An incredible spectacle has bloomed in Chile's Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world.
Heavy seasonal rainfall in the northern half of Chile, which caused severe flooding in May, has created something truly beautiful. The country’s Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world, has sprouted a carpet of gorgeous pink wildflowers. One of only three deserts in the world that naturally blooms, the miles of psychedelic wonderland are actually mallow flowers, which bloom every five to seven years, typically based on El Niño. This year, the bloom is arriving months earlier than expected—and off the usual five year schedule. The last desert bloom occurred in 2015.
Stretching from the northern coast of Chile into southern Peru, the Atacama holds the record for the world's longest dry streak, having gone 173 months without a drop of rain in the early 20th century. There are some spots of the Atacama where rainfall has actually never been recorded and the area is usually used as a stand-in for Mars, both in films and NASA rover experiments. The last time the flowers bloomed en masse, just two years ago, it was after a March storm brought 0.96 inches of rain in a single day. While this doesn’t seem like that much, 0.9 inches accounts for over 14 years' worth of rain in one day, according to the Washington Post.
For those who want to see the flowers in person, which cover the 600 miles of land, head to Chile now. The expanse will begin to lose its flourish in early November. Since different species germinate at different times, there's a chance the color of the bloom will change over the next few months, too. The area is also famous for its incredible stargazing: With so few sustainable cities in the desert, light pollution is nearly non-existent, making the Atacama a favorite of astronomers.
If planning a trip to South America in the next week or so seems out of reach, think closer to home. The California and Utah deserts also sprout wildflowers come spring and summer, but the season is much more short-lived.
This article has been republished from www.cntraveler.com