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THREE SURPRISES IN THE PERUVIAN DESERT

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What images come to mind when you think of the desert? Do you think of rolling sand dunes and cracked earth? What about Heat?

When you travel to Peru you can visit deserts that have all three, of course. But Peru’s deserts also have surprises in store for the adventurous, and the timely.

Surprise #1: An Explosion of Color on the Desert Floor

The entire coastline of Peru is classified as a desert. Spanning almost 73,000 square miles, it extends from the Sechura in the north to the Atacama, which connects with and extends into Chile, on the south.

The Atacama Desert is the driest (non-polar) desert in the world. Stretching out over 41,000 square miles, it may also be the oldest desert in the world. With soils used to being dry, the rare rainfall sometimes causes severe flooding, as it did in March, 2015.

Because of an El Nino weather pattern, rain came again to the desert only months later. In late October and early November, 2015, the Atacama treated travelers and locals alike to a beautiful sight.

There, on the desert floor, the unseasonably wet weather had awakened sleeping tubers and rhizomes under the dry surface. The resulting germination created an explosion of color in the form of vast fields of desert wildflowers. Known as the “diseirto florido” (flourishing desert) the seas of pink Mallow flowers, purple and white Chilean Bel Flowers, and the vibrant Red Lion Claw flower stretched, in places, as far as the eye could see.

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Surprise #2: An Oasis known for its Sand Dunes

The floral show on the desert floor may be temporary, but the wonders of our second desert surprise, known as Huacachina, the “Oasis of America,” are available year-round.

Located five hours south of Lima in the Ica Region of Southeastern Peru, Huacachina is, literally, an oasis in the desert. With a resident population of somewhere between 115 and 150, this small town is a mecca built around a small natural lake.

Huacachinga’s palm trees and unexpected luxury are attractions for many, but the major tourist attraction is the adventure offered by the picturesque sand dunes surrounding the town. These dunes are some of the highest in the world. Dune buggy tours are becoming increasingly popular, and many adventurous visitors come to practice the challenging sport of sandboarding down the steep slopes.

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Surprise #3: Desert Fog

Our last surprise from the deserts of Peru comes from the Sechura region. For most of the year, the Sechura Desert is, as one would rightly assume, dry and sunny. But, in the winter, areas of this desert are covered with a thick fog or mist, called a garua.

The garua prevents the sun from penetrating to the earth for most of the winter months. The moisture from the fog is so thick that it can be captured by a type of vegetation called lomas, which are not visible the rest of the year. The moisture from the fog nourishes the lomas (and other plant, animal and bird species in the area) and creates our third surprise: lush, green vegetation that covers the rolling hills of the desert landscape between July and November of each year.

The deserts of Peru have more surprises awaiting you on your next trip to Peru. Contact us here and let us know what type of adventure you would like to have.

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