International Colour Day: 15 of the world’s most stunning rainbow-coloured places

1. Kampung Warna, Jodipan, Indonesia

Colourful Rainbow Village in Jodipan, Malang (Shutterstock)

Just south of Malang, a city in East Java, Kampung is an explosion of colour in what was once a drab corner of Indonesia.

Management students from a nearby university came up with the idea of painting the houses. A local paint company donated the paint. And a previously unremarkable village was turned into a happy place of rainbow colours, suddenly receiving an influx of money from selfie-seeking visitors.

It also inspired locals to clean up their rubbish-strewn river, so there has been a positive environmental impact, too.

2. Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park (Shutterstock)

Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the USA and the third largest thermal spring on the planet.

But it’s the rainbow-coloured bands of heat-loving bacteria that make it truly memorable. The sulphur fumes may burn your eyes, but it’s certainly photo-worthy.

3. The Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa

Kids sitting on steps in the Bo-Kaap quarter (Shutterstock)

Sitting at the foot of Signal Hill on the fringes of central Cape Town, Bo-Kaap was once known as the Malay Quarter, home to workers brought in from Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of Africa to work.

Built in the 1760s and rented to the workers, the houses had to be white as per the terms of the lease. When the workers were eventually allowed to buy the properties, they painted them in bright colours to express their freedom and individuality.

4. Red Sea, Egypt

Coral and tropical fish in the Red Sea (Shutterstock)

The Red Sea boasts one of the richest and most diverse underwater ecosyems in the world, with over 1,200 species of fish, 10% of which can’t be found anywhere else.

This is largely due to the 2,000 kilometres of coral reef along its coast. Some of the coral is 5,000 – 7,000 years old. It’s lost none of its vibrancy, and coupled with the neon fish that call it home, remains one of the most colourful places on earth.

5. Rainbow Village, Taichung, Taiwan

Colourful graffiti painted on the wall in Taichung (Shutterstock)

What began as an attempt to save houses in the Nantun District of Taichung has turned into one of Taiwan’s most popular and colourful tourist attractions. Former soldier, Huang Yung-Fu, started painting houses in the settlement to stop them from being demolished.

Over the years he has added colourful artwork, including birds, animals and people, to most of the remaining houses in the village, gaining it the moniker ofRainbow Village.

6. Vinicunca, Peru

Tourists walking on the Rainbow Mountain (Shutterstock)

A two-hour drive from Cusco, Vinicunca, Peru’s Rainbow Mountain, has become one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Formed millions of years ago, the ridges of sediment are made up of a variety of minerals, each providing its own vibrant hue of either pink, yellow, turquoise and burgundy.

Sitting at 5,200 metres, you’ll need to take time to acclimatise to the altitude – and the mix of colours.

7. Guatapé, Colombia

Colourful colonial houses in Guatape (Shutterstock)

A bumpy three hour bus ride from Medellin, the tiny traditional pueblo of Guatepé is full of brightly coloured colonial-era homes, embellished with delicate painting ofllamas, sunflowers, parrots and guitars.

The Plaza de Zocalos is rainbow-coloured, too, and the perfect place to have a drink and people watch.

8. Seven Coloured Earths, Chamarel, Mauritius

The seven coloured lands of Chamarel (Shutterstock)

A series of colourful dunes in the middle of tropical rainforest, the Seven Coloured Earths near Charamel in Mauritius is believed to have formed from the decomposition of volcanic rocks. It has settle into stripes of colour ranging from violet and red through to yellow and blue and is best viewed at sunrise, when the colours are at their most vibrant.

9. Cinque Terre, Italy

View of Vernazza from trail (Shutterstock)

Hugging the rugged coastline and tumbling down towards the Ligurian Sea, the five tiny villages that make up Cinque Terre are a riot of colour.

Walking the jagged coast path between them is one of Italy’s most treasured treks, rewarding hikers with fresh sea air and spectacular views, especially when you round a headland and catch your first sight of villages like Vernazza and Manarola.

10. La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina

El Caminito quarter in La Boca (Shutterstock)

La Boca is a working-class suburb in Buenos Aires that is famous for two things – La Bombonera, the home ground of Boca Juniors football team and Caminito, a narrow alley flanked by bright, zinc shacks.

The colours are a reminder of the district’s early immigrant days, when a splash of paint was the only way to show pride in the humble dwellings. Now the area is bursting with steakhouses, bars and cafes and the modern art museum, Fundación Proa.

11. Tulip fields, Keukenhof, The Netherlands

Keukenhof tulip fields (Shutterstock)

Between March and May every year, the fields around Keukenhof in the Netherlands are transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour as the country’s world famous tulips bloom.

They’re not just for show. These tulips will be picked and sent all around the world, an important source of revenue for this tiny country. That doesn’t make it any less spectacular, especially when framed with one of the Netherlands’ famous windmills.

12. Rainbow Row, Charleston, USA

A colourful row of historic Georgian row houses in Charleston (Shutterstock)

This row of historic houses in Charleston, South Carolina, is the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States.

With their bright colours and mature trees, they are also amongst the most beautiful. You’ll find them on East Bay Street, north of Tradd Street, and south of Elliott Street.

13. Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai, India

Meenakshi Amman Hindu temple in Madurai (Shutterstock)

This ancient city on the Vaigai River in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu is dominated by the 14 colourful gopurams (gateway towers) of Meenakshi Amman Temple.

It’s festooned with thousands of rainbow coloured carvings of Hindu gods. It is also home to colourful celebrations, like the Chithirai Festival, held every April to celebrate Meenakshi and Lord Vishnu.

14. Santa Marta, Rio, Brazil

Colourfully painted buildings in Rio’s Santa Marta favela (Shutterstock)

Set on the the slopes of Morro Dona Marta, the rainbow coloured favela of Santa Marta is one of the steepest in Rio. It has over 8,000 residents crammed into its makeshift wooden and brick houses, each painted in an assortment of cheerful hues.

A popular location for both TV series and film, it most famously hosted one of the most spectacular chase scenes in Fast Five, the fifth instalment of The Fast and The Furious franchise.

15. Burano, Venice Lagoon, Italy

Colourful houses in Burano, Venice (Shutterstock)

Burano is an island in Venetian Lagoon, famous for its multi-coloured homes, beguilingly reflected in the waters of the canals.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants for visitors, but it’s very much a working town, with fishermen selling their catch straight from their boats, and old nonnas sitting on their verandas, making the island’s needle lace.

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Bogotá, Colombia: In the glare of El Dorado

In the glare of El Dorado

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Bogotá, Colombia

In the glare of El Dorado

While Europeans once flocked to Bogotá for its links to a mythical city of gold, the lively Colombian capital shines for a different reason these days, and is making waves with its glittering cultural and gastronomic scenes.

I was surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands of pieces of pre-Columbian gold artefacts. Gleaming shapes representing jaguars, snakes, condors and all manner of anthropomorphic figures stared blankly at me, fixed side by side on a huge circular display. It created an effect akin to being inside a gargantuan golden temple. This was what the El Dorado of my imagination looked like, echoing the fantasies of European visitors down the ages, who once flocked to the Americas in search of a mythical city of gold.

Yet this was 2022 and I wasn’t lost in some far-flung jungle, but admiring one of the central halls of the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, Colombia’s renowned Museum of Gold. It holds an impressive collection of over 60,000 pieces, making it the largest cultural institution dedicated to gold metallurgy in the world. As I wandered its displays with Maria de la Paz, conservator at the museum, I mentioned my visions of glittering cities.

“There is a strong connection between the museum and the legend of El Dorado, but it is not quite what you think,” she corrected. “There are many real-life links to the legend across the Americas, but the most historically accurate origin story comes from Bogotá’s broader region and its indigenous people, the Muisca.”

The Muisca inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense in around 1000 BC, but the peak of their cultural powers didn’t arrive until after the 7th century AD. Sadly, the Spanish conquest of the region later brought an abrupt end to their advanced civilisation.

“The Muisca didn’t build monumental structures like their more famous American counterparts, the Inca, the Aztecs and the Maya, but they left behind incredible artefacts that tell many stories,” smiled Maria, pointing to a tiny golden creation. “Right here, before your eyes, lies the origin of the legend of El Dorado.”

The item, known as the Muisca Raft, was surrounded by an impressive installation that made it appear as if it was floating in the air. Maria explained how it represented the ceremony that inspired the legend of El Dorado, more correctly known as ‘El Rey Dorado’ (or ‘The Golden King’). As I tried to make sense of the human figures on the tiny raft, she narrated its curious story.

“Every time a new Muisca chief, or Zipa, took over, his investiture ceremony included an initiation rite in Laguna de Guatavita. The Zipa would be covered in gold dust and would go out on a raft just like this,” she paused, pointing to the central figure towering at the back of the raft. “He was accompanied by hundreds of gold artefacts that would be thrown in the sacred waters as offerings to the gods, before the Zipa himself jumped in.”

To emphasise her point, Maria gestured to a photograph of Laguna de Guatavita, the most sacred of the Muisca lakes and where the ‘Golden Indian’ ritual was traditionally performed. To think that it was this that gave rise to the legend of El Dorado, a tale that led thousands of Europeans to these lands, causing countless deaths in pursuit of its mythical riches.

(Alamy)

(Alamy)

An hour and a half later, after leaving Bogotá’s congested streets far behind, I found myself at the entrance to Laguna de Guatavita Park alongside hundreds of locals. We were all waiting to join a three-hour guided tour that culminated with a visit to the miradors (viewpoints) overlooking the mythical lake, which we were soon to learn was in fact a large sinkhole.

Before the walk, I met up with Eduardo Acosta, the park director, who explained that the obligatory guided tours were a way to limit the environmental impact of thousands of visitors to the lake and park, as well as make it more educational.

“At 3,000m, the uphill hike to reach it isn’t the easiest,” he warned me as we made our way to the first mirador. It certainly didn’t stop the conquistadors. The list of people who tried to raid the lake’s riches is too long to mention, but the Spanish were the most persistent, even altering the landscape in the process. Eduardo pointed to a man-made gap alongside the crater-like perimeter. This had been opened up long ago in an unsuccessful attempt to drain the lake.

“It is impossible to know exactly how much gold or how many precious artefacts were found in the water, but we do know that thousands of pieces have been reclaimed over the past five centuries,” commented Eduardo. As we took in the majestic views of the lake, it turned myriad shades of green as the sun shone through the clouds.

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Back in Bogotá, I met with Angelina Guerrero, an independent curator, museologist and part of a generation of young Bogotanos driving a cultural renaissance in Colombia’s sprawling capital. We began our visit in the city’s historical core, the Candelaria district, which takes its name from the colonial-era Church of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria.

Angelina was eager for me to experience the many cultural institutions that have underlined Bogotá’s status as a rising star on the global arts scene. The Museum of Gold is now just one among many highlights, and she was soon directing me to a monumental complex housing the Art Collection of the Central Bank, the star attraction being the works of Colombia’s universally celebrated artist, Fernando Botero.

Instantly recognisable for his chunky, sometimes comical figures, Botero’s unique artistic style is explored across a series of masterpieces that he donated to the state back in 2000. The museum’s permanent collection helped to decipher some of the allegories found within his creations while juxtaposing his work next to that of the artists who inspired him. The Botero Museum’s noteworthy international collection features works by Picasso, Dali, Monet and Matisse, among others.

We finished our cultural tour with a visit to the recently renovated National Museum of Colombia, located outside the historical centre in a cleverly converted prison building.

“The museum made headlines in the art world for its innovative approach to showcasing its permanent collection,” prompted Angelina as we began our visit. Rather than exhibiting its works in chronological order, the galleries were separated into themes such as gold, power, family and struggle. The resulting medley – ranging from pre-Columbian to republican, to contemporary works – was refreshing in helping visitors to focus on understanding the commonalities and disconnections across the Colombian people.

(Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock)