The Desert Become a Wonderland
The Atacama Desert is a plateau in South America, covering a 1,000-kilometre (600 mi) strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains. It is the driest non-polar desert in the world. According to estimates the Atacama Desert proper occupies 105,000 square kilometres (41,000 sq mi), or 128,000 square kilometres (49,000 sq mi) if the barren lower slopes of the Andes are included. Most of the desert is composed of stony terrain, salt lakes (salares), sand, and felsic lava that flows towards the Andes.
Chile’s Atacama Desert, known as one of the planet’s driest places, received a battering dose of rain this March, which caused mudslides, floods, nearly 30 deaths and homelessness.
Despite the tragedies, plus more rains in August, the severe weather has since transformed the desert into a lush landscape of pink-tone mallow flowers — a stunning display of color, not to mention a powerful symbol of rebirth ― which travelers can now visit.
The first posse of blossoms cropped up in March and April, autumn for the South American country. Now they’re back for Chile’s springtime.
“The intensity of blooms this year has no precedent,” Daniel Diaz, National Tourism Service director in Atacama, told Spanish news agency EFE. “And the fact that it has happened twice in the same year has never been recorded in the country’s history. We are surprised.”
The floral phenomenon — where dormant seeds bloom in spring after high rainfall events — is known as desierto florido, or flowering desert.
Some 20,000 tourists are expected to come visit the desert’s flower-filled fields. The spectacle will not last for much longer as the landscape is expected to return to normal from November.
It’s a rare event, given that there are only two other countries in the world where deserts can give way to such lush sights: the United States and Australia.
It’s not just the pink mallow flowers — the rains also gave rise to over 200 other native plant species that pepper the land with additional hues and scents.
Perhaps it’s no wonder Lonely Planet named Atacama one of the 10 major destinations for 2015.