Travel photography offers a unique look at the world around us. It can involve documenting the landscape, people, culture, history and customs of an area through a diverse spectrum of types of photographs – wildlife, food, landscape, street and portraits. Travel photographs can be taken close to home or somewhere further a field. Below, in no particular order, we have rounded up some of the best travel photographs taken around the world…
The World’s Best Travel Photographs
Beach at South Uist by Fortunato Gallo
Italian photographer (based in Scotland), Fortunato Gatto was chosen as the overall Travel Photographer of the Year 2021 with his portfolio consisting of detailed abstract images of patterns in the sand in the Hebrides. As well as his images of a ‘meeting of the seasons’ in Alaska, showing scenes shot in Denali National Park.
He explained, ‘I love to wander on this beach in perfect solitude, where nature inspires me and shows me natural metaphors like this sort of ‘jellyfish’ made by the tide force and weather erosion.’
Sand Diver, Mali by Philip Lee Harvey
Philip Lee Harvey was awarded the prize for Best Single Image in the special ‘Travel’ category of Travel Photographer of the Year 2018, with his image of a sand diver in Mali.
The photograph captures the tense moment a sand diver is gathering his thoughts and preparing for the next dangerous dive to the bottom of the Niger River at Segou. Many people die each year doing this dangerous job. He risks his life daily to bring builders sand up from the riverbed.
Philip shares his tips for getting outstanding travel photographs: How to create outstanding travel photographs and where to visit
Danakil Depression by Joel Santos
Joel Santos is the first-ever Portuguese overall winner of Travel Photographer of the Year 2016. This photograph comes from his winning portfolio, entered into the Land, Sea, Sky category and was taken by drone over Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, one of the hottest places in the world.
The photograph offers a unique perspective of the landscape, environment and the people living and working in it. Showing us details that would be difficult to see on from ground level view, such as the salt patterns which Santos has explained are flooded on the left, and dried out on the right. As well as a salt miner caravan with dromedaries and donkeys that is central to the image. The extreme temperature is not only difficult for the salt miners to work in, but also the photographer and the equipment used.
Find out more about the portfolio of images and how he captured them here: Travel Photographer Of The Year 2016 – Joel Santos
Man in an Orange Turban by Steve McCurry
Steve McCurry is a multi-award-winning Magnum Photos and National Geographic photographer; and creator of the National Geographic’s most famous cover photo, ‘Afghan Girl’, taken of 12-year-old Sharbat Gula in Afghanistan in 1984. However, within McCurry’s vast portfolio there are many equally powerful photographs. Having travelled to many countries around the world, one he has regularly returned to is India.
India is a country of unparalleled richness and diversity for the photographer, which perhaps explains why Steve has travelled there more than 90 times during his career.
When asked in an exclusive interview with AP where he would go if could only go back one more time, McCurry said, ‘I’d be torn between Ladakh and Rajasthan. I like the colour palette of Rajasthan, and the beautiful architecture.’ Which is certainly apparent in this photograph taken in Rajasthan in 2009. It’s vibrant, with stunning textures, whilst drawing us into the eyes and narrative of the man pictured.
Waste Pollution, Belèm, Brazil by Johnny Haglund
Norwegian Johnny Haglund’s image of waste pollution in Belèm, Brazil was the graphic and poignant winner of the ‘Green Planet’ single images category of Travel Photographer of the Year 2021, at a time when man’s impact on the planet is in the spotlight.
He revealed, ‘At low tide the harbour area in Belém exposes all the garbage that has been thrown into sea. A man walks here trying to find something valuable like bottles, cans and more.’
Valley of Fire by Jordan Banks
Jordan is a travel and lifestyle photographer who shoots for National Geographic, Lonely Planet and more. He is co-founder of photographic training company That Wild Idea and the founding editor of JRNY, a travel magazine supporting freelance writers and photographers. He was also a finalist in four categories of TPOTY 2021 and six categories in 2020.
In his travel tips article for AP, Jordan Banks suggested trying to include a person in your landscape photography to add a sense of scale and place to an image. Which is why this photograph works so well, compositionally and in highlighting the grandeur of this scene. There is also another narrative, we feel connected to the person central to the landscape, the road and the possible journey ahead of them.
Chinese Fisherman by Marsel van Oosten
Marsel van Oosten was born in The Netherlands and worked as an art director for 15 years. He switched careers to become a photographer and has since won Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Travel Photographer of the Year.
This photograph of a traditional Chinese fisherman checking his nets was taken on a trip to the Fujian province in China, features a graphic looking aquaculture on the coast. It received a Special Mention in the Mankind category of Travel Photographer of the Year, 2016 and is one of many images by van Oosten that has received a TPOTY award.
He told us more about how he plans his photographs: Marsel van Oosten: why planning is important in photography
Drying Okra by F.Dilek Uyar
F.Dilek Uyar won the Bring Home the Harvest category of Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2021, with her photograph of women drying okra flowers in Tokat, Turkey. The women pick okra flowers from the field and arrange them on a rope, then the dried flowers fall and the okra becomes ready to be used in winter.
Candy Floss Love by Marina Spironetti
Coming second place in the Street Food category of Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year 2019, Marina’s image captures a young Buddhist monk enjoying some cotton candy while on a trip to the local market in Gangtok, the capital of the region of Sikkim, in the Indian Himalayas.
Harar, Ethiopia by Stefano Pensotti
Harar Jugol is an ancient fortified historic Muslim city located in eastern Ethiopia. The walls that surround this sacred city, considered the fourth holy city of Islam, were built between the 13th and 16th centuries to serve as a protective barrier. Stefano Pensotti won the Travel Photographer of the Year 2018 grand title, with a portfolio including the above image.
Stefano told us, ‘It was late morning so the light wasn’t great as it created strong shadows across the girl’s face. This is where a flashgun and reflector come in handy. Fill in the shadows with the flash, but use with a reflector to diffuse the bright and direct light.’
The 2018 TPOTY winners share their tips for travel photography here: How to take better travel photographs
Patagonian Fox by Mattias A. Klum
Mattias said, ‘I photographed this Patagonian fox in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, during a National Geographic assignment. This individual turned out to be a good model; beautiful, quite easily habituated and curious.’
Mattias A. Klum is a world-renowned nature photographer, cinematographer, film director and environmentalist. He has shot many features and cover stories for National Geographic, who referred to him as ‘one of the most important natural history photographers of our time.’
He shares his tips for wildlife photos here.
The Man’s Stare by Moin Ahmed
‘The Man’s Stare’ by Moin Ahmed, received honourable mention in the People category of the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year 2017 competition and also caught our eye. It was taken on a rainy morning at Tongi Railway Station, Gazipur, Bangladesh. Ahmed was taking photos when a train from Dhaka pulled in.
He said: “I saw a pair of curious eyes looking at me through the misty window, and next to him a black umbrella shielded passengers from the rain. It created a dreamy moment.”
Träume/Dreams by Ulla Lohmann
She has been to places and taken images that many of us can only imagine including abseiling 600m into an active volcano to record its features and surroundings. Ulla is the first woman to ever do this. Ulla is not just a volcanic expert; she has also travelled the globe including exploring Papua New Guinea taking photos of indigenous tribes – some as far back as 20 years ago.
This photograph shows a young man is proudly wearing his mask, having prepared himself many years for this Baining Fire Dance ritual. Typically performed on occasions such as young boys transitioning into adulthood.
Ulla regularly returns to Papua New Guinea and is running an AP Photography Holiday this November that includes both volcano and tribe encounters.
Ulla shares her tips for travel photography here: Get better adventure, wildlife and portrait photographs whilst travelling
The Power of Nature by Sergio Tapiro Velasco
Sergio Tapiro Velasco, winner of the prestigious National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year 2017, said his shot of an erupting volcano was ‘an impossible photograph.’
The photo captures the Volcán de Colima in Mexico at the perfect moment when lightning strikes just as it was erupting.
Velasco had been closely watching and tracking the volcano for over a month but when shooting the image during the night, he said he didn’t know if he captured the shot until he looked back at his photos.
He said: “When I looked at the camera display, all I could do was stare. What I was watching was impossible to conceive, the image showed those amazing forces of nature interacting on a volcano, while the lightning brightened the whole scene.”
Klederdracht, Volendam, from the series The Identity of Holland by Ezra Bohm
Ezra Bohm, of the Nederlandse Acedemie voor Beeldcreatie, was been awarded Student Photographer of the Year 2022 for his series titled The Identity of Holland. Bohm’s portfolio focuses on the close-knit community of the Dutch village of Urk, the Netherlands, who maintain a traditional way of life, including still wearing traditional dress.
Tekapo Lupins by Richard Bloom
Taken at Lake Tekapo, Canterbury, New Zealand, Suffolk-based Richard Bloom won the ninth International Garden Photographer grand prize in 2016 with this image.
Commenting on his triumphant image, captured using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 24-70mm lens, Bloom said: ‘On the way to Lake Tekapo on the South Island of New Zealand in early summer, the landscape – already amazing – was scattered with drifts of naturalised lupins, which gave it an almost psychedelic, wonderland feel.
‘The banks of this stream were bristling with masses of different coloured lupins stretching toward the distant hills and out of shot to the west, giving the sense that they went on forever.’
Monsoon at Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong by Ian Bramham
Ian won the Travel round of Amateur Photographer of the Year 2021 with this black and white shot taken at Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong early one morning during a monsoon thunderstorm.
When asking someone to describe a typical travel shot, it’s unlikely they’d think of a black an white image taken in monsoon conditions. But that’s exactly why Ian’s photograph stood out – because it’s different from the average travel picture.
The teeming rain makes the image seem almost like a pencil drawing, but there’s enough detail in the skyline to give the viewer a sense of place. These elements alone wouldn’t be enough, though, so the inclusion of the dock and ferry on the left helps anchor the scene. Great composition, hugely atmospheric, and a change from the norm.
Fishermen at Ullahpara by Muhammad Hossain
Muhammad won the Travel round of our Young Amateur Photographer of the Year competition with this image, taken Ullahpara, Sirajganj District in Bangladesh. It would be easy to assume this was a drone shot, but in fact Muhammad was simply standing on a bridge and looking down at these fishermen when he shot it. His timing is excellent, having captured the net at its fullest as the fisherman casts it into the river.
He’s also managed to place it well, so it doesn’t overlap any of the vegetation. Photographing people at work is always a great way of capturing the essence of a place.
Life in Colors by Zay Yar Lin
Life in Colors won our Amateur Photographer of the Year ‘Keep on Moving’ round in 2020, but was also selected as one of the top ten in the ‘New Adventure’ themed 2021 ColorPro Awards.
AP’s Editor, Nigel Atherton selected this as his favourite image of the year in our Christmas 2020 issue. He said, ‘Zay Yar Lin is a ship’s captain and took this looking down from the Bridge onto the deck below. On one half of the image is the red deck being swabbed down by one of the sailors, on the other is the sea below. The red of the deck is separated from the blue of the sea by a white line formed by the railing, while the soapy swirls of the detergent echo the white caps on the water.
It’s an absolutely perfect image and one that made me slap my forehead the moment I saw it. I spent many years working on ships and could have taken something almost identical to that picture at almost any time but I never ‘saw’ the shot. Zay did, and the fact that he took it on his iPhone is neither here nor there. It was the seeing that counts.’
The Alley Cat by Nayan Khanolkar
In the centre of Mumbai, humans spend their days alongside big cats. Nayan Khanolkar was determined to show the relationship between humans and leopards could be different, following conflict grabbing the deadlines. He positioned his camera trap so a passing cat would not dominate the frame. Four months passed before he captured an image that displayed a unique human-leopard co-existence as this big cat weaves its way silently through an alley in Aarey Milk Colony, a Mumbai suburb.
The cats are an accepted part of the lives and culture of the Warli people, according to Khanolkar, it is ‘not out of the ordinary’ to find a leopard in their backyards and are even depicted in the traditional paintings that decorate their homes.