Our top photos from Instagram: best of Instagram 2020
These are our top Instagram photos of 2020 – voted on by our followers with their likes and shares. We hope our best of Instagram 2020 travel photos will help inspire you to plan future travel, dream of destinations near and far, and start your travel bucket list for 2021 … and beyond.
2020 was not your normal year of travel or of sharing photos and adventures of where we were or had just been. Instead, after hurrying out of Europe mid-March, we hunkered down in California to ride out the pandemic storm. On the bright side, that gave us a chance to review many of our past travels represented in our best of Instagram 2020 photos, below. The year also gave us the opportunity to enjoy so much more in our Sierra Nevada foothills, Northern California and neighboring areas.
This year of 2020 was also one of hopes and plans that were put on hold, but it thus became a year to dream so many dreams about where we would go when we could. We found ourselves thinking of places we had always wanted to go back to, of people we had met and shared our lives with and wanted to see again, and of adventures we had been pushed back but would now be moved forward. This year was indeed a time to rethink a few priorities.
Thus, our best Instagram photos – voted on by our followers with their likes and shares – include a few from travels we squeezed in in early 2020 prior to the world shutting down. But so many others we fondly pulled from archives as we continued to dream about travel. Below you will find top photos from Argentina, California (including San Francisco and the Redwoods, not to mention the Gold Country), Canada, China, Croatia, Maine, Morocco, South Korea and Ukraine.
Use the photos as inspiration for your travel planning and dreaming. It’s never a bad time to research and plan since that in itself is also so much of the pleasure of travel.
Here then are our best photos of Instagram 2020
Sad Puppy Eyes in Chernobyl
Despite the nuclear disaster in 1986, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone still has permanent residents — hundreds of stray dogs. When the local city of Pripyat was evacuated after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine, residents were told they’d be back in 3 days and that they could not take their pets. But the people were never allowed to return. Many many dogs were shot because of fears of contamination, but many escaped, and in the 34 years since have continued to breed. Every one we came across just craved human attention, greeting you at your van door, following visitors for hours, nestling up to your legs, and lying at your feet. This little guy followed me as I took photos in an abandoned school library, burying himself at my feet in the books or otherwise begging for attention. Clean Futures Fund, a U.S.-based non-profit, has started cleaning, sterilizing and now even finding homes in the United States for dogs, with a GoFundMe campaign to help it help the remaining dogs in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. These pups are adorable, many very loving, eager for food and hugs. It’s sad to see them living a hard life there.
Sailboat Regatta in San Francisco
Everything will be alright. As they say in Italy “Andrà tutto bene”. It means the same around the world. See the joy, think rainbows, look for the pot o’ gold, because everything will be OK after coronavirus. A downpour was passing over the San Francisco Bay during a sailing regatta and then a rainbow appeared. Despite huge blobs of rain all over the lens, photos were a must — so excuse any remnants of raindrops that I didn’t manage to remove! They are part of the memory, standing in the rain, agape with wonder at the beauty of the rainbow over the sailboats. Planning a trip to San Francisco when “all this” is over? Don’t miss some of the city’s “secret” gardens, hidden behind buildings or even on top of private towers!
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine
Raise your hand if you want to take Maine’s coastal beauty home with you. Like the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, shown here. Sigh, but those gorgeous lighthouses, sea breezes, moose, and islands won’t fit in the luggage so well. So how about a traditional product or souvenir Made in Maine? Like wind bells that sound like a buoy, craft beer, art, or woodworking? Take a look at our story about authentic Maine products you can take home with you — or, in some cases, purchase after you are home. AND in some cases, during your road trip through Maine, you can even visit where they are made!
May I Have This Dance? Argentina Street Art
May I have this dance? Street art on an underpass in central Buenos Aires is a colorful diversion. It is in fact just at the corner on Avenida del Libertador near one of the main entrance areas for the amazing Parque Tres de Febrero. Considering landing in Buenos Aires perhaps on the way to a bucket list trip in Argentina or other South American destinations? Maybe down to Patagonia or up to Salta? Maybe onward to Chile? Then on your day or two transit through town, take a very long walk through this park — or any one of the others in our story, link above, about great parts to see in Buenos Aires. One great way to get over jet lag too, are those walks!
Pripyat Ferris Wheel in Chernobyl
A rusty symbol of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster: The Pripyat Ferris wheel and the small amusement park where it is in the town’s main square were supposed to open for May 1 celebrations in 1986. On April 26, 1986, just days before, Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Power Plant exploded. Approximately 38 hours after the disaster, the entire city of Pripyat, which housed the plant’s workers and their families as well as others in support services, was evacuated — 50,000 people. This Ferris wheel is rarely seen at night since the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is closed to tourists at the end of each day. Special permission was granted to our group of photographers on tour with Atlas Obscura for a night photography outing in Pripyat.
Abandonded Chernobyl Swimming Pool
Abandoned. A special experience during a pre-pandemic trip to explore the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the Ukraine was a chance to stay in the zone at night for a couple of hours. Not a lot of time to make lots of photos. Still, we managed a few, including this one in the abandoned swimming complex. Interestingly, this pool complex was actually used for 12 years after the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster by post-disaster employees and staff. Today, like the rest of the once-state-of-the-art town of Pripyat, it is crumbling. In fact, being in the hall at night was a bit eerie since we could hear things falling off the ceiling occasionally, but nobody ever saw what was causing the occasional clinks and clunks. Read about Therese’s journey learning night photography — what it feels like and the emotions it enables.
Do You Want My Figs?
A number of years ago on an amazing bike trip along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, we came across so much at the side of the roads. Particularly endearing were the little ladies selling dried figs or nuts or other homemade goodies. A dear memory we will hold tight to until we can go back, cycle the roads again, and buy fruits and nuts from all we come across! This is a perfect example of how learning a new language, even just a few basic phrases can open doors and help you connect with locals as you travel.
Pathway into the Forest in Maine
Where does the path lead? Deep into the woods where you can admire beauty and find serenity. On this wooded trail in Round Pound, Maine, you wind through trees and meadows, ending up on the oceanfront where you can watch the lobster boats pulling up their catch, enjoy the shoreline rocks, have a picnic, or just hang out with the breeze on your face. LaVerna Preserve, where this trail is, is a delightful hiking area — from there head into Round Pound or Back Cove or any number of areas in MidCoast Maine.
Korean War Memorial, South Korea
In May 2015, we had the honor to participate in a tour to Seoul, South Korea, as a part of that country’s government’s program to bring over and salute relatives of U.S. citizens who lost their lives in the Korean War. Therese’s uncle, Capt. Ara Mooradian, a B-29 bombardier, never returned home after a bombing mission in October 1951 as a part of the 307th Bombardment Wing based in Okinawa. When her mother, (his sister) Roxy, passed away in 2013, Therese took over as the one to “hold the candle” for him in hopes of finding out what happened. She was thrilled to go on this trip, but never realized the emotions she would experience. When Therese found Ara’s name on a memorial wall at the Korean War Memorial Museum, she was overcome. “I think finding him being honored and remembered so far from home just hit me hard. I wish my mother could have experienced it….” says Therese. Remember Memorial Day for what it means, honoring those who lost their lives defending our country.
Lake Louise Solo Canoe
Sail away, sail away…. The beauty of Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta, Canada, cannot be described — the depth of the blue, the soaring Rockies around it, the endless trails, and amazing icefields. Take a canoe out for a human-powered paddle on your next road trip in Canada — and enjoy the silence and serenity. Banff is the southern end of the Icefields Parkway, itself a beautiful drive to explore through the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take one day or more for full enjoyment.
Heidelberg Germany Rooftops
We ❤ Heidelberg. Something very idyllic about this beautiful town in Germany — oh, there are many other cute, historic German towns, but this castle watching over the old town center will always be a special sight. (Particularly for Therese who studied in Heidelberg for a year.) On a slightly drizzly winter day last year, we took on the stairs up the tower on Heidelberg’s Church of the Holy Spirit. We awaited sunset as fingers of fog curled around the famous Heidelberg Castle’s towers and seeped among the trees on the hillside. Especially in the winter, the church tower is open long enough to be up above town as the lights of the town twinkle on. If you dream of traveling in Germany, we have a treasure trove of stories to help you out.
Monkeys in a Tree in Morocco
Homeschooling?? I am SO over that…. STOP IT KIDS!… Is it happy hour yet?…These Macaques monkeys live in a cedar forest near Azrou, Morocco — the only African monkeys north of the Sahara. Today, they are threatened with extinction, but it is a treat to see them playing in the trees.
Table Mountain Poppies and a Bee, California
Wildflowers galore! Don’t you wish you could go see them? We are longing for an outing to see the California Poppies at North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve — this photo is from a couple of years ago. Located just west of Lake Oroville, in Northern California, Table Mountain is a wildflower and waterfall lovers paradise in March and April each year. When in full bloom, the acres are lush with flowers and the scent of the lupine are intoxicating with every breath you take.
Redwood Grove California
It’s National Love a Tree Day! What better way to love a tree than admire California’s grand Redwoods on the North Coast. A spectacular sight for residents and tourists alike. Leaves you in awe. Take time today to say thank-you to a beautiful tree in your life. By the way, did you know there is a secret Redwood Grove in the heart of San Francisco? Find out where it is and how to visit it (and other great California sights) on your next road trip.
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Maine
Why do we love lighthouses so much? Maine’s coastal beauty seems particularly attractive with all of its lights dappling the shoreline. Like the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, shown here. But, no, the gorgeous lighthouses, sea breezes, moose, and islands won’t fit in your luggage so well. So how about a traditional product or souvenir Made in Maine? Like wind bells that sound like a buoy, craft beer, art, or woodworking? Think holiday gifts!
Chicken Temple, Yunnan Province China
High on a hill above Shangrila, China, in the Yunnan Province, we hiked up a hill, entranced by what seemed to be a temple at the top. Turns out it was the so-called 100 Chickens Temple, and yes there were LOTS of chickens — just as there were a lot of Tibetan Prayer Flags. In this far northern corner of China, Shangrila is sandwiched between the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the Sichuan province. The town on the Tibet Plateau hovers at nearly 11,000 feet, so it’s not for the faint at heart. But the Tibetan traditions run deep. We explored the area on a trip a few years back on a tour in the Yunnan Province and wished for more. Trivia: The ancient town’s name used to be Zhongdian, but it was renamed Shangrila based on the novel by James Hilton, in an attempt to attract tourists! One day, we will return.
Double Dragon Bridge
17 arches over the Nanpan River. The Double Dragon Bridge, built in the 1800s, is still considered a true masterpiece of traditional Chinese bridge-building. On a clear day, the reflections in the river are stunning and the gardens surrounding it are too. Today, the bridge is under the protection of the county’s Yunnan Provincial Heritage Trust.
Model Railroad in Medina New York
Teeny tiny towns, tunnels, animals and stations cover a 204-foot-long model railroad layout — one of the largest mini-HO scale layouts in the United States tucked away in the small town of Medina in Western New York. Fascinating place with railroad artifacts, too, and the layout isn’t just “fun” but demonstrates an interactive historic timeline dating back to the 1800s and the Erie Canal. What’s more, it’s housed in an old railroad depot with historic engines parked around back and historic train excursions for young and old. Oh, but there’s more: Founder Marty Phelps passed away in 2017 but his (friendly) ghost is seen in the offices and building, still bustling around to take care of all things model railroad he had invested his heart into.For non-train experts, the HO scale is 1:87 scale (meaning 3.5 mm to 1 foot), and is the most popular scale of model railway in the world. Put the Medina Railroad Museum on the list of must-see-must-dos for your post-shutdown bucket list travel planning! Medina is half-way between Niagara Falls and Rochester.
Butterfly on Lantana
An anise swallowtail butterfly feasting on nectar from lantana flowers. You can find butterflies attracted to numerous nectar-bearing plants in Northern California. Plan a California trip and bring along your camera.
Nevada City Lights at Christmas
Christmas lights 🎄 and car trails brighten up a December night in Nevada City, California. The main street in downtown Nevada City in California’s Gold Country is delightful anytime, but especially at Christmas when the buildings are all illuminated and decked out with decorations. This photo is of the historic Nevada City United Methodist Church, which was founded in 1850, but rebuilt on this site and dedicated in 1864. The church sits near the top of Broad Street. We enjoyed our socially distanced and fully masked 2020 photo walk with Kial James of Northern California Scenics for a casual and fun tour of Nevada City’s Christmas lights.
Our Most Recent Travel Stories
Since COVID-19 is likely going to be around for a while, even after vaccinations, safe road trips may be the best answer to see new places. With our road trip safety essentials list, you can avoid relying on restaurants and make less frequent trips to stores so you can focus on having fun and traveling well.
It has been a very long 2020 but through it all we found our readers still wanted to dream of travel, to think about travel, and to plan for travel. This was made clear with our Top 10 Stories of 2020 as selected by our readers and what they viewed. Local and regional U.S. stories, stories that highlighted adventures closer to home and ideas for road trips, sprinkled with a few topics drawn from our archives allowed us and our readers to keep dreaming of travel in 2021.
Christmas Garden Berlin 2019 — a magical wonderland of Christmas lights, lasers and music set in the Botanisher Garten in Berlin.