Contrary to popular belief, the term “super bloom” was not coined by Instagram in 2019 when the southern California super bloom took the internet by storm. A super bloom is used specifically to describe a flowering desert that sees an unexpected number of wildflower blooms following specific weather patterns. Because super blooms happen when wildflowers exceed a deserts’ botanic norms, they’re very dependent on winter rains. Of course, some of the most famous flowering deserts around the world see at least some wildflowers each year. But to see them in a full-force super bloom is incomparable. These are the best destinations for a spring super bloom:
Atacama Desert, Chile
The driest desert in the world, Chile’s Atacama Desert, only sees a super bloom every five to seven years. There are parts of the Atacama Desert that have no history of recorded rainfall at all—so it’s not surprising that these desert blooms, which require hefty rain, are so infrequent. To see the desert bloom is a true phenomenon—200 species populate the desert in a stunning display of purple, yellow, and white flowers. The Chilean super bloom, known locally as “desierto florido,” which means flowering desert, is best seen from Llanos del Challe National Park.
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Thanks to much-needed rain in southern California, the desert super bloom of 2019 went viral, with Instagrammers out in full force to capture the stunning Antelope Valley poppies. An "it" destination every spring, Antelope Valley turns into a poppy haven annually. But experiencing the full-on super bloom is rare because poppies are inherently temperamental. They won’t super bloom if it’s too dry or too wet. You can monitor Antelope Valley’s bloom status online—and the reserve will reopen for the 2020 season on March 1. Beyond Antelope Valley, you can experience the next California super bloom at Anza-Borrego Desert or even up in Malibu while hiking Point Dume.
Namaqualand, South Africa
The wildflowers of the South African outback bloom each spring, putting on a display with more than 4,000 plant species. Take in the super bloom from August through October, which is spring in South Africa, along the Namaqualand Flower Route. The Namaqualand Flower Route, in Northern Cape, brings road trippers to the desert parks with the best wildflowers. Peak flower-spotting starts an hour north of Cape Town at West Coast National Park. Some highlights of the Namaqualand Flower Route include the 1,350 flower species of Nieuwoudtville, the super bloom along the Roodebergkloof Trail in Garies, the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, Springbok, and the route terminus, Port Nolloth.
San Felipe, Baja California
Here’s a little-known fact about the California super bloom: It actually starts in Baja California, Mexico and works its way up the coast. About 20 miles from San Felipe, a town on the Sea of Cortez, lies Valle de los Gigantes (Valley of the Giants). The valley sees a wildflower super bloom starting at the end of February and early March, depending on weather patterns. Visit Baja to see the vibrant purple flowers in Valle de los Gigantes kick off the next west coast super bloom.
Perth, Western Australia
From July to October, Western Australia plays host to 150 orchid varieties and wildflowers like the multicolored mountain bells. The Australian corner from Shark Bay to Esperance is one of the globe’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, as designated by the World Wildlife Foundation. This is largely because of the 8,000 plant species native to the area, at least half of which only exist in this ecologically significant corner of the world. From August to October, visit the 900 wildflower species blooming in Lesueur National Park. Perth also has some of the very best wildflower viewing areas—Kings Park, which hosts the Wildflower Festival in September, Bold Park, and John Forrest National Park.
Sonoran Desert, Arizona
Just outside Phoenix, the Sonoran Desert super bloom comes mid-March to late April following winter rain. As with all super blooms, how much rain the desert sees ahead of spring tends to indicate how abundant the flowers will be. The super bloom in the Sonoran Desert happens only about once a decade, though there are likely to be at least some wildflowers each year. The flower colors depend on the cacti scattered throughout the desert—yellow, red, and pink flowers cluster around prickly pear cacti, for example. Hiking the Sonoran Desert in Picacho Peak State Park is one of the best ways to experience the super bloom.