Photographer: Jeremy Tan/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

The Best Travel Photos of the Year

From Morocco to Malaysia, from Venice Beach to the Arctic, go around the world with National Geographic and 12 of the best travel photographers of 2016.

Culled from nearly 10,000 entries, the winners of the 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer contest take us to some of the most remote and stunning destinations around the world. Grand Prize winner Anthony Lau comes away with a seven-day Polar Bear Safari for two at Churchill Wild Seal River Heritage Lodge, having braved the frigid landscape of Inner Mongolia to capture Winter Horsemen. See the runners-up and honorable mentions below. 

  1. Grand Prize: Winter Horseman
    1

    Grand Prize: Winter Horseman

    Winter in Inner Mongolia is unforgiving. At a freezing temperature of minus 20F and lower and in constant gusts of snow from all direction, it was pretty hard to get myself  out of the car to take photos. Then I saw, from a distance, Inner Mongolian horsemen showing off their skills. I quickly grabbed my telephoto lens and captured the moment as one of the horsemen charged out of morning mist. —Anthony Lau

  2. Nature First Place: Wherever You Go, I Will Follow You!
    2

    Nature First Place: Wherever You Go, I Will Follow You!

    Romance is in the air. It was the time of day immediately following sunset. I heard a voice. "Wherever you go, I will follow you," the voice says. —Hiroki Inoue

  3. Cities First Place: Ben Youssef
    3

    Cities First Place: Ben Youssef

    Even though a lot of people were in Ben Youssef, it was still quieter and more relaxing than in the street outside in Marrakesh. I waited a long time for the perfect moment to photograph. —Takashi Nakagawa

  4. Nature Second Place: Double Trapping
    4

    Nature Second Place: Double Trapping

    Picture taken in the Brazilian Pantanal …. when I downloaded, I couldn't believe it—nature always gives magnificent events, but sometimes they're extraordinary. —Massimiliano Bencivenni

  5. People Second Place: Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi
    5

    People Second Place: Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi

    I arrived at my guest house in Varanasi at 5:30 a.m. and climbed the seven flights of stairs to the rooftop (which happened to be the highest in the vicinity) to see the sun rise over the famous Ganges River. My jaw dropped with disbelief. Below were families—mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, and dogs all sleeping on the top of their houses. It was midsummer in Varanasi, and sleeping without air conditioning was difficult. —Yasmin Mund

  6. Cities Second Place: Silenced
    6

    Cities Second Place: Silenced

    This photo was taken on my last trip to Guangzhou, China. This is a school dormitory of South China Normal University. When I was hanging around, most of the students were taking a break. After lunch, they had to go back to study. The dormitories were smelly and messy. —Wing Ka H.

  7. Nature Third Place: Lagunas Baltinache (Atacama Desert)
    7

    Nature Third Place: Lagunas Baltinache (Atacama Desert)

    The Baltinache Ponds, also called Hidden Ponds are a set of seven salt ponds located in the area of the Salt Cordillera, near San Pedro de Atacama, in the second region of northern Chile, in the Atacama desert. After much research, I believe to be the first photographer to publish night photos of this place, but it is still necessary to confirm this information. Tech Details: Photography done in one shot. Foreground was illuminated by the moonlight. — Victor Lima

  8. People Third Place: Remote Life at -21 Degrees
    8

    People Third Place: Remote Life at -21 Degrees

    Kinnaura tribal old woman in remote village in Himachal Pradesh carrying log home to warm her house. —Mattia Passarini

  9. Cities Third Place: Celestial Reverie
    9

    Cities Third Place: Celestial Reverie

    Lightning seemingly strikes Komtar Tower, the most iconic landmark of George Town, capital of Penang state in Malaysia. It is symbolic of the rejuvenation that the city, famous for a unique blend of centuries-old buildings and modern structures, has enjoyed in recent years. While many of its old neighborhoods fell into neglect in the 1990s and early 2000s, its Unesco World Heritage listing in 2008 sparked a transformation, and today, the neighborhoods are all part of a vibrant tourist destination.  Jeremy Tan

  10. People Honorable Mention: Muscle Beach Gym
    10

    People Honorable Mention: Muscle Beach Gym

    A weightlifter lifts a barbell loaded with heavy plates while a bodybuilder performs an aerial handstand at the Muscle Beach Gym in Venice Beach, Calif. —Dotan Saguy

  11. Cities Honorable Mention: Divide
    11

    Cities Honorable Mention: Divide

    In the helicopter looking south on Central Park West—dividing the architecture and Central Park, on November 5, 2014, a day before my 27th birthday. The flight was my birthday gift. —Kathleen Dolmatch

  12. Nature Honorable Mention: Bears on a Berg
    12

    Nature Honorable Mention: Bears on a Berg

    This photo was taken far out on the sea ice in the Davis Straight off the coast of Baffin Island. This mother and her yearling are perched atop a huge snow-covered iceberg that got "socked in" when the ocean froze over for the winter. To me, the relative "smallness" of these large creatures when compared with the immensity of the iceberg represents the precariousness of the polar bear's reliance on the sea and sea ice for its existence. —John Rollins