The 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is over and the judges are about to announce the best photos.

Over 12,000 amazing images were submitted for the photography awards from all over the world in these four categories: Travel Portraits; Outdoor Scenes; Sense of Place; and Spontaneous Moments. National Geographic will announce the winners next month and meanwhile we are sharing 25 of our favorite travel photography entries.

When I look at these spectacularly cool photos I start to think that maybe my photography teacher was wrong after all. He used to say that we should leave our DSLRs at home when traveling.

“Take point-and-shoot camera instead – it’s either a holiday or you are working,” he said.

If these travelers would have followed this advice, I wouldn’t be sharing these breathtaking pictures today from world-famous photography contest. I guess my D7000 is going with me on the next trip.

What about you? Do you take travel photos everywhere you go?

See all entries here:

Via: Demilked, Modern Met and The Atlantic

Lava Kiss

“My husband and I, along with a tour guide and a group of friends, hiked up to what was formerly the Royal Gardens subdivision above Kalapana, Hawaii, where the last standing house was just recently taken over by the active lava flow. While waiting for the rain to pass, we started taking back-lit portraits of each other in front of the lava flow after I set up my camera on the tripod. For the last photo, my husband spontaneously dipped me in a kiss. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime moment!”Dallas Nagata White)


Good Bye Old Friend

“Elephants are legendary for their memory and intelligence including attributes associated with grief, making music, altruism and compassion. We came across this elephant whose corpse was overcome by vultures and jackals. From a distance we heard and then saw another elephant approaching at a fast pace. She was successful at chasing away the predators and then very slowly and with much empathy wrapped her trunk around the deceased elephants tusk. She stayed in this position for several hours guarding her friend.”John Chaney)

Fly By

“This photo was taken on the ice near Arctic Bay last month. As far as we know, it is the highest latitude passenger flight on a hot air balloon ever. It was quite the sight to see a hot air balloon fly between the iceberg columns — it is one iceberg but looks like two.”Michelle Valberg)

Spiral Down


“The beautiful spiral staircase at the Vatican Museum.”Syaza Mohammed Shakharulain)

Milking a Yak


Left Behind

“It was hard picking out interesting compositions during a fly over, but I thought this one worked out well and gives some idea of the immense numbers of flamingo.”Bryan Pereira)

Family Time

“A lion and lioness share some quality time with their cubs.”Brandon Harris)

Beneath The Ice


“A magical moment as tons of sea ice floats above while we explored the world beneath the waves.”Aaron Wong)

Dust Dance

“A tornado tightens up and kicks up a lot of dust as it heads straight for me, roping out and dissipating approximately 1/2 mile from my location less than a minute later. The tornado was on the ground for a total of 4 minutes. To the right of the main tornado another funnel with a debris cloud on the ground can be seen. The tornado was a rare cold-core tornado that had papers written up about it a few days later, referencing my photos. This is one of seven tornadoes I saw that day, making it my most successful storm chase to date. June 20th, 2011 near Norton, Kansas at 2:32pm.”David Mayhew)


Burj Khalifa

“At 829.84m (2,723 ft), the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. However, plans are underway to construct an even higher building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. If completed, that structure will be the first in the world to surpass the 1km (3,280ft) mark.”Sandra Leduc)

Terraces at Yunan – China

“Wake up at cold and wet midnight, and awaiting the sunrise for my photograph. Travel thru foggy road with mud, arrived this terraces. The fog came and gone near 7 times, and the sunshine leaking at the top of mountain. Orange and golden color project on the surface of the terraces in order to construct this picture.”Mike Cheng)

Cayo Arena

“Cayo Arena is a beautiful sandbar 10 kilometers into the middle of the Atlantic off the coast of Punta Rucia. It’s often called Paradise Island by tour guides, and it is easy to understand why. Ultra-white sand gently slopes into the mind-bending clear turquoise water, where snorkeling is good due to coral reefs making a home for schools of fish that could quite possibly eat out of your hand. It is difficult to say how big the “island” is because it shrinks and expands depending on the season and the ocean’s currents.”David Pou)


What’s Up?


“Hundreds of adolescent elephant seals live on the beach eating and learning adult behavior before leaving the island. It is a cacophony of sound and activity until noon, when everyone seems to take a siesta. As I walked by these sleeping seals, one of them popped up his head as if to ask, “What’s up?”.Barbara Engel)

Fairy Tale Circles From Above

“What a magic moment on our honeymoon trip – sunrise in the namibian desert and all these fairy tale circles from a ballon’s perspective. Wow!”Bruno Kaeslin-Kuemmelberg)

The Rainbow Man

During my daily assignments as a local press photographer, I need to find an interesting images to improve my own photography skills. “As I saw this beautiful colorful building, which is a hotel in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, a man suddenly appeared and looked out. Without wasting time, I grabbed my camera and waited for the right moment.”Ahmad Izzrafiq Alias)



“Each December, lupins put on a stunning display around Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.”Mike Hollman)

Can Ostrich Can Can?

“Can-canning ostriches in Kenya, Amboseli.”Romana Wyllie)

Lost in Time – An Ancient Forest

“Near the city of Morondava, on the West coast of Madagascar lies an ancient forest of Baobab trees. Unique to Madagascar, the endemic species is sacred to the Malagasy people, and rightly so. Walking amongst these giants is like nothing else on this planet. Some of the trees here are over a thousand years old. It is a spiritual place, almost magical.”Ken Thorne)


25 Stunning Entries for National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012

“I felt the beautiful landscape of the Earth.”Takaki Watanabe)

A Snapshot From Mountaineer’s Life

“Have you ever wondered how does a mountaineer’s day start? I will give you a hint: you wake up at 3 am, set the stove, wake up your partner, pretend it is warm, quickly consume a high-calorie breakfast, watch your friends slowly ascending the icy slopes of your dream summit with their tiny head torches glimmering against perfectly blue ice, and hope for the good weather. One would ask: why all this trouble? The answer is easy: for the love of the adventure and the unknown.”Kamil Tamiola)

Stacked Supercell with Lightning

“This huge mesocyclone supercell was near the Nebraska / Kansas border on the night of June 22nd, 2012. What a stunning structure!”Jennifer Brindley)

A Louisiana Crane Forest

“Living in southeast Louisiana; building post-Hurricane Katrina floodwalls in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana”Tom Walsdorf)

The Ice Cave Experience

“Deep, blue and cold. The frightening experience of climbing inside an ice cave on the north face of alpine summit at 3800 m above sea level is very difficult to describe in words. Especially in summer, when all the glacial ice melts making the place for completely new formations. You need to stay focused, pay attention to every single move and commit yourself entirely to this climb. The reward?! An amazing experience of climbing something pure and truly unique.”Kamil Tamiola)

Sun-Kissed Faces

A newly emerging paradise sits in the northwestern coast of Cebu, the Philippines’ tourist capital. First celebrated in 2008, the municipality of San Remigio commemorates its beautiful coastline with an annual event called the Lapyahan festival. Children dress in colorful sea-themed costumes that highlight the town’s pearly-white coastline, which is also the longest one in the island. The group portrait captures the well-coordinated and pompous nature of this event, as well as the sun-kissed faces of children immensely enjoying their presentation to tourists and travelers. (© Erwin Choachuy)


“The Buzludzha Monument on a 1441 metres high peak was built by the Bulgarian communist regime to commemorate the events in 1891 when the socialists led by Dimitar Blagoev assembled secretly in the area to form an organised socialist movement. It was opened in 1981. No longer maintained by the Bulgarian government, it has fallen into disuse. Approaching and visiting the building in the middle of winter was a real adventure. The photography was taken with a large format camera and film.”Thomas Jorion)

Underwater Surf

“Taken at Cloud Break at an outer reef in Fiji, a surfer duck dives his board to clear the rolling waves of the raw ocean.”Lucia Griggi)