The judges' votes are in for the winners of the Nat Geo 2016 Travel Wander List Pinterest Contest! We asked our readers to help us determine the best travel destinations for 2016. Thanks to everyone who created #NatGeoWanderListContest Pinterest boards with picks for the New Year's must-see destinations.
First Prize: Karla's board wins a Canon EOS Rebel T5i SLR camera.
Second Prize: Tracey's board wins a National Geographic camera bag.
Third Prize: Megha's board wins a copy of the National Geographic book Destinations of a Lifetime.
Thanks again to everyone who participated in the Nat Geo 2016 Travel Wander List Pinterest Contest!
Need even more inspiration? Check out a sampling from our annual Best Trips 2016 feature below.
Masurian Lakes, Poland
Photograph by spreephoto.de, Getty Images
Classic European Countryside
If you join some merry campers at a bonfire in Poland's Masurian woods, sooner or later you'll hear them break into a popular sailing tune that celebrates the Masurian Lakes region.
"The song lists the many treasures we cherish here," says Maciej Milosz, who co-owns a boat rental company, "including lots of fish to catch, wild mushrooms to eat, and unimaginably vast forests."
Stretching across northeastern Poland 125 miles north of the capital, Warsaw, the Masurian Lake District claims some 2,000 lakes, many connected by rivers and canals. Always popular with Polish vacationers, the region remains a quintessential example of the simple pleasures of traditional country life.
In summer months Masuria's lakes ripple with sails, while the red-roofed resort towns of Giz˙ycko and Mikołajki teem with boaters and bathers. If you prefer solitude, head over to Nidzkie or Łuknajno Lakes, nature reserves free of motorboats, where you easily will find a quiet waterside spot. Don't count on being alone, however. The lakes' navy blue waters attract diving cormorants, mute swans, and clamoring storks, while deer, moose, wolves, wild boars, and the elusive lynx roam the Pisz Forest, a remnant of a pristine wilderness that once covered much of northern Poland. It all adds up to even more to sing about. —Adam Robinski
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Photograph by Toshi Sasaki, Getty Images
100 Years of Earth, Wind, and—Most of All—Fire
Vast flows of solidified lava sprawl across Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, a blackened, primordial calling card from the park's most illustrious resident, the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele. Said to dwell in Kilauea, one of two volcanoes here that are among the world's most active, Pele has been a busy lady. Since 1986, hundreds of acres of new land have been created by molten rock welling up from deep inside Earth and spilling, hissing and steaming, into the Pacific Ocean.
"Lots of visitors come for the lava," says Clarence "Aku" Hauanio, the third of four generations of his family to have worked at the 520-square-mile Big Island park, which celebrates its centennial in 2016. "But there is so much more—the coast, the rain forest, the thousands of petroglyphs made by ancient Hawaiians, all the different plants and animals found nowhere else but Hawaii. You could work here for 29 years, like me, and still see something new every day." —Christopher Hall
Photograph by Kathleen Wasselle Croft
The Inuit of Greenland call it sila, the immense natural world experienced with all five senses. It is the whispering wind that shapes the surface of the snow, the crisp inhale of Arctic air, the coarse touch of rocky shores.
"We know we can't control nature; we can only be close to it," says Greenlander Jane Petersen.
Kalaallit Nunaat, as Greenland is called by indigenous Inuit, is the great frontier of the north, a vast, stone-faced giant capped by an ice sheet more than twice the size of Texas. Aquamarine rivers squiggle across its white void, feeding a thousand thundering waterfalls that flow into enormous fjords. The qajaq (kayak) allows close sightings of spouting whales—and, if you're lucky enough to be on a small ship that can access remote habitats, Greenland may be the best place in the world to see polar bears in the wild.
Circumpolar athletes will gather in the capital, Nuuk, for the 2016 Arctic Winter Games, the largest international event ever hosted in the country. Along with skiing and ice hockey, participants will compete in ancient games such as the finger pull and kneel jump.
"We understand that we are only borrowing this land," says Petersen. "That is why we love sharing it with others." —Andrew Evans
Photograph by Pietro Canali, SIME
Because Life Is Shorts
"I love you! God loves you!" repeats Johnny Barnes, a 92-year-old Bermudian who waves at passing scooters and cars each weekday morning at a roundabout in Bermuda's capital of Hamilton.
"We may seem very proper," says taxi driver Larry Rogers, "but we are also an eccentric island." Indeed, scratch the immaculately gardened surface of this British overseas territory, and you'll find a place brimming with personality. Every year, participants in the Non-Mariners' Race vie to construct the shoddiest vessels to see who sinks fastest; descendants of Native Americans proudly hold powwows; and policemen and businessmen insist on wearing knee-high socks with their shorts, no matter what the rest of the world may think.
You can beat the crowd headed to Bermuda for 2017's America's Cup by going now, and don't forget to say hello to Johnny. —Chaney Kwak
Photograph by Ingolf Pompe, Aurora Photos
Blue or Not, It Blows Our Minds
Flowing almost 1,800 miles from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, the Danube River has been the main thoroughfare through central and eastern Europe for millennia. Herodotus called it the "greatest of all rivers" 2,500 years ago, and it still may be. Winding through ten countries, it's like a medieval version of Route 66, except your stops will be at 13th-century Gothic churches rather than diners, and you'll be treated to views of Transylvania instead of tumbleweeds.
Imagine the spires of the palace-bedecked capitals of Vienna and Budapest slowly rising above the trees as your boat glides around a bend. Then picture docking beside Old World towns such as Regensburg, Germany, orphaned by the modern highway system but enjoying a tourism rebirth via the burgeoning number of Danube River vessels.
Back in 1933, as he sat beside the Danube, famed travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor wrote: "I lay deep in one of those protracted moments of rapture that scatter this journey like asterisks. A little more, I felt, and I would have gone up like a rocket." Cruise along this legendary river, and you may feel the same. —Bill Fink
2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest
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