The Flowering Desert phenomenon is a once in a lifetime experience, a unique and surprisingly colourful spectacular. Once in a rare while, the climate changes to produce rains in the desert which then quickly blooms with the emergence of a wide variety of flowers usually between the months of September and November. This natural event transforms the usually arid landscape into a gigantic multicoloured garden. Some 200 species of flowers have been seen bursting from the sand after five times the annual rainfall in just one month. The event is particularly intense in the coastal area of the region, such as Parque Nacional Llanos de Challe national park, near the city of Vallenar south Copiapó, about 800 kilometres north of Santiago. Flowers are everywhere, emerging from the sand, around cacti, even seeming to sprout out of rocks. Often this event occurs during El Niño years which are every six or seven years. Due to its unpredictability few visitors get to see the event. Also in this region one can visit the Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar, (Sugarloaf Island), which is inhabited by a colony of Humboldt penguins, with clear water beaches where you can dive and fish and observe other animals such as guanacos and foxes. See our Chile holiday ideas.