Torres del Paine National Park

Desierto Florido National Park

The "flowering desert" phenomenon , Atacama, Chile.
The flowering desert, Atacama region.
June, 2023.-
The creation of the Desierto Florido National Park became official only eight months after the proposal by President Gabriel Boric. As a result of intensive work carried out by the Ministerio de Bienes Nacionales (Ministry of National Assets) together with the Ministerio del Medio Ambiente (Ministry of the Environment), the decree was published in the Diario Oficial on June 12, 2023. 

It is worth noting that the creation of this new natural reserve, which covers an area of more than 57,000 hectares in the Atacama region, will protect the flowering phenomenon of the world's driest desert, where every few years some 200 species come back to life. To this end, the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) has 36 months to draw up a National Park Management Plan that includes the measures needed to effectively protect and conserve the area. 

Nevertheless, the peculiar flowering isn't a regular event. The bloom is due to episodic rainfall in the desert area, caused by the influence of the El Niño current, combined with favorable conditions of temperature and humidity that favor the growth of native flora. The desert in bloom sight is mainly concentrated in the coastal area of the region.


Under the right conditions, millions of dormant seeds can germinate due to increased humidity, leading to a proliferation of birds, insects, lizards, and rodents. This is truly an amazing awakening of nature that can transform many areas of the Atacama Desert into what appears to be large agricultural plantations, despite the region's reputation for aridity.

Among the variety of flowers that cover the desert during this period, the most representative are what the locals call "Pata de Guanaco" (Guanaco's Foot, scientific name Calandrinia longiscapa), also the "Añañuca" (whose scientific name is Rhodophiala rhodolirion), the "Garra de Leon" (Bomarea ovallei), light blue and lilac "Suspiros", white and blue "Malvillas", "Orejas de Zorro", etc... 

How to get to Desierto Florido National Park?

The new protected area is located in Copiapo, about 30 kilometers south of the municipality and 85 kilometers north of Vallenar. To get there, you can take a flight to the nearest city, which is Copiapó, once there, you could rent a car or take an organized tour that will take you to the park. 

Another alternative to see the desert in bloom is to go to a city further south, La Serena, and take a full day tour that will take you directly to the commune of La Higuera where you can appreciate another version of the event. 

Other places to observe the curiosity are the Parque Nacional LLanos de Challe, a protected natural area on the coast of the Third Region of Atacama; Parque Nacional Pan de Azucar, located north of the city of Chañaral; Totoral Bajo, Huasco, Carrizal Bajo, Caleta Barco.  

The negative aspect has been the human activity. The number of visitors attracted by the spectacle and the illegal trade of flowers have endangered the regeneration of some species.  However, it is good to know that for years the INIA (Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute), through its Banco de Semillas (Seed Bank), is taking action to keep the seeds out of their natural environment, in botanical gardens to ensure the survival of the species for term not less than 50 years, among other facilities consist of a storage chamber at -18 ° C and 35% RH.

Image: EMOL- Desert in Bloom 
In places where the desert in bloom phenomenon is observed, visitors can hike along trails designed to protect flora and fauna diversity and enjoy panoramic desert views. Campgrounds and shelters are also available. Below are some local tours to enjoy the "desert in bloom":