Stunning Photos of the Most Beautiful Places You’ve Never Been

Thanks to the simultaneous boom of amateur photography and the proliferation of social media sites, experiencing wanderlust is something that happens to us on a daily, if not hourly, basis. But the pangs we feel while paging through our childhood babysitter’s shots from a recent trip to Costa Rica or a co-worker’s weekend getaway to Vermont pale in comparison to what you’ll experience when viewing the more than 12,000 entries to the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012, now in its 24th year. Click through for a slideshow of some of our favorite photos — all pulled from the “Sense of Place” category — and stay tuned for the official contest winners to be named in August.


The French Alps. Photo credit: Kamil Tamiola


Summer Palace in Beijing. Photo credit: Federico Senesi


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo credit: Ignazio Sciacca


Sibuan Island. Photo credit: Rizduan Abd Karim


Sapa, Vietnam. Photo credit: Kayla Beiler


Havana, Cuba. Photo credit: Jim Tardio


Morandava, Madagascar. Photo credit: Ken Thorne


Namaskard, Iceland. Photo credit: Andrea Coan


The Taj Mahal. Photo credit: Colin Roohan


Cinque Terre, Italy. Photo credit: Sara Coen


Bodhnath, Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo credit: Craig Ferguson


Salara de Uyuni, Bolivia. Photo credit: Takaki Watanabe


The Buzludzha Monument. Photo credit: Thomas Jorion


The banks of the Ganges River. Photo credit: NG HOCK HOW


The Tankwa Karoo National Park, Cape Town. Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker