The National Geographic has been showcasing world’s best photos for years and 2016 is no exception. The magazine collected 50+ images, by 91 photographers and curated from almost 2,300,000 photos and 107 stories. From a space suit test at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, to a baby pangolin riding on its mother’s back – these powerful photos take us to places that we’ve never seen before and connect with us emotionally.
A refugee family lives amid the rubble in Ramadi, an Iraqi city leveled by ISIS’s destruction and bloodshed.
Villagers in Bagaran, Armenia, sing of cultural endurance and survival while picnicking at night beneath apricot trees—and a giant cross that shines defiantly into Turkey.
Blood drips from a Rüppell’s vulture’s beak. The neck and head are sparsely feathered, which helps keep gore, guts, and fecal matter from clinging in a deep carcass dive.
Within sight of downtown Seoul, South Korea’s capital and a hub of modern stressful life, salesman Sungvin Hong rests after a hike in Bukhansan National Park.
A young Rüppell’s vulture eats a piece of zebra in the Serengeti. More dominant birds have taken their fill of the choice meat, leaving the skin and bones for other birds.
As the train nears the end of the journey at Kashgar station, a child draws a heart in the desert sand that came along for the ride.
Igor Voronkin surfaces at the Barentsburg coal mine on Spitsbergen, in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Like most of the 400 other miners, he’s from eastern Ukraine.
The carcass of a bison that drowned in the Yellowstone River became a feast for this wolf and her two-year-old offspring.
An American crocodile rises from a bed of turtle grass to return to the labyrinth of mangrove roots that offer near-impenetrable shelter.
A curiosity, a portent, a looming symbol of the impending change: This May, for the first time in nearly four decades, an American cruise ship sailed into Havana Bay.
On a mountainside in Yosemite National Park, photographer Stephen Wilkes took 1,036 images over 26 hours to create this day-to-night composite.
Twilight bathes the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia at Delphi. Pilgrims in ancient Greece may have offered sacrifices here before consulting the oracle of Delphi.
With the help of a bloodhound, a ranger tries to track the poachers who killed this elephant and cut off part of its head to get away quickly with its ivory tusks.
On their first migration to their summer range in southeastern Yellowstone, three-week-old calves of the Cody elk herd follow their mothers up a 4,600-foot slope.
A harvested bull elk and its prized antlers are transported the old-fashioned way—by mule. More than 72,000 hunters came to the lands around Yellowstone and Grand Teton in 2014.
In Flint, Michigan, siblings Julie, Antonio, and India Abram collect their daily allowance of bottled water from Fire Station #3, their local water resource site.
Photographs and paintings of sights such as this—the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone— inspired Congress to create the park in 1872. It was a revolutionary step.
In Alaska, a mother grizzly and her cubs cause a “bear jam” on Denali’s 92-mile-long Park Road, open to private vehicles only five days each summer.
Kids swim in a river where a bridge collapsed in Port Salut, Haiti. The city suffered serious damage from Hurricane Matthew, with many homes completely destroyed.
Eye-care workers use test-lens frames to conduct eye exams in India’s Sundarbans region. Their goal: to help reduce India’s blind population of more than eight million.
Kirk Odom was convicted of rape after an expert testified that a hair on the victim’s nightgown matched his. He spent years in prison before DNA tests proved his innocence.
A girl watches as three Kurdish women are photographed with their faces hidden. Two of the women say they were forced to marry ISIS fighters before escaping to a refugee camp.
A panda keeper in China uses a stuffed leopard to train young pandas to fear their biggest wild foe. A cub’s reactions help determine if the bear is ready to survive on its own.
Dressed for Mars, space engineer Pablo de León tests a prototype space suit at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where fine soil and fans simulate conditions on the red planet.
As an evening storm lights up the sky near Wood River, Nebraska, about 413,000 sandhill cranes arrive to roost in the shallows of the Platte River.
Summer attracts sunbathers—clothed and otherwise—to the grassy banks of Munich’s Schwabinger Bach. The meadows here have been popular with nudists since the 1970s.
Gerd Gamanab, 67, sought treatment too late: Years of labor in the Namibian sun and dust destroyed his corneas. His blindness likely could have been prevented.
Russia’s Bovanenkovo natural gas field, on the Yamal Peninsula, was deemed too expensive to develop until President Vladimir Putin made it a priority.
The capital of Taiwan, Taipei comes to vibrant life when the sun goes down.
The nervous system of this common octopus is larger and more complex than most invertebrates’. Can it think? Is it conscious? Researchers wonder if we’ll ever know.
Tempted by the fruit of a strangler fig, a Bornean orangutan climbs 100 feet into the canopy. With males weighing as much as 200 pounds, orangutans are the world’s largest tree-dwelling animals.
A worker uses a mallet to dislodge frozen tuna aboard a Chinese cargo vessel docked at the city of General Santos, in the Philippines.
Ye Ye, a 16-year-old giant panda, lounges in a wild enclosure at a conservation center in China’s Wolong Nature Reserve.
A baby African white-bellied tree pangolin hitches a ride on its mother at Pangolin Conservation, a nonprofit organization in St. Augustine, Florida.
Steven Donovan, flipping into a pool, took a seasonal job at Glacier National Park to sharpen his photography skills.
The colors of Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone come from thermophiles: microbes that thrive in scalding water.
Lounging in inches of warm water, blacktip reef sharks wait for the tide to refill the lagoon at Seychelles’ Aldabra Atoll.
To track changes in sea ice, the Norwegian research vessel Lance drifted along with it for five months in 2015, on a rare voyage from Arctic winter into spring.
These rhinos on a South African ranch have recently had their horns trimmed. Unlike elephant ivory, rhino horn grows back when cut properly. The rancher is stockpiling the horn in hopes that selling it will soon be legal.
Poachers killed this black rhinoceros for its horn with high-caliber bullets in South Africa’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park. Black rhinos number only about 5,000 today.
Kirill Vselensky perches on a cornice in Moscow as Dima Balashov gets the shot. The 24-year-olds, risktakers known as rooftoppers, celebrate their feats on Instagram.
Silversides swirl through mangroves in the coral reefs off Cuba. The finger-size fish form large schools to try to confuse predators.
Isra Ali Saalad moved from Somalia to Sweden with her mother and two siblings. “The reason we came to this country is because it is safe,” says her sister, Samsam.
Indigenous people farm and hunt in Peru’s Manú forest but only for their own subsistence. Spider monkeys are a favorite quarry—and also favorite pets.
A pet saddleback tamarin hangs on to Yoina Mameria Nontsotega as the Matsigenka girl takes a dip in the Yomibato River, deep inside Peru’s Manú National Park.
Parts of the Yellowstone region are wilder now than they’ve been in a century. Grizzlies are spreading. This one, in Grand Teton National Park, fends off ravens from a bison carcass. Workers moved it away from the road to keep scavengers and tourists apart.
A diver keeps a close watch on a tiger shark in the Bahamas. But the scene may not be as dangerous as it looks: Tigers rely on surprise to hunt prey and are unlikely to attack divers who keep them in sight.
Virunga Park rangers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo undergo military-style training, including ambush tactics, due to the constant threat from armed groups.
At Fort Hall, Idaho, Leo Teton stands next to a pole ornamented with bison skulls, representing the spiritual connection between the Shoshone-Bannock tribe and bison.
Tortoises jockey for shelter from the sun. They will cook in their shells if they remain in the heat for too long.
Becky Weed and her husband, David Tyler, raise sheep near Yellowstone National Park. They ranch with a guard dog to ward off coyotes, bears, and mountain lions.