10 Most Beautiful Snakes in the World

Written by Hailey Pruett
Updated: June 21, 2022
Share this post on:
Think You Know Snakes?

Key Points

  • Snakes can be quite fascinating and beautiful creatures, but are often misunderstood.
  • Half of our choices for the most beautiful snakes are venomous, so should be admired from afar if you ever have a chance to spot one. There is currently no antidote for the poison of the Blue Malayan Coral Snake.
  • The Paradise Flying Snake doesn’t actually fly, but glides from tree to tree.

There are more than 3,000 different species of snakes on our lovely green and blue planet, and they make up an incredibly diverse group of fascinating (albeit often tragically misunderstood) animals! Narrowing down the most beautiful snakes in the world is no small task, but the 10 species I’ve listed here are truly some of the most visually stunning.

These snakes live in a variety of places in the world, with some being located below the equator in places like West and Central Africa or South America, while others can be found in Southeast Asia, the United States, and India. Most all of these fascinating snakes prefer to dwell near water or in dense forests, so they would be rare to encounter unless you were exploring in their remote territories. However, one of our top choices, well known the world over, often strays into urban areas and is responsible for numerous human deaths in it’s region. But there’s no denying it’s dark beauty.

As beauty is very subjective, the following snakes are in no particular order. Without further ado, let’s take an up-close look at the most beautiful, colorful, vivid, unique, and overall unforgettable species within the absolutely massive Serpentes suborder. 

6,746 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

1. Sunbeam Snake (Xenopeltis unicolor)

10 Most Beautiful Snakes - Sunbeam Snake
These iridescent snakes are stunning in direct sunlight, hence their bright and sunny name.

MP cz/Shutterstock.com

We start our list off with the stunning and aptly-named sunbeam snake. There are actually two species within the Xenopeltis genus, collectively known as sunbeam snakes. Both species are native to Southeast Asia and its surrounding islands. The better-known variety, Xenopeltis unicolor, was originally defined taxonomically by Dutch botanist Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt in 1827. It primarily inhabits countries like Myanmar, southern China, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Sunbeam snakes owe their beauty primarily to the highly iridescent scales that cover their entire bodies. While their main body color is a more drab gray, black, or brown, this color shifts wildly in direct sunlight. They can be hard to find and very reclusive, though, as they are highly fossorial and are usually burrowing underground. 

However, when these snakes come up to the surface to hunt for food in the evenings and early morning hours, they’re a truly unforgettable sight! Tiny rainbows dance across their scales in the sun as they slither about and constrict their unfortunate prey.

2. Rainbow Snake/Eel Moccasin (Farancia erytrogramma)

The rainbow snake’s underside is beautifully patterned in alternating shades of yellow, red, black, and brown.

Charles Baker / Creative Commons – License

The rainbow snake, also known as the eel moccasin, is another species with a name that suits it perfectly. These mostly aquatic snakes have a truly mesmerizing coloration, particularly on their sides and bellies, with alternating scale colors of bright red, yellow, black, brown, and orange. There were originally two subspecies, though one of them is unfortunately extinct as of 2011.

Like many of the beautiful snakes on this list, the eel moccasin is highly reclusive. It usually stays hidden in the water amongst the dense plant growth in the marshes and swamps of its native habitats throughout the southeastern United States. Notably, they are surprisingly docile towards humans, preferring to save their energy for their semi-aquatic prey like frogs and salamanders.

The rainbow snake has many names, including the red-lined snake, red-sided snake, and striped wampum. As far as snakes go, it is quite large, heavy-bodied, and muscular. However, despite its size, it is non-venomous and mostly harmless to anything larger than the typical frog or toad.

3. Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schegelii)

eyelash viper wrapped on branch
Eyelash vipers are beautiful snakes both for their bright coloration and their unique “eyelash” scales.

This is the first of several gorgeous vipers on this list, as the Viperidae family consists of a wide range of colorful, striking, and unique species. One of the most notable and beautiful varieties is the eyelash viper. This fearsome, usually electric-yellow snake has protruding, eyelash-like scales just above its large eyes. 

These bizarre yet handsome snakes mostly reside in Central and South America. Their preferred habitat is mainly in low-elevation, heavily shaded, and densely forested areas close to water. Interestingly, researchers currently believe the viper’s “eyelashes” help it to better camouflage itself by making its outline more difficult to make out when the snake hides amongst dense plant growth.

Though they are somewhat small compared to most other pit vipers, these ambush predators are highly accurate, expert hunters. Thankfully, despite their venomous nature and extremely sharp fangs, they aren’t very aggressive towards humans. In fact, eyelash vipers are reclusive and tend to avoid us at all costs. They primarily feed on small animals like frogs, rodents, lizards, and occasionally birds.

4. Paradise Flying Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi)

Where Do Snakes Live
There are several different species of flying snakes, but the paradise flying snake is the most visually striking.

Vince Adam/Shutterstock.com

A flying snake is many an ophidiophobe’s worst nightmare! Don’t worry, though, these snakes don’t so much fly rather than glide short distances from tree to tree. Still, the paradise flying snake zooming overhead is a truly incredible sight, not only for the unique way the species flattens its body to make itself lighter and more aerodynamic but also thanks to its gorgeous, vivid coloration.

There are several different species within the Chrysopelea genus of flying snakes, but the paradise tree variety is the most beautiful by far. Its scale patterning varies from individual to individual. Typically, though, this snake has a spotted appearance, with alternating colors of green, orange, yellow, and red. The snake’s head typically has horizontal striping in addition to the tiny spots.

Paradise flying snakes are highly arboreal and mainly live in humid forests throughout southeastern Asia. By stretching its ribs out and flattening its lightweight body, this beautiful snake can easily glide from tree to tree. It uses its powerful abdominal muscles to gracefully land on and grab onto tree branches.

5. Blue Malayan Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus)

Blue Malaysian Coral Snake
The blue Malaysian coral snake’s bright red head contrasts its bluish-black body beautifully.

reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

These beautiful yet highly venomous snakes are, like several others on this list, also native to Southeast Asia. Their coloration is absolutely stunning, with bright, blood-red heads and tails, bluish-black bodies, and thin, sky blue stripes running down the snakes’ sides. They can be hard to find and properly document, as they are quite reclusive and semi-fossorial. These snakes spend most of their time burrowing in the dirt and leaves in their heavily forested, mountainous habitats.

While they aren’t particularly aggressive, blue Malayan coral snakes can occasionally kill humans with the help of their long venom glands that house powerful cytotoxic venom. Fortunately, though, this is rare, as humans are most certainly not on their menu! Notably, they mostly feed on other, smaller snakes.

If you’re lucky (or, perhaps, unfortunate) enough to see one of these snakes in the wild, it’s best to admire them at a safe distance. There is currently no antidote or antivenom to treat their powerful bite!

6. Hairy/Rough-Scaled Bush Viper (Atheris hispida)

Red Venomous Bush Viper in African Rainforest. The viper comes in variations of orange, red, gray, black, yellow, blue, brown and olive.
Bush vipers exist in a rainbow of colors, such as this pale pink individual. At a glance, they almost look more like fearsome dragons than snakes!

iStock.com/Mark Kostich

The next snake on our list is the rough-scaled bush viper, also sometimes known as the hairy bush viper. It is mainly unique for its bizarre yet beautiful outward-pointing, keeled scales which give it a strikingly dragon-like appearance. Like most vipers, these particular snakes are brightly colored with flat, broad heads, short snouts, and large, protruding eyes.

This snake’s coloration varies from bright greens and yellows to oranges, browns, and greys. It mainly inhabits hot, humid rainforests in Western and Central Africa in countries like Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana. There are a few subspecies, all of which are similar in appearance, size, color, and geographical range.

Though the bush viper isn’t very aggressive towards humans, its hemotoxic venom is quite potent. However, only a few isolated human deaths have been contributed to the species.

7. Indian Cobra (Naja naja)

Deadliest Animal in the World: Snakes
Beautiful yet incredibly aggressive and deadly, the Indian cobra is a stunning beast of a snake!

RealityImages/Shutterstock.com

The Indian cobra is perhaps the most well-known and recognizable of all “true” cobras (aside from the king cobra, anyway) within the Naja genus. It has a few additional common names, such as the Asian cobra or, more notably, the spectacled cobra, thanks to its strange, bespectacled eye-shaped markings on the back of its hood. This species is also one of the larger cobra species, often reaching up to 5 feet in length and being quite heavy-bodied overall.

Though the Indian cobra’s coloration is made up of somewhat drab shades of grey and brown, its scale patterning, massive hood, and large size make it visually remarkable. As its name suggests, it’s native to India, as well as a few surrounding countries like Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. 

Indian cobras are hardy and highly adaptable and can thrive in a wide variety of different habitats, including urban areas. However, it most often lives near water, spending much of its time hidden away in rocky outcrops, termite mounds, and hollowed-out trees. 

The snake’s venom is powerful and deadly, being both neurotoxic and cardiotoxic. Notably, the Indian cobra is one of the famous “big four” snakes that cause the most bites and human deaths in India.

8. California Red-Sided Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis)

Most Beautiful Snakes - California Red-Sided Garter snake
These stunning serpents are much more brightly-colored than your typical garter snake!

Simone O/Shutterstock.com

Did you expect to see the humble garter snake on this list? It turns out, there are actually three distinctly colorful subspecies of the common garter snake! The California red-sided variety, however, is perhaps the most beautiful, with either vivid blue or yellow stripes stretching across its brightly-colored red body. The snake’s head is typically bright red as well, making it stand out against the drab, swampy habitat in which it lives.

As its name suggests, this beautiful snake mostly lives throughout California, usually along the coast in low-lying swamplands and marshes, never far from water. Like most typical garter snakes, they’re strong swimmers and skilled hunters. They primarily feed on small amphibians, fish, rodents, and occasionally birds.

Aside from its more unique coloration, the California red-sided garter snake is, well, a pretty standard garter snake. Its very mild venom is not harmful to humans, and the snake itself is not very aggressive towards humans anyway. They’re also quite small, maxing out at around two feet in length.

9. Rhinoceros Viper (Bitis nasicornis)

Most Beautiful Snakes - Rhinoceros Viper
The rhinoceros viper’s patterning is ornate, colorful, and downright mesmerizing.

reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

We come now to yet another viper on this list: the highly venomous yet visually stunning rhinoceros viper! Though its geographical range is small, this beautiful snake has become well-known for its unique patterning and coloration. Also notable is the species’ protruding nasal scales that resemble tiny horns.

This short yet heavy-bodied snake is both colorful and gorgeously patterned. It has ornate bluish-green diamond and hourglass-shaped markings running down the length of its brown and olive-green body. On the top of its head typically is a black diamond-shaped or triangular splotch, with its trademark “horns” at the tip of its nose.

Rhinoceros vipers live only in West and Central Africa, mainly in countries like Ghana, Sudan, Cameroon, and Uganda. More specifically, it resides in densely forested areas near water, where it hides amongst the foliage and leaf litter on the forest floor during the day and comes out to hunt at night. 

The rhinoceros viper’s venom is both hemotoxic and neurotoxic, a deadly and potent combination that it uses to take down prey with incredible efficiency. Fortunately, an antivenom does exist, but you still definitely want to avoid this beautiful snake if it crosses your path!

10. Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus caninus)

Amazing Rainforest Animal: Emerald Boa Constrictor
The emerald tree boa is thankfully non-venomous, but its bite can still be quite painful.

Hannamariah/Shutterstock.com

Finally, we cap off our list with the absolutely breathtaking emerald tree boa. This snake’s name suits it perfectly and mainly refers to its vivid emerald-green coloration. This green base body color is accentuated and broken up by small, irregular, zig-zagging white lines that almost look like tiny lightning bolts!

Interestingly, the emerald tree boa is not bright green from birth. As babies and juveniles, these snakes are more orange or red in color. Eventually, as they age, their true emerald color sets in, usually by the time they are around a year old. The snake’s eyes are a similar greenish-yellow shade with typical thin, slit-shaped pupils.

As their name suggests, emerald tree boas are highly arboreal and skilled, muscular-bodied climbers. They are native to South America, mainly living in parts of Brazil, Venezuela, the Guianas, and Colombia, both in and around the Amazon Rainforest

Despite being non-venomous, emerald tree boas are skilled and efficient hunters. They are nocturnal and hunt late at night, hiding amongst the branches and waiting to ambush any small rodents, lizards, frogs, and birds that cross their path.

Summary of the 10 Most Beautiful Snakes in the World

Here’s a recap of 10 of the most stunning snakes living on our planet:

RankName of SnakeLocationVenomous
1Sunbeam Snake (Xenopeltis unicolor)Southeast Asia
2Rainbow Snake/Eel Moccasin (Farancia erytrogramma)Southeastern United States
3Eyelash Viper (Bothriechis schegelii)Central & South AmericaX
4Paradise Flying Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi)Southeast Asia
5Blue Malayan Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus)Southeast AsiaX
6Hairy/Rough-Scaled Bush Viper (Atheris hispida)West & Central AfricaX
7Indian Cobra (Naja naja)India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri LankaX
8California Red-Sided Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis)California, US
9Rhinoceros Viper (Bitis nasicornis)West & Central AfricaX
10Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus caninus)South America

Up Next…

Keep reading! We think you’ll like these other pages about snakes and other amazing animals.

Discover the "Monster" Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda

Every day A-Z Animals sends out some of the most incredible facts in the world from our free newsletter. Want to discover the 10 most beautiful snakes in the world, a "snake island" where you're never more than 3 feet from danger, or a "monster" snake 5X larger than an anaconda? Then sign up right now and you'll start receiving our daily newsletter absolutely free.


Share this post on:
About the Author

Hi, internet! I'm a content writer, editor, and lifelong animal lover currently living in Tennessee with my partner, our cat, and our grumpy leopard gecko. I'm nonbinary-identifying, so I often go by the nickname Lex in addition to my legal name. Reptiles are my favorite animals, but I have a huge appreciation for the natural world in general. I hope you enjoy the knowledge and research I have to share about all kinds of awesome animals!

More from A-Z Animals