There are towns so hooked on colour and its appeal that entire areas are daubed to reflect a universal devotion
By Sita Simons
Around the globe, sometimes in the most unexpected places, a handful of towns and villages stand out from the crowd, capturing the world’s attention and attracting thousands of visitors every year.
It’s not just a richness of culture or great views that generate all the fuss.
Tourists from near and far are drawn to these places to celebrate the sheer beauty of colour.
It can be an ancient legacy or a blending of cultures, a reflection of the environment or a strong statement against it, but whatever the reasons, colourful towns are places people love to live in and visit.
While it may not be practical to sidestep the conventional shades at home, it is possible to share the benefits of colour therapy by taking inspiration from these destinations.
1. Chefchaouen, Morocco
A bustling town high in the Rif Valley of northern Morocco, Chefchaouen sets itself apart from the dusty landscape in a palette of powder blue.
The history of the settlement dates back to 1471, when it was a small fortress established by Moorish exiles leaving Spain to fight the Portuegese invaders.
As the Spanish reconquered Moorish lands in the late 15th century, Chefchaouen grew and prospered with the arrival of Muslims and Jews fleeing persecution.
The refugees whitewashed their houses, balconies and tiled roofs, and added citrus trees to the centre of their patios, creating a very Spanish feel.
But it was the Jewish immigrants who popularised the pale-blue wash, considered a holy colour in Judaism, that is now the town’s trademark.
2. Bo-Kaap, South Africa
The residents of Bo-Kaap, a township of Cape Town in South Africa, are mostly descended from slaves who were imported by the Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries.
They came from Africa, Java, Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of Asia, and were collectively known as the Cape Malays.
These diverse cultures contributed much to the interesting architecture of the town and found commonality in their Muslim faith.
In accordance with the practice of wearing bright colours to signify the end of Ramadan, the houses are repainted in rainbow colours each year, with neighbours conferring to avoid a clash.
Since the end of apartheid, the charming and colourful cobbled streets of Bo-Kaap have attracted many tourists and property in the multicultural province is much sought-after.
3. Tobermory, Scotland
With up to 300 days a year of rain and an average annual temperature of just 7ºC, Tobermory, the capital of the Isle of Mull off the northeast coast of Scotland, can be grey and bleak at the best of times.
Inhabited since the Middle Ages, it was established as a working fishing port in 1788 and today most of the island’s 2000 inhabitants live in the thriving hamlet.
One of the most biodiverse areas in Europe, many nature lovers are attracted to the island but Tobermory is perhaps best known for the brightly painted houses and buildings that line the waterfront.
In defiance of the climate, the changing palette of rich reds, deep blues, soft yellows and salmon pinks make this Scottish harbour one of the prettiest in the world.
4. Wroclaw, Poland
The old town of Wroclaw, Poland, has a complicated history.
For decades as Europe warred around it, the city became in turn the province of Germany, Prussia and Austria.
Now it is known as ‘the Venice of Poland’, where it is the fourth largest city of its newest country.
A restrained approach to colour highlights the rich classical architecture of the city, progressing from earth tones to soft, natural pastels including greens.
In the modern arena, the town’s new Municipal Stadium, built for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, is covered with glass fibre mesh coated in Teflon, which can have any colour projected on it to reflect the mood of the event.
5. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
In Rio de Janeiro slum housing communities, known as favelas, stretch as far as the eye can see.
Existing in some capacity since the late 18th century when freed slaves found themselves with nowhere to go, they’re a part of the historical identity of Brazil.
In a city famed for its carnival, life in the favelas can be hard, with high unemployment and widespread poverty.
A recent series of projects led by two Dutch artists, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, sought to revive the area with colour and paint, encouraging civic pride and teaching young people skills.
Two huge murals and 34 homes at the entrance to the central square of Favela Santa Marta were painted by residents in a variety of striking hues.
6. Patidad, India
In 2009, a small village called Patidad in Gujarat, western India, underwent a radical colour overhaul when a prominent local family decided absolutely everything should be painted pink.
Believed to be a divine colour in Hinduism, every house, every gate and every temple was transformed with the vibrant hue.
Also known for being a particularly civic minded place, smoking and drinking is banned in Patidad, women and girls form trade collectives and local community groups work hard to preserve the environment, not least by planting 11,000 trees in the past few years.
The dramatic statement is an expression of the villagers’ faith and pride, but it also serves to set it apart, making Patidad a bona fide tourist attraction.