Best Travel Photos of 2012
Presenting the winners of Travel + Leisure’s 2012 photo contest, as chosen by readers like you.
From Cape Town at night to Yosemite at sunrise, photographs are among the best souvenirs to bring home—and can instantly transport you to a special time and place.
We encouraged photographers to upload their best images to Travel + Leisure’s website throughout 2012. From nearly 15,000 submissions, T+L’s community voted to select a winner for each month’s themed contest. So this slideshow displays the best photos of 2012, according to you.
Starting in January, we received nearly 1,000 submissions for our Winter theme, ranging from an ice-capped red barn to the Great Wall of China, dusted in snow and stretching snakelike into the distance. Our City contest in March attracted nearly 2,000 photos, including beautifully captured images of Hong Kong’s iconic skyline at nighttime and candid portraits of New Yorkers on the streets.
We celebrated the arrival of spring with some 1,177 travel photos that count among them Japanese cherry blossoms, people enjoying picnics under the Eiffel Tower, and happy pugs leaping through tulip fields. Summer brought in more than 1,400 submissions, with snapshots of backpackers in Zion National Park and purple lupines in Boothbay Harbor, ME.
With all the storms and temperature swings we’ve endured this year, our apt Weather contest took in more than 1,200 entries, featuring storm clouds over the Caribbean, jagged lightning bolts, and even a rainbow over Machu Picchu.
Wish you could’ve entered the contests? There is still time to enter the last contest of the year—December’s theme is People. Upload your best portraits until the end of 2012.
Each of these monthly winners has a chance to nab the grand prize trip to South Korea, which includes a seven-day tour for two, with business-class airfare on a high-tech Airbus A380 from Korean Air and stays at Lotte Hotel Seoul, Lotte Hotel World, and Lotte Hotel Jeju, on historic Jeju Island. (See the rules.)
Who will win this dream trip? It’s up to you to decide. Starting in February 2013, T+L community members can vote for their favorite of these 12 images. Which one will you pick?
“Last Memorial Day, my wife and I left San Francisco behind to visit Montecito Sequoia Lodge, in Sequoia National Forest. The goal was to enjoy one great early summer night, but as you can see, the Sierra Nevada weather had other plans: it was freezing! The snow was heavy and wet, and an inch or two accumulated. I walked around with my camera anyway, and had to stop and capture this beautiful shadow cast from a tree—and aimed straight at me.” —Brannan David Schell, California
Shot with a Canon EOS 7D with an 18–135 mm lens.
“About seven of us got into a van and headed out to the remote location of Ahu Tongariki, on Easter Island. We needed to wait for the moon to clear the sky before the stars were perfectly visible.” —Andrew Coleman, Chicago
Shot with a Canon EOS 40D and Canon EF-S 10–22 mm lens.
“We came back to our hotel room in Cuzco just as it started to rain and get dark. Suddenly, the sun dipped below the storm clouds, and there was an explosion of light. I wanted to make sure I ‘froze’ the raindrops.” —Blake Burton, Atlanta
Shot with a Nikon D90 with a Nikon 17–55 mm lens.
“The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn, Oregon, is a must-see event annually. I thought taking Wallace, one of my pugs, to frolic in the flowers would be fun for us both. All I had to do was yell, “Wally! Wally! Wally!” and he would run toward me. I chose my 50 mm because it’s so fast.” —Jenna Van Valen, Portland, OR
Shot with a Nikon D300 and an AF Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4D lens.
“Louisiana’s nature is beautiful but challenging for taking pictures. You can’t always get everywhere by car. We woke up early and took a boat to Lake Maurepas, where I shot this photo of my friend.” —Evgeny Vasenev, Sunnyvale, CA
Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a Canon EF 16-35 mm lens.
“Just weeks before our wedding, my husband and I escaped to our family cabin in northern Wisconsin. I love the story this photo tells: time away from the chaos of life, and room to find beauty in everyday moments.” —Clare Kuehl, Madison, WI
Shot with a Nikon D3000.
“My buddy sent me a text and all it said was ‘Lightning.’ Five minutes later we were off to photograph a rare type of storm for this area. I finally got this one 300 yards from my front door.” —Dustin Penman, Rancho Murieta, CA
Shot with a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24 mm f/3.5-4.5G ED lens.
“Something about this old American barbershop in the French Quarter was intriguing. I imagined generations of customers having engaged in lively conversations while getting their hair cut here.” —Paula White, Madison, WI
Shot with a Nikon D90 and a Nikkor VR 18–200 mm lens.
“I was riding with a friend on the highest paved road in North America to the top of Mount Evans, a peak more than 14,000 feet tall in the Front Range, when we came across this goat and its kids. The trio was very calm and ignored the fact that I was only about 20 feet away.” —Kelsey Erwin Littleton, Colo.
Shot with a Nikon D7000
"I shot this scene at a camel vendor near the Great Pyramids of Giza while haggling for a tour across the desert. This scene is devoid of tourists, and the sight of the bedouins took me back in time." —Cristina Lu Somerset, N.J.
Shot with a Canon Rebel T1i
"On my way out of the Bongeunsa temple, in Seoul, I turned back for a final look when I saw a monk approach. My camera has no rapid-fire feature, so I knew that I only had one shot. I waited until he was in the center of the image, all the while fearing that someone would walk in and ruin it." —Klaus Busse Lake Orion, Mich.
Shot with a Canon Powershot SX10 IS