50 Colorful Places You Have to See to Believe
When chaos stirs up around us, it can be difficult to remember that the world is, in fact, a wonderfully beautiful and colorful place. In fact, many places on Earth are so vibrant that it’s hard to believe they’re even real. But real they are, from the deep blue abyss of the Great Blue Hole in Belize to the prismatic colors of Rainbow Mountain in China.
Far & Wide scoured all seven continents to discover the most colorful places in the world, whether natural or manmade. Get lost in the sheer, unbridled beauty that still exists on this planet. How many will you add to your travel bucket list?
One look at the lavender fields of Provence, and it’s easy to see why they have inspired painters for centuries. A sweeping, endless sea of dusty lavender stretches as far as the eye can see across the fields of Provence, a region in southeastern France.
Quaint villages and world-renowned vineyards spring up among the undulating waves of brilliant purple. The best time to see the peak bloom is in summer, from the last week of June until the beginning of August. If you really want a color explosion, July and August are equally sunflower seasons in Provence.
Ice Cave, Iceland
Iceland is a natural enigma all on its own — the product of lava flows, glaciers and long periods of melting. As the glaciers have moved throughout the millennia, they left behind hundreds of ice caves. Only visitable in winter, the caves slowly change each year with the ebbs and flows of the glaciers.
One of the most fabulous to visit is Crystal Cave within Vatnajokull National Park. Once inside the icy tunnel, be prepared to feast your eyes on the brilliant shades of blue that glow behind the icy walls like an illuminated winter holiday decoration.
The Maldives is a chain of more than 1,200 islands that are speckled throughout the Indian Ocean, and it happens to be one of the most sought-after vacation destinations in the world. When it comes to color palettes, the islands are a picture-perfect example of a color wheel on display, from the vibrant turquoise to lush greens and powdery white sands.
But that's just what you can see from above the blue waters. Below the water's surface is an explosion of rainbow-colored fish, shimmering coral reefs and even more spectacular shades of blue.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Japan
Kyoto is a veritable feast for the senses. But one of the most visually stunning spots in the city is the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest — a long, winding pathway that winds through towering stalks of bright green bamboo. It's magic, to say the least, and transportive to another era of Japan — that is, if you know when to go.
Peak hours mean you are sharing this space with hundreds of your fellow amateur photographers. Be prepared to go early — you'll have this hushed wooded hideaway all to yourself.
Bo-Kaap, South Africa
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch brought thousands of people from Malaysia and Indonesia to work as slaves in the Cape of Good Hope. Hundreds of years later, the descendants of the slaves were segregated into a neighborhood called Bo Kaap, which was a Muslim-only neighborhood.
As part of the celebrations for Eid (the breaking of the fast after Ramadan), the residents of Bo Kaap painted their houses brilliantly in pastels and other bright colors. The beautiful neighborhood today retains its swath of colors and is only about a 10-minute walk from Cape Town's city center.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Italy's Cinque Terre boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. But beyond the dramatic coastal views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the villages themselves are among the most colorful places on the planet. These five villages date from the medieval period, connected by skinny cliff trails as well as a world-famous coastal road.
The UNESCO World Heritage villages are interspersed with painted powdery pastels and bold primary colors. Find a quaint cafe for a glass of table wine and a plate of fresh calamari. Gaze out to sea and be mesmerized by a vision of endless blue.
Lake Natron, Tanzania
Like something out of a sci-fi film, Tanzania's Lake Natron is quite literally a sea of red in an otherwise barren and other-worldly landscape. The lake itself is just 19 inches deep but extends for more than 36 miles.
It is highly alkaline and thus caustic to most species, but it owes its crimson coloring to microorganisms that thrive in this particular pH. While most species cannot survive in the water, flamingos can withstand the alkalinity and use the lake as nesting grounds since most predators are kept at bay.
Copenhagen's historic Nyhavn canal is one of the most colorful places in this jewel of a city. The canal was built to connect Kongens Nytorv to the harbor. It is flanked on either side by colorful houses, which stand at attention in noble shades of blue, yellow, pink and red.
Besides the rich colors and stately architecture, the canal's other claim to fame is one resident in particular: Hans Christian Anderson. He lived at No. 20 on the canal, which is where he wrote “The Tinderbox,” “Little Claus and Big Claus” as well as “The Princess and the Pea.” Today, the canal area is a wonderful spot to sit and people watch, while catching the remarkable evening light as the sun goes down.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
A steaming, colorful cauldron bubbles up from the ground within Yellowstone National Park. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States (and third in the world), and it has rings of prismatic colors that encircle a bright, cerulean center.
Its center is deeper than a 10-story building, from which scalding water oozes out of a crack in the Earth's surface. The multicolored bands get their colors from bacteria that live in the water around the spring.
Straight out of a Picasso painting, the town of Chefchaouen, Morocco, is a mountain village washed in dusty blue. The artsy enclave sits nestled amid the Rif Mountains. It was founded by Berbers in 1471 and today is a wonderful mix of Moroccan and Spanish influence.
Picture narrow, cobblestone streets, hushed alleyways bookended with Moroccan arches and buildings whose faces run through every shade of blue imaginable. This, of course, makes other details, like the fresh produce markets and the red-tiled roofs, pop with dramatic effect.
Aside from virtually every single shade of green on the planet, the Amazon Rainforest is a teeming kaleidoscope of bold and beautiful hues, from neon pink flowers to brilliant scarlet macaws, yellow jaguars and everything in between.
The forests of Amazonia criss-cross the largest river basin in the world. The jungle itself stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Andes in the west and can be as wide as 1,200 miles. The majority of the rainforest is in Brazil, but parts of it dip into Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
Northern Lights, Manitoba, Canada
The Northern Lights are an astronomical phenomenon and an absolute opportunity of a lifetime to behold. What are they exactly? Scientifically speaking, they happen when electrically charged particles move at high speed towards the Earth and collide with the highest air particles. The result? Brilliant ribbons of color dance across the sky in electric greens, pinks and blues.
While there are many places in the world to see them, Manitoba, Canada, is one of the places in the world that draws in visitors from around the globe. Peak viewing times are between January and March across the Canadian province (though Churchill, Manitoba, is considered to be the best).
Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
Utterly ethereal, the Waitomo Caves are some of New Zealand's most magical (and visited) attractions. The caves are formed by limestone and include underground rivers and sinkholes (not all that different from Mexico's cenotes).
What sets these caves apart, though, are the thousands of glow worms that hang from the limestone rock, creating a celestial ceiling that is truly spectacular to behold. The dark, wet caves glow in soft cyan for an other-worldly, colorful experience.
Valley of Flowers National Park, India
With each monsoon season that drenches India's Uttarakhand state comes an explosion of color. The Valley of Flowers National Park, which sits in the Himalayan valley near Nepal and Tibet, has hundreds of alpine flowers that bloom with the rains, carpeting the valley in dozens of vivid colors.
Contrasted against the greenery of the trees and the powdery-white snow that cap the mountains, and it is a true deluge for the eyes. But visiting this part of India is no easy feat. You have to really want it, as it is a literal trek to get there (approximately 10 miles of walking). The Valley is open from June until October. The rest of the year it lays buried in snow.
Lake Retba, Senegal
Fringed in lush green foliage, Lake Retba splashes onto the scene like a set from a My Little Pony story. The bubblegum-pink lake looks almost illustrated, but upon arrival, visitors will discover that it is very, very real.
The body of water is about an hour from Dakar and owes its fantasy color to a type of bacteria that produces red pigments. The water is as salty as the Dead Sea and is ringed in golden dunes and green jungle. Because of the salinity of the lake, it is used for salt harvesting.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The most famous reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most colorful and visually remarkable places in the world. The entire ecosystem was made a World Heritage Site in 1981. Today, it spans roughly 133,000 square miles, with 2,900 individual reefs surrounding more than 900 islands.
Beneath the water's surface is a kaleidoscope of tropical colors that span every hue and shade of the rainbow, while above the water are the most mesmerizing blues, greens and delicately soft whites.
Fushimi Inari Taisha, Japan
While you’re in Kyoto checking out the bamboo forest, be sure to schedule a stop at the Fushimi Inari Taisha, or Kyoto's most important Shinto shrine, with its impressive and overwhelming path of thousands of red gates.
The gates line a path that leads to Mount Inari, where the shrine to the god of rice, sake and prosperity sits. The shrine was founded in 711 and is one of the most sacred in all of Kyoto.
Lake Hillier, Australia
Not unlike Senegal's Lake Retba, Lake Hillier in Australia is a shade of pink only fit for fairytale princesses. But different from Lake Retba, whose reason for its pink hue is scientifically known, Lake Hillier's bubble gum shade remains a mystery.
Some believe that it is the result of high salt content with a salt-thriving algae. But the problem with that theory is that lakes with that quality usually change colors throughout the year as temperatures shift. Lake Hillier, however, maintains its pink glow all year long.
They feel like they’re straight out of a movie set, but the color-splashed streets of Havana are very much real. Pale pinks, teals, burnt oranges and dusty lilacs line the sweeping boulevards of the streets of Old Havana.
Electric pink classic cars zoom along the splendid Malecon that hugs the sun-flecked sea. Beyond the colorful architecture, Havana is all about art, especially vibrant street murals that plaster the buildings.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
During the day, the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia create a stark, beautiful landscape of blinding white. The largest salt flats in the world, they stretch for 4,000 square miles in every direction, often reflecting the spectacular blue sky and white puffy clouds in the bleached reflective surface.
But come sunset, the landscape transforms into a 360-degree blazing bonfire as brilliant reds, burnt oranges and glittering golds explode across the sky, reflecting in the watery surface for a swirling snow globe of incendiary colors.
Kawachi Fuji Gardens, Japan
Nothing will ever feel as dreamy as wandering under a whispering tunnel, blanketed in lilac-colored wisteria. The city of Kitakyushu in Japan is known for its hanging Wisteria Garden, a pastel-splashed passage of dangling wisteria flowers.
The best time to go is during the spring, but be sure to book a time slot in advance because it is the most popular time for visitors to come to the city.
Marble Caves, Chile
Carved into a peninsula of solid marble, Chile’s Cuevas de Mármol (Marble Caves) are a colorful and stunning secret on a pristine, glacial lake that straddles the border between Chile and Argentina in Patagonia. The caves were formed more than 6,000 years ago as waves lapped up against the marble, creating caverns with walls splattered by a swirling pattern of wave-like blues.
The caves are only accessible by boat, and tours can be arranged via local companies. The best time to go is September through February, when it is spring and summer in the Southern Hemisphere. This is the time when the ice has melted, and the lake is at its most robust.
Jiuzhaigou National Park, China
This mountainous part of China is known for its emerald-colored peaks, crystal-clear lakes and sheer abundance of colorful flowers and plants. The Jiuzhaigou National Park has three areas: the Zechawa, Rize and Shuzheng valleys.
Within the Rize Valley is one of the park's most popular attractions: Five-Flower Lake, known for its glass-like body of water that reflects a kaleidoscope of colorful flowers. It also has plunging waterfalls and a wreath of snow-capped peaks.
Just two hours outside the city of Medellin in Colombia is the lake town of Guatape. Tucked in the shadows of the looming Piedra del Penol, a giant granite monolith just outside the town, Guatape is a brightly colored colonial jewel on the banks of the Penol-Guatape Reservoir.
The town is known for the traditional architecture that is splashed with bold, eye-popping colors as well as the painted bas-relief depictions of animals and people that plaster the bottom half of many of the buildings in and around the plazas. Guatape is a great day-trip from Medellin or a peaceful spot for an overnight to get away from the city fray.
You can't visit Moscow without seeing two of its most iconic landmarks, both of which happen to be splashed with brilliant colors. The first is, naturally, Red Square, a sweeping square paved in cobblestones and surrounded by some of the most important buildings in Russia. Why is it called Red Square? Well, because every building in it is a deep shade of crimson.
At the south end of the square is Moscow's iconic St. Basil's Cathedral, one of the most important churches in the country. Straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, the church is a dizzying array of colors and patterns, with what looks like whirly-gig spires and cupcake icing drizzled on top. Inside are nine main chapels that make up the cathedral, built in the 16th century and commissioned by Ivan the Terrible.
Great Blue Hole, Belize
About 60 miles off the coast of Belize lies one of the world's greatest natural wonders. The Great Blue Hole is an impressively deep natural opening in the ocean floor that descends more than 400 feet and is also about 1,000 feet across, making it one of the largest natural sinkholes on Earth.
For years, the Great Blue Hole has attracted divers from all over the world who come to explore the mysterious depths and wildlife that live in the surrounding reef. The hole is part of Lighthouse Reef, within the Belize Barrier Reef, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the northwestern-most tip of the Yucatan Peninsula is this tiny fishing village, less than an hour outside the city of Merida. Known for its powdery beaches and sleepy, laid-back vibes, the real claim to fame in Celestun is the eye-popping, neon pink flamingos that come to nest in the biosphere.
A visit to Celestun is a treat for the eyes, from shimmering turquoise water to sun-bleached sand and, of course, the brilliantly pink birds that call this place home.
While Sicily and Sardinia take most of the limelight when it comes to Italy's islands, there are actually many other islands under the Italian flag scattered throughout the Mediterranean. The smallest in the Bay of Naples is Procida, which just happens to be one of Italy's best-kept secrets.
Laid out like Portofino (though with infinitely fewer crowds), Procida is known for its brightly colored buildings, winding streets, intimate hotels and spectacular views out to sea. Procida is not as beach-heavy as some of the other islands, but the beach you won't want to miss is the Lido di Procida.
Sitting in the shadow of three volcanoes is this colorful colonial art piece of a city. Once the capital of Guatemala, Antigua is known for its pastel-hued, colonial-style buildings that flank cobblestone streets and fringe sweeping, leafy plazas.
The town has pulled backpackers from all over the world, who are drawn to its stunning Instagram-worthy angles as well as the plethora of Spanish schools. Antigua makes a wonderful home base from which to explore the other draws of Guatemala, from the Mayan history to the coffee plantations, jungle hikes and lakes.
White Sands, New Mexico
They may look like mounds of fresh powder, but the bleached sand dunes that blanket White Sands National Park stretch as far as the eye can see. Located in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico, it is the largest pure gypsum dune field in the world, stretching for 275 square miles.
The area was previously known as White Sands National Monument until the end of 2019 when the House of Representatives and the Senate approved a bill to predesignate it as a national park.
Tulip Fields, Holland
As the Netherlands shake off the last of the winter chill, the fields across the country wake up with a bang — an unbridled explosion of gorgeous tulip blossoms that carpet the entire countryside.
There are a few places in Holland that are prime for tulip-viewing, namely Lisse, which is surrounded by hundreds of tulip fields that can be viewed via bicycle. Another is Noordwijkerhout, located between Leiden and Haarlem.
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
With five centuries of history paved into its cobblestone streets, Old San Juan is a visual stunner of a city. Wind your way through rows of boldly colored, colonial-style buildings — did you know that more than 400 of them are historically listed?
Take note of the gorgeous, solid wood doors, many of which are more than 16-feet high. Marvel the stunning ironwork in the lovely balconies that hang over the street. And be sure to visit the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which has sweeping views of the sea.
Rainbow Mountain, China
Rising out of China's Gansu Province, stunning mountainous mounds of rainbow-colored rock line the path to part of the ancient Silk Road. Known as the Zhangye Danxia Landforms, these rainbow-striped mountains are painted beautiful reds, orange and yellow, caused by erosion of the sandstone over millions of years.
Today, it's a stunning geological park, veined with hiking trails, so visitors can get up close and personal with the colorful formation.
Times Square, New York City
It’s the center of the center of the universe, as they say. Times Square is one of the most electric places on the planet — both metaphorically and literally. It draws an estimated 50 million visitors a year and has more than 55 LED displays blinking 24 hours a day.
Times Square is the heart of New York City’s world-famous Broadway as well as the home base for hundreds of retail brands from around the world. It is New York City’s most-visited attraction.
Holi Festival, India
If you're looking for color, why not find a festival devoted to it? India's Holi Festival is exactly that: a Hindu festival devoted to colors. Each spring, the streets of India come alive with explosions of colored powder, celebrating the end of winter and the triumph of good over evil. In fact, it has been celebrated in India for hundreds of years.
On the eve before the festival, fires are lit all over the country to burn away the evil spirits. Come dawn, the streets hum with a kaleidoscope of colors, as people smear each other with naturally colored powders of red, green, yellow, blue, pink and purple. It is a joyous celebration filled with love, laughter and, most importantly, color.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Mexico
Nestled in the highlands of Mexico's southernmost state, Chiapas, San Cristobal de Las Casas is a colorful, colonial city that is unlike anywhere else you've visited in the country. San Cristobal is surrounded by mist-covered mountains and is steeped in ancient history, where shaman culture is alive and well.
The smell of sage wafts through the air as you wander down cobblestone streets that are flanked on either side by brightly painted buildings. Be sure to visit the Catedral de San Cristobal in the center of town — a canary yellow church, trimmed in red, that overlooks the valley below.
What is the hottest place in the world? Well, according to year-round global averages, that would be Dallol, Ethiopia. The average temperature here is a whopping 94 degree Fahrenheit. As such, there's not a lot of action going on here. People don't live in Dallol full-time, and it's a bit of a slog to get to, as it's one of the more remote parts of the world.
If you do manage to make the trek, however, you'll be rewarded with a sea of trippy colors that swirl out of the Danakil Desert. The colors, a psychedelic blend of yellow, red and green, are a result of the sulphur and other minerals that are soaked into the hydrothermal fields.
Believe it or not, Juzcar, one of the most colorful places on Earth, is only recently so. The Andalusian village was painted blue in 2011 as a marketing gimmick to promote “The Smurfs” movie.
However, even after the contract was over, the locals of Juzcar loved the new hue so much that they decided to keep it intact. The walls are now a powdery shade of blue, which comes as quite the surprise when discovering the town that seemingly rises out of the middle of nowhere.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
A marvel of orange swirls and stunning natural light, Antelope Canyon is one of the most-photographed places in the world. It's located on a Navajo Reservation in Arizona and is only available to visit with a tour.
Created by centuries of wind and water working together to form this stunning tunnel, the natural phenomenon looks like towering mounds of hand-molded clay. To experience the true colors and the best light-versus-shadow dance, it is best to visit in mid-morning from April to September, though be prepared to battle crowds during this time of year.
St. John’s, Canada
Northeastern Canada can hardly be considered a tropical destination. But you wouldn't know it stumbling upon St. John's. The city in Newfoundland is awash in a bright palette of tropical colors, making it one of the more vibrant places to visit in the province.
Picture intense lilac, navy blue and mango row houses that tumble down the slopes toward a quaint and charming harbor. It's North America's oldest city, believe it or not, and it celebrates this title with considerable color and panache.
Laguna de Bacalar, Mexico
Known by its nickname, the Lake of Seven Colors, the Laguna de Bacalar in Mexico earned its moniker for its gradient of seven shades of blue. Located four hours south of Cancun, the second-largest lake in Mexico is one of its best-kept secrets.
Dotted with tiny eco resorts, it is a local favorite vacation destination, with miles of lakefront on which to kayak, swim, sunbathe or explore the nearby cenotes and Mayan villages.
Daigo-Ji Temple, Japan
One of the oldest Shinto temple complexes in Japan, Daigo-ji is a World Heritage Site and one of the most visited spots in all of Kyoto. Any time of year, the crimson-color pagodas are shrouded in a sea of bright foliage.
Watch the treetops set ablaze during the fall, when every shade of red, orange and yellow kiss the tops of the trees, matching the pagodas perfectly. In the spring, the cherry blossoms unfold a pale pink all around the temple, reflected in the lakes and streams around them.
Cano Cristales, Colombia
With a nickname like “Liquid Rainbow,” it's little wonder how Colombia's Cano Cristales made the list. From June to November the 62-mile-long river flows a swirling sensation of red, yellow, green, blue and black. Why? Because the flora in the river, known as Macarenia clavigera, produce the colors as a byproduct of their reproductive process.
The result is a spectacular stream of vivid, stunning colors. The river is located in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park and is the only river of its kind in the world.
Just 40 minutes off the coast of Venice is a multi-colored jewelry box of delightful homes and buildings. The island of Burano started as a humble fishing village, whose roots date back to Roman times.
Today, it is a medley of brilliantly hued homes (some say they are colored this way so that fishermen can see them through the fog). Aside from its whimsical color patterns, the island of Burano is known for its centuries-old tradition of lace making.
Panjin Red Beach, China
It's a marsh area unlike anywhere else on the planet. In fact, it looks like it's straight out of another part of the solar system. The world's largest marshland in Panjin Shi, China, is painted an ethereal crimson color, thanks to the miles upon miles of swaying red weeds that grow around it.
Today, Red Beach is a popular tourist attraction and is protected by the government. Raised walkways have been constructed, so visitors can meander among the Martian-esque landscape.
The Blue City of Jodhpur, as it is otherwise known, is one of the most magical places to behold. Tucked inside 16th-century walls is a maze of winding, medieval streets, open air shops, colorful bazaars and a palpable vintage vibe, all hidden behind walls that are glazed in beautiful, bold blue.
The No. 1 tourist attraction in Jodhpur is the Mehrangarh Fort, which is one of India's best-preserved and largest forts. It actually sits outside the city walls but is one of the key spots from which to gaze down at the city’s sea of blue below.
Umbrella Sky Project, Portugal
What started in Portugal in 2011 has become an international sensation, bringing a pop of color to cities all over the world. Artist Patricia Cunha started the Umbrella Sky Project in 2011 as part of the AgitAgueda Art Festival.
The exhibition took dozens of colorful umbrellas and hung them between buildings covering a narrow street, creating a passageway of color. Since 2011, the exhibit has been brought to cities all over the world. Last year, it visited Coral Gables in Miami.
Shah Mosque, Iran
A brilliant work of art, the Masjed-e Shah is one of Iran's holiest places and one of the most colorful in the world. Built in the 17th century, the mosque is known for its precisely perfect proportions as well as the blue mosaics that plaster every inch.
The mosque took four years to complete, with its majestic dome crowning the entire construction upon completion in 1629. The main sanctuary of the mosque offers views of two turquoise minarets that rise about the entrance.
Rio Tinto, Spain
From the Sierra de Huelva mountains in Spain's Andalusia region flows the Rio Tinto, a rust-colored river that runs toward the Gulf of Cadiz. It is named Rio Tinto (Red River) because of distinct copper colors.
For millennia, minerals like copper, gold and silver have been mined along the river, which is why it babbles with its signature burnt orange hue. Unfortunately, the waters are highly acidic, which keeps visitors away.
It's pretty difficult to miss the town of Izamal, a Pueblo Magico (Magic Town) in Mexico's state of Yucatan. Why? The entire town is painted yellow — and that is no exaggeration.
The ochre-colored town goes by the nickname The Yellow City, and it is one of the most beautiful in the country. Izamal's history dates back nearly 2,000 years when it was founded by the Maya people. In the 16th century, the Spanish built a Catholic church, which was one of the first churches in the Yucatan peninsula. Today, visitors can see both Mayan ruins and Spanish architecture, all against a bright, golden yellow backdrop.