The first snow of the season is always exciting, but after months of cold temperatures, the dull gray skies and barren landscapes start to look a bit bleak. If you find yourself longing for warmer weather and more cheerful scenery, take a look at these colorful cities for a change of pace. They may just be the mid-winter escape you were craving.
Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town’s most photogenic neighborhood has been part of a curious transformation in recent years. Nondescript houses and quiet cobblestone streets have since been replaced with abodes of lime green, sky blue and lipstick pink as crowds of tourists clammer to document the rainbow of color with their phones and cameras. The mostly Muslim neighborhood started painting their homes to celebrate the end of their annual religious fast, but the tradition became so popular that neighbors now consult each other to ensure their paint jobs don’t clash.
An old legend chalks Burano’s cheeriness up to pure practicality: the buildings acted as a bright visual for fisherman that needed to find their way home through thick coastal fog. Even though its no longer necessary for the structures to serve as blazing beacons in bad weather, their outer walls have gotten even brighter in recent years. The colorful facades have become such a draw that residents are no longer able to change the color of their homes without government permission.
Officially considered one of Mexico’s “Magic Towns,” this historically significant cultural center is a city with the sunniest of dispositions. Yellow colonial buildings, ancient Mayan pyramids and modern-day artisan workshops share the same space which creates a truly unique experience and a fascinating walk around town.
The relatively dry Rif Mountains of Morocco’s northern coast sit in stark contrast to the bright blue buildings that shine forth from Chefchaoeun’s historical center. Jews desperately seeking asylum from the Spanish Inquisition flooded into the town in 1492 and painted their houses to reflect the sky, which was symbolic of their closeness to God. The calming tone was such a hit that government buildings, public squares, lampposts, and even garbage bins now display it.
Built straight into the hillside of Chile's western coast, Valparaiso is as colorful and poetic as they come. Not only are the buildings themselves a multi-hued patchwork, but the city boasts some of the best street art in South America. The maze of steep, sinuous streets, alleyways, staircases, and crumbling houses may look decrepit at first glance but the massive murals and decorative designs found around every corner breathe new life into the city and contribute to its status as the “Jewel of the Pacific.”
What began as a city slum now attracts thousands of selfie-snapping visitors who can’t wait to showoff their latest pics. Spurred by several college students from the University of Malang Muhammadiyah, the houses were painted as part of a class project to revitalize the area. Now, curious passersby can’t help but stop and take notice of the colorful explosion.
Located above one of South America’s largest reservoirs, Guatape not only serves up a rich color palette but all manner of aquatic sports as well. Meander through the streets to take in the decorative designs and painted pictures before heading out to Peñol-Guatapé Reservoir for an afternoon on the water. It's a resort town that's the best of both worlds — adventurous and artistic.
When the classic, 1950s cartoon characters hit the big screen in 2011, this nondescript Spanish town went from stark white to Smurf blue virtually overnight. The town’s abundance of fungi paralleled the Smurf’s love of mushrooms so Sony Pictures asked if they could use the area to temporarily create the world’s first (and only) Smurf village. The promotional event was such a success that Juzacar continues to hold Smurf-centric events that in draw tourists and call for fresh buckets of blue paint.