Open Journal of Geology, 2014, 4, 249-261
Open Journal of Geology, 2014, 4, 249-261
Published Online June 2014 in SciRes.
How to cite this paper:
Yazdi, A., Emami, M.H. and Shafiee, S.M. (2014) Dasht-e Lut in Iran, the Most Complete Collection
of Beautiful Geomorphological Phenomena of Desert. Open Journal of Geology,
Dasht-e Lut in Iran, the Most Complete
Collection of Beautiful Geomorphological
Phenomena of Desert
, Mohammad Hashem Emami
, Seyed Mohsen Shafiee
Department of Geology, Kahnooj Branch, Islamic Azad University, Kerman, Iran2
Department of Geology, Islamshahr Branch, Islamic Azad University, Islamshahr, Iran
Received 13 March 2014; revised 12 April 2014; accepted 20 April 2014
Copyright © 2014 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).
Given special tectonic and climatic conditions, Iran has the most diverse land-forms and beautiful
geological phenomena, which could attract many scientific, adventurous tourists and geological
researchers. The present study aims at studying and introducing wonderful geomorphological at-
tractions and numerous geotourism potentials of very hot paradise of the earth, e.g. Dasht-e Lut of
Iran, a desert which contains a collection of exclusive desert relieves and geological and geomor-
phological records of the world. Such unique perspectives as the biggest Nebkhas of the world, the
largest Yardangs or Kaluts of the world, the hottest point of the earth, as well as rare species of
desert structures such as salt marshes and salt polygons, Gandom Beryan Hill, massive sand dunes,
Barchans, clay zones in pretty shapes, saline river , etc., present a vast and diverse extension of
geographical beauties and phenomena of the desert. Using library studies, interpretation of satel-
lite images and field studies, this study has been conducted. The results of the studies show that
Lut Desert has considerable capability for carrying out complementary studies as well as effect on
economic development process in national and international levels. In addition, geotourism de-
velopment obstacles in Lut Desert are identified, and such solutions as development of ways for
access to attractions, erection of geotourism development centers, advertisement and introduc-
tion of the desert's attractions, dispatch of guides with tourists, promotion of the region security,
extension of accommodations and… for better use of the potentials of the desert, are provided.
Furthermore, towards developing the region geotourism, some other fun and exciting activities
such as sand skiing, racings and desert rallies, endurance cycling, sun bath, star observation, ca-
mel riding and so on, are suggested. Obviously, having various desert attractions and multiple
geotourism potentials, Dasht-e Lut has the capability of being considered among global geoparks
A. Yazdi et al.
Geomorphology, Geotourism, Dasht-e Lut, Deserts, Kalut, Iran
Iran has rich culture and outstanding landscapes. Its diverse cultural and natural features have ranked Iran
among the world’s first ten best tourist destinations (F. Frangilli, World Tourism Organization Secretary Gener-
al, 2004). Iran’s archaeological, cultural, natural, and geological attractions contribute to the development of
geotourism (Amrikazemi and Mehrpooya, 2006),
Iran is located in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and its geological features were studied by many research-
ers; it has also been called the “geologists’ heaven”(Amrikazemi2009),
. Iran has original and appealing geo-
logical structures and zones, various climates and diverse geographical features, including high mountain ranges
peaks, vast expanses of desert, long rivers, and permanent glaciers.
Desert land forms cover twenty-five percent of Iran’s area. These lands include a unique collection of geo-
morphological phenomena. Dasht-e Lut and Dasht-e Kavir are Iran largest deserts. This paper investigates
Dasht-e Lut’s geomorphological features and its attractions in detail. The word Lut means barren in a way thatlacks everything. In other words, it lacks vegetations and water, two vital factors for the survival of humans and
animals; as a result, some indigenous people were and still are afraid to go to this area. Therefore, this wonderful
land has still remained somehow unknown to researchers.
2. Research Method
This article is applicable and developing one and the used research method is descriptive analytic. According to
the variant library studies, interpretation and analysis of satellite images for the studied areas and field studies
are used for this purpose.
3. Geotourism Concept
Geotourism has a defined boundary that geological tourism is on its center of attraction (Newsome & Dowling,
and is surveying the complications associated with the ground, geomorphological situation, geostruc-
tural phenomena and their tourism capability. From the viewpoint of Gates (2006)
, geotourism means “tour-ism in geological landscapes”. Moreover, it can be said that geotourism is a responsibly and conscious tourism
in the nature with the aim of visiting and recognizing the geological processes and phenomenon as well as
learning the way of their forming and evolution (Amrikazemi, 2009),
. According to the provided definitions,
geotourism is not only a new section in tourism market, but also it is considering a guideline for helping to
maintenance the inanimate life and sustainable development. Most of geotourism audiences are not just geolo-
gist but also they are friends of nature. Therefore, geotourism tries to make the land visiting targeted via creation
and defining geosites (a place that has uncommon shapes and interesting geological and geomorphological
processes) and geoparks (a place that has one or several unique geological phenomenon as well as considerable
natural and cultural attractions) and prevent the geological heritage via humans.
4. Dasht-e Lut Location
Dasht-e Lut in some scientific sources was also called the Lut Hole is located between the latitudes of
28 to 32degrees N. It has 900 kilometers long from north to south, and it has 200 to 300 kilometers width from west to
east. It is 199,000 square kilometers in area, which covers a region surrounded by South Khorasan Province,
Sistan va Baluchistan, and Kerman (
Considering the Dasht-e Lut’s structural location, it is surrounded by from east by Nehbandan Fault and the
flyscharea in the east of Iran, from west by Nayband Fault and the block of Tabas, from north by the graben in
the south of Kashmar, and from the south by Jazmoryan’s pit in the west of Baluchistan (Stocklin et al., 1973),
. This area is massive and prone to earthquakes (Moatamed 1973),
This deep low-lying land which is at least 185 meters below the sea level experienced prevailing and rather
A. Yazdi et al.
Dasht-e Lut’s (lut desert) location in Iran.
strong winds blowing from east to west. These winds took 120 days long during the year called Sistan’s one-hundred-and-twenty-day winds, play a major role in creating morphological structures across the lut desert
(Dasht-e Lut) ( Rahnama Rad and Saheb Zade 2010),
5. GeologyStocklin in 1968 believe that Lut block could be divided in to two parts, Eastern part and western part. Camel
mountain range (shotori mountain range) is regarded as the boundary between two parts. The new evaluations
revealed that the mentioned parts are completely different from each other considering petrologic properties. In
addition, various seismo tectonics movements were seen in two parts that make difference between two parts.
Dasht-e-Lut includes volcanic rocks of Tertiary system with approximately 2000 m thickness. The volcanic
rocks cover more than half of Lut block. Lake deposits in the area called Lut formation representing folding of
the block (Aghanabati, 2004),
6. Geographical Position
This beautiful and varied land is a display of the most wonderful desert-related structural phenomena and fea-
tures which their study can be of value to geology and geography researchers as well as geotourism lovers. Re-
garding Dasht-e Lut’s geomorphological structures, we can study it into three geographical areas: Northern,
Central, and Southern Lut(Ibrahimzade 2009),
. they are also called Birjand or Khorasan’s Lut, Lut’s Central
Hole, and Zangi Ahmad Lut respectively (Rounaghi, 2012),
6.1. Northern Lut
The northern part of the Lut is a quite high, vast and triangular plain which three different areas—including Deh
Salam, Godar-e baroute, and Mt. Morghab, are located at various points. It may be possible to consider the road
from Shahdad city to the Nehbandan as the boundary between Northern and Central Lut. The height of Northern
Lut changes from about 600 hundred meters in the southern areas to one thousand meters in the northern and
western areas (
). A large part of Northern Lut is made of scattered volcanic and sedimenta-
ry single mountains and hills (Nabavi 1984),
. There are not many drifts of sand in this area, and most of the
plain is covered with sand and volcanic gravel.
6.2. Central Lut
This area is the largest and the most wonderful part of Dasht-e Lut. The northern part of Central Lut is about 600
meters in height which decreases as it stretches to the south. The lowest point of Iran’s internal flats is located in
the Kaluts’ area, being only 185 meters above the average of sea level. There are some scattered mountains in
Central Lut which are mainly volcanic and follow a north-to-south pattern. These mountains are located in the
northeast part of Central Lut and in the west of Rig-e Yalan. Some scattered mountains can be seen near the
A. Yazdi et al.
Satellite image of Dasht-e Lut and its nota-
ble morphologic parts.
border of Northern and Central Lut. Regarding Central Lut’s important geologic structures, we can name Mt.Malek Mohammad in the west of Rig-e Yalan and Mt. Simourgh in the north of Central Lut (Yazdi, 2012),
Thus, we can divide Central Lut into five parts based on its structural appearance:
-There is a massive and tremendous flat plain in the center, which is entirely covered with both volcanic gra-
vel and stone (called Hamada) and gypsum gravel and stone. This area is located between sand dunes in the east
and the Kaluts in the west of Lut. Some researchers believe this area lacks life (
There are lands covered with salt and gypsum lands
scattered in the central area, Malek Mahmoud Hole in thewest of Rig-e Yalan.
-There are clayey lands hosting short life vegetation and mainly exist in the north and south of Lut.
-There are sandy lands in the eastern part also known as Rig-e-Yalan they are scattered between the Kaluts in
-In the west, there are huge dunes of clay which were formed into various beautiful shapes as a result of ero-
sion; they are known as Kalut.
6.3. Southern Lut
The southern part of Lut, known as Zangi Ahmad Lut, is an extensive plain which its northern border is a line
joining the village of Gorg in the east of Lut to the village of Kashit in the west of Lut. Its southern border is the
mountains of Azar located between Bam and the Bam-Zahedan route. This part of Lut mainly includes flat
The vegetation of Southern Lut is magnificent. Except the eastern and western parts of Central Lut, Southern
Lut has the highest amount of vegetation of the Lut Hole. The vegetation is mainly seen in the northern, central,
western, and southwest areas while the southern and southeast areas have poor vegetation; some large areas even
lack vegetation entirely. In these parts, south and southeast, which are almost covered with Hamada, some indi-
vidual plants can be seen far from each other. In the south of Southern Lut, Dasht-e Bam and Narmashir are lo-
cated which are comprising the part of the Lut Hole. The surface of this area is covered with scattered sand hills
and moving sand (Rounaghi, 2012),
7. Geotourism Attractions Lut Desert
The features and the beautiful shapes of the desert will be described in the following, these features and scenes
can be a great source of joy and excitement to geotourists.
7.1. Sand Hills
In the east of Dasht-e Lut Mt. Sistan and Mt. Khorasan, there are a large number of various sand structures
which cover an area of 10,000 square kilometers; the local people call this area Rig-e Yalan. It resembles a rec-
tangle. It is about 150 kilometers long from north to south, and 70 kilometers from east to west. The sand hills
vary in height; they sometimes reach 500 meters (Rounaghi, 2012),
Some researchers believe that these sand pyramids are the biggest in the world, in fact, they are ranked in the
A. Yazdi et al.
Hamada in Iran’s central Lut.
Dasht-e Lut’s sand dunes (Rig-e Yalan).
third place since the sand hills of Cerro Blanco—being 1176 meters high—in Peru and the sand hills of Badian-Jaran—being 550 meters high—in Mongolia are in the first and second place respectively (Yazdi, 2012),
In addition, there are scattered sand hills with different shapes, crescent-shaped hills called Barchan and
sword-shaped hills called Seif (
). On the surface of these hills, there are beautiful scenes of
ripple marks which are created by the wind. Therefore, in addition to the beautiful scenes of these hills, they
make a great place for skiing on sand.
In desert areas and especially in soft lands, the soil is drifted which results in the formation of small hills and
long elongated furrows called Yardang. These furrows can be seen in the south of Dasht-e Lut (
Dasht-e Lut’s special features are the existence of the world’s biggest Nebkahs (with regard to the height and
vastness) in its west side. In fact, plant traps or Nebkhas are a feature which is mostly created in areas where
there are wind-drifted sediments. They are created when sand and gravel are trapped by tamarisk trees; these
structures are also called Nebkha’s Plan Pot which can be seen at 30 kilometers away far from Shahdad (near the
village of Karim Abad). Nebkhas consist of sand, clay, and silt. Nebkhas are usually created in flat areas—with
an average level of sand—where the groundwater level is high or there is enough moisture for plants to grow.
Sometimes, the Nebkhas in Lut grow ten meters in length, and some of them stretch over an area of 40 meters
while the longest Nebkhas in Sahara only grow up to three meters long. Nebkhas go through different stages-
from their time of creation until they are fully-grown, during their lifetime. It also appears that Lut’s Nebkhas
can grow fully (
A. Yazdi et al.
Dasht-e Lut’s sand dunes, Barchan and ripple marks.
Seif in Rig-e Yalan area.
Figure 7.Dasht-e Lut’s Yardangs.
The construction of Nebkahs in Dasht-e Lut.
A. Yazdi et al.
Rebdous (large salt pots) differ from Nebkhas considering its larger size. They vary from 2 to 7 meters in length
and from 1 to 5 meters in width. Considering their larger size, Rebdous look more complicated, they can some-
times be seen as several contiguous cones. The highest Rebdou can be seen in the west of Lut, with a height of
One of the most exciting geomorphological structures of Lut is the special bumps called Kalut which is the big-
gest natural clod structure in the world; they are the most unique structures in the desert. Kaluts are similar to
parallel tunnels which are positioned from northwest to northeast. Kaluts are 80 kilometers in width, 150 kilo-
meters in length, and in some cases 120 meters high; they are located in the west of Central Lut at a distance of
43 kilometers from Shahdad. From a distance, Kaluts look like the ruins of a big legendary city with grand pa-
laces and buildings both short and high. In fact, these Kaluts were created by the wind and rain, and they are
very attractive (Moatamed, 1973),
The results of studies have shown that erosion and the drifting of sand from the Kaluts into the holes of Lut’s
structures were performed periodically (Khosravi, 1998),
. In fact, their structures show that erosion causedby either the wind or rain happened simultaneously or in consecutive dry or rainy periods (Rahnama Rad and
. Between kaluts, there are salty desert lands similar to polygons or plowed lands—thisis due to the high level of groundwater and gypsum. Below the ground surface of these areas—10 to 20 centi-
meters deeper there are hard layers of different salts: calcium, sodium, and magnesium (Rahnama Rad and Sa-
Special guest houses with traditional design were built near the Kaluts so that the traditional and natural
structure of the area would not be disturbed.
Dasht-e Lut’s Kaluts.
Figure 10.Satellite image of Kaluts.
A. Yazdi et al.
7.6. Camel-Foot Plain (Dasht-e-Pashotori)
The shapes of the surface of the lands resemble a land which becomes wet after raining, and then some camels
walking over the land (
7.7. Lut Beautiful Salt Lands
In areas where salt water accumulates or places that are affected by salt groundwater, salt lands of various
shapes are formed (
), which can be classified according to their appearance.
Oval Plains: Egg-shaped forms created in salty ground. The salt on the ground surface is formed into the
shape of an egg (an ostrich egg) which is quite unique in the world.
Spring Plains: The area looks like covered with springs while there is no water in the area.
Plowed Plains: These areas look like farm lands which have been plowed (
Stalagmite Salt Lands: The salt on the surface of these areas looks like stalagmite or salt spikes which beauti-
fully appear on the surface of the land.
Figure 11.Dasht-e Lut’s camel—foot plain (Dasht-e-pashotori).
A beautiful image of Dasht-e Lut’s salt land.
Figure 13.Puffed salt-clay desert land, south lut.
A. Yazdi et al.
7.8. The Hottest Place on Earth
The theory that Lut is the thermal center of the earth was proposed by Professor Stratil Sauer from the Universi-
ty of Vienna in Austria in 1952. After some aerial analysis, the west part of Nosrat Abad, Rig-e Yalan intro-
duced as the hottest place on earth. Theodore Mono confirmed the mentioned area among the hottest places on
earth. According to NASA’s maps, the hottest temperature on earth (70.7 centigrade Celsius) was recorded in
the lowest area of Lut—an area in the east of Kaluts—in 2005 (Solouti and Babaniavardi 2011),
. Likewise,Iranian researchers, including Professor Kardavani and Mahmoudi believe the hottest place of earth is located
somewhere in this desert (Kardavani1973),
. Due to extreme heat, the best months to visit Dasht-e Lut
are from November through February. It borders the cold area of Sirch with cool and pleasant weather, and sev-
eral water resources.
7.9. Shoor River
This River is the only permanent river which runs deeply in Dasht-e Lut and has of water all the year. It origins
from the northwest mountains in Birjand, and after flowing through its bendy path in the desert, ends up in the
salty mountain and salty mine of Shahdad (
Its water is very salty, and as it moves closer to Lut’s Central Hole the amount of its minerals increases due to
evaporation and passing through salt land. Its water becomes so salty that no plants can be found for kilometers
downstream. In addition, before it reaches the salt mine due to the increased amount of salt, the water of the riv-
er became very viscous. This results in some unique scenes around this river (
the level of droughts in recent years, the river has not stopped flowing.
7.10. Gandom Beryan Hill
This hill is located in 80 kilometers of north of Shahdad, it extends over an area of about 200 square kilometers;
the local people also call this area Rig Soukhteh. The surface of the hill is covered with black volcanic lava. The
existence of yellow soil around the mountain foot near the black basaltic rocks has turned this place into one of
the beautiful attractions of Dasht-e Lut. During summer the temperature of the area varies from 65 degrees Cel-
sius, in the shade, to about 100 degrees Celsius on volcanic rocks, due to their black color, they tended to absorb
more sun’s energy (
Rood-e shoor (Shoor River) in Dasht-e Lut.
The beautiful crystals of gypsum in lut desert.
A. Yazdi et al.
In the Gandom Beryan area, the extreme conditions do not allow the existence of any animals or plants. Based
on the performed research in the area, the corpses of livestock which were left in the area by passing trucks did
not decompose; they were only dried due to extreme heat. Some people say that there are even no bacteria in this
area, but recently two unknown insects—probably belonging to the spider species—were found, which are cur-
rently being studied by researchers.
The highest points of this hill are located in its east, 437 meters high, and in its northwest, 483 meters above
the sea level.
there are numerous beautiful geomorphological phenomena in Dasht-e Lut, including forty quaternary volca-
no craters (
), vast areas of sand and pebble—called Godar-e Baroute—changing in color from light
brown to gray and black, wavy areas of sand and ripple marks, salt polygons, beautiful scenes of mud cracks,
Another one of Lut’s notable wonders is the remnants of a civilization dating back to 3000 B.C. Archaeologi-
cal excavations in the south of Shahdad found pottery and bronze objects in an old residential area which ex-
tended several kilometers in length and width; all of this points to the existence of an ancient city with a civiliza-
tion with thousands of years’ background.
Rare scenery along rood-e shoor (shoor river).
Gandom Beryan hill.
Volcanic crater in Gandom Beryan area.
A. Yazdi et al.
8. Solutions to Geotourism Development in Dasht-e Lut
8.1. Develop and Build Ways for Access to Lut Desert’s Attractions
Roads are one of the most important infrastructures of tourism development in each region. Unfortunately, the
only entrance to this region is Shahdad-Kaluts asphalted road, that after passing the area of Kaluts, this road
continues as a dirt road through Nehbandan County. Obviously, this road is not sufficient for access to the at-
tractions of a vast desert like Lut. By building new paths, the possibility of control and management of this area
would be provided, that will be one of the most important solutions to developing geotourism industry in this
8.2. Build Geotourism Development Centers in Provinces Bounded by Lut Desert
Since Lut Desert locates between Kerman, Sistan and Baluchestan, and South Khorasan Provinces, some geo-
tourism development centers can be built in each of these provinces. In case of establishing such centers, with a
deliberate planning, the way can be paved for interpreting geotourism regions of Lut Desert, education and
training of geotourism guides, preparation of signposts and so on, which in turn having considerable effect on
development of this industry.
8.3. Presentation of Wonderful Attractions of Lut Desert to Tourists from Other
Countries through Advertisement
By erecting geotourism development centers, with cooperation of such organizations as the Cultural Heritage
and Tourism Organization, the Geology Organization and…, this region can be presented and thus attracting
Iranian and foreign tourists. Given the fact that in many countries, there are no arid regions and desert land-
forms, through presentation and advertisement development, geotourists can be encouraged to visit the relieves
of Iranian deserts, that is a factor affecting geotourism development.
8.4. Dispatch Guides with Geotourists to the Region
Since Lut Desert is a broad and arid plain with its own risks, it is recommended that, along with tourists, some
trained individuals are dispatched so that geotourists can visit the attractions with a more correct planning with-
out any concern. These guides must be fluent in English and familiar with the geographical, geological and to-
pographical situation of the region, the roads, location of water fountains, natural attractions of Lut Desert and
distance between them, astronomy and stars’ situation in different seasons, as well as familiar with various ani-
mals, reptiles, insects, and treatment of their bites.
8.5. Fight Bandits and Promote Security of Lut Desert
Since Lut Desert was the place for passing some smugglers and bandits in the past years, the police have taken
considerable actions to promote security of this region. However, for full security of tourists and promoting se-
curity of the region, the police should accompany them for their peace of mind. Obviously, this will increase
eager of the enthusiasts to visit and develop geotourism.
8.6. Erection of Accommodations for Tourists
The only accommodations in Lut Desert are desert camps which are made of natural materials and built in the
proximity of Kaluts. Given the economy of building such accommodations, building such camps in the other re-
gions of Lut Desert will considerably influence geotourism development of this area.
Finally, deserts of Iran and in particular Lut desert (Dasht-e-Lut) include a wide number of geological and
geomorphological phenomena that every visitors would like to see. Consequently, if more attention is paid to
Dasht-e Lut, it can be turned into the most important tourist attraction for those interested in the desert, and it
can help the country’s economy.
The block of Lut is the huge desert in Iran, which is located between two faults: Nehbandan and Nayband. Due
A. Yazdi et al.
to a number of reasons, the special geological structure of this area, the 120-day winds blowing from Sistan and
erosion associated with it. Various wonderful morphological phenomena were created in this area, including
enormous sand pyramids, huge and wonderful Kaluts, the largest Nebkhas, beautiful salt lands, mud cracks and
all other wonderful geological phenomena. This desert has become one of the world’s most famous deserts due
to the mentioned features as well as the following items: being one of the hottest places on the earth and hosting
civilization with thousands of years’ background. The number of Dasht-e Lut’s morphological features has
turned it into a natural academy for geography and geology researchers and lovers. All of these points to the fact
that Lut has great potentials, with regard to tourist attractions. Furthermore, due to a number of factors, includ-
ing the existence of two natural impassable areas (Rig-e Yalan and Kaluts) in the east and west of Lut, consi-
dering the lack of vegetation and drinking water, extreme heat and vastness, it is impossible to visit all its parts.
As a result, it is regarded as one of the world’s most mysterious places. Therefore, due to the mentioned points,
the dangers involved in visiting the area, and the particular excitement involved in desert, Dasht-e Lut is as-
sumed as an adventurous unique desert. Therefore, the authors propose this area as an international Geopark to
the responsible organizations. Also, Dasht-e-Lut is a place that has all exceptional geomorphologic structures of
desert together in its region. It could be recommended as an international Geopark to UNESCO.
Considering all the geological and morphological attractions mentioned above, there are other exciting activities
parallel to geotourism attractions of Dasht-e-Lut, which can be follow. The following is a list of recreational ac-
tivities that could be done in Dasht-e-Lut:
-Using sand dunes for having fun, for example sliding.
-Enjoying the sunny weather and fresh atmosphere, especially for tourists who are interested in sunbathing.
-Walking and long-distance cycling in parts of the desert.
-Enjoying Dasht-e-Lut’s sky: clean air, less moisture, tranquility, and observing astronomical constellations
for astronomy researchers.
-Car Racing and car-related entertainment.
-Skiing on sand.
The authors thank all editors and referee for their invaluable contributions and comments that certainly helped to
improve the quality of this study.
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