15 fascinating destinations for travel photography – as chosen by top photographers

Some of the world's finest travel photographers, including Richard I’Anson, Amos Chapple and Charlie Waite, pick the most rewarding places to focus their lenses on...

7 mins

1: India by Richard I’Anson

Huranga Holi Festival at Baladev Dauji Temple, Mathura, India (Richard I'Anson)

Huranga Holi Festival at Baladev Dauji Temple, Mathura, India (Richard I'Anson)

"India is a truly exhilarating place for a travel photographer. It is one of the most exotic, colourful, exciting, challenging, welcoming and beautiful countries on the planet.

"The incredible diversity of subject matter and the fact that so much of life is lived on the streets provides the perfect environment and stimulation to constantly seek out new images. Images of everyday life are constantly elevated with the overlay of vibrant colours and the observance of religious worship and traditions.

"My travels in India have always been about the image, about capturing the experience and revealing the country as I see it. But I also love that every image has a personal story, a travel experience that led me to that place at that time, culminating in sublime moments when time seems to stop and the realisation of just how lucky I am to be there takes hold, such as standing before the Taj Mahal at dawn, catching my breath on a steep mountainside as the last rays of the day’s sun light up Lamayuru Gompa in Ladakh, watching the sun rise over the Himalaya from Tiger Hill, near Darjeeling, or listening as hundreds of monks chant sacred texts at Bodhgaya’s Mahabodhi Temple.

"Another personal highlight was, after a cumulative 24 hours of jeep safaris over four trips to Ranthambhore National Park, finally coming face to face with a magnificent Bengal tiger."



2: Ethiopia by Bryan Peterson

Two painted boys in Ethiopia's Omo Valley (Bryan Peterson)

Two painted boys in Ethiopia's Omo Valley (Bryan Peterson)

"In all the world, which other country can you claim to be eight years younger immediately upon arrival? It’s Ethiopia, the same country where coffee was ‘born’. Ethiopia operates with a 13-month calendar. Outside of Ethiopia, it is the year 2017, but inside Ethiopia’s borders, it is now 2009.

"You’ll find lots of energy at the Merkato market in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Arguably the largest outdoor market in Africa, it is intensely colourful, immensely diverse and truly chaotic, making it a street photographer’s dream.

"Often called ‘the rooftop of Africa’, Ethiopia has the most mountain ranges of any African country, and notably the Danakil Depression, an area of volcanoes and colourful salt lakes. Despite it being the hottest place on earth, it is a landscape photographer’s paradise.

"I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the 11 rock-cut churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and another must-visit, the fourth Holiest City of Islam, the walled city of Harar, a city even more colourful than Burano, Italy.

"No trip to Ethiopia would be complete without a trip to the Omo Valley where you will find wildlife, birds and an opportunity to go even further back in time by entering the many tribal villages of the Mursi, Hamer and Karo tribes, to name a few, and witnessing their centuries-old traditions.

"In all of my world travels, 89 countries to date, I have yet to find any place where the human spirit is more possessed with an unflinching and fierce determination than Ethiopia."



3: France by Charlie Waite

Gramat, The Lot, France (Charlie Waite)

Gramat, The Lot, France (Charlie Waite)

The contemplative and sedate nature that lies behind my approach to photography seems grounded within rural France.

– Charlie Waite

"France is one of the most undiscovered countries in the world for landscape photography. The contemplative and sedate nature that lies behind my approach to photography seems grounded within rural France. 

"My affection for France began in the 1960s when my older sister acquired a farmhouse. 30 years later, I’ve had a series of enormously enriching experiences. I’m still entranced by France.

"I particularly like a department called Lot. I never see any tourists there. It’s relatively empty. As a landscape photographer, you pretty much know that you could walk down the middle of any road and you’d probably not meet a car for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s also full of little cameos. There isn’t a lot of the ‘big, grand scene’, but I find lots of little minor pieces, perhaps not more than a couple of hundred metres wide, that you can just build a little landscape study out of. I love that.

"I also love the French canals and the village nuggets that are nestled in so comfortably along side their banks, the Canal du Midi being a favourite. The Vercors Massif, west of Grenoble, is fantastic for its rich walnut groves against a backdrop of chunky mountains. The best of the world's sheds can be found in France and the frosts of December are better than I have ever seen. The many great rivers of France, often swollen after heavy rain, are also irresistible to me."



4: Iran by Amos Chapple

Young twins on the Tehran Metro (Amos Chapple)

Young twins on the Tehran Metro (Amos Chapple)

"I’ve been to a few places in the Middle East and didn’t have a good time, but Iran is completely distinct from its neighbours. The people are outward-looking and kind. Most Iranians I met were embarrassed by their government, which gives them such a bad rap abroad.

"The thing I found most enjoyable was being able to photograph without feeling like I was shooting anything clichéd. So few images of the country existed at the time that I felt like I was doing something worthwhile by shooting what were, in effect, fluffy travel images.

"Because of the sanctions, there are no American or US brands on the street, so you’re able to feel totally adrift in the foreignness of it all. Tehran and Shiraz are wonderful, though crossing the road is seriously scary, and out in the countryside, in places like Palangan, near the Iran/Iraq border, you won’t meet another tourist. It’s just you and your camera rolling through a fascinating, welcoming land."



5: Burma by Steve McCurry

Reflection of a fisherman on Inle Lake, Burma (Steve McCurry)

Reflection of a fisherman on Inle Lake, Burma (Steve McCurry)

"Colour is an integral part of life in countries like Burma, much more so than in the US. When you go into a church or a synagogue in the US, colour is just not important, whereas in a monastery in a place like Tibet or Burma, the colours are very uplifting.  

"I’ve always been attracted to Buddhist cultures: Burma, Cambodia, parts of Tibet, Thailand, Japan. In the case of Burma, I think it’s a really great relationship they have between the communities and the monasteries. There’s a strong Buddhist belief here that I respect. I find it very positive. I think the principles are exactly what the world needs at this time.

"There’s a different pace of life in Burma, perhaps less so now than there used to be, but you can still get into the countryside and people have a less active pace of life than, say, neighbouring Thailand. There’s a marked difference between Burma and Thailand. Bangkok is a bustling modern city. Places like Rangoon or Mandalay are sleepy places, at least they were traditionally. There’s something about that different way of life that really appeals to me: a more relaxed, slower pace.  

"The weather is great in Burma. I’ve always loved tropical warm countries. I’m not particularly attracted to cold climates. The people are also extremely friendly, hospitable, charming, easy to be with. They’re wonderful."



6: Guatemala by Mihaela Noroc 

Colourfully dressed Guatemalan woman (Mihaela Noroc)

Colourfully dressed Guatemalan woman (Mihaela Noroc)

"The villages and small towns of Guatemala have something magical for photography. Most of the women are dressed in homemade traditional outfits, which are some of the most beautiful and colourful in the world.

"The proud descendants of the Mayan civilisation have a great sense of colours and a strong desire to keep their culture alive, so most of them are very open to being photographed.

"I would love to go back in Antigua, a picturesque colonial town, and to Chichicastenango, a village that hosts a vibrant market where, if you speak a bit of Spanish, you will hear some fascinating stories from the women that sell.

"Although there can be some harsh environments in Guatemala, the tenderness and the positivity of the hard-working women I’ve met there is impressive."



7: Bhutan by Graeme Green

Old man at the Temple of the Divine Madman in Punakha, Bhutan (Graeme Green)

Old man at the Temple of the Divine Madman in Punakha, Bhutan (Graeme Green)

"One of the greatest things about being a travel photographer is experiencing cultures that are not only unlike your own, but unlike anything you’ve experienced anywhere else. I get that in places like Japan and Ethiopia, and it's the overwhelming feeling in Bhutan, too, a colourful, friendly country where it often feels like time has stood still.

"Change is starting to happen, with young people in the capital, Thimphu, copying hairstyles and fashions they’ve seen on the Internet. For now, though, Bhutan’s religion, language, clothing, architecture and natural resources (it's the only carbon negative country in the world) are preserved as part of the country’s famous Gross National Happiness concept, which places happiness above GDP.

"Tradition is valued here. Many Bhutanese men still wear a formal gho (robe) with knee-high socks. In place of international brand logos, like Coke and Starbucks, you’ll see massive phallic paintings on the walls, believed to bring good fortune.

"My favourite thing here, as in most countries, is to just walk and explore, ready to stumble upon anything from archery competitions on the edge of town to families sitting in the shade of trees, watching over their animals in the fields.

"One of my most vivid memories is hearing chanting and otherworldy music at Punakha Dzong, the country’s most sacred religious building. At times like that, or watching novice monks at Chimi Lhakhang, the Temple of the Divine Madman, playing Khuru (long distance darts), you get a sense of life going on in Bhutan as it has for centuries."



8: Japan by Michael Kenna

Torii Gate, Study 2, Shosanbetsu, Hokkaido, Japan (Michael Kenna)

Torii Gate, Study 2, Shosanbetsu, Hokkaido, Japan (Michael Kenna)

The shrine is often an integrated part of the landscape, a place to rest, meditate and perhaps escape for a few moments from the complications and noise of our fast-paced modern lives.

– Michael Kenna

"Brought up in England, I come out of a European tradition. My first photographic masters were Eugene Atget, Bill Brandt, Mario Giacomelli and Josef Sudek. My exposure to Japan markedly changed the way I view and photograph the world. In my early work, I used a lot of darkness, a low of shadows. When I went to Japan, the equation shifted, so I was thinking of a lot of white, and things were becoming more abstract, more minimalistic.

"Going to Japan, I became interested in Buddhism and Zen, and the beautiful scrolls, and in the sheer abstraction of combining these Kanji characters with the landscape. I found I could walk down a main street and just be fascinated by everything. It’s all so ‘unknowing’ for me. I didn’t understand what was going on. Everything became abstract arrangements of shapes.

"There are some countries that I keep going back to. There’s something mysterious and wonderfully alluring in the Japanese land. There’s reverence and honour towards the land, symbolised by the ubiquitous Torii gates. The shrine is often an integrated part of the landscape, a place to rest, meditate and perhaps escape for a few moments from the complications and noise of our fast-paced modern lives.

"I’ve found Hokkaido in the north to be a particularly intriguing place: gently seductive, dangerously wild and hopelessly romantic. Visually, it’s been a paradise on Earth for me. Surrounded by water and home to exquisite lakes, graceful mountains and countless majestic trees, photographic subject matter is ubiquitous."



9: Mongolia by Tariq Zaidi

Eagle-hunting family in Bayan-Ölgii, Western Mongolia (Tariq Zaidi)

Eagle-hunting family in Bayan-Ölgii, Western Mongolia (Tariq Zaidi)

"Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, a land of desert, steppe and mountains of dizzying vastness. The first time I went to Mongolia, many years back, I hitchhiked across the country in winter. That perhaps wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve done in my life but it was definitely one of the most rewarding, as I immediately fell in love with the country and it’s people. I saw immense landscapes of endless nothingness, a magical and hypnotic landscape of steppes with wild horses roaming free, something hard to find anywhere in the world today. I met amazing people who welcomed me into their home and treated me as a family friend.

"As I moved to the north-west of the country, I met my first eagle hunter on a horse and I was completely blown away. Each time I visit, I’ve lived with a different family of eagle hunters and herdsmen. Bayan-Ölgii is the province in Mongolia where I have spent the most time and have had the best photographic results.

"Though most of Mongolia is vast landscapes of emptiness, the capital, Ulan Bator, is brimming and changing at an incredibly fast pace. Today, almost half the country’s population, about 1.3m people, live in the city. Perhaps the best time to visit the capital is during the remarkable Naadam festival held in the summer months.

"If you’re looking for incredible light, amazing summer and winter landscapes, remarkable people portraits, and you’re willing to travel a little rough to see and photograph these amazing sights before they disappear, then Mongolia is definitely the right place."


10: Cuba by Aycin Bayraktaroglu

Cuban street scene (Aycin Bayraktaroglu)

Cuban street scene (Aycin Bayraktaroglu)

"Cuba is a country of magic. The beauty of the colours and textures are fascinating, despite all the weariness of colonial style constructions.

"Cubans give life to colours. Everyone I met in the streets of Cuba has the common characteristic of being warm and friendly. They are able to establish an immediate bond with their sympathetic attitude. They like to talk long, laugh, ask questions and know how to enjoy themselves.

"To see the Cubans smoking their cigars out in the streets is very common. Sipping a few drinks in the bars full of music, especially at Ernest Hemingway's favourite Floridita Bar, diving into the sea at beautiful shores and getting lost in the streets to take pictures where everyone is chit-chatting in their front doors all make Cuba a unique country.

"Cuba stole my heart both in terms of photography and personally. I can’t wait to go back again and again to feel the magic it conveys all the time."



11: Tibet by Phil Borges

Monk walking through flag-covered mountainside in Tibet (Phil Borges)

Monk walking through flag-covered mountainside in Tibet (Phil Borges)

"I’m a storyteller. One of my favourite places to tell stories about people, because they have such a fascinating culture, is Tibet. The Tibetan culture is, to me, one of the most wonderful cultures there is. They practice compassion daily from the time they’re young kids. Their Buddhist Tibetan religion or practice is something that cultivates a selfless, more compassionate attitude, rather than Western cultures that are very individual-orientated.

"The people are incredible to photograph. The clothing is so colourful. The texture of people’s skin at that elevation means they have these incredible wrinkles. Even babies have cracked skin on their cheeks.

"It’s not just the ‘physicalness’ of their look. It’s what the Buddhist practice does to their character and countenance. They have this wonderful look about them. They’re totally friendly. I’ve never had a hard time spending a night in Tibet. Wherever I am, I’m welcomed into a yak hair tent. People who have nothing will feed you, and feed you first, before they eat. It’s a very giving culture.

"In terms of the landscape, it’s the Himalaya, so a beautiful, an incredibly high place. The average elevation in Tibet is around 12,000 feet. The landscape and the buildings are incredible. The area around western Tibet is fascinating. You have people whose homes are built into caves and walkways through the caves. The temples across the country are wonderful and very old, and the monks are still in them, chanting every day and holding their ceremonies. It’s a wonderful place. There are mountains covered in colourful prayer flags that go on for miles, and rocks that are carved with their mantra of “Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ” all over the place."



12: Sweden by Mattias Klum

The Stockholm archipelago, Sweden (Mattias Klum)

The Stockholm archipelago, Sweden (Mattias Klum)

It’s so full-to-the-brim with things to photograph. Every single time of year has its own heavenly perks.

– Mattias Klum

"I’m Swedish and I love to shoot where I live. There are so many nuances and subtle things that can be done when you’re even walking the dog. It’s one thing photographing in a tropical country, where you have monsoon and drought, but there are subtle difference to a ‘northerner’. In Sweden, we have winter, spring, summer and fall, all four seasons, and they’re powerful and visually very different from each other. I like that because you never get tired of it.

"I like the monochromatic quality of winter in Sweden, when you have leaden grey backdrops and totally white snow surfaces of new fallen snow on the lake.

"Nature is such an artist in itself. All you need to do is concentrate on how to extract what’s art to you and what appeals to you, as a person, photographer and artist. It’s so full-to-the-brim with things to photograph. Every single time of year has its own heavenly perks.

"I’m living with my artist colleague and fiancé, north of Stockholm. Where we live, in Uppsala, an old forest reserve, is very beautiful, but then if you go up north, you have the big national parks up in Lapland that are phenomenal if you want to see the midnight sun or the aurora borealis, which are spectacular in winter. If you go down south, it’s more open pastoral landscapes. It’s all very rich photographically."



13: Vietnam by Rehahn

Girl from the Mnong ethnic group with an elephant in Vietnam (Rehahn)

Girl from the Mnong ethnic group with an elephant in Vietnam (Rehahn)

"The history of Vietnam deeply shaped its people’s mentality. ‘Taking life as it is’ seems to be a common way here and it is a very inspiring philosophy. Through my work, I realise how joyful, generous and welcoming Vietnamese people are.

"As a photographer, I often refer to Vietnam as a great ‘open air studio’. The country lives in a transition period and is opposed to this more globalised evolution of the culture. You still witness centuries-old traditions and trades, unchanging landscapes and the quaint charm of faded facades, especially in Hoi An, where I live. Hoi An sometimes feels like time has stood still.

"The great diversity of the ethnic group's deep heritage are for me an endless source of inspiration. I've met 48 out of the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam. So far, the best part to find the most preserved culture is the region of Ha Giang in the north of the country where 30 different groups still reside. A few of them still wear the traditional costumes everyday, which are ornate and colourful to photograph."



14: Argentina by Nicolas Janowski

Adrift in blue, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (Nicolas Janowski)

Adrift in blue, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina (Nicolas Janowski)

My favourite place to photograph is Argentina, the country where I was born. Every region is so different. If you travel north to Jujuy, Salta and Tucuman provinces, you can feel the Andean roots, the slow pace of time and the connection of the people with the Earth, the Pachamama. 

"If you travel to the Pampas, you will arrive in the Gauchos’ land. There is an implicit melancholy in this flat land, which I believe mainly has to do with the fact that you can always see the horizon and the sky. It allows you to sit for hours letting your mind wander.

"Tierra del Fuego is a shared island between Argentina and Chile. The island has a story of being a legendary place, conceived as an imaginary ‘End of the World’, an inhospitable place until its transmutation into a place that could be settled by European explorers at the beginning of twentieth century.

"One of the things I find most interesting is that the island offers a moment of imaginative reflection to recover the meaning of our history. It is perhaps the sadness of a ‘lost world’ or perhaps the sadness of a better world that never arrives."



15: Mexico by Alejandro Cartagena

Mexican man in colourful car (Alejandro Cartagena)

Mexican man in colourful car (Alejandro Cartagena)

I love Mexico, but I am also sometimes afraid of it. It asks for respect and demands exposure as a contemporary place where anything can happen.

– Alejandro Cartagena

"My favourite place to photograph is Mexico. It is not only my favourite but it is also the place where I live and which intrigues me most. I arrived in Mexico in 1990 and since then I have been interested in understanding my new home through the Mexican landscape and its people.

"I've photographed widely through the country but have mainly focused in the cities of Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City. The colour, the cities, the disorder, the contradictions, all of these things find a place in my images and express the uniqueness of them.

"I love Mexico, but I am also sometimes afraid of it. It asks for respect and demands exposure as a contemporary place where anything can happen."



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