The 14 Most Stunning Travel Photos Of 2012

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. If that's true, then the 22,000 entries (from 150 countries!) into the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest collectively spoke 22 million words. That's a lot to sort through—and no easy task, judging by some of the great shots that didn't make the cut (browse starting here)—but luckily NG has more than a little experience at separating photographic wheat from the chaff. [slideshow:600]

Click here to see the very best, as judged by NG's expert panel of natural history photographer Christian Ziegler and documentary photographers Gerd Ludwig and Debbie Fleming Caffery. It's a testament to this small, diverse collection of photos that they can hint at the range of the planet's natural beauty, the diversity of its geography and the breadth of the human experience here.

Afterwards, check out the NG Photo Contest website to learn more about the competition, browse hundreds of spectacular travel photos and download free wallpapers.