There has been rain in the Atacama this year and we are offering this flash tour to anyone wishing to experience a phenomenon that only comes around every five years or so. Chris counts himself fortunate to have seen this wonderful display twice before and although knowing exactly which areas will be best is unpredictable, reports from Chile suggest this is going to be a good flowering desert season. With some certainty the displays around Vallenar will be spectacular and as will coastal locations as far north as Antofagasta. Previous visits to Vallenar and Copiapo found sheets of pink Cistanthe longiscapa stretching to the horizon, punctuated by the odd passing train! Select locations will have the remarkable Bomarea ovallei, an extreme alstroemeria-relative with big heads of blood-red flowers that trails across the rocky desert or over huge multi-headed Copiapoa dealbata cacti that are over a hundred years old. Sites around Taltal are renowned for their diversity of desert flora, with sweeping views down to the Pacific coast. Various and vivid Rhodophiala, Argylia and Leucocoryne will be out en masse, among sheets of blue nolanas, decorating normally barren cactus strewn slopes with colour. Time will be spent farther south too, where Mediterranean climate areas will be green and flowery, the scrub strung with tropaeolums and many alstroemerias will be coming into flower. This is a unique and seldom offered tour. Our first trip is full but we have a second the following week. Remember it could well be 2027 when the next rain comes!
A 10-day tour with Chris Gardner.
Day 1 Arrive Antofagasta (29 September)
After arriving in Santiago, you will take an internal flight north to Antofagasta, where you will meet up with Chris. If we arrive in time then we can have a quick look at nearby La Chimba. Overnight Antofagasta
Day 2 Paposo
Our route south will take in areas to the south of Antofagasta and overnight at a simple hotel in Taltal. Expect to see the vivid pink Rhodophiala laeta, Alstroemeria violacea, Leucocoryne spp abundant Argylia radiata and more. Overnight Taltal.
Day 3 Pan de Azucar
A botanically rich national park with large cacti populations and there should be abundant Argylia radiata, showy blue Nolana rupestris, yellow Cistanthe littoralis, Cristaria spp, and more. The diminutive Eriosyce oederi occurs here, only revealing its’ whereabouts by its lovely pale yellow flowers. We will walk up to a fine view point along the coast and see big colonies of Copiapoa cinerea too. Overnight Copiapo.
Day 4 Copiapo area
A second day to look around this area for big flower displays and more. Overnight Copiapo.
Day 5 To Vallenar
We’ll take the back road to Llanos de Challe, passing big drifts of Cistanthe spp., Nolana acuminata, Rhodophiala bagnoldii, Alstroemeria violacea, the unusual yellow violet; Viola polyphylla and the big white bristly poppy Argemone huehmanniana. There are flat plains near Vallenar that have dazzling and vast displays of Cistanthe longiscapa. Overnight Vallenar.
Day 6 Llanos de Challe
A full day on this superb area where the main target is the amazing Garra de Leon (lion's claw), Bomarea ovallei, an astonishing relative of the alstroemerias with big spherical heads of blood red flowers. This area also has amazing Copiapoa dealbata colonies, Aristolochia chilensis, masses of Rhodophiala bagnoldii, Zephyra elegans, Alstroemeria kingii, Leucocoryne narcissiflora, Lobelia polyphylla and rich more. Dunes near Huasco are a good site for slender Alstroemeria werdermanniana. Overnight Vallenar.
Day 7 Aguada de Tongoy & Paso Chungungo
Taking a cross country route we’ll see varies displays en route to a low pass with Alstroemeria magnifica, A. philippii, A. schizanthoides and pink forms of A. diluta. Hidden among the rocks are the lovely little cactus Eriosyce heldreichiana too. Overnight Socos.
Day 8 Mina Talca & Fray Jorge area
This area is good for Alstroemeria diluta. Nearby Mina Talca has many Puya chilensis which should be in flower with towering torches of yellow-green flowers, Alstroemeria magnifica, Leucocoryne purpurea and cliff tops covered in bushy white Ambrosia, blue Nolana and interesting cacti. Overnight Socos.
Day 9 Cuesta La Espina & Pichidangui
Hopefully the localised Placea amoena will have started flowering and the dainty yellow bells of Tropaeolum hookeri should be in bloom with Calydorea ixioides and the unusual orchid Bipinnula fimbriata. With luck lovely Alstroemeria peregrina might have started flowering too, though it is early for this species. South of here the season will only just be starting. Overnight Santiago Airport.
Day 10 Flights (8 October)
International return flights.
4850 USD (twin share)
Single supplement 600 USD
Group size: minimum 4; maximum 15