Looking at pictures of Chile’s Atacama Desert right now, you would never know it’s one of the driest places on the planet. Normally the landscape is parched and arid. But this year it’s covered in flowers–mauves, reds, yellows, whites–creating a stunning and unusual spectacle.
Heavy rains prepared the ground back in March. The Atacama region saw almost an inch of rain in one day–the equivalent of 14 years of rain in 24 hours.
“This year has been particularly special, because the amount of rainfall has made this perhaps the most spectacular of the past 40 or 50 years,” Raul Cespedes, a desert scientist at the University of Atacama, told AFP.
According to AFP, the flowers include violet-and-white Chilean bell flowers, countryside sighs (Nolana paradoxa), red lion claws (Bomarea ovallei), and yellow Rhodophiala rhodolirion. Because of the intensity of the storms, there were two flowerings: in the winter and now again in the Chilean spring.
“Two flowerings a year is very unusual in the most arid desert in the world, and that’s something we’ve been able to enjoy this spring, along with people from all over the world. There’s a lot of interest in seeing it,” Daniel Diaz, director of the National Tourism Service in Atacama, told AFP.
Meteorologists blame El Niño for the extreme rainfall in Atacama and warn of worse to come as that weather pattern intensifies. But for now, the event is a boon for tourism and a something to marvel at: flowers where flowers don’t normally grow.