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Colour affects our mood and how we respond to the world. Yellow is cheerful, blue for cool relaxation, red for passion.

We're conditioned to react to colour: good news when it comes to travelling. The world is saturated in rainbow shades, whether the Art Deco-inspired colours of South Beach in Miami or the bright, clashing colours of old town Wroclaw in Poland.

Colour is in the detail too, however. You'll find delightful colour in the spice sacks of a Marrakesh bazaar, or the pink pompoms adorning the hats of Peru's Quechua people. There's colour in Sri Lankan curries, the patterned dresses of Ghanaian ladies, even the simple plastic buckets sold in Singapore markets.

Latin America specialises in entire cities splashed with colour, including Salvador in Brazil, Guanajuato in Mexico and Valparaíso in Chile. More recently, there have been deliberate attempts to brighten up depressed neighbourhoods such as the shantytown Favela Santa Maria in Rio de Janeiro (which got a makeover from Dutch artists), or Las Palmitas in the Mexican city of Pachuca, transformed by a government-sponsored street artists' program.

There are many and varied examples of colour-coded towns the world over. Here are some of the most outrageous, sure to make you smile.

Burano, Italy (main image)

You'll feel as if you've fallen into a pop artist's palette in Burano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon whose houses are an hallucination of virulent purple, yellow, scarlet and neon green. Add canals, strings of washing hung out to dry, and a collection of blue and white boats, and you'll be carried away by the photo opportunities.

La Boca, Argentina

This Buenos Aires harbour-side district on the River Plate has famously multi-coloured houses, especially along El Caminito, a tourist drag where street artists paint and buskers perform the tango. Frescoes depict 1950s life or tango scenes. A street market offers cheerful arts and crafts and paintings that recreate El Caminito in blocks of cubist colour.

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Jaipur, India

Jaipur blushes pink, from the reddish defensive walls of the City Palace ( to the pale cream-pink of the Moon Palace. The Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds is orange sandstone; multiple balconies and ornamental windows glow like a giant honeycomb at sunset. Regular houses and the bazaar are also flushed with pink.

Bo-Kaap, South Africa

The hillside streets of Cape Town neighbourhood Bo-Kaap were first settled by Muslim immigrants and descendants of slaves from the Dutch East Indies. Its houses are painted in startling colours including yellow, orange and green, and further ornamented with columns and wrought-iron work. The cheerful backdrop makes Bo-Kaap a favourite for film shoots.

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Havana Cuba

The faded, sensual colours of Havana are slowly getting a bright new coat of paint as the country throws open its doors to tourism. Washed-out pinks and yellows and the odd splash of green line Malecon oceanfront promenade, and the old town features sharper colours along colonial streets. Giant murals erupt on facades of the lurid Callejón de Hammel district.

Vernazza, Italy

The five former fishing villages of the Cinque Terre on Italy's Ligurian coastline are all multi-coloured and all lovely, though Vernazza might win the gold medal. Its houses cluster around a harbour topped by a small castle. Take a cafe seat on waterside Piazza Marconi, where parasols add more glorious Technicolour to the scenery.

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Chefchaouen, Morocco

Tucked into the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco, Chefchaouen is famous for the intense blue of its houses and the occasional intervening ochre of tiled roofs. The medina (old town) features Andalusian architecture along steep, cobbled streets. The fort on Outa el Hammam square seems almost modest in orange-brown, but becomes lurid at sunset.

Longyearbyen, Norway

The administrative capital of the remote Svalbard islands sits between sea and glaciers. Its houses are from a child's drawing, pointy-roofed and painted in blocks of colour. Galleri Svalbard, showcasing the work of leading Norwegian artist Kàre Tveter, features a wonderful "Arctic Light" slide show that demonstrates how the sun – when it shines – also brings out colour in the surrounding landscape.

Have you ever been to these destinations?

Written by Brian Johnston. First appeared on

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