When you head on a vacation to somewhere marvellous, it’s only natural that you want to take photographs of your experience. The vacation won’t last forever and a well-placed photograph of a temple or a friendly selfie of you and a friend will ensure you remember the experience every time you look at the photo. Beyond that, more people are amateur photographers than ever before. Cellphone cameras are getting better all the time, every third person seems to own a DSLR and spend their weekends taking photos of the cities they live in, and Instagram makes sure that people get rewarded with little hearts for every nice photo they share with the world.
So photography isn’t only something that diehard photographers are interested in. And you’ll take no better photos in your life than on a trip around the world. A red and yellow pagoda against a wash of bamboo; a cheetah racing after an antelope; a million litres of water pouring off a towering waterfall – you won’t find these incredible sights at home. You’ll have to journey across the world to capture these visual wonders in all their glory. The following are 10 great vacations for photographers around the world. We haven’t limited the list to simply natural wonders or historical marvels. We’ve also included cultural sights and modern wonders in addition to the natural icons.
If you’re looking to take the best photos of your life, add these 10 vacation ideas to your bucket list.
Patagonia, South America
Let’s start with an obvious natural wonder. The long stretches of Patagonia at the southern end of South America offer some of the starkest landscape in the world. On the Chilean side, focus your camera on the three stone towers that pierce the sky in Torres del Paine National Park. On the Argentine side, you’ll want to head to Perito Moreno Glacier to snap shots of ice calving into the waters of Lago Argentino at frequent intervals. There are few better images than a shot of a block of ice at the moment it crashes into the waters below. Beyond these icons, you’ll find long stretches of empty, barren, windswept wilderness that are perfect for stark photographs. As well, if you love photographing the sky, you’ll have a lot of fun here as the night sky in Patagonia is seemingly endless.
The Namib, Namibia
You’ll find plenty of great sand dunes if you travel to the Sahara or Wadi Rum in Jordan, but the sand dunes of the Namib in Namibia are unique in their visual appeal. For one, they’re some of the largest sand dunes in the world. Big Daddy, overlooking Dead Vlei, stands 325m tall! You’ll have a hard time fitting the entire dune in your frame, which means you can play with photographic scale in magical ways here. As well, Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei always make for incredible photography subjects. The wizened black trees of Dead Vlei are like a forest graveyard; you’ll find few better photography subjects in any desert in the world.
New Delhi, India
When travelling, it’s easy to overlook the appeal of people as photography subjects when faced with all the natural and cultural wonders you’ll find. However, there are few subjects as fascinating as the human face and people going about everyday life. In New Delhi, you’ll find no shortage of people who bustle through this packed, happening city all hours of the day. In New Delhi, you can snap photos of elderly vendors selling clothes at a marketplace, crowds of people weaving in and out of traffic jams on the city streets, or the busy, beautiful chaos of an ordinary day in the train station. New Delhi is bustling and making that very bustle the subject of your photos will reward you with some incredible images to take home from your trip to India.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If you want to photograph crowds of people in the midst of revelry and celebration, there are few better places to be than Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. The parade floats; the costumes; the feathers; the crowds of people in the streets singing and dancing and letting the world experience their joy—you can capture all of this on a Brazil vacation. Secure yourself a position in a window above the parade route and snap photos as the party passes beneath you or take to the streets and get in the heart of the action, capturing the energy and colour of every person moving through the streets. Just be sure to use colour photography during your time here; B&W and Carnival are not the best mix.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
It takes a lot of patience to be a great wildlife photographer but the reward for that patience is incredible snapshots of animals in the wild. Luckily, during the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra in Tanzania, you don’t need as much patience as usual as you have over a million animals to photograph as they make their way across the Serengeti during the changing of the seasons. Take a safari onto the plains of Serengeti National Park and use your telephoto lenses to capture hundreds of thousands of buffalo stampeding across the savannah. We mention telephoto lenses because you won’t want to get too close to these migrating animals. Long-distance gear will let you get the perfect shot without compromising your safety.
An Antarctica vacation combines the starkness of a journey to Iceland or Patagonia with the adorable sight of penguins, who have adapted to living in the harsh conditions of the South Pole. There’s a lot to train your camera on during a journey here. Visit a penguin rookery and snap photos of thousands of penguins huddled together on the ice; depending on the frame, you might have nothing but penguins in your photo, with their black and white bodies transforming into a landscape in their own right. If you happen to catch penguins in the water, you’ll witness them gracefully dart beneath the waves. You can even ignore the penguins themselves and focus on the overwhelming stretches of ice and snow and sky that define the seventh continent. And best of all, you won’t have to worry about avoiding other people in your frame; odds are, you’ll be one of a very select few visitors to grace the ice no matter where you visit on the continent.
The world’s tallest building draped in mist; an island shaped like a palm frond; an entire modern city rising out of the sands of the desert – a trip to Dubai offers the chance to capture all these incredible sights with your camera. This modern city in the United Arab Emirates is full of one futuristic sight after another. The Burj Khalifa, which stands 823m tall, could occupy most of your attention, but you’ll also find beautiful contrasts here that are worth capturing. If you head to the souks or the old Arab forts, you’ll find the Arabian past sitting comfortably alongside the innovative present. Few cities offer you the chance to capture the old and new literally existing side by side.
Speaking of contrasts, Tokyo offers as much history and innovation as any other city in the world. For modern wonders, head to Akihabara at night and spend your time snapping photos of neon signs, massive shopping centres, and folks dressed up in elaborate Manga costumes. The next day, park yourself at Shibuya Crossing to witness thousands of people simultaneously cross the corner in orchestrated chaos; you aren’t likely to see more people move past each other in one spot anywhere else in the world. Then delve into the past by exploring some of the many temples across the city. Senso-ji is the most popular temple and its many buildings and bright red colours beg to be captured on camera. However, other spots, like the tranquility of the Meiji Shrine, with its monochromatic Shinto design, and Zojo-ji Temple, which sits in the shadow of Tokyo Tower, also demand your attention.
In many ways, Israel is the spiritual heart of the western world. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all hold the city as sacred, and millions of pilgrims flock to the city each year to visit the holy sites and engage in spiritual reflection. On a Jerusalem vacation, you’ll have the chance to capture people in the midst of the most intense spiritual concentration of their lives. At the Western Wall, which used to be the support wall of the Second Temple, you can photograph people praying against the ancient stones and placing handwritten messages into the cracks of the wall. In the Old City, you can capture pilgrims walking the Stations of the Cross on their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Jesus’ tomb. Some pilgrims even dress in the clothing of Jesus’ time period, especially during the Easter season, making the sights that much more interesting. And the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount attract Islamic pilgrims paying homage to Muhammad’s Night Journey. At all these locations, you can witness pilgrims in the midst of spiritual journeys. The sheer devotion on display is worthy of a great photograph or two.
Sometimes, all you need to take a great photograph is to capture an old icon from a new angle. And there’s no city that offers more old icons to photograph than Rome, the Eternal City. Armed with your best camera and a few lenses, you can strike out into the city, heading from the Colosseum to the Roman Forum to the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps to the Pantheon to the Vatican City and everywhere in between. Study these masterworks of architecture, find yourself the perfect vantage point, and capture a thousand-year-old icon in a new light.
There are more than 10 great vacations for photographers in the world, but these vacation options give you a wide variety of subjects that make for great photographs. They offer the chance to capture nature at its most stark and stunning, humanity in the midst of the bustle and joys of everyday life, and the wonders of the past and the modern world.