In the desert, the only god is a well.” ― Vera Nazarian

“A desert is a place without expectation.” ― Nadine Gordimer

“The desert tells a different story every time one ventures on it.” ― Robert Edison Fulton Jr

“If you want water, do not go to desert…” ― Alen Sargsyan

“You can’t fight the desert… you have to ride with it.” ― Louis L’Amour

“In the empire of desert, water is the king and shadow is the queen.” ― Mehmet Murat Ildan

“Being in the desert was brilliant and it was hard.” Toni Collette

“Polish comes from the cities; wisdom from the desert.” ― Frank Herbert

“Let those desert places in our hearts bloom.” ― Pope Francis

“Books are … oases in the deserts of time.” ― Lawrence Clark Powell

“I’ve come to believe that everyone who reaches the best that life holds for him reaches it through some Desert of Waiting.” ― Annie Fellows Johnston

“When you’re in the desert, you look into infinity…. It makes you feel terribly small, and also in a strange way, quite big.” ― David Lean

“The desert still has a memory of water. And that memory is a living thing. It is infused into the sand. It is part of its essence.” ― Thomas Lloyd Qualls

“The deeds of men, as footprints in the desert. Nothing under the circling moons is fated to last. Even the sun goes down.” ― Guy Gavriel Kay

“The desert sharpened the sweet ache of his longing, amplified it, gave shape to it in sere geology and clean slant of light.” ―Jon Krakauer

“So it always is: when you escape to a desert the silence shouts in your ear.” ― Graham Greene

“To say nothing is out here is incorrect; to say the desert is stingy with everything except space and light, stone and earth is closer to the truth.” ― William Least Heat-Moon

“In a heartbeat, he understands why religions are born on the sands – there is nothing here for a man but his own mind.” ― Sara Sheridan

“True understanding lies beyond the desert” ― Bangambiki Habyarimana

“Nobody ever takes from the desert anything but aridity and monsters.” ― John Geddes

“I’m standing in the desert, waiting for my ship to come in.” ― Sheryl Crow

“Desert, in general, is a very good place to find yourself. Or lose yourself.” ― Maynard James Keenan

“If you sing of beauty though alone in the heart of the desert you will have an audience.” ― Khalil Gibran

“The immense desert, empty as a bird’s wing, inspired him with promise.” ― Mike Bond

“This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough” ―Mary Hunter Austin

“A man in a desert can hold absence in his cupped hands, knowing it is something that feeds him more than water.” Michael Ondaatje

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its sweetness on the desert air.” ― Paul Hoffman

“Night comes to the desert all at once, as if someone turned off the light.” Joyce Carol Oates

“A forest is mystery but the desert is truth. Life pared to the bone.” ― Keith Miller

“The desert sky is encircling, majestic, terrible.” Paul Shepard

“The desert is a capricious lady, and sometimes she drives men crazy.” ― Paulo Coelho

“Without music, life is a journey through a desert.” ― Pat Conroy

“The sand doesn’t care if you’re made of flesh or stone.” ― Joaquin Lowe

“The desert’s an old dream of the sea.” ― Holly Ringland

“The desert sings of loss, always loss, and if you stand quiet with your eyes closed, it will grieve you too.” ― Nafiza Azad

“There were no lies here. All fancies fled away. That’s what happened in all deserts. It was just you, and what you believed.” ― Terry Pratchett

“I left a piece of my soul that will always rightfully belong in the desert.” ― M.B. Dallocchio

“Even in the most barren desert one would still feel one’s heart beating.” ― Marty Rubin

“This creed of the desert seemed inexpressible in words, and indeed in thought.” ― T. E. Lawrence

“The breeze across the desert as the light died was so sweet she could almost drink it.” ― Mike Bond

“The desert is a natural extension of the inner silence of the body.” ― Jean Baudrillard

“Magic of the shadows can best be seen in the deserts.” ― Mehmet Murat Ildan

“No law. No order. No time or space. Danger was the desert’s breath, and the landscape changed with every wind.” ― Zita Steele

“The desert, when the sun comes up… I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the Earth began.” ― Tom Hanks

“The desert lay in wait, more infinite than God, no less remote.” ― Debora Greger

“I can speak to my soul only when the two of us are off exploring deserts or cities or mountains or roads.” ― Paulo Coelho

“That’s what [she] liked about the desert, its constant relentless conflict with itself. The desert was unexpectedly beautiful and horrible at once.”
― Joy Williams

“Anything less than the desert was a dream.” ― Kameron Hurley

“I asked him if it were a mirage, and he said yes. I said it was a dream, and he agreed, But said it was the desert’s dream not his.” ― Neil Gaiman

“Madness plants mirrors in the desert.”― Floriano Martins

“Men had always been the reciters of poetry in the desert.” ― Michael Ondaatje

“Let the desert wind cool your aching head. Let the weight of the world drift away instead” ― Beck

“I shivered in those solitudes when I heard the voice of the salt in the desert.” ― Pablo Neruda

“The desert mocked the map-makers.” ― Dean F. Wilson

“Noontime here is like a drug. The light is psychedelic, the dry electric air narcotic. To me the desert is stimulating, exciting, exacting” ― Edward Abbey

“Desert is simply that: an ecstatic critique of culture, an ecstatic form of disappearance.” ― Jean Baudrillard

Funny Desert Quotes

“Out in the desert what doesn’t kill you just pisses you off and will probably kill you the next time.” ― James Anderson

“Are you in a desert? Then be a camel! Be compatible with the reality!”
― Mehmet Murat Ildan

“Maybe that is the one real division between men: wood men and desert men.”
― Kurban Said

“She was beautiful in the way people call the desert beautiful, which is to say that although some people actually believed it, most of the time it was said in response to someone else’s denigration of it.” ― Chris McCormick

“The sand has rules. F***ed up rules, but rules nonetheless.” ― Kameron Hurley

“Shall I run back into the desert … and stay there until the devil has passed out of me and I am fit to meet human kind again without driving it to despair at the first look? I haven’t had enough desert yet.” ― Saul Bellow

“As a remedy to life in society I would suggest the big city. Nowadays, it is the only desert within our means.” ― Albert Camus

“The region is altogether valueless. After entering it, there is nothing to do but leave.” ― Lt. Edward Beale

“It’s like going out to the desert and screaming and then having little kids throw their sandbox at you. I’m only 24.” ― Bob Dylan

“Nothing the desert produces expresses it better than the unhappy growth of the tree yuccas” ― Mary Hunter Austin

“I may be able to spot arrowheads on the desert but a refrigerator is a jungle in which I am easily lost.” ― Edward T. Hall

“I like the desert for short periods of time, from inside a car, with the windows rolled up, and the doors locked. I prefer beach resorts with room service.” ― Anne Lamott

“I bought a cactus. A week later it died. And I got depressed, because I thought, Damn. I am less nurturing than a desert.” ― Demetri Martin

“I guess somebody else made the country in these parts. It’s not nearly so well done. They forgot the water and the trees.” ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Quotes About California’s Deserts

“An afternoon drive from Los Angeles will take you up into the high mountains, where eagles circle above the forests and the cold blue lakes, or out over the Mojave Desert, with its weird vegetation and immense vistas… For this is the real nature of California and the secret of its fascination; this untamed, undomesticated, aloof, prehistoric landscape which relentlessly reminds the traveller of his human condition and the circumstances of his tenure upon the earth.” ― Christopher Isherwood

“On our way back to Los Angeles, we drove down through Grapevine Canyon on the northern end of Death Valley…. Everything was so different from anything I had known back East, and very interesting.” ― Captain Hank Bracker

“Ask the dust on the road! Ask the Joshua trees standing alone where the Mojave begins.” ― John Fante

“We passed the great arid deserts of the West, driving through canyons and beneath rocky outcroppings and over great crevasses. We drove through the Mojave Desert, Owens Valley and Death Valley, and the dust entered our bloodstream and flowed through to every part of our body. The West was both eerie and breathtakingly beautiful, and we wanted to live there forever.” ― Karl Wiggins

“No wonder the film industry started in the desert in California where, like all desert dwellers, they dream their buildings, rather than design them.” Arthur Erickson

“The Anza-Borrego Desert is a place of power, where different planes and realities intersect. It is easier to see and enter into other planes here.” ― Frederick Lenz

“The Mojave is a big desert and a frightening one. It’s as though nature tested a man for endurance and constancy to prove whether he was good enough to get to California.” ― John Steinbeck

“The California I knew, old rancho California, is gone. It just doesn’t exist, except maybe in little pockets. I lived on the edge of the Mojave Desert, an area that used to be farm country. There were all these fresh-produce stands with avocados and date palms. You could get a dozen artichokes for a buck or something. Totally wiped out now.” Sam Shepard

“Within two hours of where I live, you have mountains and desert as location. I like the natural elements that abstract into light, texture, shape and shadow.” Herb Ritts

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