12 Most Colorful Towns in the World
Some cities don't need neon to brighten up the landscape. From pastel towers on the Italian coast to a crayon-colored artist colony in Argentina, these 12 towns make color the primary focus.
Ever notice how many of the world's great cities and monuments are, well, a bit bland? The pharaohs obviously skimped on the paint budget for the pyramids. And today, the Parthenon looks regally monochrome from its perch on the Athenian Acropolis. But there are some bright spots. Thankfully there are the candy-colored towns of Italy's Cinque Terre and vibrant neighborhoods from Buenos Aires to Cape Town to keep your vacation photos from looking a little beige. Or take a trip north of the Artic circle to a Norwegian town that brightens up the lunar landscape with charming orange, blue, and red dwellings (be sure to say hi to Santa Claus while you are there). Join us on a tour to five continents as we explore a dozen of the world's most vibrantly colorful towns, and we'll let you know exactly where to go to get the best view.
Manarola is the oldest of the Italian towns known as the Cinque Terre—the Five Lands along the country's northwestern coast that cling, lichen-like, to the rugged rocks above the Ligurian Sea. All five localities—Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare—are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized for its "harmonious interaction between people and nature." UNESCO obviously knows its color wheel: The sea's rich blues complement the sunset-colored shops and Genovese-style tower homes of Manarola with panache, and the buildings appear almost cultivated, like a flower garden tucked into the craggy slopes. Particularly stunning is the vista from the narrow rock ledge across the harbor at Punto Bonfiglio, when the retiring sun deepens and perfects the town's palette.
That wash of blue on the horizon isn't a sunny sky (though Jodhpur has plenty of those, too—with barely a foot of rain each year). Rather, the wave unfolding from the foot of the massive fortress Mehrangarh is a cornflower-colored settlement, aptly termed the "Blue City." The color may originally have had social and cultural significance, indicating the habitations of upper-caste Brahmins (today, it is less prone to indicating religious boundaries). Few communities are this coordinated: Steady blues give the settlement an airy, fantastical look, like a magical town drawn from the spiritual pages of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. Towering Mehrangarh completes the mythological look. Begun in 1459 and expanded over the centuries, the fortress is now open to visitors and provides panoramic views of the old city's heavenly patchwork.
LA BOCA, BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
From its humble beginnings as a slave settlement in the 16th century, Buenos Aires's La Boca neighborhood has become one of the capital's most culturally diverse districts—and certainly its most colorful. Paint-by-numbers conventillo homes, built by Italian immigrants and daubed with vibrant primaries, give the neighborhood a lively air. Caminito Street, La Boca's most popular drag, is particularly rich in these shared tenements—but it's also rich in oglers. Away from Caminito's throngs, the colors might not be quite as loud, but creativity abounds throughout the district—painters and sculptors of all stripes have transformed the neighborhood into an artistic hub. For a look at modern La Boca art, head for the galleries at Fundación Proa, which also offers a library, restaurant, and rooftop terrace for a birds-eye perspective on Buenos Aires's luminous playground.
Scattered across the bleak lunar landscape like a handful of candy drops, the barn-like homes in Ittoqqortoormiit (pronounced it-doc-cut-door-meet) lend a surprising touch of domesticity to one of the world's most desolate regions. Even the interior of the circa-1928 church is as richly colored as its façade. Perched dramatically on a fjord-laced peninsula, the town is the entryway to Northeast Greenland National Park, the world's most northerly and flat-out hugest national park—topping 240 million acres, the park could accommodate more than a hundred Yellowstones. But even without wandering into the beyond, Ittoqqortoormiit provides a keen glance into frontier life in Greenland. The 70 colonists who arrived in the area in 1925 speckled the rugged coastline with houses painted in burnt ochers and royal blues. With a winter that never ends—the sea here is frozen seven months of the year—those warm colors aren't just pretty, they're a psychological necessity.