Desert in bloom: The el Niño miracle

Thanks to the El Niño current weather phenomenon, every now and then the desert bursts into bloom. A breathtaking display.

Desierto Florido
Desierto florido. Foto: Joselyn Anfossi Mardones

It seems like a miracle. The El Niño current weather phenomenon makes rain in the desert just so many times per decade. The desert blooms, hundreds of flowers break out of the typical aridity and dust. A burst of color and an unbelievable display.

It looks like a miracle: a sea of purple flowers and tall red añañuca flowers. Almost a surreal vision, a painter’s dream. Thousands flock to the Atacama Region when the desert is in bloom. One of the best places to appreciate the desert in bloom is Huasco, a small port exploration parties can set out from. This is an exceptional natural wonder; huge, intense patches of flowers such as pussypaws (Cisanthe grandiflora), morning glories (Ipomoea spp.) Lily of the Incas (Alstromeria), garras de león (Bomarea ovallei), senecios, terciopelos (Argylia radiata) and añañucas.

Take Highway 5 North as far as kilometer 668 to Llanos de Challe National Park, 17 kilometers north of Vallenar.

The park has little infrastructure for tourists. To ensure a safe stay, information can be requested at the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf) park warden station where the Carrizal and Pedernales gorges come together.

Two hiking trails start from this station and are perfect for getting to know the park. Nature leaves no warning, the desert just surprises us one day by bursting into bloom; but when it does, do all you can to see it firsthand.