Little Namaqualand is parched, a seemingly sunbaked wasteland in South Africa’s Northern Cape. But for a short period in July, as winter rains begin to fall, the area bursts to life with billions of blooms.
Endless carpets of flowers in every hue cover its diverse topography, from deserty plains to fertile valleys to towering mountains.
But what truly sets this spectacle apart is the sheer variety of flowers; more than 3500 species grow here, more than half rare or endemic, meaning they live nowhere else on Earth. The most iconic is the Arctotis, commonly called the African daisy. Gazania glows with hot yellow and orange petals, and Carpobrotus, commonly known as pigface, creeps along the ground.
The best places to take in the ephemeral flowery show are Richtersveld, with a backdrop of yawning canyons and jagged mountains; Skilpad Wildflower Preserve west of Kamieskroon, part of the bigger Namaqua National Park, a fabulous spot to gaze at the famed Nama daisies; and the 14,973-hectare (37,000-acre) Goegap Nature Reserve outside Springbok, with some 600 indigenous plant species.
Accommodations in the park (primarily campsites and chalets) are in high demand during this short blooming season.