Winning images from the 2020 Travel Photographer of the Year contest

The stunning winning images from the 2020 Travel Photographer of the Year contest show life on earth at its most beautiful, bizarre… and brutal

  • The 2020 Travel Photographer of the Year contest received 25,000 entries from snappers in 147 countries
  • Some submitted snaps taken at home during lockdown, others photographed countries they were stranded in
  • The overall winner was Vladimir Alekseev, the competition’s first-ever Russian winner 
  • We’ve showcased some of his wow-factor entries here, along with images taken by other entrants

There was no holding back the world’s finest travel photographers. 

Even amid the Covid pandemic they managed to deliver incredible images to the 2020 Travel Photographer of the Year contest. The organisers received 25,000 entries in total from photographers in 147 countries.

Some submitted images taken close to home during lockdown, while others photographed countries in which they had unexpectedly found themselves stranded as temporary long-term residents.

The overall winner was Vladimir Alekseev, the competition’s first-ever Russian winner.

We’ve showcased some of his wow-factor entries here, along with images taken by other entrants who impressed the judges enough to gain official recognition, including incredible shots taken by photographers aged just 12 and 17.

The winning shots – which can all be viewed in the online Winners’ Gallery at – will go on display in trendy Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross, London, in May and other TPOTY exhibitions, including Chester Cathedral, during 2021. Scroll down for an eye-opening sneak peek… 

This incredible image by Australian James Smart, taken in Simla, Colorado, won ‘best single image in a landscape and earth elements portfolio’. Smart said: ‘This “drill bit” type of tornado is a rare anti-cyclonic tornado, which happens in around two per cent of tornadoes. It touched down in open farmland, narrowly missing a home near Simla as it tore up the ground, gathering the soil’

Lightning in Russia’s Tver region caught in a striking image by the overall winner – Vladimir Alekseev. He said: ‘Lightning is another element of light in nature. You don’t even have to travel far from home to shoot lightning. You just need to wait for your moment. And then it’s a matter of technology’

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This stunning commended image of the island of Kalsoy in the Faroe Islands was taken by Italian photographer Alessio Mesiano. He said: ‘Going to this place is always a gamble. It’s located on Kalsoy, a small island connected by a ferry only a few times per day. Such special light is possible only during winter, so I had to face the extreme nordic weather. It was windy and freezing’

Hungarian snapper Irene Becker was handed a commended accolade for this picture of ‘the River House’ holiday home in the Drina River near Bajina Basta in Serbia

Hue goes there: This incredible shot of an autumnal New Hampshire was taken by the overall young photographer of the year 15-18, American Ben Skaar, who’s 17. He said: ‘I slept in my car for two nights to get this shot. I drove up to the White Mountains hoping to capture the vibrant autumn colors. I woke up at 4:30 that Sunday morning and, as the sun rose over the mountains, the colors seemed to be set ablaze’

This amazing shot by Vladimir Alekseev shows a very rare natural phenomenon – fog over an iceberg. The picture was taken in Greenland

The UK’s Paul Sansome took this image in Hanoi, Vietnam. The judges decided it was worthy of the ‘winner, best single image in a travel portfolio’ title. Sansome said: ‘I had to exercise extreme patience to achieve this shot at a very busy junction in Hanoi where traffic from left, right and behind me would constantly block the desired image. I spent an hour before, as I had hoped, just a single bike drove past part of the world’s longest mosaic mural producing an image that I call “Green Energy”‘

The competition’s ‘iTravelled – phone/tablet single image’ category was won by Azim Khan Ronnie from Bangladesh with this incredible image, taken in Dhaka, the capital of his home country. It shows worshippers praying at Baitul Mukarram, one of the biggest mosques in the world. At the time the picture was taken, around 40,000 people were visiting 

David Gibbon received a special mention for this mesmerising picture of an Arctic fox struggling against strong winds in north-west Iceland

Frenchman Nicolas Raspiengeas was highly commended in the travel portfolio category, with this image of the Mafate region of Reunion Island one of several that wowed the judges. Raspiengeas said: ‘The eroded landscapes of Reunion Island are the result of volcanism combined with heavy rainfall. The Mafate region is the most famous of these jagged landscapes and, as the light is often harsh, I had to wait for a morning where the clouds gave a better atmosphere’

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is Australia’s largest salt-lake and this hypnotic picture of it by Australian Scott Portelli earned a runner-up prize in the ‘landscapes and earth elements portfolio’ category. The lake is only covered with water every eight years on average. The vast salt plain dominates the landscape with patterns left behind by the receding water

In the ‘one shot – islands’ category David Newton triumphed with this photo of a rocky outcrop off the coast of Taiwan

The UK’s Peter Walmsley won the ‘one shot – colours of life’ category with this gem, taken in Bengaluru, India. He said: ‘You think you’ve visited busy markets before? You haven’t until you’ve visited Bengaluru. The flower market is absolutely chaotic! Dive in and you will be carried along with the flow of customers. Photographs in the middle of this melee are hard to achieve, but think a little laterally (well, upwards) and you can climb a couple of storeys and get this bird’s eye view of the scrum below’

A shot Vladimir Alekseev took in Svalbard during the total solar eclipse on March 20, 2015. He said: ‘It was one of the most important and impressive astronomical events. In the morning, a blizzard began, and the sky was covered with clouds. But literally an hour before the eclipse, the weather improved. And I managed to capture this amazing moment’

Incredibly, this beautiful image was taken by a 12-year-old – Indigo Larmour, from Ireland. It shows two worshippers chatting at the Masjid Wazir Khan mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, widely regarded to be one of the most beautiful in Pakistan

Alekseev took this wonderful picture in Myanmar. He said: ‘Travel photography does not always capture a landscape or a reportage. Very often it captures a macro world. These are elements of what surrounds you. Little joys in life that we don’t pay attention to at home’

American Lawrence Worcester received a special mention for this comical picture of a wombat in Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania. He said: ‘Having found wombats to be generally elusive on my travels in Australia, and in Tasmania in particular, I was excited to find them easier photographic prey in Cradle Mountain National Park. Moreover, I can hardly describe how excited I was to find several with “joeys”. It was quite a surprise the first time to see the mother nibbling on grass in the front while the joey sampled a few morsels out the back’

The runner-up prize in the ‘nature, sealife, wildlife portfolio’ went to Wenming Tang from China. The snapper took this image in Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province. It is a seasonal home for more than 100 species of migratory birds, including 11 endangered species

Australian Joshua Holko received a special mention for this striking image of a Pallas cat in Mongolia. He said: ‘The Pallas cat is instantly distinguishable by its round pupils and almost totally round body. In its winter coat the cat is nearly as round as it is long. Aware of my position the cat watched curiously and without fear as I slowly repositioned myself to get the composition I wanted’

‘Don’t worry, the fish are fine,’ said the photographer behind this image – Pavlos Evangelidis, from Greece. He snapped it in the Beqa Channel in Fiji and it secured him the honour of winning the ‘best single image in nature, sealife, wildlife’ category. Evangelidis continued: ‘They’re pilot fish – or, to be precise in this case, golden trevallies. They help the shark navigate and keep clean in exchange for scraps and protection’

Richard Li from Hong Kong was the travel portfolio runner-up and this image of a bear hunting for salmon in front of a rather impressive volcano in Kamchatka, Russia, was one of the pictures that bowled over the judging panel. Li said: ‘There are many salmon spawning in the lake under the Kamchatka volcano in July and August every year, which is the most delicious food for brown bears. Although we would think it is looking at the volcano, this oddly human-like figure is actually looking for fish in the lake’

A stunning commended image of Lan Ha Bay in Vietnam by Vietnamese photographer Tuan Nguyen Tan. The bay is home to an archipelago of around 400 islands

Silver in the competition’s ‘people of the world’ portfolio category went to Jorge Bacelar, from Portugal. This heartwarming image was part of his entry and it was also the winner of the ‘people’s choice award’. It shows Abilio Carteirista, a farmer in Murtosa, Portugal. Bacelar said: ‘Now over 80 years old, he spends much of his time in the stable taking care of his animals’

Freelance documentary photographer Jordi Cohen, from Spain, snared gold in the travel portfolio category. One of his entries was this portrait of a boy in Kerala, India, taken during a martial arts lesson

This is the winning entry in the ‘best single image/people of the world portfolio’ category. It was taken by Belgian Eddy Verloes. He said: ‘This is part of my series Losing Our Minds, which was taken at the beginning of the Covid crisis in 2020. This is a photo of ultra-Orthodox Jews who were enjoying their freedom in an unorthodox way in the storm (of their lives) and escaping the lockdown’

Yu Shen from China was given a ‘special mention’ accolade for this striking image, taken at an unknown location. The photographer said: ‘In the apartment’s open-air pool, the girl swims while the man sunbathes, creating an interesting contrast between the two poses. The light from between the buildings creates a special light effect on the water. The photo was taken from the 29th floor’

Syrian Mouneb Taim took this heartwarming – and heartbreaking – image in Saraqib, Syria. It shows puppeteer Walid Rashed performing for children. Since 2013 he has been touring refugee camps and devastated neighbourhoods with his act

Alekseev took this image in the Yamal Peninsula in Russia. He said: ‘For the indigenous people of the far north, deer are wealth. This includes food, housing, clothing, and transportation. And children, from a very young age, know how to drive reindeer on special sleds called narta’

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