The winning images in the 2021 Travel Photographer of the Year awards

Sleeping lions, an enchanting forest and a breakfast feast amid the rubble of a war-torn city: The stunning winning images in the 2021 Travel Photographer of the Year awards

  • The judges sifted through some 20,000 images submitted by photographers in 151 countries 
  • They declared that the pictures present ‘a diverse and glorious view of life on our planet’ 
  • The overall winner – the Travel Photographer of the Year 2021 – is Italian Fortunato Gatto

From beguiling pictures of Alaskan mountains and Louisiana swamps, to stunning wildlife images taken in Kenya and Canada and mesmerising depictions of life in Syria, North Korea and Turkey, behold the winning images in the 2021 global Travel Photographer of the Year awards.

Some 20,000 images were submitted by photographers in 151 countries, with the judges declaring that they present ‘a diverse and glorious view of life on our planet’.

The overall winner – the Travel Photographer of the Year 2021 – is Fortunato Gatto, an Italian who’s been based in Scotland since 2007. Some of his entries show a ‘meeting of the seasons’ in Alaska that ‘draw you in, with a wonderful sense of place, to one of earth’s most beautiful remote places’.

The winning shots – which can all be viewed in the online winners’ gallery on – will go on display in a free-to-view outdoor exhibition in Granary Square near London’s King’s Cross and St Pancras stations, in April and May 2022.

TPOTY founder Chris Coe said: ‘The winning images and those received from all entrants, are testament to the tenacity, creativity and ingenuity of travelling photographers. [This year] is TPOTY’s 20th award and we look forward to celebrating even more of the best travel-related photography from around the world.’

Scroll down for MailOnline Travel’s pick of the bunch… 

This vibrant landscape shot, captured by overall winner Fortunato Gatto, shows the Polychrome Pass, a steep road in Alaska’s Denali National Park. ‘I took this picture just before a grizzly bear showed up,’ Gatto reveals. ‘The fresh snow covering the mountains in the background was the perfect frame for this special meeting between autumn and winter’

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Another breathtaking shot of the Denali National Park taken by overall winner Gatto. He recalls: ‘Between the colourful tundra and the almost black-and-white mountains there lay a dense stripe of mist. I tried to portray the landscape in three different stripes. Tundra on the lower part, mist in the centre and the mountains on top.’ According to the photographer, the conditions created a ‘different and mystical view of the landscape’

This beautiful picture was captured by the overall winner of the Young Travel Photographer of the Year award, US photographer Jai Shet. In this shot, the 18-year-old, who loves visiting lesser-known locations in the US, captured the ‘bright reds’ of the trees during autumn in Magnolia Ridge Park in Woodville, Texas. It’s part of a wider series of forest images taken during different seasons of the year

This is a rustic shot of a building in the historic district of Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. It was taken by 16-year-old Tevin Kim, who was named the Young Travel Photographer of the Year in the 15 to 18-year-old category. Describing this picture, which was captured last August, he says: ‘Normally, the vast landscape of the sharp, layered Teton mountains would be visible in the background of each of these photos. However, due to the wildfires that were raging in the western United States when this photo was taken, the mountains are practically invisible’

The swamps of Mooringsport, Louisiana, were the setting for this striking shot, taken by US photographer Nayana Rajesh, who was a runner-up in the 15 to 18-year-old category for the Young Travel Photographer of the Year award. Rajesh, 17, says: ‘The Cypress swamps are an enchanting place with the Spanish moss adorning the bald Cypress trees like a wedding veil on a bride.’ She says that what remained of the autumnal leaves stood out in the ‘cold November fog, seemingly defiant in the face of adversity’

Irish photographer Indigo Larmour, aged just 13, was behind the lens for this dramatic shot, taken in the UAE city of Al Dhaid. Larmour was awarded the Young Travel Photographer of the Year award in the 14-years-and-under category. She says of this shot: ‘Most average-sized towns in the United Arab Emirates have a camel race track, and camels of different ages run races of different lengths. Camels are raced with a mechanical jockey, which is controlled by the owner of the camel, who drives along the side of the track shouting commands through a walkie-talkie’

‘This large, lone elephant surprised us first thing in the morning.’ So writes Spanish photographer Miguel Sanchez Garcia of this beautiful shot, which was taken in Tanzania, near the Kenyan border. Garcia, aged 12, was the runner-up in the Young Travel Photographer of the Year award in the 14-years-and-under category

Italian photographer Alessandro Bergamini topped the podium in the Best Eight Portfolio category, with this picture, taken in Srinagar, India, one of his captivating entries. He says: ‘Among the high Himalayan mountain range in Kashmir, shepherds lead their flocks through incredible landscapes and along winding paths, in search of valleys full of green grass before the arrival of winter’

Gouganebarra in County Cork, Ireland, was the setting for this enchanting picture. It was snared by Trevor Cole, the runner-up in the Best Eight Portfolio category. Describing the image, the Irish photographer says that the ‘colours of Ireland manifested in the autumnal reflections’ of the water. He adds: ‘People are an integral part of the history and geography of Ireland and their ancient bloodlines are a part of this’

Above is the winner of the ‘Best Single Image in a Best Eight Portfolio’ category, captured by Belgian photographer Alain Schroeder. It was taken in the village of Uzgen, in Kyrgyzstan’s Osh region. Sharing the story of the image, Schroeder explains: ‘A wealthy local man has organised a massive game of Alaman-Ulak (a freestyle version of the national sport, Kok Buru – known by some as “dead goat polo”) to celebrate the 13th birthday of his son.’ The picture shows men on horseback pushing and shoving one another in the ‘fight for possession of a young 60kg bull’

Another picture from Schroeder that also received a ‘special mention’. It was snared in the small village of Buvrinnes, Belgium. He says: ‘A group of Gilles [men in traditional carnival costumes] are peeing in the snow. The costume of the Gilles is very famous in Belgian carnivals. This character can be seen every weekend during the carnival season in very small villages, where he is the main attraction’

Schroeder was also responsible for this spectacular ‘special mention’ shot. It was taken at the Taekwando Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, and shows a ‘group of athletes simultaneously execute a “tul”, a series of offensive and defensive techniques against one or several virtual adversaries’

A fourth shot by Schroeder, which won the ‘One Shot – Icons of Travel’ category. Describing what’s happening in the picture, which was also taken in Pyongyang, he says: ‘An old woman walks under the Mansudae Grand Monument with its 22m-high bronze statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il while a group of students listens to their teacher’

This mesmerising shot was awarded a ‘special mention’ by the judges. Photographer Richard Li, who is from Hong Kong, explains that he took the picture in Masai Mara, Kenya, when he ‘encountered a group of lions on a rainy day’. He says: ‘It’s good to take photos of them shaking off the water on their heads – the expression of this young lion is really interesting’

Bulgarian photographer Vladimir Karamazov turned his lens on Reine in Norway’s Lofoten archipelago for this atmospheric shot, which got a ‘special mention’ in the contest. He says: ‘I was shooting something else when I turned to see the sun begin to pass across the roofs of the houses. I didn’t have time to adjust the camera settings and only had about 10 seconds, in which I took five shots. I caught the light!’

This impressive shot, which got a ‘special mention’, shows the ‘arduous journey’ of sheep herds in Bitlis, Turkey. Sharing the backstory to the photograph, Turkish photographer F Dilek Uyar says: ‘Sheep herds travel this dusty path to reach the highlands where they graze until the middle of July. The number of such herds in Bitlis is decreasing day by day. Animal owners who cannot receive state aid turn to other sources of income by selling their animals. It’s unlikely that such photographs will be possible after the next five years’

Another ‘special mention’ was given to this close-up shot of a grizzly bear in Ni’iinlii Njik (Fishing Branch) Territorial Park in Yukon, Canada. Swiss photographer Marko Dimitrijevic says: ‘On the Arctic Circle there is a place in Northern Yukon where the Fishing Branch River doesn’t freeze in the winter. Here, grizzly bears continue to chase salmon way past any other place in Canada. With temperatures reaching -30C, their wet fur instantly freezes when they get out of the river.’ Recalling the moment he took the shot, he adds: ‘This bear was walking head down when he noticed me. For a second, he looked at me, quickly assessing if I was a threat or a meal. Deciding that I was neither he continued his walk, passing within a few metres of me’

This shot is from a series by UK photographer Sophie Carr, which was a runner-up in the ‘Landscapes and Adventure Portfolio’ category. It shows the volcanic Fagradalsfjall area in Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland. ‘I visited the Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland a few times, and was fascinated to see the lava splatter, usually after the bigger eruptions had died down,’ she says, adding: ‘With a long lens I was able to capture individual bits of the flying, molten lava’

Yet another spectacular shot from Carr’s portfolio, again showing the Fagradalsfjall area. The photographer says: ‘It was an incredible experience to visit the Fagradalsfjall volcano erupting in Iceland. On my first couple of visits the volcano erupted for a few minutes and then stopped for a while, before starting again. The lava then flowed down into channels and off down the mountain’

This is the ‘Best Single Image in a Landscapes & Adventure Portfolio’. It was snapped by British photographer Pally Learmond, and shows the Haines area of Alaska. ‘Due to the close proximity of the Pacific Ocean, snow sticks to the mountains of southeast Alaska like nowhere else on earth,’ Learmond explains. ‘This creates a phenomenon called “spines”, which form on top of the normally steep and rocky mountain faces. This provides professional freeride skiers with a playground like no other.’ He adds: ‘In this photo, Austrian professional freeskier Fabian Lentsch lets it all go on a mountain face called “Dirty Needle”‘

Above is the Stromboli volcano in Italy’s Aeolian Islands, captured through Spanish photographer Javier Sanchez Martinez’s lens. The picture, which got a ‘special mention’ in the contest, shows the summit of Stromboli, with the Mediterranean in the background – complete with a boat lighting up the water. The photographer says: ‘When it gets dark, you only need to wait about 15 or 20 minutes for the eruptions that recur during the night’

This photo was taken by Canadian photographer Anil Sud, whose portfolio was awarded runner-up status in the Living World Portfolio category. Captured in Antarctica, it shows ‘a lone penguin’ navigating the ‘penguin highways to return to the colony’

A second stunning shot from Sud’s portfolio, this time showing a penguin and guano – the excrement of seabirds – in Cuverville Island, Antarctica

A third and final shot from Sud’s wonderful body of work. Again taken in Antarctica, it shows a porpoising [moving through the water] penguin

This is one of several photos taken by Portuguese photographer Jose Fragozo, whose entries were highly commended in the Living World Portfolio category. The poignant shot was captured in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Fragozo says: ‘After a long walk, a pride of lions rests on a surviving patch of grass after a fire destroyed most of their territory. This photo was taken from a safari vehicle with a camera on an extended monopod’

A second awe-inspiring shot by Fragozo, this time showing a cheetah in the Masai Mara National Reserve. ‘Cheetahs sometimes roll on the savannah grass to relieve the itching caused by different types of parasites,’ he says, adding: ‘This image was taken with a trap camera hidden on a tree and operated from a distance’

Another incredible image from Fragozo’s series on the Masai Mara National Reserve. Describing this shot, he says: ‘An eye blinked in the drought-stricken mud pool as the hippopotamus emerged to take a breath. Having observed hippos for years, I knew that they only come up for air every three to five minutes’

This fascinating image is from Viet Van Tran’s portfolio, which was a runner-up in the ‘People and Their Stories Portfolio’ category. It shows Mr Trinh Ngoc, a shoemaker in Saigon, who is still working at the age of 90. The photographer says: ‘He studied at L’Ecole ABC De Dessin School in Paris. For decades, Mr Trinh Ngoc made shoes for the Royal Cambodian royal family from the Queen to Prince Sihanouk and for many famous Vietnamese singers’

The top prize in the ‘One Shot – Green Planet’ category went to this jarring picture by Norwegian photographer Johnny Haglund, taken in Belem, Brazil. Shedding light on the picture, Haglund says: ‘At low tide all the garbage that has been thrown into the sea is exposed. A man walks here trying to find something valuable, such as bottles, cans and more’

The gold medal in the ‘One Shot – As Shot’ category went to this incredible picture by Mouneb Taim, taken in the city of Idlib in the photographer’s native Syria. ‘This Syrian neighbourhood was famous before the war as the scene of mass breakfasts every Ramadan. The population was displaced during the war, due to heavy bombing. They eventually returned after a period of relative calm, but the neighbourhood was almost completely destroyed, so now the people of Idlib break their fast together among the destruction of their city instead’

This remarkable picture was commended in the ‘One Shot – As Shot’ category and shows people making their way down to Melasti Beach in Ungasan, Bali, for the Melasti Ceremony. Indonesian photographer Jason Hioe, who secured the shot, says: ‘The Melasti Ceremony is an important Hindu Balinese purification ceremony – the biggest in this religion and carried out throughout the country. In this image great numbers of people make their way down the cliff to Melasti Beach, where the ceremony will take place, presided over by a priest’ 

This is the runner-up in the iTravelled – Phone/Tablet Single Image category, taken in the town of Uttara, Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was captured by Bangladeshi photographer Mithail Afrige Chowdhury, who says: ‘The train stops for just a minute and the volume of passengers was high compared to its capacity, so passengers were getting down from the roof and windows. This is an everyday scenario, even though passengers are often injured from doing this’ 

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