The Atacama desert in Chile, so dry it is often described as moon-like, has been turned into a giant meadow of bright-colored flowers for as far as the eye can see. For many, it's a once in a lifetime sight.
TALTAL, Chile The Atacama desert in Chile, so dry it is often described as moon-like, has been turned into a giant meadow of bright-colored flowers for as far as the eye can see. For many, it's a once in a lifetime sight.
The desert, an immense, normally rainless plateau, burst into life in recent weeks after rare winter rains brought to life seeds and bulbs of plants that haven't flowered there in over a decade.
"I think I've seen this only twice in my life. ... This time I brought my children so that they could witness this natural phenomenon," said Chilean tourist Antonio Castillo.
The "blossoming desert" occurs in northern reaches of the Atacama only every 10 to 15 years and is caused by particularly heavy rainfall in a region that is normally among the driest in the world.
The southern parts of the desert, which receive rains more often, flower every three or four years, but farther north the phenomenon is much rarer.
Guido Gutierrez, a flora and fauna researcher for the region, said this year has seen the reappearance of some plants native to the region that had been considered extinct.
"This phenomenon is the product of very favorable conditions due to recent rains. This hasn't happened here for 10 years and seeds and bulbs are being allowed to germinate," he told Reuters near the town of Taltal, nearly 700 miles (1,100 km) north of the capital Santiago.
The desert, which contains immense deposits of minerals such as copper, normally has zero humidity. Some parts have not seen rainfall for 400 years.
"I've never seen so many different kinds of flowers, especially in a desert," said 8-year-old Diego Lucas Castillo, visiting with his parents.
For the next couple of months at least, the desert face has been transformed into a collage of color. After that Diego will probably have to wait until adulthood to see it flower again.