Last year, Pantone’s colour of the year turned eyes around the world to brightly hued reefs, as Living Coral set the tone for 2019. Now the graphics experts have announced a new Colour of the Year for 2020: Classic Blue (official code 19-4052). This mellow hue evokes long summer twilights, the rolling depths of the sea, the shadowed flanks of tall mountains, and the dusty skins of huckleberries hidden away in sunny brambles.
No wonder it’s a colour that’s sure to evoke plenty of travel memories – it was chosen precisely for its blend of curiosity, depth, and nostalgia. As Pantone’s Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman put it in a statement, “Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking, challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective, and open the flow of communication.”
Maybe we’re biased, but that description sounds a lot like the benefits of stepping beyond your own backyard. So whether you’re hoping to tap into those qualities of expansion and connection Classic Blue brings to life or you want to keep your Instagram grid on trend, here are ten destinations that pair perfectly with Pantone’s newest colour palette.
While it’s not as famous as Fes or Marrakech, the pretty little town of Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains is famous for its blue-hued medina. The tint to the buildings and narrow, winding streets harken back to the importance of tekhelet in ancient Judaism, a precious, specific shade of blue dye that symbolised heaven and the presence of the sacred in nature. Though the original recipe for tekhelet was lost after the destruction of the Second Temple, blue remains an important colour associated with protection, healing, and the divine throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, including in Chefchaouen.
A UNESCO world heritage site, Pamukkale isn’t a blue city so much as a living landscape of brilliant white calcite terraces full of bright blue waters that can range from light turquoise to Pantone’s Classic Blue. Called the “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, Pamukkale was used as a spa town in antiquity, thanks to the natural hot springs that bubble up here. The volcanic caves also created by the area’s geologic activity meant Pamukkale was once considered a gateway to the underworld.
The city of Jodhpur in India has a similar story behind its distinctive, colourful buildings. Before Pantone declared 2020 the year of Classic Blue, Jodhpur called this shade “Brahmin blue,” once reserved for the homes of the priestly caste but eventually adopted throughout the town. As in Morocco, the blue city of Jodhpur contrasts with the surrounding dusty desert landscape, glistening like water under a bright blue sky. You can spend a whole day getting lost in the winding, centuries-old streets, or get a bird’s eye view from Mehrangarh, the fort overlooking the old city.
The Blue Mosque, Istanbul
The famous blue İznik tiles that give one of Istanbul’s most iconic mosques its name are made using copper oxide, which produces a bright cobalt colour under the right conditions – a centuries-old process that would make Pantone proud. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, as it’s technically known, is lined with over 20,000 of these Classic Blue Iznik works of art. That fills the whole interior of the Blue Mosque with the perspective-expanding hue, encouraging a sense of tranquillity in worshippers and visitors alike.
Júzcar, on the other hand, has only been blue since 2011, when it was painted as part of a promotion for the Spanish release of The Smurfs movie. The blue colour was a hit for the small Andalusian village, and residents elected to keep the town blue long after Sony anticipated. While the licensing for Smurf-related promotions is expired and you won’t see the cartoon characters on the walls and around town anymore, Júzcar does remain an especially brilliant blue of which travellers love snapping photos.
Blue Hole, Belize
Another living landscape in Pantone’s signature Classic Blue hue, the Great Blue Hole is definitely a place that conjures up a sense of depth – literally. This massive underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize is 1000ft in diameter, the deep sapphire colour at its centre belaying the depths of hundreds of feet. The Classic Blue sinkhole is surrounded by shallower turquoise waters full of marine life and the bright Lighthouse Reef. It’s no wonder it’s a popular spot for dive enthusiasts – though few outside of the Caribbean knew of its existence prior to Jacques Cousteau’s visit in 1971.
Crater Lake, Oregon
Another massive sinkhole of a different sort, Crater Lake was formed when a volcano known as Mount Mazama blew its top, creating a caldera that slowly filled in with pure rainwater. The Klamath Indians who witnessed the eruptions passed the tale down in their oral history and myths for almost eight thousand years, corroborating findings by geologists centuries later. The lack of river sediments or other impurities means the water is incomparably clear despite its 1996ft depth, and stands out as a bright Classic Blue right in line with Pantone’s 2020 palette.
Temple of Heaven, Beijing
The architecture of this magnificent 15th-century temple complex in Beijing is intended to symbolize the connection between the earthly and the divine. Though the Temple of Heaven is made up of several buildings, they're all united by deep Classic Blue roofs that represent heaven, often supported by interior series of pillars that represent the number of months in the lunar calendar, hours in the day, and the four seasons. The roof of the Hall of the Great Harvest alone contains 50,000 blue-hued tiles, not counting the other massive buildings and walls that make up the temple campus.
The Blue Ridge Mountains, USA
Up close, the Blue Ridge Mountains are often a riot of colour depending on the season – varying from deep, satiny greens in the summer to bright fiery oranges and reds in autumn. But from a distance, the Blue Ridge Mountains get their namesake colour from molecules released by trees to help protect them from the southeastern heat. Those molecules create a hazy look that tints the mountains blue when you’re watching them from, say, promontories and overlooks like the ones found all along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway.
Grotta Azzura, Italy
A popular tourist attraction since the reign of Emperor Tiberius in the first century, Grotta Azzura is a natural sea cave on the island of Capri. It gains its classic blue hue thanks to the unique way light enters this water-filled cave – not from above, but through an underwater opening. Because the light passes through the water on its way into the cave, it fills the grotto with its famous deep blue glow. One of the Grotta’s many visitors was Mark Twain, who said of his visit, “the waters of this placid subterranean lake are the brightest, loveliest blue that can be imagined. They are as transparent as plate glass, and their colouring would shame the richest sky that ever bent over Italy. No tint could be more ravishing, no lustre more superb.”