By Bryony Dunn
Marketing Manager at Travel Nation
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Today, we’re flagging up our favourite rainbow places on the planet. It’s a celebration of diversity, love, life and freedom.
We’ve been searching far and wide for the most colourful spots in the world. The result? We found rainbows EVERYWHERE, from South America to the Indian Sub-continent and from tiny rural villages to vast mountain ranges. Check out these 16 rainbow-drenched destinations:
Tropical, loud and intense, Rio lives life in technicolour. Nothing about Brazil’s capital is subtle, and that’s why we love it. From the multi-coloured mosaic of the famous Selaron Steps to the rainbow-painted favela of Santa Marta, it’s a sizzling riot of bright diversity. Copacabana, Carnaval, Caipirinhas and – most of all – COLOUR.
Not far from Mount Bromo in Java, this little village has one heck of a story. Once a run-down slum on the verge of demolition, it is now an Instagram sensation. Local university students put together a plan to save the village by attracting both publicity and tourists. The plan? Paint the town all of the colours of the rainbow. Genius. It worked like a dream and many visitors to Java now make a special detour to Warna Warni – or Rainbow Village.
Both multi-cultural and multi-coloured, Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s most fascinating districts. Also known as the Cape Malay Quarter, the area is home to row upon row of rainbow-painted townhouses twisting up steep cobbled streets. Its history is colourful too, though tinged with the tragedy of Apartheid. Learn about Cape Town’s heart-breaking past at the District Six Museum, take a Cape Malay cooking class and wander through the pungent spice markets.
If you’re planning a stopover in Singapore, don’t just stick to the shopping arcades along Orchard Road. If you can tear yourself away from rooftop infinity pools and glitzy bars, head for Little India and prepared to be bowled over. This district is a rainbow jumble of street sellers, bright balconies and chaotic intersections. It’s worlds away from the modern, ultra-efficient Singapore – and we love it. Just remember to bring sunglasses!
This tiny traditional pueblo (village), just 3 hours from Medellin by road, is jam-packed with colour and charm. Here, every house has been painted a mixture of bright colours and adorned with emblems such as llamas, sunflowers, parrots and electric guitars! Once you’ve wandered between the residential houses, head for rainbow-painted Plaza de Zocalos, sip a Colombian coffee and watch the world go by. It’s all pretty eye-popping.
Rainbows are not restricted to above sea-level. Far from it. Off the coast of Queensland, the extraordinary Great Barrier Reef ecosystem stretches for over 2,300 metres. If you grab a snorkel and pop under the surface, you’ll find an underwater rainbow made up of over 600 types of soft and hard coral. On top of that, psychedelic shoals of fish and sea creatures weave between the coral, making it somewhere simply unforgettable.
Dripping with nostalgia, Old Havana is as pretty as a pastel-hued picture. The cobbled alleys are lined with brightly painted balconies, which are, in turn, draped with equally bright laundry. Against this backdrop, a kaleidoscope of classic cars ploughs the sunny streets and the seaside Malecon. Everything comes together to create a Caribbean city brimming with history, rum and rainbows.
Getting here demands considerably more effort than most places on this list, but the reward is well worth the wobbly legs. On arrival at Annapurna Base Camp, a whopping 4,130 metres above sea level, you’ll be greeted by a reception of rainbow player flags fluttering amidst the snow-capped Himalayas. The classic Annapurna Base Camp trek (or ABC trek for aficionados) is an 8-day loop beginning and ending in Pokhara. If you’ve got the legs (and the lungs), it’s a stunner.
Vinicunca, Peru’s Rainbow Mountain, is something that has to be seen to be believed. Sitting outside Cusco at a height of over 5,000 metres, it’s a gorgeous natural phenomenon. Formed millions of years ago, the ridges of sediment have settled in astounding stripes of blush pink, yellow, turquoise and burgundy, making a mountain like no other. It’s seriously high altitude, so be sure to spend a few days acclimatising in Cusco before roaming up Rainbow Mountain.
There’s a whole lot more to Mauritius than beaches. If you venture inland to the tropical Chamarel Plains, you’ll soon stumble across the incredible Seven Coloured Earths. These dunes, formed from the decomposition of volcanic rocks, have settled into stripes of colour ranging from violet and red through to yellow and blue. The rainbow-effect is most powerful at sunrise, so get up at the crack of dawn, grab a coffee and watch the waves of colour appear.
If you’re heading down towards the Deep South, be sure to take a road trip to Rainbow Row. This neat little line of 13 rainbow-painted houses in Charleston, South Carolina is the city’s most photogenic feature. The Georgian townhouses here were lovingly restored in the 1930s and 1940s, and they’ve been making Charleston more cheerful for decades. Explore the French Quarter, visit the leafy plantation houses, take a trip to the markets and end up with a sunny wander along Rainbow Row.
Hoi An is all about lanterns. Lots and lots of lanterns, in every colour of the rainbow. As dusk falls over the cobbled ancient town, the streets light up in a kaleidoscope of coloured lanterns that dangle from shopfronts and riverside restaurants. Atmospheric doesn’t even begin to cover it. These days, Hoi An is part of a well-trodden tourist path in Vietnam, but by the evening, the day-trippers have cleared out, leaving just a handful of travellers and a million lanterns.
We’ve all heard of Old Faithful, but Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring is – arguably – even more impressive. The largest hot spring in the USA and the third largest thermal spring on the planet, Grand Prismatic is circled by rainbow-coloured bands of heat-loving bacteria. The spring bubbles up from 121 feet underground, its temperatures can reach around 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and its sulphuric aroma is pretty eye-watering. Smells bad, looks great on Instagram.
Technically a street art installation in the Nantun District, Rainbow Village has risen to become a firm tourist favourite in Taiwan. Like Warna Warni, Taichung was half-dilapidated and fated for demolition, until Grandpa Rainbow stepped in. Yes really. A former soldier, Mr Huang – aka Grandpa Rainbow – picked up a paintbrush and let his imagination run wild. The result is a vibrant village with brightly-painted walls, floors, houses, schools and alleyways. It’s heart-warming, magical and brilliantly mad.
Madurai is a soulful city in Tamil Nadu scattered with psychedelic temples. A thronging Hindu stronghold, it’s somewhere often overlooked and under-visited. The jewel in Madurai’s crown is the Meenakshi Amman Temple, a 17th-century temple complex that beggars belief. It’s South India’s answer to the Taj Mahal. In total, the complex is home to a whopping 14 gopurams (gateway towers), two golden sculptured vimanas and 33,000 sculptures of gods and demons, painted in every colour of the rainbow.
La Boca is a bright, bohemian barrio of Buenos Aires. Packed with steakhouses, street artists and tango dives, it’s not to be missed if you’re heading for Argentina. Here, the cobbled walkway of El Caminito throngs with street performers and rainbow-painted shacks line the alleyways. It’s energetic, eclectic and full of local colour.
We couldn’t write about rainbow places without plugging our very own home – Brighton. Here, the rainbow beach-huts are a tiny part of a much bigger story. Colourful, diverse and tolerant to its core, Brighton is a seriously special place. Anything goes in Brighton, and we’re super proud to be part of it. Happy Pride everyone!
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Bryony is an explorer in every sense of the meaning. In 2013 she took the plunge, quit her marketing job and decided to face down her lifelong panic disorder to begin life as a freelance digital nomad. Journeying all over Asia, for years she earned her keep writing for travel brands. Almost by accident, she ended up in Cali, Colombia where she discovered a remarkable (as yet latent) talent for Salsa dancing. After spending a year in sequins shimmying from dance show to dance show, she returned to the UK, tanned, toned and ready to settle down. Bryony joined Travel Nation as a round the world specialist in 2016 and is now the Marketing Manager, with a little salsa on the side.