The most colourful places in Africa
We take a look at the most eye-popping spots across this vibrant continent
Africa is a continent of bold colours, from vibrant streets in South Africa and primary colour patterned textiles to Ghana’s fantasy coffins and incredible Maasai beadwork. It permeates nature, too, in the forms of rainbow-hued sands and flower-carpeted plains.
This multicultural neighbourhood dates back to the 1760s, when these Dutch-Georgian houses were built and leased to enslaved people from Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Africa. Back then, their facades were white, and legend says that when the residents were eventually allowed to buy the properties in their own names, they painted them bright primary and pastel colours in celebration of their new-found freedom. Today, you can explore the cobbled, hilly streets of this central neighbourhood – the oldest residential part of Cape Town – on a tour via Islamic shrines, mosques and Cape Malay food and craft markets.
If Marrakesh is known as the pink city, then this picturesque settlement in northwest Morocco is the country’s blue city. Just inland from Tangier, Chefchaouen is remarkable for its blue-hued buildings, which climb towards the foothills of the Rif Mountains. There’s no consensus on why the city is painted indigo. Some say it keeps mosquitos away (something that’s also said of blue-painted Jodhpur, in India) while others wonder whether it represents the colour of the sea. Either way, the calm azure tones, framing cobbled streets and peppered with terracotta plant pots, make for a gorgeously photogenic day trip.
In the southeast corner of Mauritius is the Chamarel plain, where you’ll find one of the world’s most colourful geological formations. A small area of sand dunes has been dubbed the Seven Coloured Earths, because of its rainbow effect of different-hued sands layered side by side. Over millennia, molten lava here converted to clay minerals, with different elemental compositions turning the sands blue, red, brown, green, purple and yellow in turn. They glow the warmest at sunrise – get there early and then hit the beach.
The Namaqua region of South Africa stretches 400,000 sq km all the way to Namibia, and is home to some of Africa’s rarest wildlife, from honey badgers to black eagles. But it’s the springtime blooms in the 1,000-hectare Skilpad Wildflower Reserve that draws the most visitors, as well as bird and insect species that pollinate the orange, yellow and purple swathes of daisies, lilies, aloe plants and perennial herbs here. Visit in August or September to see the flowers at their best, and look out for a speckled padloper – the world’s smallest tortoise.
It takes less than an hour to get to Lake Retba, also known as Lac Rose – the pink lake – from Senegal’s capital, Dakar. And when you get there, you’ll find one of the most Instagrammable spots on the African continent. This lake’s water is fuschia pink thanks to a special type of algae that’s attracted to the lake’s high salt content (local people harvest salt from small boats that glide, dreamlike, over the rosy surface). Separated from the Atlantic Ocean by just a narrow rise of sand dunes, the lake is at its most colourful during the dry season – from November to June.