When Dorothy opened Auntie Em’s door and saw a technicolor world, hope came alive. Bright yellows, greens, pinks, and blues defined the land of Oz, telling a story of excitement and adventure. Glittery red slippers were the contrast to evil clothed in black and white.
But unlike Dorothy’s rainbow world, ours is real. Our planet is a spread of tangerine, cerulean, fuchsia, emerald—even glittery reds. Take one look at the colorful landscapes below, and let your own sense of excitement and adventure ignite.
Grand Prismatic Spring (Wyoming)
Yellowstone National Park is home to the highest concentration of geysers and hot springs in the world, and the Grand Prismatic is the rainbow-iest of them all. The center, too hot for most organisms at around 190 degrees F, is a deep, lifeless blue. But at 370 feet across, the incredibly hot water has space to cool, and different types of bacteria gather around the cooler edges. Each resulting color signifies a different temperature and a different variety of microscopic life.
To see the spring in its full glory, hike up Yellowstone’s Midway Bluff—you’ll have a great vantage point over the Midway Geyser Basin, including the spring and all its vivid hues.
Zhangye Danxia National Geopark (China)
The “eye candy of Zhangye,” China’s famous Rainbow Mountains are technically the foothills of the Qilian Mountains, but their vivid colors set them apart. Covering about 20 miles of the 124-square-mile geopark, these hills are made up of alternating, mineral-rich sandstone and siltstone layers, creating the defined, striated colors.
Rainfall (most frequent in June through September) deepens and enriches the colors, so they're best viewed right after a storm. Viewing platforms dot the wooden boardwalk at the base of the hills, providing obvious spots for snapping photos (recommended at dawn and dusk).
Seven Coloured Earths (Mauritius)
The seven distinct colors of the sand dunes near the Mauritian village of Chamarel still aren’t totally understood. Differing minerals throughout the eroded volcanic rock cause the hues, but how the colors stay separate remains a mystery. If you were able to pick up a handful, the grains would sort themselves by shade. A large viewing platform sticks out of the trees—yep, the dunes are wedged into the forest—and a short wooden fence lines the edge of the sand, but you’ll still be only inches from this mysterious sandbox.
The Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Icelandic Highlands is a factory of brilliant colors, its rhyolite mountains popping with reds, oranges, blues, and greens, especially at dawn and dusk. Trails (not necessarily well-marked ones) wind through the geothermal landscape, taking you along the foot of these mountains to steaming pools, glittering lava fields, and rocky canyons.
It’s a three-hour drive from Reykjavik, but from the Landmannalaugar main hut it’s experienced as it should be: a several-day hiking adventure.
Takinoue Park (Hokkaido, Japan)
Come spring, "shibazakura," or pink moss, takes over Takinoue Park. Every inch of ground lights up in various shades of lilac and fuchsia, like vivid, neon cherry blossoms blanketing the earth. Mid-May tends to be the moss’ utmost peak, though the color hangs on for a few weeks before and after. Takinoue is two hours north of Asahikawa; it’s easiest to rent a car and make a road trip of it.
Paria River Canyon (Arizona and Utah)
Full of unreal slot canyons, towering sandstone cliffs, hanging gardens, and home to The Wave, the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area rivals any national park in the American Southwest. Water ebbed and flowed here for millions of years, creating visually striking layers of differing materials and minerals, forming the area’s brilliant colors, striations, and fascinating rock formations.Permits are required to be here overnight. Obtain one, and you’re in for some serious solitude—and technicolor beauty.
Red Beach (China)
It might be called a “beach,” but in reality, you’re looking at a plant-covered wetland, the biggest wetland and reed marsh in the world. The crimson color comes from the blanket of seepweed that, like the leaves on the trees, loses its fresh green color come autumn. The soil is too alkaline for most other plants, giving seepweed free reign. Bring your zoom lens; nothing but a 6,500-foot wooden walkway rests on the edge of the reserve, leaving the land for the birds (some 260 species of them). Red Beach lies southwest of Panjin, part of the Liaohe River delta.
Montaña de Siete Colores (Peru)
A mountain by many names, including Vinicunca, this rainbow spot sits more than 17,000 feet above sea level, high up in the Andes. Across the millennia, sediment from lakes, rivers, and seas created grains of different sizes and composition, over time leading to many, many different colors. The trailhead is a three-hour drive from Cusco; from there, it’s a two-mile trek to the lookout. Discovered only a handful of years ago, it’s already become Peru’s second-most-visited tourist site.
Miscou (New Brunswick)
Instead of chasing foliage come fall, chase peat bogs. In autumn, Miscou Island turns a deep crimson red; half the isle is protected mossy wetland. On your way to the Miscou Lighthouse, stop near Lac Chenière and meander the boardwalk above the scarlet “living carpet.” Certain spots on the island are open to foot traffic, too, getting you ankle deep in color. Look for cloudberries! Miscou Island lies at the very northeastern tip of New Brunswick, sharing a border with Maine, and Highway 113 winds carefully around the numerous lakes and bogs.
Lake Retba (Senegal)
Senegal’s Lake Retba, or Lac Rose, is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a few sand dunes and little else. As a result, the water’s high salt content is the perfect environment for Dunaliella salina (a type of algae) to bloom, turning the water pink. Like the similarly salty Dead Sea, you can float effortlessly on Lake Retba or take a canoe to get on the water. The lake is less than an hour from Dakar, Senegal’s capital, and it’s pinkest from November to June.