All the stunning winning images from National Geographic's Travel Photographer of the Year awards

A lightning strike on an erupting volcano has provided the winning moment for National Geographic’s Travel Photographer of the Year awards.

Sergio Tapiro Velasco won the Nature award and the overall prize from more than 15,000 entries worldwide.

Velasco won a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Islands with National Geographic Expeditions after capturing “one of the most exciting moments” of his life in the town of Comala, 12km away from Mexico’s Colima Volcano:

Picture: National Geographic/Sergio Tapiro Velasco

“I was in the town of Comala when I suddenly saw incandescence above the volcano’s crater and started shooting. Seconds later, a powerful volcanic explosion expelled a cloud of ash particles and a massive lightning bolt illuminated most of the dark scene. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life.”

To enter the awards, photos had to be taken in the past two years and entered in one of three categories – Nature, Cities and People.

Here are the winning entries and other standouts. You can view the full collection at National Geographic here.

Honorable mention – Nature

Marble Caves by Clane Gessel

Picture: National Geographic/Clane Gessel

“My dad and I traveled to Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia earlier this year, and we wanted to see something off the beaten path. After a 10-hour drive and traversing a long, dirt trail, we finally came upon the marble caves. We chartered a boat to take us closer, and I waited for the perfect light to capture these intricate blue swirls. The extra effort it took to reach the caves was worth it.”

Honorable mention – Nature

Forest of the Fairy by Y. Takafuji

Picture: National Geographic/Y Takafuyji

“In a remote village in the Tamba region of Japan, twinkling fireflies light up the Forest of the Gods on a summer evening. The fireflies carpet a stairway leading to a small shrine revered by the local people, creating a magical atmosphere.”

Honorable mention – Nature

Mt Bromo by Reynold Dewantara

Picture: National Geographic/Reynold Dewantara

“Mount Bromo is a small but active volcano on East Java, Indonesia. On January 17, 2016, I was nearby when an increase in seismic activity triggered an alert. This photo was taken from the patio of a local hotel, where I was waiting with my camera. Just as the volcano erupted, the ashes seemed to glow with light. This photo is very special to me—a rare eruption of Mount Bromo with excellent lighting.”

People’s choice winner – Nature

Buff-tailed Coronet by Hymakar Valluri

Picture: National Geographic/Hymakar Valluri

“A buff-tailed coronet feeds on flower nectar in the Ecuadorian forest, a paradise for hummingbirds.”

First place winner – People

Workship by F. Dilek Uyar

Picture: National Geographic/F. Dilek Uyar

“Beams of light filter through a historic building in Konya, Turkey, where a whirling dervish performs an ecstatic dance. The ceremony represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent towards truth and love, and represents the constant revolution of all living things. For example, the Earth itself is in a state of rotation as well as the atoms that make up everything on it.”

Second place winner – People

Interesting Moment by Julius Y

Picture: National Geographic/Julius Y

“A crowd of spectators stands in front of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild, at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. As I observed the scene I laughed when I realized that the people in the painting also appear to be curiously watching the visitors. I managed to take two shots before the audience moved away—one is out of focus, but this one was perfect.”

Third place winner – People

Under the Wave by Rodney Bursiel

Picture: National Geographic/Rodney Bursiel

“I recently traveled to Tavarua, Fiji, with professional surfer Donavon Frankenreiter and captured this image at Cloudbreak. The usual surf shots have all been done, so we decided to get creative and looked for new angles and perspectives.”

Honorable mention – People

The Man’s Stare by Moin Ahmed

Picture: National Geographic/Moin Ahmed

“A train coming from Dhaka pauses at Tongi Railway Station in Gazipur, Bangladesh, on a rainy morning. Suddenly I saw a pair of curious eyes looking at me through the misty window, and next to him a black umbrella shielded passengers from the rain. Together, it created a dreamy moment.”

People’s choice winner – People

Sand Porter by MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan

Picture: National Geographic/MD Tanveer Hassan Rohan

“This photograph was taken from the bank of the river Dhaleswari in Munshiganj, Bangladesh. Sand porters were carrying sand to preserve them on a place near the river.”

First place winner – Cities

Levels of Reading by Norbert Fritz

Picture: National Geographic/Norbert Fritz

“Natural light fills the modern interior of the city library in Stuttgart, Germany. With its stark white floors, open spaces, and large windows, it provides a unique atmosphere to broaden your knowledge.”

Second place winner – Cities

Walled City #08 by Andy Yeung

Picture: National Geographic/Andy Yeung

“An aerial view of Whampoa Garden, Hong Kong, reveals its densely packed buildings. I drew inspiration from the Kowloon Walled City—once the densest place on Earth–which was demolished nearly three decades ago. Hundreds of houses were stacked on top of each other and there was very little open space. The Kowloon Walled City may be gone, but its legacy remains. It exists in Hong Kong’s modern architecture and stacked apartments, which have been built to accommodate the masses.”

Third place winner – Cities

Henningsvær Football Field by Misha de-Stroyev

Picture: National Geographic/Misha de-Stroyev

“In Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the Henningsvær football field is considered one of the most amazing in Europe. This photo was taken during a sailing trip from Tromsø to the Lofoten Archipelago. After a week of cold and rainy weather, the sky finally cleared up enough to fly my drone. We were absolutely astonished to learn that the entire football field is heated, so after lying down and soaking in the warmth, I launched my drone and took this photo from a height of about 390 feet (120 meters).”

Honorable mention – Cities

Al Ain by Andrzej Bochenski

Picture: National Geographic/Andrzej Bochenski

“New buildings rise from the desert floor near Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.”

People’s choice winner – Cities

Colorful Market by Kajan Madrasmail

Picture: National Geographic/Kajan Madrasmail

“As night falls over Bangkok, Thailand, rows of rainbow-colored market stalls come to life.”

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