Bing Wallpaper Gallery
Jan 19, 2021
The ruins of a Maya superpower
Deep in the jungle of southern Mexico lie the ruins of a city that thrived for centuries before it was abandoned more than 1,000 years ago. Calakmul was once one of the two dueling superpowers—along with Tikal—of the Classic Maya civilization. At its height, around 1,200 years ago, the city of Calakmul had a population of about 50,000 people, but the kingdom as a whole numbered more than 1.5 million. Archaeologists have uncovered 6,750 structures here—the largest is this pyramid temple, called, simply, "Structure 2." It"s one of the tallest and most massive remaining structures from that highly advanced culture. The ruins of the city proper cover nearly 8 square miles in the jungle and the kingdom once ruled over settlements as far as 90 miles away.
Jan 18, 2021
A step toward freedom
This inscription marks the spot on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, where civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. stood while delivering his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. It was August 28, 1963, and King was addressing a quarter-million people spread across the National Mall during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King referred to written notes for most of the speech, but as he neared the end of his prepared remarks, he heard gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who was standing nearby, shout out, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" King responded by partly improvising the rest of his message in a soaring, sermon-like delivery, punctuating his ideas repeatedly with that single phrase, "I have a dream." King"s dream for racial justice, so eloquently shared that day, would resonate through the crowd and across the nation, bringing passionate new energy to the civil rights movement. It still resonates today.
Jan 17, 2021
On the Route of the Waterfalls
Coursing down the steep slopes of the Andes, the Pastaza River meets the edge of the Amazon jungle when it"s forced through a narrow channel that concentrates the river"s power like a firehose. The roiling torrent then shoots over the edge of this mountainside, plunging 200 feet into a cauldron-shaped pool. Agoyán, better known as El Pailón del Diablo (The Devil"s Cauldron), is Ecuador"s tallest and most famous waterfall. It"s a highlight of the Ruta de las Cascadas (Route of the Waterfalls), a popular circuit of the many waterfalls and hot springs near the mountain town of Baños de Agua Santa.
Jan 16, 2021
Oh, to sleep under the northern lights
Perhaps there"s no better place to watch the northern lights dance above you than curled up in bed under the glass dome of a heated igloo here in Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland. There are other glass-domed hotels to choose from in Lapland, but the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, shown here, is the most famous. Visitors come to view the aurora borealis, or northern lights, and for various outdoor sports. There"s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, dogsledding, and even reindeer-drawn sleigh rides to keep you entertained during the short winter days. Evenings are spent dining (yes, reindeer may be on the menu), warming up in the sauna, and for some, sleeping under the stars and the swirling, hypnotic northern lights.
Jan 15, 2021
It s truffle season here in the Dordogne Valley
Perched high above the Dordogne River in France, the Château de Beynac is one of the best-preserved castles of the Périgord Noir region. This 12th-century fortress has been meticulously restored, showcasing for tourists such delights as a dungeon, 13th-century toilets, and magnificent views of the "Valley of the Five Castles" below.
Jan 14, 2021
Summer huts in winter
We"re getting chilly just looking at these snow-covered beach huts in England—and that cyclist slogging through the white stuff. But in the summer, these huts in Brighton and Hove (neighboring towns that share a local government) are in major demand. You can"t stay in them overnight, but they give you a place to change your clothes and stash your belongings, which makes a day at the beach less messy and generally more pleasant. The seaside resort area is also known for attractions like Brighton Palace Pier, which offers amusement park rides and fast food, and the i360 tower, which takes visitors 450 feet up for a 360-degree view across Brighton, the South Downs, and English Channel.
Jan 13, 2021
Strolling across the Red Lagoon
Let"s fly down to the Southern Hemisphere to enjoy a summer day at the Laguna Colorada in the southwestern corner of Bolivia. Also called the Red Lagoon, this 23-square-mile shallow salt lake sits at about 14,000 feet above sea level within the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve in the Andes. At various times of the year, it can turn the shade of tomato soup due to microscopic red algae and sediments. During the rainy season from December to April, scores of flamingos flock to the area to dip their comb-like bills into the water to filter out delicious plankton and algae. You can find three of the six types of flamingos here—the Chilean, Andean, and the world"s largest population of the endangered James"s flamingo, once thought to be extinct.
Jan 12, 2021
Sailing on thick ice
New York"s Hudson River, winter of 2014: Temperatures were so cold for so long that sailors were able to take their antique wooden ice yachts out for a sail on this 20-mile stretch of thick ice. It was a rare sight for the area. Global warming meant that the Hudson River hadn"t frozen thick enough for safe iceboating in years.
Jan 11, 2021
At the gates of the ksar
At the eastern edge of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Aït Benhaddou stands suspended in time. The mud-brick "ksar" (fortified city) was first built roughly 1,000 years ago, catering to travelers along the former caravan route between the Sahara desert and the city of Marrakesh. As a prime example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture, Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. It"s no longer teeming with the large numbers of people who once lived there. But there are small markets and a few families within the city who cater to the visitors who come to walk its historic streets. As a symbol of Morocco"s enduring history, Aït Benhaddou would be a fine place to reflect upon the events of January 11, 1944, when Moroccan nationalists issued a public proclamation calling for the independence of their country, an audacious action that sparked the movement that would end colonialism by 1956.
Jan 10, 2021
China s colorful terraced pools
While the sight of these gorgeous pools may make you want to don a swimsuit and plunge in for a refreshing soak, we don"t recommend it. The water may be fed by underground geothermal springs, but these are no hot springs—the water"s only about 41 F. We"ll take it all in from dry land. The terraced, travertine pools cascade downward for nearly 2 miles. Formed over thousands of years, calcite deposits give the water its unique, and welcoming, turquoise coloration.
Jan 9, 2021
The stylish Spanish shawl
Today we"re meeting one of a motley group of sea slugs called the nudibranchs (rhymes with "thanks"), known for their unique, often complex shapes and neon-bright colors that help discourage predators. The Spanish shawl"s fire-orange mane is made up of tendrils called cerata that mainly act as gills. But that mane also retains venom from the slug"s prey—sea anemones—treating any would-be devourers to a painful sting. Should a ravenous sea star disregard these defenses and get too close for comfort, the Spanish shawl has a Plan B: By flapping its whole 2- to 3-inch body like a gelatinous wing, the nudibranch can flutter into open water for a quick escape.
Jan 8, 2021
Take this for a spin...
In 1851, when French physicist Léon Foucault performed his pendulum experiment in Paris, he became the first to prove what many scientists of his day already suspected—that the Earth spins on an axis. He conducted his first experiments 170 years ago, in early January 1851, with a relatively small prototype in the cellar of his home. Just a month later, Foucault performed his most famous pendulum demonstration, using a 62-pound spherical weight attached to a 220-foot wire, which was hung from the dome of the Panthéon, a Parisian monument. As the pendulum swung back and forth in a fixed plane, the pointed end of the weight traced lines in a compass-like circle of sand below it. As time passed, the angle of these lines began to change, demonstrating to onlookers that the Earth itself was rotating underneath the pendulum, and by extension, everyone watching was rotating as well, spinning on the surface of the great blue marble around its axis.
Jan 7, 2021
Of balloons and lost pantaloons
We all fly by the seat of our pants now and then, but how about flying with no pants at all? That was the plight of Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries, who on January 7, 1785, made history over these chalk cliffs with the first aerial crossing of the English Channel. When their hydrogen-filled balloon dropped altitude due to overloading, the two tossed all the cargo they could into the drink below, britches included. Reaching France in their underpants, the undoubtedly chilly pilots still received a warm welcome.
Jan 6, 2021
Travels to the Oregon deep
We"re looking out on the deepest lake in the US. Crater Lake, the centerpiece and namesake of the only national park in Oregon, goes down to depths of 1,943 feet—that"s enough room to stack three-and-a-half Washington Monuments on top of each other. Fed mainly by snowfall, this pristine, crystal blue lake came into the world with a bang. Sometime around 5700 BCE, Mount Mazama erupted, losing roughly 3,000 feet of its height. The volcano blew out so much molten rock that it left a giant depression that gradually filled with water, giving us this serene scene today.
Jan 5, 2021
Flying high on National Bird Day
On National Bird Day, we"re looking at two red-fronted macaws. These birds are endangered, but they"re not hard to find at the Red-Fronted Macaw Nature Reserve in Bolivia, where this picture was taken. They"re easiest to spot during breeding season, which runs from November to May, and they usually fly in pairs or larger groups. National Bird Day is observed on January 5, which coincides with the end of the Christmas Bird Count—a citizen survey that looks at native bird populations in the US. National Bird Day puts the focus on birds around the world, especially those threatened with extinction due to the pet trade, habitat loss, and climate change.
Jan 4, 2021
Sparkling ice diamonds on a black sandy beach
The broken pieces of icebergs stranded on this magnificent black sandy beach in Iceland are what give Diamond Beach its name. Sparkling like gems, they"re a natural museum of sorts for tourists who flock to this beach year-round to walk among the nature-made sculptures, with some pieces of ice as tall as the tourists themselves.
Jan 3, 2021
An Alpine fairy-tale castle
During a walking tour in the spring of 1829, Crown Prince (and future King) Maximilian II of Bavaria fell in love with these forested mountains and Alpine lakes, so three years later he bought the dilapidated remains of a 12th-century castle overlooking the village of Hohenschwangau. The yellow neo-Gothic castle that Maximilian built to replace the earlier ruins became the summer home and hunting retreat for the king, his wife, Marie of Prussia, and their two sons, Ludwig and Otto. Hohenschwangau Castle became a kind of fantasy palace, particularly for the two young princes, who spent their time traipsing through the forest, reciting poetry, and staging scenes from the Romantic operas of Richard Wagner.
Jan 2, 2021
A universe underground
When Vietnamese farmer Hồ Khanh stumbled upon this cave in 1991, it was immediately clear the gaping mouth led to a huge, dark, untouched chamber, complete with a free-flowing underground river. What couldn"t have been apparent to him then was that this cave, now known as Sơn Đoòng, is by far the world"s largest by volume.
Jan 1, 2021
Take the plunge into 2021
Happy New Year! Last year was pretty bracing and most of us are more than ready to start a new one. This polar bear seems to be shaking off 2020 with his very own—and very authentic—polar bear plunge in the waters off the Svalbard archipelago, way up in the Arctic Ocean.
Dec 31, 2020
New Year"s Eve celebrations around the world will look a lot different this year, but as we ring in 2021 (and bid good riddance to 2020?) we can still enjoy this view of fireworks from a previous year in Spain. The cathedral in the background is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which was constructed over centuries beginning in 1681, though several churches had been built on the site prior to that. On the left is the Puente de Piedra Bridge, which spans the Ebro River. It"s also known as the Bridge of Lions because statues of lions (symbols of the city) stand at each end of the bridge. Zaragoza is famous for its landmarks and architecture, as well as for local cuisine, and seasonal festivals—which we can only hope return soon.
Dec 30, 2020
Winter in the Wild West
When considering the dramatically eroded canyons of southwestern Utah, snow may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But far-flung Bryce Canyon National Park gets plenty of the white stuff, owing to its elevation of 8,000-plus feet at the massive amphitheater"s rim. The cold not only provides scenic snowy views and great cross-country skiing, it"s responsible for the striking red-rock pinnacles—known as hoodoos—that make the park so unique.
Dec 29, 2020
Where the glow of the holidays lingers
On the shores of Lake Lucerne and bestride the River Reuss, you"ll find the medieval Swiss city that shares the lake"s name. Emerging from a Benedictine monastery founded here in 750, Lucerne is today the largest town in central Switzerland. The central of three ancient, covered wooden pedestrian bridges of Lucerne"s Old Town has a unique feature. The interior of the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge) is painted with religious scenes and allegories to edify those walking across it to the nearby St. Peter"s Chapel.
Dec 28, 2020
Wildcat in a winter wonderland
If you"re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of this wily wildcat species in many places across Alaska and far-northern Canada. But here in Montana, a Canada lynx encounter like this is rare. While lynxes are known to live in cold climates from Washington state to Maine, they"ve been listed for two decades as threatened across the lower 48 states.
Dec 27, 2020
Turning darkness into light
Winter illuminations are a big deal in Japan and there is perhaps no bigger display than the one here at Nabana no Sato, a flower park in the gardens of Nagashima Spa Land in Kuwana, Japan. This image is just a glimpse of what awaits you in the park. More than 8.5 million LED lightbulbs illuminate pathways, trees, and the park"s famous "Tunnel of Lights." Can"t make it for the holidays? No worries. While many of Japan"s light displays end after the new year, this one lasts from mid-October through early May. And if not this year (hello pandemic), maybe next?
Dec 26, 2020
Happy Boxing Day!
That "Boxing Day (UK)" printed on your calendar"s December 26 square has nothing to do with the sport of boxing—although for many modern Brits, Aussies, and other denizens of the Commonwealth, the holiday"s full slate of TV sporting events is the main observance. Folks with enough post-holiday energy might even slide down the hills on the grounds of this historic estate-turned public park, Barnett Demesne, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.