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Top 10 Most Colorful Places on Earth

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
#10: Zhangye National Geopark, China China’s ‘rainbow mountains’ look like the work of some giant painter with a thing for parallel lines. Long bands of white, red, brown, and yellow decorate the hills in Zhangye National Geopark, each representing a layer of sandstone and minerals deposited over untold millennia. Rain and wind has sculpted the rock into dramatic peaks and ravines, and together, the striations and rolling hills create a bizarre, otherworldly, but also uniquely beautiful terrain. The landforms are best viewed at sunrise or sunset, when the colors catch the light and become especially wondrous. #9: Chefchaouen, Morocco Nestled in a fold of Morocco’s rugged Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen’s buildings seem to reflect the cloudless alpine sky. In the town’s medina, the buildings and stairs have been painted in inviting shades of blue, offset with brightly colored flower pots, red roof tiles, and, of course, people. The cerulean color scheme was supposedly created by Jewish refugees in the 1930s, as a reminder of heaven and God’s power. Located just a hop, skip and jump from Tangier, the village draws travelers from far and wide, who come for the cool, calming laneways, and linger for the town’s laid-back atmosphere and mountain vistas. #8: Lake Natron, Tanzania It looks like something from another planet - one completely hostile to life. But in fact, the blood-red color of Tanzania’s Lake Natron is the result of teeming microorganisms feeding on salt in the alkaline brine. Due to mineral-rich hot springs, and high evaporation rates, the water brims with soda ash, and spirulina algae dye the lake crimson as they photosynthesize. It isn’t the only lake where microalgae color the water - Lake Retba in Senegal and Lake Hillier in Australia are other well-known examples. But it is arguably the most stunning. Flamingos feast on the cyanobacteria, adding an extra splash of pink to the glowing reds and oranges that shimmer in the sun. #7: Seven Coloured Earths, Mauritius Ever dreamed of diving into ice cream? Well, here’s a sight to feed your fantasies. In the right light, the swirling colors of Mauritius’ Seven Colored Earths resemble rainbow scoops of frozen flavours that miraculously resist the sun’s heat. The kaleidoscopic whirl of reds, purples, and yellows is the result of volcanic rocks breaking down into sands that have settled into separate layers, and have been smoothed out into new patterns by torrential rain. The dunes are located in Mauritius’ southwestern Chamarel plains, where visitors can also spot picturesque falls and giant tortoises. #6: Lavender Fields, France Each summer in Provence, in the South of France, purple seas drown the hillsides in color, as rows upon rows of lavender flowers begin to bloom. These fragrant fields in France’s southeastern corner spread out around family-owned farms that have existed here for generations, the flowers picked to make soaps, oils, perfumes, and even part of the local diet, in the form of lavender honey and granita. The violet rows sometimes sit beside fields of brilliant yellow sunflowers, creating a gorgeous contrast of vivid hues. From June to August, visitors flock to the farms and distilleries, among them postcard-perfect Sénanque Abbey - where Cistercian monks make their livelihood growing lavender and tending honeybees. #5: Burano, Italy It’s tough to imagine a cheerier looking town. Pastel-colored houses line the green water canals, and flower-boxes perch on the window sills - just in case there’s not already enough color. The Venetian island Burano - really a series of connected islets - is famous for its delicate, handmade lace and technicolor houses, which legend claims were first painted in lurid shades centuries ago by local fishermen. It’s the perfect place to take a break from Venice’s bustling crowds, and soak up the flamboyance of what’s been called “the most colorful island in the world”. #4: Grand Prismatic Spring, USA Radiant bands of red, orange, yellow and green ring the edges of the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park’s most famous thermal feature. Again, we owe the water’s iridescent hues to microbes - species of cyanobacteria that feed on minerals in the pool, but inhabit different temperature ranges, creating the spring’s striking rainbow effect. In summer, reds and orange push out across the steaming water; whereas in winter, green microbial mats expand toward the edges. The stunning azure middle is the result of the spring’s incredible depth of 120 feet - enough to swallow up a 10 story building! The same phenomenon can be seen in Yellowstone’s smaller spring, Morning Glory. #3: The Grand Bazaar, Turkey Istanbul’s legendary Grand Bazaar is a vibrant, inexhaustible maze - a labyrinthine sprawl of 61 covered streets and 4,000 shops that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors daily. Light streaming through the market’s patterned brick domes illuminates wares of every color under the sun - from gleaming lanterns, finely detailed carpets, exquisitely painted ceramics, to shining metal platters and goblets. There’s also an astonishing array of spices, teas and of course loukoum (otherwise known as Turkish delight), although visitors can better peruse these at the nearby Spice Market. Bursting at the seams with color, the Grand Bazaar is an easy choice for our final countdown. #2: Great Barrier Reef, Australia The world’s largest living structure, and one under assault from pollution and climate change, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef teems with every color in nature’s palette. Its 2,900 individual reefs are home to 400 coral species and 1,500 species of fish. Orange clownfish slink through purple-tipped sea anemones, while multicolored parrot fish peck at algae and corals, and sea turtles graze fields of green sea grass. The sleek grey lines of numerous shark species also prowl these waters, passing over the blue and violet mantles of giant clams. It’s a breathtaking, unbridled chaos of color in constant motion, life at its most diverse and most vivid. Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions: Crystal Caves, Iceland Caño Cristales, Colombia Las Palmitas Barrio, Mexico #1: Tulip Fields, The Netherlands Tulips are as Dutch as windmills and clogs. In fact, the Dutch are so fond of tulips, they have a National Tulip Day to kickoff the season. Every spring, fields of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths transform North Holland into a rainbow dreamscape of rich reds, yellows, and whites - with rows of pink, violet and blue thrown in for good measure. Put these flowers and the region’s famous windmills together, and you’ve got a kaleidoscope of magic. It’s an unparalleled, dazzling vista of vivid colors that outshines the rest to make it our number one.
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#10: Zhangye National Geopark, China
China’s ‘rainbow mountains’ look like the work of some giant painter with a thing for parallel lines. Long bands of white, red, brown, and yellow decorate the hills in Zhangye National Geopark, each representing a layer of sandstone and minerals deposited over untold millennia. Rain and wind has sculpted the rock into dramatic peaks and ravines, and together, the striations and rolling hills create a bizarre, otherworldly, but also uniquely beautiful terrain. The landforms are best viewed at sunrise or sunset, when the colors catch the light and become especially wondrous.

#9: Chefchaouen, Morocco
Nestled in a fold of Morocco’s rugged Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen’s buildings seem to reflect the cloudless alpine sky. In the town’s medina, the buildings and stairs have been painted in inviting shades of blue, offset with brightly colored flower pots, red roof tiles, and, of course, people. The cerulean color scheme was supposedly created by Jewish refugees in the 1930s, as a reminder of heaven and God’s power. Located just a hop, skip and jump from Tangier, the village draws travelers from far and wide, who come for the cool, calming laneways, and linger for the town’s laid-back atmosphere and mountain vistas.

#8: Lake Natron, Tanzania
It looks like something from another planet - one completely hostile to life. But in fact, the blood-red color of Tanzania’s Lake Natron is the result of teeming microorganisms feeding on salt in the alkaline brine. Due to mineral-rich hot springs, and high evaporation rates, the water brims with soda ash, and spirulina algae dye the lake crimson as they photosynthesize. It isn’t the only lake where microalgae color the water - Lake Retba in Senegal and Lake Hillier in Australia are other well-known examples. But it is arguably the most stunning. Flamingos feast on the cyanobacteria, adding an extra splash of pink to the glowing reds and oranges that shimmer in the sun.

#7: Seven Coloured Earths, Mauritius
Ever dreamed of diving into ice cream? Well, here’s a sight to feed your fantasies. In the right light, the swirling colors of Mauritius’ Seven Colored Earths resemble rainbow scoops of frozen flavours that miraculously resist the sun’s heat. The kaleidoscopic whirl of reds, purples, and yellows is the result of volcanic rocks breaking down into sands that have settled into separate layers, and have been smoothed out into new patterns by torrential rain. The dunes are located in Mauritius’ southwestern Chamarel plains, where visitors can also spot picturesque falls and giant tortoises.

#6: Lavender Fields, France
Each summer in Provence, in the South of France, purple seas drown the hillsides in color, as rows upon rows of lavender flowers begin to bloom. These fragrant fields in France’s southeastern corner spread out around family-owned farms that have existed here for generations, the flowers picked to make soaps, oils, perfumes, and even part of the local diet, in the form of lavender honey and granita. The violet rows sometimes sit beside fields of brilliant yellow sunflowers, creating a gorgeous contrast of vivid hues. From June to August, visitors flock to the farms and distilleries, among them postcard-perfect Sénanque Abbey - where Cistercian monks make their livelihood growing lavender and tending honeybees.

#5: Burano, Italy
It’s tough to imagine a cheerier looking town. Pastel-colored houses line the green water canals, and flower-boxes perch on the window sills - just in case there’s not already enough color. The Venetian island Burano - really a series of connected islets - is famous for its delicate, handmade lace and technicolor houses, which legend claims were first painted in lurid shades centuries ago by local fishermen. It’s the perfect place to take a break from Venice’s bustling crowds, and soak up the flamboyance of what’s been called “the most colorful island in the world”.

#4: Grand Prismatic Spring, USA
Radiant bands of red, orange, yellow and green ring the edges of the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park’s most famous thermal feature. Again, we owe the water’s iridescent hues to microbes - species of cyanobacteria that feed on minerals in the pool, but inhabit different temperature ranges, creating the spring’s striking rainbow effect. In summer, reds and orange push out across the steaming water; whereas in winter, green microbial mats expand toward the edges. The stunning azure middle is the result of the spring’s incredible depth of 120 feet - enough to swallow up a 10 story building! The same phenomenon can be seen in Yellowstone’s smaller spring, Morning Glory.

#3: The Grand Bazaar, Turkey
Istanbul’s legendary Grand Bazaar is a vibrant, inexhaustible maze - a labyrinthine sprawl of 61 covered streets and 4,000 shops that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors daily. Light streaming through the market’s patterned brick domes illuminates wares of every color under the sun - from gleaming lanterns, finely detailed carpets, exquisitely painted ceramics, to shining metal platters and goblets. There’s also an astonishing array of spices, teas and of course loukoum (otherwise known as Turkish delight), although visitors can better peruse these at the nearby Spice Market. Bursting at the seams with color, the Grand Bazaar is an easy choice for our final countdown.

#2: Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The world’s largest living structure, and one under assault from pollution and climate change, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef teems with every color in nature’s palette. Its 2,900 individual reefs are home to 400 coral species and 1,500 species of fish. Orange clownfish slink through purple-tipped sea anemones, while multicolored parrot fish peck at algae and corals, and sea turtles graze fields of green sea grass. The sleek grey lines of numerous shark species also prowl these waters, passing over the blue and violet mantles of giant clams. It’s a breathtaking, unbridled chaos of color in constant motion, life at its most diverse and most vivid.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

Crystal Caves, Iceland

Caño Cristales, Colombia

Las Palmitas Barrio, Mexico

#1: Tulip Fields, The Netherlands
Tulips are as Dutch as windmills and clogs. In fact, the Dutch are so fond of tulips, they have a National Tulip Day to kickoff the season. Every spring, fields of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths transform North Holland into a rainbow dreamscape of rich reds, yellows, and whites - with rows of pink, violet and blue thrown in for good measure. Put these flowers and the region’s famous windmills together, and you’ve got a kaleidoscope of magic. It’s an unparalleled, dazzling vista of vivid colors that outshines the rest to make it our number one.

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