A mother and daughter sit inside a traditional yurt adorned with surprisingly modern touches in a remote corner of Afghanistan. H'mong children play with balloons in the fog in northern Vietnam. Devotees carry the scenes of Christ's passion on their shoulders during an Easter celebration in Sicily. This is merely a sampling of the exotic scenes captured by the winners of the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.

The magazine received more than 12,000 entries from 6,615 photographers residing in 152 countries around the globe for the 24th annual competition. Submissions were then judged on creativity and photographic quality by a panel of photography experts, including National Geographic contributing photographer Alexandra Avakian.

In the end, Cedric Houin came away with the winning shot, capturing the intimacy of an everyday moment inside a family yurt in the Kyrgyz lands of Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor.

"The light and texture captured in this portrait are painterly, and the predominance of red is rich," Avakian noted. "The content of the photo is striking because the photographer captured both the nomads' traditional way of life and some of their modern accoutrements -- the viewer gets the visual satisfaction of something that goes against cliché."

Kiet Vo's shot of H'mong children playing in the fog and Andrea Guarneri's image of Easter devotees rounded out the top three. Michelle Schantz's image of a lonely cabin illuminated under the Northern Lights in Finnmark, Norway, took home the viewer's choice award. Seven others, meanwhile, were honored with merit prizes.

Have a look at all the winners below: