Travel

These Travel Photos Of The Year Will Give You Major Wanderlust

"I want to go there." -- You.
07/05/2016 10:32am ET

Sorry, guys, but these travel photos will put your Instagram game to shame.

National Geographic crowned its first-ever Travel Photographer Of The Year last week. Anthony Lau of Hong Kong took home the prestigious honor for his photo of a horseman in Inner Mongolia.

Anthony Lau
Winter Horseman. Photo and caption by Anthony Lau/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. "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."

“I knew I only had a couple of shots to get the best out of this encounter," Lau told National Geographic. "With a bit of luck, one of my final attempts managed to capture the moment when one of the riders charged out from the morning mist along with his horses.”

For his winning submission, Lau will receive the grand prize of a seven-day polar bear photo safari for two at Churchill Wild-Seal River Heritage Lodge in Manitoba, Canada. If frolicking with polar bears doesn't inspire you to step up your travel photo game for next year, we don't know what will.

National Geographic gave prizes in three categories: people, nature and cities. Lau's photo took first in the people category; explore the other jaw-dropping winners and honorable mentions below.

Biei, Hokkaido, Japan - Nature First Place
Hiroki Inoue
Wherever you go, I will follow you!! Photo and caption by Hiroki Inoue/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest."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."
Marrakesh, Morocco - Cities First Place
Takashi Nakagawa
Ben Youssef.Photo and caption by Takashi Nakagawa/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. "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."
Brazilian Pantanal - Nature Second Place
Massimiliano Bencivenni
Double trapping.Photo and caption by Massimiliano Bencivenni/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest."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."
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India - People Second Place
Yasmin Mund
Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi.Photo and caption by Yasmin Mund/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest."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."
Guangzhou, Guangdong Sheng, China - Cities Second Place
Wing Ka H.
Silenced.Photo and Caption by Wing Ka H/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. "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."
San Pedro de Atacama, Antofagasta, Chile - Nature Third Place
Victor Lima
Lagunas Baltinache (Atacama Desert). Photo and caption by Victor Lima/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. "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."
Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India - People Third Place
Mattia Passarini
Remote life at -21 degree.Photo and caption by Mattia Passarini/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest.Kinnaura tribal old woman in remote village in Himachal Pradesh carrying big log back home to warm up her house."
George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia - Cities Third Place
Jeremy Tan
Celestial Reverie.Photo and caption by Jeremy Tan/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. "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."
Venice Beach, California - People Honorable Mention
Dotan Saguy
Muscle Beach Gym.Photo and caption by Dotan Saguy/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest."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."
Manhattan, New York - Cities Honorable Mention
Kathleen Dolmatch
Divide.Photo and caption by Kathleen Dolmatch/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. "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."
Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, Canada - Nature Honorable Mention
John Rollins
Bears on a Berg.Photo and caption by John Rollins/National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. "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."
2015 National Geographic Photo Contest winners