National Geographic has chosen the best travel photos of 2016 in its annual Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. Explore the winners as you sit at your desk or lounge on the sofa and imagine you’re somewhere a little more exotic!

Grand Prize Winner

Winter Horseman

“The Winter in Inner Mongolia is very unforgiving. At a freezing temperature of minus twenty and lower with constant breeze of snow from all direction, it was pretty hard to convince myself to get out of the car and take photos. Not until I saw Inner Mongolia horsemen showing off their skills in commanding the steed from a distance, I quickly grab my telephoto lens and capture the moment when one of the horseman charged out from morning mist.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Anthony Lau
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Hiroki Inoue
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Cities First Place

Ben Youssef

“Even though there were a lot of people in Ben Youssef, still here was more quiet and relaxing compare to the street outside in Marrakesh. I was waiting for the perfect timing to photograph for long time.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Takashi Nakagawa
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Nature Second Place

Double trapping

“Picture taken in the Brazilian Pantanal… when I downloaded the CF did not want to believe it …. The nature knows we always give magnificent events but sometimes extraordinary.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Massimiliano Bencivenni
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

People Second Place

Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi

“I arrived at my guest house in Varanasi at 5:30am, I instinctively climbed the 7 sets of stairs to the rooftop (which happened to be the highest in the vicinity) to see the sunrise over the famous Ganges River. As the sun was rising I looked over the right hand side of the balcony and my jaw dropped with disbelief. Below were families – mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sister and dogs all sleeping on the top of their houses. It was mid summer in Varanasi and sleeping sans AC was difficult.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Yasmin Mund
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Cities Second Place

Silenced

“This photo was taken on my last trip to GuangZhou, China. This place is a school dormitories of South China Normal University. When I was hanging around, most of them were taking a break. After the lunch time, they need to go back to study. The dormitories were smelly and messy.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Wing Ka H.
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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.”

07-Nature-Third-Place

Photo and caption by Victor Lima
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

People Third Place

Remote life at -21 degree

“Kinnaura tribal old women in remote village in Himachal Pradesh carrying big log back home to warm up her house.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Mattia Passarini
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

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 neighbourhoods fell into neglect in the 1990s and early 2000s, UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2008 sparked a transformation, and today, they are all part of a vibrant tourist destination.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Jeremy Tan
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

People Honourable 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, CA.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Dotan Saguy
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Cities Honourable Mention

Divide

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

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by Kathleen Dolmatch
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Nature Honourable 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 polar bear 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 to the immensity of the iceberg in the photo represents the precariousness of the polar bear’s reliance on the sea and sea ice for its existence.”

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

Photo and caption by John Rollins
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

The lucky winner receives a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari for two at Churchill Wild–Seal River Heritage Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. If that’s the kind of prize up for grabs, we’ll definitely be entering next year!