by Maleeha Sambur
I count visiting the otherworldly landscapes of the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile among my most memorable travel experiences, but I can't imagine how incredible it must be to be there right now: The region is suddenly exploding in color after unusually heavy rainfall (caused by El Niño) produced a spring bloom of startling intensity, cloaking the Altiplano in vivid pink hues. It won't last long, however, and I wish I could teleport myself there right now to take it all in.
With an average elevation of 13,000 feet, the Atacama is the world's highest-elevation desert, and also the driest non-polar desert on Earth (central parts of it haven't seen rain in 300+ years). Typically only the hardiest of plant species can survive under such harsh conditions, making this bloom all the more special.
You can read more about it and check out photos at Smithsonian Magazine.