From energising reds to soothing blues, the colours we absorb around us stimulate a fleet of emotional responses.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the world’s most colourful destinations – and the type of mood each one engenders. Here’s where to visit and why, based on the findings of colour psychology:
Bold pops of colour
Great for: creative stimulation and energy
From hot pinks to turquoise and psychedelic greens, bright splashes of colour are all about channelling energy. This type of vivid, dazzling saturation fires up our capacity for excitement and risk-taking. With brands, this palette is often associated with a fresh, modern identity. Studies show that the effect of such colours is potent enough to stimulate the brain, elevate mood and raise blood pressure – all of which can peak our appetites (for food, curiosity and great ideas).
Bo-Kaap, South Africa
The steep streets of this distinctive Cape Town neighbourhood are bathed in a rainbow of kaleidoscopic colours. Lipstick pinks compete for attention next to lurid lilacs and bold swathes of terracotta. Bo-Kaap only erupted into colour fairly recently, in a post-Apartheid era. Some interpret this as an expression of long-suppressed identity in a Rainbow Nation era.
Warna Warni, Indonesia
A few years ago, the residents of Kampung Warna-Warni (“village of colour”) in the Malang area of Indonesia decided to revive their community and draw in visitors courtesy of a technicolour paint job. Inspired by the colourful favelas of Rio, villagers painted every one of their 223 houses in at least three eye-popping shades, along with passageways, bridges and riversides. The result is an effervescent implosion of colour with a slight pop art edge.
Great for: a sense of happy calm
Less saturated than bold shades, pastels conjure up a certain softness and lightness of touch. We associate pastels with the pale hues of spring, and parallel themes of rebirth and revival. Subtle strokes of green, pink and blue fall on the cool colour spectrum, bringing with them a sense of restfulness, peace and understated optimism.
This tiny island off the Venetian archipelago is studded with colourful fishermen’s houses. Hop on a Vaporetto to scoot across the lagoon, and amble around the pretty cottages – painted to help sailors of yesteryear navigate their way home through dense sea fog.
Cuba’s exuberant Old Town capital is etched with faded grandeur. Elegant colonnades sit side-by-side with crumbling Spanish fortresses, 17th Century churches and stately plazas. Turquoise, blush and lemon facades create a dream-like vision.
Great for: feel-good vibes (in moderation)
The shade of sunshine and happiness is, unsurprisingly, all about optimism. It’s widely used in advertising circles to arouse a sense of warmth and cheerfulness. There can be too much of a good thing with this attention-grabbing hue, though: studies show that bright yellow rooms make babies cry more, and cause adults to lose their tempers more quickly.
Castilla y León, Spain
Zip around this unsung region near Madrid come summertime, and you’ll find the fields flooded with a striking sunflower crop. The quiet, rural roads create the perfect backdrop to a lush, Van Gogh-style landscape.
Hoi An, Vietnam
The evocative riverside town of Hoi An is dotted with narrow cobbled streets lined by colourful French colonial buildings , and lanterns that come alight at night. This corn-coloured shopfront is one of our favourite spots.
Great for: spreading the love
Let’s ignore the gender baggage associated with pink for a moment (roll back to the early 1900s, and it was thought of as a “boys’ colour” anyway). This is also a shade that promotes feelings of profound calm, along with a nurturing instinct. Why? It has connotations with childhood. Studies have found prisoners are less aggressive when placed in a pink cell, while one UK football team famously painted their locker rooms a deep pink in order to lower pre-match testosterone levels among players.
Japan’s cherry blossom season sees the country come awash in a soft pink canvas of “sakura” blooms. Time your visit in early spring to stroll between Tokyo’s blush-hued avenues at night.
Lake Hillier, Australia
This bubblegum pink lake in western Australia is a true feat of nature. It’s thought that the unique pigmentation is created by a specific kind of microalgae.
Hues of blue
Great for: the big chill
Blue is a restful, restorative shade; an ambient balm that’s been shown to lower the heart rate. Its soothing effect is such that when railway operators in Tokyo installed blue lights at major train stations, they reported a 74% dip in suicide rates as a result. Other train companies are now following suit, making the most of the psychological belief that blue stymies impulsive action, and promotes feelings of compassion.
This ancient Moroccan city is coated in a hundred shades of blue, stretching across houses, mosques and narrow alleyways. The tradition dates back to the 15th Century, when Jewish refugees settling in the area painted things blue to reflect the sky, and a Godly presence.
The skyline of Rajasthan‘s feted Blue City is peppered by indigo homes that extend for miles onto the horizon of the old walled bastion. In bygone times, the colour signified the house of a Brahmin in the Indian caste system.
Streaks of purple
Great for: dreaming up big ideas
Hitting a balance between fiery red and calming blue, purple is great for the kind of free-spirited thinking that leads to big ideas. A colour of creativity and stimulation, it’s also not seen often in nature – meaning we’ve come to associate it with an air of luxury. Conveying notions of power and wealth, purple also brings with it a dash of mystique.
The rich lavender fields of France’s Provence region reach their zenith from June to August each year. Just to set eyes on this glorious bounty is soup for the soul. You can top up the experience by feasting on local lavender ice-cream and honey.
The Serengeti, Tanzania
If there’s a finer place for sunset sundowners than the golden plains of the Serengeti, we challenge you to find it. As dusk draws in over the grasslands of Tanzania’s famed national park, the sky lights up in a blaze of pink, orange and deep-set purples – often reflected off wildlife silhouettes.
Great for: fuelling passion and enthusiasm
The colour of treasure, jewel tones are all about richness, triumph and opulence. Gold is closely tied to wealth and status in many cultures, but it also denotes a kingly capacity of wisdom. Meanwhile, burnished shades of red and orange are associated with energy (research shows the colour red raises blood pressure and reaction rates), along with high levels of passion and enthusiasm. One study found football teams who wear red are statistically more likely to win.
As dawn breaks over the temple ruins of Bagan in Myanmar, a particular kind of golden light takes hold. Add in a veil of early-morning mist, and a handful of hot air balloons that drift gently across the silhouettes of gilded pagodas, and the effect is magnificent indeed.
Jordan’s Rose Red City carved out of rocks in the Nabatean era is a particularly winsome sight by night. Wander down the narrow siq valley to the echoes of Bedouin music, before seeing the burnished contours of The Treasury (above) come aglow in the light of a thousand candles.
Great for: individualism, and a spirit of playfulness
More than just an Eva Cassidy lyric or a snippet from Annie, rainbow hues are all about making a statement. Both in nature (hello, peacocks) and culture (Joseph’s multi-coloured coat), multiple shades together have been a means of breaking free from the crowd. In marketing, too, rainbow hues translate a carefree, playful and informal mindset. Brands such as Google, Instagram and eBay have found huge success of the back of multi-coloured logos.
Rainbow Mountain, Peru
Looming at an altitude of 5,200 metres, a climb up Rainbow Mountain in the Cusco region of Peru is not for the fainthearted. But your reward lies in that first glimpse of the extraordinary summit, with its golden, maroon and turquoise sedimentary layers.
Grand Prismatic, Yellowstone National Park
The most photographed of all pools and geysers at Yellowstone National Park, this spectacular hot spring forms a swirl of delicate coloured rings that gradate from dazzling oranges and yellows to a smoking aquamarine core.