20 brilliantly colourful places
Valley of the Flowers, India
The gentle Himalayan landscape here is famous for the rare and beautiful flowers that bloom during the monsoon, from mid-July until mid-August. Declared a National Park in 1982, the untouched meadows, snow capped peaks and alpine glaciers are only accessible if you hike in from Gangharia – and no one is permitted to stay overnight.
Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia
The incomparable reefs of Indonesian West Papua host a staggering 1700 species of fish (compared with just 300 in UK waters) and 600 types of coral. Divers from all over the world converge on this remote location to stay at one of a handful of exclusive resorts (or on board a luxury yacht) and dive in a pristine environment surrounded by colourful marine life.
The Danakil depression, where the remote Dallol hot springs are found, is one of the hottest places on Earth. The characteristic white, yellow and rust-coloured deposits are formed by groundwater (mixed in with sulphur and iron) being pushed up through think layers of salt by geothermal activity, and rapidly being crystalized by the fierce African sun. This vast inhospitable desert is a mix of neon coloured pools, geysers and fragile salt formations.
Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are protected villages within the UNESCO heritage Cinque Terre National Park on the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region. The houses in each village are famous as they are stacked precariously in terraces on hillsides. Riomaggiore is particularly eye-catching – colourful houses huddle over the stunning blue waters of the rugged harbour.
The Andalucían village of Júzcar is shockingly, unashamedly, Smurf blue. Sony transformed the traditional village in 2011 in order to promote the Smurfs 3D movie – it was only ever meant to be temporary but the huge influx of tourists persuaded the villagers of the merits of being blue. It took more than one thousand gallons of paint and even the church and its graveyard were painted.
Hitsujiyama Park, Japan
From mid-April to early May there’s hardly a patch of green left in Japan’s Hitsujiyama Park – more than 400,000 pink and white flowers are in bloom. The landscaped gardens have been planted with pretty shibazakura, which literally translates as "lawn cherry blossom", and the swirls and patterns make an intensely pretty carpet of pink.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming, USA
The state of Wyoming is home to Yellowstone National Park and all the colourful brilliance that comes with its thermal activity. The vast caldera of a super volcano (which some believe could erupt again in the future) contains the startling rainbow-coloured Grand Prismatic Spring, a natural phenomenon caused by heat-loving bacteria in the steaming water.
Seventy miles northwest of Santiago, edgy Valparaíso (Valpo to the locals) is a colourful jumble of houses that spread from the wide bay up into the surrounding hills. The peeling walls of the atmospheric and vibrant old city are adorned with graffiti and street art. At sunset, ride an ascensore up above the chaos and admire the traditional South American seaport city from up high.
Rajasthan’s famed Blue City is an intriguing place to explore on foot. The old city’s medieval streets twist and turn and are dotted with spice bazaars, shoe shops and incense sellers. The blue of the houses once denoted a high-caste Brahmin residence, but today the whole city is washed in a riot of colour, which continues inside the royal apartments of the impressive hillside Mehrangarh Fort.
New England in the Fall, USA
Late September and October sees visitors flock to New England to view the foliage turning myriad blazing shades of brown, red, orange and yellow. As summer ends, the leaves of trees across Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire (the states further north) start to change first, and then the brilliant reddish hue creeps further south into Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
This island in the northern Venetian lagoon is famous for the craftsmanship of its lace makers, as well as the brightly coloured terraced homes that crowd the tiny streets. Forty minutes by boat from Venice, Burano is undoubtedly touristy, but it’s a bustling, cheerful place. The colour of the houses is strictly controlled and homeowners have to apply to local government to paint their homes.
Sintra has been the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family for more than 600 years and in the mid-nineteenth century King Ferdinand II set about transforming a former monastery on the hillside into a fairy princess palace. Inspired by German Romanticism, this fantasy castle is dotted with turrets and terraces painted in various colourful shades. It was unsurprisingly designated a National Monument in 1910.
Caño Cristales River, Colombia
This unique waterway in the remote Parque Nacional Natural Sierra de la Macarena south of Bogotá is finally accessible to travellers again, after years of guerrilla activity in the region. Described as Colombia’s “liquid rainbow”, for a brief window of time between September and November, when conditions are exactly right, the macarenia clavigera plant on the riverbed turns a deep hue of brilliant red. The contrast with the blue water and splashes of green moss is a photographer’s dream.
Green Sand Beach, Hawaii, USA
This Big Island highlight is also known as "Papakõlea" (after a bird that nests here) or "Mahana" after the cinder cone responsible for the green tinge of the sand – green olivine crystals have been washed out of the eroded cone and into the bay. One of only a few green sand beaches in the world, to get to this secluded spot takes two-and-a-half-hours on foot from a trailhead close South Point (the most southerly point in the USA).
Five-Flower Lake, China
The stunning Wuhua Hai, or Five-Flower Lake, is one of the 118 lakes in the Jiuzhaigon Nature Reserve in the northern part of Sichuan Province. The entire valley is incredibly scenic, but this freshwater lake is world famous for its blue-green water, coloured by mineral deposits and plant life. Hemmed in by rugged mountains and bamboo forest, the shallow lake sparkles with colour.
This wonderful folly not far from the north Wales coast is the colourful culmination of a lifelong dream by architect Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis (1883–1978). Portmeirion was built in stages not long after Clough bought the land in 1925 and today the Italianate-style private village is a huge visitor attraction with restaurants, cafés and a posh hotel on site.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The vast underground world of the Great Barrier Reef stretches for 2300km and covers roughly the same area as Italy. Australia’s picturesque marine park isn’t only coral reef, but a kaleidoscope of sea grass, mangroves, sponge gardens and 1500 species of fish – including everybody’s favourite, the clownfish.
Northern Lights, Norway
Head to Scandinavia to see nature’s most magnificent and mystical spectacle. The aurora borealis has fascinated travellers for generations. Northern Norway and the remote Svalbard Islands in the Arctic Ocean have the best views of the dancing lights and the best time to see them is from late autumn to early spring.
Tulip fields in the spring, The Netherlands
Red, pink and yellow flowering tulip bulbs carpet the Dutch lowlands in late spring. The colour season starts in March with crocuses, then daffodils and hyacinths, before the tulips bloom in April. About an hour from Amsterdam, Keukenhof Gardens are world famous for the 7 million flowers that are planted here each year – and the 800,000 visitors that descend during spring.
Pink Sand Beach, Bahamas
The east coast of this island paradise 220 miles from Miami boasts an unbroken 3-mile stretch of flawless coast. The sand here is soft and powdery and has an unusual rose tinted hue from ground down coral and foraminifera (tiny marine creatures with red shells) mixing with the perfect white grains. This, along with the wide-open skies and lapping waves of the turquoise Atlantic Ocean means the beach is regularly named one of the most beautiful in the world.
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