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See the winners of our travel photo challenge

By Laura Brown
January 12, 2022
1 Wilson Valverde United States 731139F455B931E009D1F4Ab584F8Ba5
We teamed up with GuruShots to find the best travel photos in the world. Here they are.

We teamed up with GuruShots, the world's favorite photo game, to run a travel photo contest. Almost 100k photos were submitted to the challenge, and we are pleased to feature the top 500 travel photos from around the world! 

Without further ado, here are the contest winners: 

Top Photographer: Wilson Valverde, United States

Top Photo: Vikranth Thupili, Finland


Guru's pick: gm.geetamaurya, India


Zdeněk Janovský, Czechia

Fabio Brocchi, Italy

Nikhat, Australia.

logansh, United States

Dewan Karim, Canada

Margarida Afonso Silva, Portugal

Guy Wilson, Israel

Margie Troyer, United States

Mirjana Bocina-Anabella, Croatia

Georgian Grigore, United States

iso_d0pe_photography, United States

Elisardo Minks, Chile

Gil Shmueli, Israel

Pat MahhMahh Sheep, France

Ilan Horn, Israel

Alexandra Surkova, Spain

Anne Mortlock, United Kingdom

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Inspiration

Rediscover the San Juan Islands: Adventure-seekers will love this Northwest destination.

The journey starts with either a ferry or a floatplane—there are no bridges to the San Juans Islands. Leave stress behind as you board in Anacortes and set sail on the marine segment of the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway. You can relax, you’re on island time now. The San Juan archipelago in Washington State is nestled between three great cities for visitors – Seattle, Vancouver B.C., and Victoria B.C., surrounded by the Salish Sea. Of the 172 named islands in the San Juans, three of them – Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan – have accommodations, attractions, and amenities for visitors. The archipelago is blessed with a temperate marine climate and life in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains means an average of 247 days with sunshine annually and about half the rainfall of the Seattle area. San Juan County has more than 400 miles of shoreline punctuated by rocks, bluffs and beaches. The arts, historic preservation and environmental stewardship flourish in the Islands. San Juan County is considered an “Arts Hot Spot” by the Washington State Arts Commission for the number of artists and galleries in the islands. It is also the first county in the USA to be designated a voluntary “Leave No Trace” area. Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the archipelago’s only incorporated town, was named a Destination of Distinction by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. No matter your style of vacation, you’re bound to find it in the San Juan Islands. For nature enthusiasts, there’s world-class wildlife watching including orcas, humpback whales, bald eagles, Steller sea lions, and red foxes. And there’s a variety of ways to see it: along a network of waterfront hiking trails, from shoreline parks, from tour boats and private vessels. For adventure seekers, beautiful landscapes and a calm inland sea make the San Juans a prime sea kayaking spot. Paddle your own kayak or set out with one of the many knowledgeable kayaking outfitters on San Juan, Orcas, or Lopez Island for three-hour to three-day tours. For foodies, find quality local products, and experience the sense of community shared by island chefs, growers, winemakers, distillers, brewers, and other agricultural artisans. Some local farms even offer stays for guests who want to get up close and personal to the islands’ bounty. If art’s your thing, you’ll find a gem in the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, with three to four first class exhibitions a year. The San Juan Islands Sculpture Park at 20-acres is one of the largest outdoor sculpture parks in the Pacific Northwest. Humpback calf 'Slate' breaching by Jeff FriedmanFind variety, beauty, serenity ... day after amazing day. As we navigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, we are following the guidelines set by the Washington State Department of Health and Governor Inslee’s office. San Juan County is currently in a modified Phase 2 of Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan. Accommodations are open at 100%, and restaurants vary between curbside pickup, delivery, and limited indoor and outdoor seating. Face coverings are required to enter all businesses and public spaces. Editor's Note: we are working with local tourism boards to highlight destinations that are ready for tourists. Given the ever-evolving situation on COVID-19, please make sure you check the tourism website for the most up-to-date planning information. From Nature to Nurture the San Juan Islands provide inspiration for the senses (www.visitsanjuans.com).

Inspiration

Would you dare baptism in the Devil's Bathtub?

Close my eyes and count to three as I anticipate to dive into the deep, ice cold pool of water - The Devil’s Bathtub, located in Southwest Virginia. Jumping in is not recommended for the faint of heart. I stare into the aquamarine abyss and question the life choices that led me to this. Deciding if I have the courage to jump into the Devil's Bathtub. Photo by Maddie Luchsinger. The Devil’s Bathtub is a place that no person can stay for very long - it is wicked in the way its cold can take the breath away of the people who dare to jump in. It is the type of cold that sucks the breath right out of your lungs and frightens every skin cell of your body. It is a bathtub-sized pool that is, perhaps, 25 feet deep, full of the fresh spring water falling off the mountains. You’ve hiked 2.5 miles up a mountains, crossing a river 17 times. Your muscles are sore. So jump into the Devil’s Bathtub and find out what happens when you dunk them in ice. After I was baptized by the Devil in southwest Virginia, I felt cold for days. It was a deeply guttural coldness, like I was thawing slowly from the inside out. Photo by Maddie Luchsinger In all the time I’ve spent exploring the world, there are only one of a handful of times I can remember being this cold - in the middle of the night, camping in the desert in North Central Mexico. I was there on a church trip, to build houses in the slums of Tijuana. This was something the church of my youth did a lot in the 1990s/2000s - took groups to do manual labor rural parts of Mexico. That year, in the desert of Baja California, El Nino brought on exceptional rains that flooded our campsite and soaked my belongings. The temperatures at night would reach just above freezing, and the lumber that kept our campfires roaring was wet and ineffective. I have this memory of huddling around the dwindling embers of a dying campfire, desperate to get warm, under a deep sea of stars. I remember feeling like I would never feel warm again. The second time I’ve felt that cold was whitewater rafting the Upper Youghegheny River in Upper Pennsylvania in the early spring. My group spent the entire weekend camping in a pouring rainstorm, on 50 degree days, and then rafted a flood-stage river of class IV-V rapids. I fell out twice, and swam down a class IV+ rapid called the Meat Cleaver. I remember feeling cold for days after, and vowing to never go whitewater rafting again. When I jumped into the Devil’s Bathtub, these were the memories that came flooding in. This was a uniquely painful kind of cold. And the thing that was so devilish about it - it was an enjoyable pain. Maybe I’ve cursed myself, jumping into the Devil’s Bathtub. but in 2020, who can tell the difference? _______ Photo by Maddie Luchsinger How to find the Devil’s Bathtub — At the end of Highway 619 just outside of Duffield, Virginia. Duffield is located less than 2 hours from Knoxville, about an hour North of Kingston, Tennessee. This is a popular hike with an established parking lot at the trailhead. Hikers can choose to go left when the trailhead splits for a 4 mile roundtrip journey to the Devil’s Bathtub, or take a right for a 7-mile loop through the mountains. The trail is clearly marked with a yellow square tag. Plan for the trail to take an hour per mile, and wear shoes that can get wet. You have to hike across a river 17 times, and you are almost certain to get wet. There are a few areas of treacherous terrain and sharp drops, so keep an eye on young children and dogs at all times. The hike can be found near Duffield, Virginia, about an hour north of Kingston, TN. I recommend camping at Natural Tunnel State Park, less than an hour away. NTSP has a well maintained and safe campground, good for car campers or RV tows. Natural Tunnel is a rock formation that has naturally formed in the mountains, created a naturally carved train tunnel. The park offers a fun chairlift to the bottom, a fun activity for families or tired hikers.

Inspiration

This interactive map will guide you to the best fall colors in the US

To help travelers to plan their trips to catch the leaves change colors in different parts of the US, an interactive map has been created.Now in its seventh year, the 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction Map by smokymountains.com is a visual planning guide to the annual progressive changing of the leaves. It notes that as average temperatures continue to slowly increase, their effect on precipitation patterns and weather will have an impact on the brightness and length of the fall color season across the US. The interactive map was created by analyzing millions of data points and putting them together county-by-county. It has a slider to allow users to follow the changing leaves through the entire fall season, enabling travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn. The fall foliage at Smugglers' Notch State Park in Vermont, USA © Naphat Photography/Getty ImagesThere are also articles on the website with information on the science behind why autumn leaves change colour, what the different hues mean and what happens to the leaves after they fall. It also warns that no foliage tool can ever be 100% accurate, as the timing and vibrancy of the colors depends greatly on the unpredictable weather ahead and the major factors impacting peak fall are sunlight, precipitation, soil moisture and temperature. To see more on the 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction Map, please see here.

Inspiration

The future of museums amid unsettling times

Global lockdowns imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic severely diminished the tourism sector. The arts and culture industry, a cornerstone for tourism, and well-rounded communities now face an existential crisis. Museums make up a 13 billion dollar industry in the US alone, where 14 million Americans attend each year. The risk of losing museums will affect the intricate system of artists, tourists, residents, and families. Today, museums across the board struggle in the background. One-third might not make it through the pandemic; the rest may need to reinvent their business models to survive. Museums, at their core, are keepers of authentic heritage, culture, and history. Across the globe, museums showcase over 1 billion objects and artifacts for essential public views. Over the last decade, the industry evolved from scholars and academia to bring in wider audiences through engagement and entertainment. Respectively, their financial model reflected the more hands-on experience brought on by foot traffic and memberships. The Smith Group, based on architectural design in the art space, points out the need for structural changes to stay relevant post-pandemic and among the newer generations. This short term financial and cultural crisis expedited the threat of how museums will keep up in the digital age. Traditional and dated forms of engagement used by many museum websites do not effectively harness the internet. If museums move beyond brick and mortar establishments, they will need to implement more forward-thinking ideas. Museums already use social influencers like celebrities or political figures to market and attract visitors. Still, a new form of marketing, known as niche marketing, can potentially lead museums to use pop culture to interact with the digital world. One example from a recent phenomenon is Animal Crossing, the record-breaking video game from Nintendo Switch. The social simulation game sold over 13 million copies since its release and created a revolutionary community to build an attractive island and visit other users online. The fandom attracts many public figures to its doors, even inspiring New York congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to reach out to her following within the video game. In a comment made to the Wall Street Journal, David Newbury, an enterprise software architect at the J. Paul Getty Trust, said, “We need to get our art to where people actually are, and they’re in this game.” The Getty Museum recently created a Vincent Van Gogh Exhibition in the game to engage visitors over quarantine. New York-based artist Nicole Shinn launched her art gallery housed within Animal Crossing and featured over 20 contributing artists. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has made its entire collection of more than 406,000 Open Access images available to visit or hang in your island home. These public engagements show promising ideas for museums to interact successfully in the digital world, but still aren’t translating into their current financial model. As museums struggle to stay afloat, these efforts must be two-fold: how will they use the digital space to bring in much-needed funding and how will they use the digital world to funnel traffic back into their establishments. Beyond the museum industry, the ladder might be more critical to the travel sector. If museums engage more online, how will this affect the cultural development and attraction of cities to tourists worldwide? By Kylie Ruffino, a copywriter and designer graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her focus is exploring the intersection of design and language to realize solutions of forward thinking ideas.