A year in photographs – 15 landscapes in 15 countries

JUAN MARTINEZ

January 3, 2020

A year in photographs – 15 landscapes in 15 countries

From African savannas to futuristic cities. These are some of my best landscape photographs out of the 27 different countries I traveled to in 2019

2019 has gone so fast and after being on the road for an average of 20 days a month and having visited 27 countries in 5 different continents, I collected a very large amount of photographs from all over the world. Not only that, I also visited two places I had on my bucket list for a while and explored areas I never thought to see once in my life. It was a great year, and in this gallery I want to show you some of my favorite landscape photographs from some of these travels.

West Side National Park in Andros, Bahamas

West Side National Park in Andros, Bahamas
Aerial view of the West Side National Park in Andros, Bahamas

The pace of life in Andros is slow. There is only one street connecting the island and visiting the West Side National Park (Andros and The Bahamas’ largest national park), is a whole expedition in itself. However, the journey is absolutely worthwhile: completely untouched natural scenery, crystal clear waters and an isolated, personal experience like anywhere else.

This photograph shows the considerable number of tidal creeks and coastal mangrove forests formed at the West Side National Park. This is one of the largest protected areas in the Caribbean and is considered an important feeding area for the West Indian flamingo, as well as several species of shark and marine turtles.

Read more: Exploring for the West Side National Park in Andros, Bahamas

Grotta della Poesia in Puglia, Italy

Grotta della Poesia in Puglia, Italy
Grotta della Poesia during winter time

Known as one of the most beautiful natural pools in the world, Grotta della Poesia is an obligatory stop for travelers visiting the Italian province of Puglia. Additionally, the whole area along the Adriatic coast of Salento has other breathtaking natural formations such as the Beach of the Two Sisters and The Sea Stacks of Sant’ Andrea

I visited Grotta della Poesia while doing a road trip through Puglia in late winter (March 2019), and although the temperatures didn’t give me the necessary courage to jump and take a swim in the vibrant blue natural pool, I was able to explore the area completely alone. This was probably the most outstanding experience when visiting Puglia – especially after seeing on the internet how crowded Grotta della Poesia gets in Summer.

Read more: Planning a road trip in Puglia

Baltinache Lagoons in Atacama, Chile

Baltinache Lagoons in Atacama, Chile
Salt formations at the Baltinache Lagoons in Atacama

Not as promoted as the salt lagoon of Cejar, the lagoons of Baltinache are probably Atacama’s most beautiful secret. This set of seven salty lagoons is located about one hour from San Pedro de Atacama and can be reached independently or with a tour operator starting at 15 EUR for a half day tour.

Even though floating on the salty waters is the main highlight of Baltinache, I was more fascinated by the unusual salt formations materialized along the coast of the lake. These made the whole landscape look alien and the experience of visiting this exotic spot considerably more special.

Read more: Exploring alien landscapes at the Atacama Desert in Chile

White Lagoon in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, Bolivia

White Lagoon in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, Bolivia
Silent morning at the White Lagoon in Bolivia

Although Salar de Uyuni is by far Bolivia’s most popular natural destination, travelers should start considering a visit to the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve as their first priority. This is one of the most important protected areas in South America and a place with an exceptional diversity of wildlife.

Visitors at the National Reserve are able to see erupting volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, kaleidoscopic lakes, and a large number of animals. Not only that, the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve is one of the few places in the world where visitors can spot three endemic species of flamingo (Chilean, Andean and James).

Even though each photograph at the reserve could be a perfect display of the reserve’s natural beauty, I loved the White Lagoon for its characteristic silver coloring and constant low white mist – rare effects caused by the borax in the water and its dust under sunlight.

Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina

View of the Iguazu Falls from the Argentinean side
View of the Iguazu Falls from the Argentinean side

There is nothing more astounding than walking along the trekking areas of the Iguazu National Park and seeing the magnificent size of the Iguazu waterfalls for the first time. With 275 drops and a total width of 2.7 kilometers, there is no doubt why Iguazu is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

Located at the border between Brazil and Argentina, visitors can get a view of this incredible location from both sides and while some find the Argentinean park more fun and interesting, there is an irreplaceable beauty on each side. As a traveler, I would have not skipped either of these and would even consider taking a helicopter ride to see the Iguazu waterfalls from the air.

For this photograph I wanted to show the vast number of drops surrounded by tropical jungle. There is no other place in the world like this and after visiting Iguazu, other large waterfalls such as Niagara don’t seem quite as impressive.  

Read more: Argentina or Brazil? Where to go when visiting the Iguazu Falls

Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala

Aerial view of a lava spring at the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala
Aerial view of a lava spring at the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala

Climbing the volcano of Pacaya might not be as adventurous as hiking the nearby volcano of Acatenango. Reaching the summit of Pacaya takes no longer than 50 minutes and visitors are not even allowed to reach the crater.

Despite this, my visit to Pacaya turned into an unforgettable experience. The Guatemalan tourism office did not only apply for a special permit for me to use a drone around the volcano area, but also climb up to the top of the first crater. Here I spotted several fumaroles and flowing lava only meters away. Moreover, with the help of my drone, I was able to capture how large lava springs get formed from the top of an active volcano.

Read more: Day trip to Pacaya – Guatemala’s most active volcano

Cerro Negro, Nicaragua

Aerial view of Cerro Negro in Nicaragua
Aerial view of Cerro Negro in Nicaragua

Although Guatemala has exciting hiking routes up volcanoes, the best place to see these giants is definitely Nicaragua. During a short stay in this country I did not only get to visit 4 or 5 volcanoes in less than a week, but also sandboard my way down the dormant volcano of Cerro Negro.

This is one of Nicaragua’s most popular activities and probably the only place in the world where it is possible.

Due to the smooth, black sand and ash surrounding the crater, sandboarding your way down is by far the most fun and exhilirating way to come down from a volcano.

Read more: Exploring the volcano route of Nicaragua

Lake Saimaa, Finland

Lake Saimaa in Finland
Lake Saimaa in Finland

I have been visiting Lake Saimaa every summer for the past three years and I still think this is one of the best destinations for a summer in Europe. With more than 3500 islands around the lake, Saimaa brings you peace and quietness like only a few places on the continent. Additionally, due to its geographical location, Saimaa’s almost 24 hours of sunlight around Midsummer really takes you out of routine.

When visiting Lake Saimaa, I stay in two or three different summer cottages around the lake area. Each cottage and location is completely different and there is nothing more beautiful than going on a kayak ride right after sunset just to get the first view of sunrise just 30 minutes later.

Read more: Planning a road trip around Lake Saimaa

Jellyfish Lake, Palau

Swimming at the Jellyfish Lake in Palau
Swimming at the Jellyfish Lake in Palau

There is no place quite like Jellyfish Lake in Palau. This marine lake in the isolated archipelago of Palau is home to millions of stingless golden jellyfish. Known as one of the most bizarre places in the world, visitors can take a swim in the lake and see how these special creatures migrate across the lagoon.

Due to the lake’s isolated conditions and lack of predators, the moon and golden jellyfish residing in the lake lost their ability to sting and are completely harmless to people.

After being reduced to almost zero in 2016, the government of Palau had to close the lake for a couple of years and intensified their conservation work in protecting these fragile creatures. Nowadays travelers to Palau need to purchase a permit in advance in order to access the Jellyfish Lake. There is also a control point at the entrance to avoid the introduction of damaging contaminants into the water and access to the Jellyfish Lake is now significantly more limited than before.

This photo of a swimmer in the Jellyfish Lake is the best example of this dreamlike and surreal experience. This is to me the most incredible single place I’ve ever visited.

Read more: Taking a dip at the Jellyfish Lake in Palau

Braemar Peak in Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong

Sight of Hong Kong Island on the left and Kowloon on the right from the Braemar Peak viewpoint
Sight of Hong Kong Island on the left and Kowloon on the right from the Braemar Peak viewpoint

When most people think of Hong Kong they think crowded street markets, cheap electronics and endless neon advertisements on the sides of vast skyscrapers. Yet, what many people miss is that 75% of the country is protected green space with countless hiking routes for travelers to discover.

I went to Hong Kong for a second time this year and decided to skip the city life and try some of these routes. Although Wu Kau Tang or the Lung Ha Wan Country Trail really get you out of the city and make you forget Hong Kong as an urban jungle, I think my favorite route was by far the Braemar Hill trail.

This route not only turned out to be a great walk around giant boulders and forest, but also offered stunning views of Hong Kong. This is definitely a place to check out for sunset views – especially when there are only one or two locals capturing pictures that you need to share with.

Marina Bay District, Singapore

Marina Bay District, Singapore with a drone from the air
View of the Marina Bay District of Singapore with a drone

Singapore has always been a special place for me and the more I visit this city, the more I fall in love with it. This thriving metropolis is a great example of how modern cities worldwide should develop.Singapore is a step ahead, in almost every aspect of where European cities want to be.

Since I also had the opportunity to go to university in Singapore, I learnt to see the city from a completely different perspective – something I’m very thankful for.

This year I visited Singapore in order to celebrate a 5-year reunion with my class and I was very surprised to find out that recreational drones are allowed in the city center. In an era in which photography drones are seen in Europe as an imminent danger to the city and its citizens, Singapore has shown again why they are several years ahead of us. Of course, some restrictions apply and heavy fines are given for violating these rules.

Read more: How to take more professional photographs with your drone

YS Falls, Jamaica

YS Falls, Jamaica
Early morning at the YS Falls in Jamaica

Jamaica is a country of incredible natural beauty. From perfect white sandy beaches to dense tropical jungles in the middle of the mountain range. I loved traveling this country by car and being able to stop at some of its most scenic spots whenever I wanted.

However, one of the places that fascinated me the most were the YS Falls in the western side of the country. With seven paradisiacal waterfalls and many natural pools, the YS Falls are an oasis in the middle of the jungle.

And although this place can get very crowded during peak hours and the man made developments around the waterfall take you out of the place at the beginning, wandering until the end of the path and finding an isolated natural pool to jump in and relax, might be one of the most peaceful activities you can do in Jamaica.

Read more: How to plan the perfect road trip in Jamaica

White Point in Nova Scotia, Canada

Dawn at White Point in Nova Scotia
Dawn at White Point in Nova Scotia

Late autumn I visited the Canadian province of Nova Scotia and found why Canada is seen as the place to be for nature lovers. The amount of wild landscapes is simply astounding and the views when driving around can leave you, from time to time, speechless.

While traveling Nova Scotia I decided to not miss the sunrise. Every day I woke up before dawn and went outside to wander around. These morning walks were special moments for me – very quiet and simple, but at the same time, personal and beautiful.

Some of them were grey and cold, while others displayed an explosion of colours. White Point was by far the most memorable one, I even had to run back to my room and pick up my camera, as I didn’t want that moment to get lost in my memories.

Read more: Road trip around Nova Scotia – Driving along the South Shore

Christoffelberg, Curacao

Aerial view of Christoffelberg in Curacao
Aerial view of Christoffelberg in Curacao

When I thought Curacao was another little Caribbean island with beautiful sandy beaches and sweet cocktails, with little else to do, I didn’t know how wrong I was.

Although Curacao stretches only 64 kilometers from east to west, the amount of outdoor and adventure activities travelers can do is simply remarkable. There are two national parks (Shete Boka and Christoffelpark) in which travelers can explore the wilder side of the island.

At Christoffelpark, one of the highlights is trekking Christoffelberg. This is Curacao’s highest peak and an obligatory spot for adventurers. The views from the top are simply the best of the island and the trek itself is easy and exciting.

Nxabega Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Nxabega Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana - Elephants taking a bath
Elephants taking a bath at the Okavango Delta in Botswana

There is a key reason why Botswana gets selected over and over as “Safari destination of the year”. Botswana’s progressive ideas on wildlife protection have brought thousands of wild elephants from all over southern Africa into the country and given them a safe space to live. Not only that, Botswana has the lowest rate of poaching in the region and many see the country as a place for rewilding the species that are simply dying in other parts of the continent.

For visitors, Botswana’s highlight is by far the Okavango Delta; a swampy inland delta and one of the most unique natural ecosystems in the world. It is considered a mecca for birdwatching and probably the most important area for wildlife in southern Africa.

The Okavango Delta is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammals, such as the elephant, cheetah, rhinoceros, African wild dog, and lion. This is really a place in which you are just an outsider getting a small glimpse of the raw beauty Africa has to offer.  From time to time I even flipped out when I saw herds of wild elephants passing by just meters away from my room – a truly special experience.

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