What makes you fall in love with a locale? Is it the food and culture? Does weather play a role? How about the hotels? Perhaps it’s the beauty of the place itself. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these vibrant vacation spots speak volumes—and are sure to boost the brightness of your Instagram feed.
That doesn’t mean every city on our list is a kaleidoscopic tapestry. While many, like Bo-Kaap and Willemstad, are cloaked in every conceivable shade of the rainbow, others, like Chefchaouen and Júzcar, are washed in a singular hue. These are the dreamiest, Crayola-tinged destinations around the globe. #nofilter
Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is a rich melting pot. And nowhere is that more evident than Bo-Kaap, formerly known as the Malay Quarter, a uniquely diverse Muslim community full of flavor, culture, and color. Its slender, cobbled streets are dotted with Cape Dutch heritage domiciles—some built as early as 1763—doused in a dazzling array of neon green, magenta, lilac, turquoise, and lemon yellow.
Rainbow Row, Charleston, South Carolina
Rainbow Row—the cluster of enchanting, Georgian row homes along East Bay—is an emblem of southern charm. It’s hard to imagine, but in the early 1900s this area was considered a slum. Dorothy Porcher Legge hoped that a pastel face-lift would improve the overall appearance of the neighborhood. Others followed suit, and today it’s one of the most-visited and iconic sites in all of Charleston.
Old Town, Cartagena, Colombia
There’s something deeply romantic and seductive about Cartagena. The crown jewel of this Caribbean port is its walled Old Town. The historical districts of El Centro and San Diego flaunt remarkably preserved Spanish colonial buildings with brilliantly tinted edifices, ornamented doors, and bougainvillea-draped balconies. On every corner, women sell fresh fruit or kaleidoscope woven bags.
The Venetian island of Burano is a photographer’s dream renowned for its jewel-toned dwellings. And that’s no accident. Apparently, local fisherman began painting their houses in luminous shades of green, red, purple, and yellow so they could see them through the thick fog. The practice turned law mandates that residents follow the same 16th-century coloring system to this day.
Set high in the Rif Mountains of northwest Morocco, Chefchaouen is famed for the powder-blue buildings that lend a soothing, almost ethereal ambiance to its medina (old town). Cerulean cobbled lanes—too narrow to fit a car—meandering pathways, and steep stairs lead down to the main square. And there’s magic behind every corner and blind turn.
St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
First settled by the British in the 1600s, St. John’s is the capital and oldest city in Newfoundland. But its most storied attraction is the stretch of row houses, each clad in different primary color—red, green, blue, and the list goes on. This dazzling section of downtown is loving referred to as “Jellybean Row.”
Pelourinho, Salvador, Brazil
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, Pelourinho, or Pelô, is the historical hub of Bahia and the epicenter of Afro-Brazilian culture. This can be felt in the pulsing beat of capoeira and seen in the sherbet-hued residences and grand churches that make Pelô one of the most evocative and highly photographed areas in Salvador.
Havana is a living, breathing time capsule that mesmerizes travelers with its nostalgic charm. From the baroque-style cathedrals and stately colonial landmarks of Habana Vieja to the opulent art-deco mansions of Miramar and the neo-Moorish structures along the Malecón, its colorful architecture is a reflection of its diverse and fascinating past.
La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
It’s no secret that Buenos Aires is one of the most exuberant cities in the world. Its energetic spirit comes alive in everything from the flavorful cuisine and lively nightlife to the vivid blocks of La Boca. But these florid facades aren’t just for show; they also tell a story of a working-class neighborhood, its homes constructed with scraps from the local shipyard and splashed with leftover paint.
Curaçao’s capital looks like a candy-coated dreamland. But the pinks, yellows, greens, and teals that dominate downtown Willemstad aren’t just for aesthetics. Rumor has it that a governor in the 1800s decided his migraines were caused by the sun’s reflection off the white structures, so he demanded that all structures must be painted. What followed was a stunning tradition that continues to inject whimsy and cheerfulness more than 200 hundred years later.
Júzcar, an Andalusian enclave near Málaga, is visually arresting. And you’ll never guess the reason for its beautiful hue. A publicity stunt! In 2011, Sony Pictures painted the town bright blue to promote The Smurfs in 3D. When the marketing campaign was over, residents voted to keep the azure abodes, which had become—and continue to be—a key driver of tourism.