The Hottest Place on Earth and 9 Scorching Contenders

By: Talon Homer  | 
Desert landscape
Iran's Lut Desert, pictured here, could give Death Valley a run for its money as the hottest place on the planet. Alireza Firouzi / Getty Images

When challenged to name the hottest place on Earth, sprawling desert environments like Death Valley or the African Sahara probably spring to mind. However, extreme heat nearly matching those examples can occur on five continents, and some of these hottest places are even densely populated by humans.

Read on to find out more about the hottest places on Earth and how record-high temperatures are, well, recorded.


Where Are Global Air Temperatures the Hottest?

People tend to think of regions near the equator as being the hottest on Earth, and this is true to an extent. However, places near our North and South Poles can still occasionally reach extreme temperatures during the summer months.

In its orbit, the Earth is tilted at a 23-degree angle, compared to the sun's position, and this causes north and south extremes to get much more or much less sun, depending on the season.


On average, temperatures are still much hotter near the equator because its position relative to the sun changes less with the seasons. Climate change is also causing temperatures to trend upward all over the globe, affecting when and where record temps may be recorded.

When it comes to ranking the hottest place on Earth and climate extremes, keep in mind that the data and methods to measure data are ever-changing.

Terrain Matters
  • Deserts, as you may expect, tend to be much hotter in the daytime than biomes near large bodies of water, thanks to their low relative humidity.
  • Regular precipitation has a cooling effect on soil surface temperature
  • Lush plant life helps shade the ground and pull heat-soaking greenhouse gasses from the surrounding air.
  • Low-altitude valleys also tend to be much hotter than high-altitude mountains, due to an increase in air density as you get nearer to the pull of Earth's gravity.

Taking all these factors into account, meteorologists and researchers typically see the highest record temperatures and the highest average temps in locations which are situated near the equator and in flat, low altitude stretches of land.

Inversely, mountainous regions near the North and South Poles tend to be the coldest places on Earth.

How Air Temperature Is Measured

For hundreds of years, the only thing we had to empirically measure air temperature reading was a traditional thermometer, often filled with dangerous mercury.

Nowadays, weather stations run by groups like the World Meteorological Organization have access to measure surface and air temperatures accurately within a fraction of a degree.

The scientific community can also take advantage of satellite measurements. Infrared cameras that orbit high above the planet's surface are able to scan the entire surface of the land below them and track land skin temperatures all over the world.

This allows scientists to monitor temps in potentially dangerous areas without having to build a weather station or travel into dangerous environments like Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

Air Temperature vs. Surface Temperature

As its name suggests, air temperature is a measure of the heat contained within the air over a certain area. Surface temperature (AKA land skin temperature) is measured directly from the ground.

Since surfaces like dark stone or tarmac can become much hotter under exposure to the sun than the air in the same environment, there may be discrepancies of more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit between air and surface temps.

Air temperature is a more accurate data point than land skin temperatures to take when judging the hottest places on Earth, as land surface temperature will tend to vary wildly depending on the surface material and whether or not it is positioned in direct sunlight or in the shade.

That said, surface temperatures are still important to researchers because they help them to track available ground water and potential for plant cultivation in an area.


Officially the Hottest: Death Valley, California

For many decades, Death Valley has been heralded the hottest place on Earth, thanks to it's record-setting hottest temperature recorded at Furnace Creek Ranch in July of 1913. At 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 degrees Celsius), this reading was widely recognized as the highest recorded temperature.

Over 100 years later, similar records have been set inside Death Valley, as well as in other places on this list.


In July of 2023, the National Weather Service station at Furnace Creek recorded a yearly high of 128 F (53.3 C), and air temperatures above 120 F (48.9 C) are extremely common in the Death Valley region during summer months. Average highs rest in the region of 110 F (43.3 C).

Death Valley has surely earned its name, as the extreme heat could easily spell the end of any unwitting traveler.


Hottest Surface Temperature (Potentially): Lut Desert, Iran

In 2021, a satellite indicated readings in Iran's Lut Desert soaring up to 81 C (177 F), making this desert potentially the hottest on Earth, at least as far as surface temperature is concerned.

A field research center would be needed to see if this desert truly shatters Death Valley's record, but one is not likely to be installed, due to the region's remoteness and danger of travel.


As University of Montana's David Mildrexler puts it in interview with NASA. "The Earth’s hot deserts — such as the Sahara, the Gobi, the Sonoran and the Lut — are climatically harsh and so remote that access for routine measurements and maintenance of a weather station is impractical."

Until more data can be obtained from these other areas, Death Valley is still likely to be considered the hottest place on Earth. The margin between the highest temperature at Death Valley and other locales is likely much less than we once thought.


Hottest in Africa: Sahara Desert, Algeria

The Sahara desert spans a huge swathe of Africa, encompassing nearly 10 countries from the east coast of Egypt to the west coast of Mauritania. The largest desert in the world can also be one of the most inhospitable, with high heat and little rainfall at all times of the year.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Africa was taken in the middle of the Sahara, and near the Algerian city of Ouargla.


On July 5, 2018, Ouargla was subject to an extreme temperature of 131 F (55 C), one of the highest figures ever recorded. Average highs in the region exceed 100 F (37.8 C) from June to September, but the climate is typically milder than some of the other hottest places listed here.

Lows may even dip into near-freezing temperatures during the deepest winter months.


Hottest in Europe: Athens, Greece

As one of the most southern regions in Europe, Greece is also among the hottest parts of the continent. Air temperatures between June and September set average highs of about 91 F (32.8 C).

An extreme outlier occurred on July 10, 1977, when the World Meteorological Organization recorded a daily highest temperature of 48 C, or 118 F. Nearly 50 years later, this example remains the highest air temperature ever seen in continental Europe.


Hottest in the Southern Hemisphere: Queensland, Australia

Queensland is one of the most populous regions of Australia as well as the hottest part of Earth's southern hemisphere. In January of 1960, WMO recorded a highest temperature of 51 C (123 F). This record was again matched within 0.1 degrees Celsius in January of 2024.

Due to its location, Queensland is at its hottest during winter for the northern hemisphere. Average daily highs exceed 90 F (32.2 C) from October until March, with the hottest temperatures occurring early in the year. Even during Australia's winter months, temps rarely dip below 50 F (10 C).


Hot 100 Years Ago: Al Aziziyah, Libya

On September 13, 1922, a hottest temperature reading of 58 C (136 F) was recorded in the Al Aziziyah desert just outside of Tripoli. At the time, this was considered the highest temperature recorded.

More recently, however, doubt has been cast about the accuracy of this data compared to modern methods of temperature recording.


Compared to other desert environments, the summers in Tripoli, Libya, are a bit more mild. With average highs ranging from the high 80s to the low 90s F (30 to 34 C) between June and October, occasionally stretching past 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) in the throes of summer.

4 Honorable Mentions

1. Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

This gorgeous environment is consistently known as one of hottest places on Earth. The Danakil Depression has some of the very highest recorded temperatures as well as highest average temperature and daily maximum temperature.

Temps in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit are recorded nearly year round, due to a perfect blend of environmental factors, and it boasts a highest temperature recorded at 125 degrees.


Not only is Danakil located in a low-altitude desert near the equator, but it is also a site of heightened geothermal activity. Hot springs bubble up from the Earth's surface and paint the desert in an array of brilliant colors, making the region a local tourist destination while also keeping it hot year-round.

2. Mitribah, Kuwait

In this weather station situated just between the borders of Iraq and Iran, the World Meteorological Organization recorded a record-setting temperature of 54 C (129 F) in summer of 2016. This record made it the hottest spot in Asia at the time, and it was nearly matched again the following year.

In nearby Kuwait City, the highest average temperatures stay over 100 F (37.8 C) from April to October, peaking at 115 F (46.1 C) around midsummer.

3. New Delhi, India

In addition to being one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, New Delhi is also located in one of the hottest places on Earth. Its official record for highest recorded temperature was set in June of 2024, with air temperatures running in excess of 50 C (122 F).

Scorching temperatures and dense populations together can unfortunately spell danger for the large country. In 2024's early summer alone, up to 50 deaths have been attributed to heat stroke across India. Average temperatures are often around 100 F (37.8 C) between April and August in the Delhi region.

4. Sonoran Desert, Mexico

South of Death Valley is the Sonoran Desert region of Mexico, stretching from Phoenix, Arizona, to Mexico's Baja region. The hottest portion of the Sonoran is likely along the stretch of border between the United States and Mexico, where arid dunes lie surrounded by sheer mountain faces.

Recent satellite imaging by the University of Montana has read surface temperatures in excess of 159 F (70.6 C). These readings could indicate high temperatures near or at Death Valley's levels, but the government does not have a weather station on the ground in order to verify the figures.

Average highs for established towns on the U.S.-Mexico border tend to sit at approximately 90 F (32.2 C) during the summer months.