Rocky desert in Chile turns psychedelic pink

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Visitors look at landscaped fields of Shibazakura (Moss Phlox) flowers at Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture April 30, 2008. Reuters/Issei Kato

Locals in the Atacama have witnessed what is no mean feat in the past few months. After harsh rainfall that caused floods and mudslides in March 2015, Chile’s Atacama Desert seems to have transformed into a psychedelic paradise. Known as one of the driest places on the Earth, the desert is now lush with pink-tone mallow flowers, also considered a symbol of rebirth.

The brilliant display of colour has caught the attention of locals and travellers alike. The first blossom of the year cropped up in March and April, and is now back for springtime in the South American country.

“The intensity of blooms this year has no precedent,” said Daniel Diaz, director of the National Tourism Service in the Atacama, reports Spanish news agency EFE. “And the fact that it has happened twice in the same year has never been recorded in the country’s history. We are surprised.”

More than 200 native plant species have risen, besides the pink mallow, transforming the desert into a stunning psychedelic landscape. The picture perfect sights have already caught the attention of travel enthusiasts.

“The Atacama region was punished, but also blessed by the phenomenon of a flourishing desert, something that happens only after the rains, this time brought about by El Niño and climate change,” Diaz told EFE.

The Atacama Desert, one among Lonely Planet’s top ten places to visit in 2016, is expected to attract about 20,000 tourists seeking nature’s bounty. According to EFE, Atacama is one among only three other classic deserts that bloom at some point in the year, the other two being Australia and the US.

“It is a unique experience and we take the opportunity to document the ecosystem's dynamics, to observe how flowers live and to catalogue them,” tour guide Rodrigo Arcos said, reports EFE.

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