It's a ROYGBIV world!
While artificially vibrant towns sometimes grab all the attention of color-hunting travelers, these naturally colorful attractions only prove that mother nature was several steps ahead when it came to eye-catching, statement-making destinations. From hot springs that look like they’ve been flooded with paint to more than one pink lake (what is it about pink lakes?), these are the natural attractions worth visiting in your quest for ever more colorful destinations.
WHERE: La Macarena, Colombia
The world’s most beautiful river and its kaleidoscopic riverbed, which runs the gamut of shades from sunshine yellow to blood red, can be found in La Macarena, Colombia. For the full technicolor experience, visit between July and November, but beware that a Caño Cristales excursion will be pretty out of reach for most budget backpackers, thanks to the limited and monopolized (read: not cheap) accessibility.
WHERE: Cap Vert, Senegal
No, you’re not looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses, because Senegal’s salty Lac Rose (Pink Lake, obvious reasons) is actually that bubblegum pink. However, it’s far from unique, being one of several over-seasoned, bacteria-filled bodies of fuchsia water in the world. For the deepest hue, visit between November and June.
WHERE: Afar, Ethiopia
If you’re heat-averse, venturing to Ethiopia’s practically inhospitable Danakil Depression region seems misguided at best and vaguely idiotic at worst. However, for those obsessed with spectacularly colorful natural attractions, the bright yellow appeal of the Dallol volcano and the numerous olive, crimson, and amber sulphuric salt deposits in the nearby vicinity might just convince you it’s worth the trip.
WHERE: Cusco, Peru
Almost entirely overlooked by travelers for years, Peru’s Vinicunca mountain (better known by the title Rainbow Mountain) is experiencing a color-driven surge in tourism of late, principally fuelled by snap-happy visitors who couldn’t care less about hiking, but really want a photo against Vinicunca’s picture-perfect backdrop. Can you blame them?
WHERE: Gansu Province, China
The Asian answer to Peru’s Vinicunca, China’s Zhangye Danxia mountains are like a multicolored barcode come to life, with seemingly unreal pinstripes making up the copper, blue, and yellow hues of the rocky peaks. While some clever photo editing software has likely enhanced the vibrancy (and the reputation) of the region over the years, Zhangye Danxia’s naturally colorful presence is undeniable.
WHERE: Arusha, Tanzania
What from a distance looks like a haphazard patchwork of scarlet pools is actually a nightmarishly alkaline but still incredibly red Tanzanian lake. Lake Natron, while being one of the primary breeding grounds for Lesser Flamingos, is notoriously inhospitable to life…and has the calcified birds littering its shores to prove it. Don’t be tempted to take a dip.
WHERE: Grindavík, Iceland
Arguably the principal tourist attraction of the tourism industry’s current darling, Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is likely high on your bucket list. Bandwagons aside, it’s easy to understand the appeal of these ice blue yet deceptively toasty waters, which allegedly have curative properties.
Kawah Ijen Volcano
WHERE: Java, Indonesia
The Indonesian island of Java is home to one of the most peculiar natural phenomena in the world – a volcano with blue lava. Well, sort of. While many outlets claim the lava itself takes on the unearthly blue hue, the azure glow of Kawah Ijen actually comes about thanks to the simultaneous release and combustion of incredibly high levels of toxic sulphuric gas
Las Cuevas de Mármol
WHERE: Lago Carrera, Chile
Chile’s Las Cuevas de Mármol, or Marble Caves in English, are the ultramarine stand-out of an already impressive Patagonian peninsula. If you go to the effort to get there, you’ll be met with an impressive vista; think azure-hued, sun-dappled and subtly striped walls which have been lovingly sculpted by the waves for centuries.
WHERE: Yucatán, Mexico
Yucatán’s Las Coloradas remained ostensibly off the tourist radar for years thanks to their tricky-to-access status, but after a handful of travel bloggers stumbled across these salty lagoons and shared them on the internet for all to see, their fame skyrocketed. With the rise in popularity came limited access though, and now you can’t even take a dip in the rosy waters. Yep, this is an eye-candy-only destination.
WHERE: Goldfields-Esperance, Australia
The Australian version of Mexico’s pink lake is also a salty natural phenomenon regularly confused for its Latin American counterpart. Don’t be deceived though, as the rose-toned Lake Hillier is an entirely separate entity, although arguably even trickier to reach. One of the only ways to get there is by helicopter, but once you’ve touched down, you are allowed to take a dip in these fuchsia waters.
WHERE: Alaska, USA
As with all things pure and beautiful, humanity loves to stick its nose in and ruin everything. This is likely going to be the case with Alaska’s Mendenhall Caves, which, rather than finding a home deep within rock face, instead formed in the heart of a glacier which is receding at a rate of knots. So, pay a visit before it disappears, and bathe (metaphorically) in the unreal blue light that douses the cave.
Five Flower Lake
WHERE: Sichuan Province, China
Sometimes known as Wuhua Lake, this Chinese attraction is regularly ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful bodies of water, although legend has it that the lake is actually a shard of broken mirror dropped by a goddess. Whatever the truth, the crystalline, dazzlingly turquoise waters ensure that all eyes are on the Five Flower Lake, whether you see your reflection staring back at you or not.
WHERE: Nevada, USA
Nevada’s impressive Fly Geyser (recently bought by Burning Man, because, of course) is perhaps the only entry that’s not strictly natural in origin. Rather, it was a man-made accident gone right, which left the world with a rainbow-colored rock that you’d be forgiven for thinking was photoshopped. Spoiler: it’s not, but it is located on private property, so get used to ogling it through a screen.
WHERE: Sardinia, Italy
On the uninhabited island of Budelli, in Sardinia’s Maddalena archipelago, lies one of the coolest beaches known to (wo)man. And we’re not talking temperature wise. As Italian speakers might already have guessed, the spiaggia rosa is actually a pink sand beach which owes its candyfloss color to tiny coral fragments that have infiltrated the coastline over the years.
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Kliluk Spotted Lake
WHERE: British Columbia, Canada
Trypophobics will want to steer well clear of this holier-than-a-slice-of-Edam Canadian lake, dotted as it is with multicolored summertime mineral deposits, which change shade slightly from year to year. When it’s not been a veritably colorful tourist attraction though, Kliluk is also a site of traditional medicine for the First Nation Okanagan Syilx people.
WHERE: Potosí, Bolivia
Salt strikes again in Latin American lakes, this time bestowing upon us Bolivia’s pleasingly pillar-box red Laguna Colorada, a prime spot for flamingo watching close to the Chilean border. Often overshadowed by the far more famous Salar de Uyuni salt flats, the Laguna Colorada is actually the perfect destination for those who like a bit more water with their salt, thank you very much.
Banff National Park
WHERE: Alberta, Canada
Situated in the Canadian Rockies, the jewel-toned lakes that dominate the postcard perfection of Banff’s stunning natural outlook are what makes this national park a dream destination for color fiends. While it may not have the rich complexity of color shown in other vibrant natural attractions, the simplicity of the turquoise waters against the pine-lined shores and mountainous backdrops is unrivaled.
Great Barrier Reef
WHERE: Queensland, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef’s expansive coral bed might be dying (thanks, global warming), but look past the bleached sections and vast expanses of the seabed remain multicolored and stoic in their swansong, remaining inhabited by all manner of tropical fish and turtles as far as the eye can see.
Morning Glory Pool & Grand Prismatic Hot Spring
WHERE: Yellowstone, USA
Yellowstone is home to more than a potential apocalypse inducing super volcano; in fact, it houses many an impressive hot spring. There’s the rather unfortunately named Morning Glory Pool, a blue and yellow marvel whose natural glow has been dulled by the introduction of copper coins over the years, and the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, which sounds vaguely like a magic trick and looks distinctly like a rainbow bullseye.
WHERE: Kitakyushu, Japan
Japan’s Kawachi Wisteria Gardens are tucked away in the hills of the Fukuoka Prefecture and bloom in popularity during the biannual peak times of April-May and autumn’s so-called “maple leaf season.” Sweeping the purple spectrum, from practically white to rich plum, the overall look of the Wisteria Gardens and their iconic covered walkways is actually one of a calming periwinkle.
WHERE: Arizona, USA
Arizona’s Painted Desert bears a striking resemblance to both China and Peru’s Rainbow Mountains, albeit in tones which are a tad more muted. This region of excellently named “‘Badlands” is principally dominated by and recognized for the rocky peaks and troughs of the mountains and their horizontal, distinctly colored pinstripes.
Seven Colored Earths
WHERE: Chamarel, Mauritius
Chamarel, Mauritius, with its aptly named Seven Colored Earths, is likely the only place on earth where you can see a true rainbow in tangible form. Sandy dunes made up of distinctly colorful strata, ranging from dusky mauve to toasty tangerine, make up this petite and ever-shifting tourist attraction which bizarrely remains uneroded despite regular torrential rains. Magic? Probably not. Magical? Definitely.
Laguna de Bacalar
WHERE: Quintana Roo, Mexico
While Chamarel sometimes claims to be the world’s only natural attraction with seven distinct and naturally occurring shades in just one place, Mexico’s Laguna de Bacalar would agree to disagree. Colloquially known as the Lake of Seven Colors, it’s up for debate as to just how accurate that statement is, but even so, Lake Bacalar still exhibits incredible water clarity (thanks to the limestone bottom), and a captivating blue hue.
Rainbow Eucalyptus Groves
WHERE: Mindanao, the Philippines
For a trippy experience that’ll have you thinking you’re either hallucinating or in a Tim Burton film, pay a visit to the Rainbow Eucalyptus Groves in Mindanao, The Philippines. Here you’ll find a bizarre variety of tree which, as it sheds its bark, reveals a lime green interior that ultimately matures into rich blues, purples, and maroons, leaving behind a real-life candy cane of color.
WHERE: Andalucia, Spain
You have years of mining heritage to thank for this now (sort of) natural attraction in Andalucia, Spain. The aptly named Rio Tinto has a wine-colored hue 365 days a year as a result of dissolving iron from nearby mines, although the high acidity levels should deter you from taking a dip in these dangerous, albeit eye-catching, waters.
Dubai Miracle Garden
WHERE: Dubailand, Dubai
If any country in the world does excess, it’s Dubai. The spiritual capital of the United Arab Emirates (the real capital is Abu Dhabi), the spectacular Dubai Miracle Gardens arguably make the trip worthwhile for flower fans and color chasers. A sprawling circle of crisscrossing walkways and heart-shaped floral arches, the Dubai Miracle Garden is the definition of extra.
WHERE: Provence, France
Lavender may be the scent of choice of literally ever grandma on earth, but it’s hard to deny that the flowers behind the familiar fragrance make for a beautifully vibrant natural spectacle. While lavender grows in numerous locations around the world, Provence, France is easily the undisputed champion of this floral phenomenon.
WHERE: Tasmania, Australia
Orange boulders line Tasmania’s Binalong Bay, making for an eye-catching contrast between the white-sand shores and multi-tonal waters of the Australian seas, as well as understandably giving rise to the nickname “Bay of Fires.” However, the distinct pumpkin hue of these granite hunks is actually thanks to a light lichen coating.
WHERE: Capri, Italy
The world certainly isn’t short of crystalline waters that look like something straight from a picture book. Think Isla Baru, Colombia’s turquoise seas or Mexico’s cascading Agua Azul waterfall, to name but a few. However, nowhere does cerulean seas like Capri’s Grotta Azzurra, better known in English as the Blue Grotto.