Hidden code in world’s best photo

They are the breathtaking photos showing the world’s stunning beauty — the winners of the National Geographic Travel Photo Contest.

With stunning scenes of vibrant cities, fascinating cultures and natural beauty from across the globe, these photographers are all deserving of the prestigious gong.

But a picture of a small village in Greenland has taken the top prize, revealing a secret code locals go by during the winter months to find their home.

The stunning picture, snapped by Chu Weimin and titled “Greenlandic Winter”, shows a wintry scene at Upernavik, a fishing village on a tiny island in west Greenland. The small, northwestern fishing village is home to about 1000 residents — making it the 13th largest village in the country.

The photo shows a number of small cottages each painted a different colour.

Speaking of the village, Mr Weimin said the different-coloured houses was a sort of code for locals trying to find their way home in the heavy snow.

“Historically, Greenlandic buildings were painted different colours to indicate different functions,” he explained.

“From red storefronts to blue fishermen’s homes — a useful distinction when the landscape is blanketed in snow.”

The colours of the buildings distinguish what they are used for. Picture: William Chu /National Geographic Travel Photo ContestSource:National Geographic

Fishing and fish production are the dominant trades in town. In 2013, there were 1181 inhabitants in Upernavik distributed over 396 households.

The old Inuit dwellings were simple and easy to construct as the weather and seasons changed.

According to Visit Greenland, the building materials comprised of driftwood, bones and furs from animals that had been hunted or captured.

Colours indicated the function of the building. Commercial houses were red, hospitals were yellow, police stations were black, the telephone company was green and fish factories were blue.

Mr Weimin’s photograph was chosen from thousands of entries. He will receive $US7500 ($A10,820) and a post on National Geographic Travel’s Instagram account.

The colours help locals know what is inside each building. Picture: istockSource:istock

“It felt so harmonious. The whole land was covered by white, cold snow, and the blue tint at dusk made it even cooler,” Mr Weimin said of his experience in the village.

“But the light from the windows, street lights and the family of three made the world warm again. I love the contrast and mood of this scene. I was busy taking continuous pictures at that time, trying to capture the best moment.”

Mr Weimin hiked near the local airport for expansive views of Upernavik. When homes were lit in the evening, he said “the town looked like a Christmas tree at night”.

Upernavik’s remoteness made an impression on Mr Weimin.

“I could only see a pure white land covered by ice and snow during my entire flight,” he told National Geographic.

The village has around 1000 residents. Picture: istockSource:istock

“But I suddenly saw a big, warm dot in (the)] far distance — it was Upernavik. The beauty of this tranquil village was really beyond my imagination. It was a wow moment for me.”

Mr Weimin originally planned to stay for two days but extended his trip: “I had to stay for one week because there were no flights. I was lucky because I took this winning image on my sixth day in Upernavik. If I only spent two days there, I (probably) wouldn’t have found this location this year,” Mr Weimin says.

This year, the contest received thousands of entries from around the globe in three categories: nature, cities and people. The photos were judged by a panel of expert photographers and National Geographic staff.

Some of the other images that received awards in the contest include:

Actors prepare for an evening opera performance in Licheng County, China. The photographer spent the whole day with these actors from make-up to stage. Picture: Huaifeng Li /National Geographic Travel Photo ContestSource:National Geographic

People pray on the street in Dhaka, Bangladesh during Ijtema. Bishwa Ijtema is one of the major Islamic religious gatherings observed annually in Dhaka, and millions of Muslims visit during this time. Picture: Sandipani Chattopadhyah /National Geographic Travel Photo ContestSource:National Geographic

Dusky dolphins often travel together in great numbers in the deep canyons of the Kaikoura, New Zealand in search of food. Picture: Scott Portelli /National Geographic Travel Photo ContestSource:National Geographic

This moment was captured during sunrise along the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, India. This boy was thinking silently, and visitors were enjoying the loud musical chirping of thousands of seagulls. Picture: Navin Vatsa /National Geographic Travel Photo ContestSource:National Geographic

This is a rare look at the approach end of runways 28 left and right at San Francisco’s International Airport. Picture: Jassen Todorov /National Geographic Travel Photo ContestSource:National Geographic

Every year on the feast of Saint Anthony the ceremony of the purification of animals called Las Luminarias is celebrated in Spain. In the province of Avila, horses and horsemen jump over bonfires in the ritual that has been maintained since the 18th century. Picture: Jose Antonio Zamora /National Geographic Travel Photo ContestSource:National Geographic

A gorgeous griffon vulture soars through the sky in Monfragüe National Park in Spain. Picture: Tamara Blazquez Haik /National Geographic Travel Photo ContestSource:National Geographic

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