From the psychedelic deserts of Ethiopia to China’s rainbow-hued mountains, the world is FULL of colourful wonders waiting to be explored. So vibrant that they look surreal, it’s hard to believe some of these places actually exist.
We’ve scoured the globe to bring you the most colourful cities and places that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Get ready to immerse yourself in all the colours of the rainbow – no Instagram filter needed.
1. Lake Retba, Senegal
Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and white sand dunes, Lac Rose aka Lake Retba, just north east of Dakar, is known for its coral pink waters – and a salt concentration that rivals that of the Dead Sea. This phenomena is caused by the micro-organism ‘dunaliella salina’ combined with a high mineral concentration and the intensity of the African sun.
Watch the salt collectors arrive daily, covered in shea butter to protect their skin from the harsh salinity, and spend the day collecting the precious mineral from the lakebed. The best time to visit is from November to June when the lake’s shade is at its most intense.
2. Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas
One of Sin City’s most fascinating strolls, this extraordinary outdoor space is the resting place of some of the most treasured and world-famous signs of the Strip. With over 200 works on display dating as far back as 1930, highlights include Caesars Palace, Binion’s Horseshoe, the Golden Nugget and the Stardust. This is definitely one of the coolest colourful places on this list.
3. Portmeirion, Wales
A colourful Italian village… in Wales 📷@vyuhan
Set on its own tranquil peninsula in Snowdonia, this whimsical village – a ‘tribute to the Mediterranean’ – is an enchanting collection of Italianate ice cream-coloured houses overlooking the sea. Go in September and catch the multi-award winning Festival No.6 which showcases an eclectic mix of iconic and emerging artists.
4. Havana, Cuba
Rich in culture, character, relaxation and rebellion, Cuba’s capital city of Havana is a riot of colour and surprises. Past and present mix seamlessly here with pastel-shaded colonial buildings, Brooklyn-cool bars and vintage cars lining the shadowy streets. Creaky front doors are left open, old men play chess on the sidewalk, jazz rocks from every corner. There’s glitz and glamour too with Old Havana, built around five spectacular plazas and boasting an array of museums, galleries and restaurants – and the best mojitos on earth. Tourism in Cuba has mushroomed in the last couple of years, so get here soon before it becomes unrecognisable.
5. God’s Own Junkyard, London
The neon wonderland that is God’s Own Junkyard 📷@emma.v.martell
This warehouse in North East London is one of the city’s best kept secrets. Packed to the rafters with vintage neons, retro displays, old shop props and salvaged signs, this psychedelic nirvana is dedicated to the works of renowned neon artist Chris Bracey. The gallery is free to enter and features iconic pieces from fairground lighting to signs designed for films such as Eyes Wide Shut, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Batman. The café ‘The Rolling Scones’ also serves an excellent cuppa.
6. Chefchaouen, Morocco
Nestled in the imposing Rif Mountains, ‘The Blue Pearl’ of Chefchaouen is a striking contrast to its arid setting. A picture-postcard perfect collection of blue and white buildings, the city dates back to the 15th century when Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish Inquisition settled in large numbers, bringing with them their tradition of painting things blue to mirror the sky and remind them of God.
They did a good job covering every inch of the city in this distinctive palette: houses, mosques, government buildings, public squares, lampposts – even the flowerpots. Colour aside, there’s also a buzzing culinary scene, medina streets lined with handmade wares and an ancient fortress to explore.
7. Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre is one of the pretties places on Earth 📷@lexieelliot
Clinging to steeply terraced cliffs on the Italian Riviera, the pretty fishing villages that make up Cinque Terre are pastel-painted perfection, dating back to the early medieval period. Swim in the pristine waters, wander through olive groves, while away the hours at a harbour-side cafe or hike the network of coastal trails.
8. Salvation Mountain, USA
God is Love. That’s the message of this man-made mountain, covered in half a million gallons of latex paint. Situated in southern California, the monument is the life’s work of a man named Leonard Knight, who used its creation as a form of spiritual meditation. Now considered a folk art masterpiece, the sprawling complex is made of dirt and painted cement plus telephone poles, cars and sculptures.
9. Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
Surrounded by rolling mountains and craggy rocky shores, the ‘Red Lagoon’ may be less than three feet deep but it still packs a punch as one of the world’s most colourful places. High up in the Andes mountains, close to the Chile border, this shallow salt lake, dotted with tiny islands of sodium, is tinted blood red thanks to the algae thriving in its mineral-rich water.
Further colour splashes come from the large number of resident flamingos, including some of the rarest flamingo species in the world. You can combine a trip here with an excursion to the world-famous nearby Salar de Uyuni.
10. Sintra, Portugal
Dotted with pastel-hued manor houses against the backdrop of the Serra Mountains, this hillside town is known as ‘Disneyland for grown-ups’. Within easy reach of Lisbon, the bright yellow turreted Pena Palace is the jewel in Sintra’s colourful crown. There’s plenty more to explore nearby: exotic gardens, castle ruins, old monasteries and deserted sandy beaches.
11. Caño Cristales River, Colombia
The world’s most beautiful river found in a small town in Colombia 😍 📷@lunaexpressions
Found in the mountain range of Serranía de la Macarena, this crystal clear ‘river of five colours’ is considered one of the oldest rivers in the world. Surrounded by a savannah-meets-jungle landscape, a sub-aquatic red plant – Macarenia clavigera – grows in the riverbed, resulting in a mesmerising mixture of black rocks, green algae, blue water and yellow sand.
Despite its unnatural appearance, you can safely splash around in the river, which features waterfalls, pools, and caverns. Go anytime from July to November when the river is at its most colourful.
12. Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone lives up to its name 📷@courtneysachie
Set in the USA’s famous Yellowstone National Park, this natural pool (the third largest hot spring in the world) is a multi-coloured wonder with bands of fiery orange, bright yellow and rich red ringing its piercing blue water.
The various hues are caused by heat-loving bacteria with the colour determined by the temperature of the water, which gets progressively cooler as it approaches the outside of the lake. There is a hiking trail so you can check out the Grand Prismatic Spring close up, or alternatively make your way to the top of the hill for a great aerial view.
13. Hitsujiyama Park, Japan
Did you know Japan also has lawn cherry blossoms 📷@andromeda.g94
Japan is known for its cherry blossoms so visiting during cherry blossom season is an absolute must. Visit Hitsujiyama Park for the picturesque shibazakura which translates as ‘lawn cherry blossoms’.
From late April to early May, head to Shibazakura Hill in Hitsujiyama Park. With over 400,000 trees of nine different varieties, it’s a perfect patchwork of pink, red, white and violet, set against the backdrop of the gargantuan Mount Buko. For serious viewing pleasure, catch the Chichibu Shibazakura Festival in the park, where the petals are arranged in an extravaganza of shapes and swirls.
14. Kampung Pelangi, Indonesia
Kampung Pelangi is an absolute must visit in Indonesia 📷@irfan_maaulaana
Dubbed the ‘Rainbow Village’, this formerly unassuming spot in southern Indonesia has been given an extreme makeover by the local council. The result? A bonanza of fun and colour, from dazzling striped walls and polka-dot panels to psychedelic heart murals and 3D sharks.
15. Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, China
One of Mother Nature’s greatest masterpieces, this rocky landscape of Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in the Gansu province is known for its otherworldly colours that mimic a rainbow painted over the tops of rolling mountains.
This striped technicolour effect is down to the erosion of red sandstone coupled with extreme desert conditions over the course of 24 million years. This caused the rock to dramatically striate into extraordinary shapes, sizes and colours of magenta, maroon, and lemon-hued stone. Catch the rainbow at its best from June to September during dawn or dusk.
16. Bo’kaap, Cape Town
Hot pink, burnt orange, lime green… Bo’kaap’s colourful collection of vividly-painted tightly-packed cottages line the narrow cobbled slopes of Signal Hill, part of the city’s spectacular Table Mountain. Many of the houses are still home to their descendants today. Hunt for the most picturesque streets (Chiappini, Rose and Wale) before tucking into the area’s signature homemade koesister, a coconut-dusted doughnut doused in syrup.
17. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The beautiful coral of the Great Barrier Reef 📷Toby Hudson
Stretching across 2,300km of coastline, the Great Barrier Reef certainly deserves its place as one of the most colourful places in the world. Splash, dive, snorkel and sail your way through this endless aquatic kaleidoscope of colours, home to the world’s greatest concentration of coral (700 types) and around 1,500 species of glittering fish (spot navy blue butterfly fish, luminescent pastel turkfish, teeny neon damsels, and six-banded angelfish).
Its turquoise waters are also home to 4,000 breeds of molluscs, 500 types of seaweed, 1,500 varieties of sponges, 200 bird species and more than 30 marine mammal species including humpback, minke, killer and pilot whales. Oh, and 900 tropical islands, too, for even more sunbathing and adventure.
18. Dallol, Ethiopia
Alien vibes in the hottest inhabited place on Earth 📷@hellofirsta
Dallol is not only the hottest inhabited place on the planet, it’s also one of the most striking thanks to its incredible colours. A vast volcanic crater in the heart of the Danokil desert, the endless landscape is a psychedelic-coloured mix of acidic hot springs, mountains of sulphur, salt canyons and miniature geysers.
Called ‘The Gateway to Hell’ by locals, bubbling bright cyan lava lakes and neon yellow acid pools lie alongside pink-coloured formations rising from bright green gas. Pack your most charming smile (the Afar tribesman appreciate friendly visitors) and lightest clothing then hitch a lift on a camel caravan or – easier option – rent a 4WD vehicle from the nearby town of Mekele.
19. Valley Of Flowers National Park, India
Trekking in the beautiful Valley of Flowers 📷@anup_sinha
Sitting high in the West Himalayas, the Valley of Flowers National Park is a place of outstanding natural beauty. As well as floral pastures, running streams and the beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains, there are endless meadows of orchids, poppies, primulas, calendulas, daisies and anemones alongside alpine forests of birch and rhododendron.
The area is also home to rare and endangered wildlife, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. The park is even immortalised in Hindu mythology; legend goes that the monkey god, Hanuman, collected the mythical herb Sanjeevani buti from this park to save Lakshmana.
20. Noordoostpolder Tulip Fields, Amsterdam
Who doesn’t love tulips? 🌷🌷🌷 📷@brian_sweet
From mid-March to the end of May, tulips transform large parts of Holland into an explosion of colour, striping the landscape in magnificent bright shades. Under an hour from Amsterdam by car, the country’s longest tulip route – described by National Geographic as one of the world’s ultimate road trips – is found in Flevoland, stretching more than 60 miles through nearly 2,500 acres of red, yellow and purple flower-bulb fields. Along the way, look out for Hanneke’s tulip picking garden, where you can pick your own bunch to take home.
21. Park Güell, Spain
I left my heart in Barcelona’s Park Güell ❤️ 📷@eatingnyc
He’s Barcelona’s most famous architect, and the famously flamboyant Gaudí seems to have pulled out all the stops for the magnificent Park Güell. Perched on a hillside with panoramic views of the city, every inch of this park is covered with hand-painted mosaics. Aside from its overall psychedelic vibes, there are plenty of weird and wonderful details to look out for, such as a giant salamander, a mosaic snake bench and a ‘stone forest’ of colourful columns.
22. Lake Natron, Tanzania
Lying on the border of Kenya and Tanzania close to the Serengeti National Park, the alkaline Lake Natron should be on every adventurer’s bucketlist. Sitting on untrammeled Maasai land, the surface has a high salt, magnesite and sodium carbonate concentration and is covered in a pinkish-white soda crust, intensified by the three million resident flamingos.
Spot further wildlife on the treeless plains which stretch as far as the eye can see with zebras, giraffes, wildebeest and ostriches grazing in the distance. There are also a large number of volcanic craters, numerous waterfalls and ravines with nesting places for Rüppell’s Griffon Vultures.
23. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Local artists show off their artwork at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar 📷@joydeep_ray
One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 streets and over 4,000 shops, this colourful and chaotic bazaar is at the heart of Istanbul’s Old City – and has been for centuries. With two mosques, four fountains, two hammams and a smattering of cafes and restaurants, this sprawling labyrinth of passageways is filled with everything you could ever need: hand-painted ceramics, intricately patterned carpets, silver jewellery, backgammon boards, leather goods, mother of pearl inlaid boxes and musical instruments.
24. Hosier Lane, Melbourne
Hosier Lane is Instagram heaven 📷@through_my_lenszz
This is Melbourne’s most Instagrammed street, thanks to its extraordinary street art. Prepare yourself for a dizzying array of colours, characters and shapes created by local and international aerosol-wielding artists. Be sure to visit the equally colourful Rutledge Lane, too, just around the corner, where even the wheelie bins have been painted.
25. Jodhpur, India
The beautiful Blue City of Jodhpur in India 📷@mj_travels_7
Towered over by the mighty Mehrangarh Fort, the ‘Blue City’ in Rajasthan is a jumble of boxy indigo houses, steeped in sounds, smells and chaos. Shops and bazaars line the tangle of winding medieval streets, where you can snap up everything from trumpets and temple decorations to snuff and saris.
26. Stockholm Metro, Sweden
Known as the ‘world’s longest art gallery’, the Swedish capital’s web of underground train lines is a whirl of paintings, installations, mosaics and sculptures. Don’t miss Kungsträdgården station which looks like an archaeological dig with ruins from Stockholm’s old Makalös palace. Why can’t all metro stations be this colourful?!
27. Northern Lights
One of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world, these mesmeric lights which swirl around the sky in iridescent bands of colour are formed from fast-moving, electrically-charged particles that emanate from the sun. The wilds of Canada and Alaska make great fine viewing spots, but there are more accessible areas to view the extraordinary light display such as Iceland and Scandinavia.
Fancy Staying In A Colourful Hostel?
Hostels are fun and happy places, so it makes sense that they have more than their fair share of colour. Some of our favourite colourful hostels include USA Hostels Ocean Beach in San Diego, Blue Boutique Hostel in Portugal and Pink Palace Hotel & Hostel in Corfu, but there are SO many more.
Have we missed any of the world’s most colourful cities or places?! Comment below! 👇