15 of the most remote places on Earth
By Angela Nelson, Mother Nature Network, 2 March 2017.
By Angela Nelson, Mother Nature Network, 2 March 2017.
Sometimes you want to get away from it all. But how far away from everything do you really want to be? How about sky high in the Peruvian Andes three miles above sea level? Or perhaps on a tiny island in the middle of an ocean thousands of miles away from its nearest neighbor?
The locales on this list are about as far away as you can be from anything else. And getting there is often no easy task, involving long flights, day-long drives, week-long boat rides, and in one instance, an eight-mile mule ride.
If you like extremes, try these on for size: They're the most remote islands, towns and settlements on Earth.
1. Tristan Da Cunha
Photo: Brian Gratwicke/Flickr
The volcanic island of Tristan Da Cunha in the south Atlantic Ocean has the honor of being the most remote point on Earth inhabited by humans - although there are only 270 of them. There's no airport on Tristan Da Cunha, which is both the name of the island chain and the name of the main island in the chain. The tiny 38-square-mile island is 1,750 miles from South Africa, and traveling there by boat can take nearly three weeks.
Take a tour of the island and meet some residents in the above video.
2. Pitcairn Islands
Photo: Makemake/Wikimedia Commons
The Pitcairn Islands, a group of four volcanic islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean, are part of the British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. Only one, Pitcairn Island, is inhabited - only 50 people live on the two-square-mile landmass, and most of the residents descend from folks with a somewhat shady reputation. "The people of Pitcairn are descended from the mutineers of HMAV (Her Majesty's Armed Vessel) Bounty and their Tahitian companions," according to the government website.
The population has declined in recent years after the island was hit by a child sexual abuse controversy in 2004, when six men were imprisoned for sexual offenses, including the mayor, The Telegraph reports. The government previously tried to give land away to anyone who would move there, but only one person applied.
3. Easter Island
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is technically part of Chile even though the remote island sits about 2,200 miles off the coast. Easter Island is far from even its closest neighbors: Tahiti is more than 2,600 miles away (many people fly to Easter Island from here); Pitcairn Island (from the previous entry) is 1,200 miles away; and the island of Mangareva, the largest of the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia, is about 1,600 miles away.
Easter Island is famous for its 887 monolithic statues, called moai, which were carved out of volcanic rock by indigenous Rapa Nui people between 1250 and 1500 A.D. The island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with fewer than 6,000 residents.
Coincidentally, this remote island is the closest landmass to the oceanic pole of inaccessibility. Also known as Point Nemo, it's a location in the ocean (48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W) that is farthest from land. Point Nemo is more than 1,000 miles from the coasts of Easter Island, Ducie Island (one of the Pitcairn islands) and Maher Island off the coast of Antarctica.
4. Devon Island
Photo: Martin Brummell/Wikimedia Commons
Not a people person? Head to Devon Island in Canada's Nunavut Territory, the largest uninhabited island on the planet with a landscape so cold, rocky and isolated that scientists have spent two decades there pretending it's Mars.
Discover Magazine reports: "Since 1997, Pascal Lee, planetary scientist at the Mars Institute and the SETI Institute, and director of the Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center, has led missions every summer from a small research station there to prepare people and design technologies for a trip to the Red Planet. Researchers have tested robots, spacesuits, drills and other tools that would aid future Mars explorers."
While not as remote as Easter Island, you'll still be fairly far from civilization. The nearest population is 229 people 50 miles away, according to Travel and Leisure.
5. Kerguelen Islands
Photo: B.navez/Wikimedia Commons
Situated more than 2,000 miles away from civilization, these islands in the southern Indian Ocean are also known as the Desolation Islands due to their frigid, windy landscape and incredibly remote location. Grande Terre is the biggest island in the volcanic archipelago, which is a territory of France and consists of 300 islands covering an area about the size of Delaware. The population changes depending on the season from about 45 in the winter to 110 in the summer, but most of the residents are scientists, according to NASA.
6. Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland
Photo: Hannes Grobe/Wikimedia Commons
The 450 people who live in this tiny remote settlement must be hardy. As The Guardian reports, Ittoqqortoormiit is tucked between Greenland’s National Park (the largest in the world) and Scoresby Sund (the largest fjord on Earth), and it's frozen for nine months a year. The area is known for its wildlife and marine life, such as polar bears, seals, muskoxen, halibut and whales.
A handful of red, yellow and blue wooden structures dot the town, which was formerly known as Scoresbysund, and the local pub opens one night a week. Residents take a helicopter to and from the nearest airport, though in warmer weather, they also may take a boat.
7. Oymyakon, Russia
Photo: Maarten Takens/Wikimedia Commons
Oymyakon, Russia, holds the record for the coldest place on Earth to live with a record low temperature of minus 90 degrees Fahrenheiht recorded on Feb. 6, 1933. About 500 frozen souls live in this corner of Siberia, just a few hundred miles from the Arctic Circle. Such an extreme northerly position means that during the winter, the sky is dark for 21 hours a day while in the summer it's dark for only three hours each day.
The climate is so hostile that planes can't land during the winter, Wired reports, and the town is a two-day drive from the nearest major city, which is more than 500 miles away. But locals have their survival tricks, such as a diet of reindeer and horse milk, which contain micronutrients, and ox meat, which supplies the body with enough calories to fight the elements. Also, according to Wired, they keep their cars running 24/7 and warm the ground with a bonfire for several days before burying their dead.
8. Changtang, Tibet
Photo: Jialiang Gao/Wikimedia Commons
They don't call it the "Roof of the World" for nothing. Changtang is a giant, high-altitude plateau located in the west of the Tibetan Plateau, which is itself more than 2.5 miles above sea level. So basically Changtang, which has elevations as high as 4 miles above sea level, is the highest part of something that's already really, really tall.
The climate there is extremely cold due to the elevation, but wildlife is plentiful, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, including chiru, snow leopards, kiang, brown bears, black-necked cranes and wild yaks. Most of it is protected under the Changtang Nature Reserve, the second-largest nature reserve in the world.
Changtang is also home to a few hundred thousand nomads known as Changpa.
9. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
Photo: Allan Timm/Wikimedia Commons
There's just one day and one night every year at the South Pole, where the sun is up for six straight months and then down for the same amount of time. And temperatures can dip as low as minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the coldest places on the planet.
It's not inhabited, so it doesn't compete with Oymyakon, Russia, for the coldest place to live. But the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which stands 9,000 feet above sea level on Antarctica's ice sheet, has been continuously occupied by 50 to 200 American researchers since it was built in November 1956.
10. Villa Las Estrellas
Photo: SnowSwan/Wikimedia Commons
This is the second time both Chile and Antarctica have made an appearance on this list. Villa Las Estrellas is a Chilean village and research station, home to fewer than 200 people, on King George Island, about 75 miles off the coast of Antarctica.
Since 1984, the New York Times reports, "the tiny hamlet has been at the center of one of Antarctica’s most remarkable experiments: exposing entire families to isolation and extreme conditions in an attempt to arrive at a semblance of normal life at the bottom of the planet." For these families, walking through punishing storms, getting just a few hours of sunlight a day and riding to and from school (where there are only two teachers) on snowmobiles is the norm.
11. Palmerston Island
Photo: Paul Townsend/Flickr
This tiny coral atoll located among the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean is made up of sandy islets connected by a diamond-shaped coral reef. Palmerston Island is the top of an old volcano on the ocean floor, and the highest point of the island rises only 13 feet above sea level.
According to the island's website, ships visit with supplies only a few times a year. As the BBC reports, the coral reef sits too high in the water for sea planes to land, and outside the reef the ocean is too rough. (For that story, the writer spent nine days in a boat, unable to stand up, traveling from Tahiti.)
All of the 62 residents are descended from one man - an Englishman named Capt. James Cook who settled there 150 years ago, the BBC says.
12. Supai Village, Arizona
Photo: Elf/Wikimedia Commons
Supai, Arizona, located within Havasu Canyon, is the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation with a population of just over 200. There are no roads - the only way in or out of the village is by helicopter or hiking an 8-mile trail (you can also ride a mule) - and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has called it the most remote community in the Lower 48.
While the village is located near the Grand Canyon, the Havasupai Tribe administers the land, which lies outside the boundary and jurisdiction of Grand Canyon National Park, according to the National Park Service. Residents still get mail delivered via mule (there are no automobiles). Visitors are warned that the canyon is subject to flash floods from the nearby Colorado River and the tourist-attracting Havasu Falls and may be closed at any time.
Havasu Canyon holds another similar honor: It's one of the quietest places on Earth.
13. Adak, Alaska
Photo: Paxson Woelber/Wikimedia Commons
This Alaskan city “where the winds blow and friendships grow” has the distinction of being the westernmost point in the United States and the southernmost community in Alaska. And boy does the wind blow: Winter squalls can produce 120-mile-per-hour gusts or higher.
The island was once home to a U.S. naval base and about 6,000 military personnel, but today only about 200 people live there. Compared to other locales on the list, Adak has lots for visitors and residents to do, from renting a truck, dining at a Mexican restaurant, hunting caribou, salmon fishing and hiking.
14. Longyearbyen, Norway
Photo: Michael Haferkamp/Wikimedia Commons
The world's northernmost settlement with more than 1,000 permanent residents is also the largest settlement of Svalbard, Norway. The few thousand people who call Longyearbyen home must abide by some unusual rules. First, it's illegal to be buried here because, according to Atlas Obscura, the permafrost and sub-zero temperatures "make it so that any dead bodies lying six feet under are perfectly preserved, as if mummified. Therefore, the government of Svalbard requires that any dead bodies must be flown by plane or shipped by boat to mainland Norway for burial. This law has been in effect since 1950."
Second, it's illegal to be homeless. All residents must have a street address, the New York Times reports. Third, anybody venturing outside the city limits of Longyearbyen must carry a weapon and know how to use it. This isn't because residents are afraid of crime; the six local police officers only investigated nine violent crimes in all of 2013. Instead, it's to fend off polar bears, which present a real danger, the Times reports.
Two more unique rules to follow: All houses have to be built on stilts, so when the island’s layer of permafrost melts in the summer, the houses don’t sink and slide away. And cats are banned in order to protect endangered Arctic birds, Atlas Obscura reports.
15. La Rinconada, Peru
Photo: Hildegard Willer/Wikimedia Commons
Life is hard in La Rinconada, a town in the Peruvian Andes that sits at the base of an enormous glacier more than three miles above sea level, making it the highest permanent settlement in the world. The population is around 50,000 in this ramshackle gold-mining town, where there are no laws, no police, no running water and no sewage system. Homes, restaurants and other buildings aren't heated even though the average temperature hovers around 34 degrees because doing so would use too much electricity, which only arrived in 2002.
According to CNN, nearly 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Men work in the gold mines, which are not regulated, women often turn to prostitution and child labor is high.
[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some images added.]