Macquarie Island, Australia
It became a tourist destination by a fluke when vessels carrying travelers to Antarctica stopped there to break up the multi-day voyage. Halfway between Tasmania and Antarctica, the island is home to a mere 20 Australian scientists and their support staff.
A territory of Norway, this 24,000-square-mile island is above the Arctic Circle, and residents can look forward to months of either continuous daylight or continuous darkness. About 2,000 of Svalbard’s 2,700 residents live in the town of Longyearbyen with the rest consisting of miners and scientists. In spite of the inhospitable climate, the island is home to the Global Seed Vault, an underground store of the world’s plant seeds that are kept safe there in case of global catastrophe.
Famous for its lengthy polar night, the sun goes down in November and doesn’t rise again for approximately 2 months. Its the northernmost town in the US and one of the northernmost towns in the entire world with a rapidly dwindling population of around 4,000.
The most remote county in China, it’s the only county in the entire country completely inaccessible by road. This hasn’t always been the case – in 1993, they finally got around to building a highway. It existed for two days, carried a total of four vehicles (one of which got stuck and had to be abandoned), and was promptly swallowed up by the jungle. Today, the only access into the county is via a 200 meter long suspension cable, 100 meters in the air. Supplies such as food and medicine have to be carried in and out by hand.
Alert, Nunavut, Canada
Located in northern Canada, Alert is a small village that lies on the Arctic Ocean only 500 miles below the North Pole. It is widely considered to be the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world with a population of 5. That’s right…5. Temperatures in Alert can get as low as 40 degrees below zero and the nearest town is a small fishing village some 1,300 miles away.
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La Rinconada, Peru
As far as inaccessibility is concerned, few locations in the world compare to La Rinconada. At nearly 17,000 ft, its considered to be the “highest” city in the world. The only way to get there is via truck, and it had better be 4-wheel drive at that. In spite of this, and being located on a permanently frozen glacier, it has 30,000 inhabitants, almost all of whom are involved in the business of mining gold.
Cape York Peninsula, Australia
A huge expanse of untouched wilderness located on the northern tip of Australia, the region has a population of only 18,000, mostly consisting of aboriginal tribes. It is considered to be one of the largest undeveloped places left in the world and notoriously hard to access. The unpaved Peninsula Development Road is the only way to get there on land, but due to flooding and poor conditions helicopter is probably your best bet.
Located in the Pacific Ocean, roughly 2000 miles off of the Chilean coast, its relatively small, covering only about 70 square miles and is inhabited by barely 4000 people. Whenever people think of Easter Island the first thing that comes to mind is probably the army of rock faces that line its beaches. The Moai, as they are otherwise known, were carved about 500 years ago by the island’s earliest inhabitants and because moving so much rock requires a good amount of wood, Easter Island has been for the most part deforested.
Of all the towns in Greenland, perhaps none is as remote as Ittoqqortoormiit. The town is part of a municipal district approximately the size of England, but it has a population of only slightly more than 500. Although it lies on the coast, the surrounding seas are almost perpetually frozen, leaving only three months open to travel by boat. There is an airport some 25 miles away, but flights are rare. For the most part, as one of the northernmost settlements in the world, it is completely isolated in the vastness of the tundra.
Kerguelen Islands, South Indian Ocean
Also known as the “Desolation Islands” for their sheer distance from any kind of civilization, the Kerguelen Islands are a small archipelago located in the southern Indian Ocean. There is no airstrip on the islands, and to get to them travelers must take a six-day boat ride from Reunion, another small island located off the coast of Madagascar. Today the island is primarily a scientific center, but it also holds a satellite, a French missile defense system, and even serves as a sort of refuge for a particular type of French cattle that has become endangered on the mainland.
Pitcairn Island, South Pacific
A tiny speck in the center of the southern Pacific Ocean, its closest neighbor is Tahiti but even that is hundreds of miles away. It has a population of about fifty people, most of whom are direct descendents of crewmembers who were involved in a mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789. There is no airstrip on the island, and getting there from the mainland requires hopping a ride on a shipping boat out of New Zealand, something that can take up to 10 days.
A small island in the South Atlantic Ocean, the nearest land is Antarctica’s Queen Maud Land nearly 1,000 miles to the south. With no permanent inhabitants it served as the perfect setting for the 2004 film Alien vs. Predator. Ironically it also has its own (unused) Internet country code top-level domain: bv.
The largest research station in Antarctica, McMurdo is home to around 1,200 scientists and workers during the warmer summer months. Located on Ross Island, it is situated in one of the most inaccessible parts of the globe. Recently this has become less of an issue, however, thanks to not just one but three new airstrips. Scientists at the station now enjoy many modern amenities including gyms, television, and even a nine-hole Frisbee golf course.
Who would’ve thought the continental United States would make it onto the list. Supai is a beautiful town with 500 residents, perfect for people to get away from it all. The only problem is access. No roads go to Supai. And to complicate things even further, its located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, Supai is the only place in America where mail is still delivered by mule. The sheer inaccessibility has occasionally caused problems for the town. The 2000 US census missed the town entirely, recording its population as zero.
Koryak Okrug, Siberia
Located in far-east Siberia, it has a population density of only 0.1 people per square kilometer. In fact, it’s so sparsely populated that in 2006 a 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit the region dead on and there were barely any injuries.
A village in Oymyakonsky Ulus of the Sakha Republic, Russia boasting a population of 521. It holds the record for lowest recorded temperature on Earth for any permanently inhabited location at −69.2 °C (−93 °F).
Described as “the most alien-looking place on Earth” Socotra is home to some extremely bizarre flora thanks to its intense isolation from the rest of the world. In spite of this, it’s actually inhabited by around 40,000 people, with no public transport (and two roads), but cars may be rented if required. The island does have an airport, however, with flights almost every day.
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
If you want isolation, there’s no place better than Antarctica. And if you really want isolation, there’s no place better in Antarctica that right smack dab on the south pole. The place is so isolated in fact, that in 1999 one of the physicians had to self-administer chemotherapy using supplies from a cargo drop when she discovered that she had breast cancer.
Deception Island, Antarctica
The Island got it’s name after a small aircraft pilot misjudged his distance from land and crashed, killing 4 passengers and leaving one to perish while he waited for help. If the story behind the name doesn’t put off adventurers, today they can wander around the remains of old Antarctic bases, long destroyed by volcanic eruptions, swim in volcanically heated waters at Pendulum Cove, or visit approximately 200,000 birds at Chinstrap Penguin colony.
Chang Tang, Tibet
Swedish explorer Sven Hedin, in a crossing of Chang Tang, reported not seeing a single person for 81 days. As part of the remote Tibetan Plateau (which also happens to be on our list) Chang Tang really takes isolation to a level of its own…no pun intended.
Antarctic Pole of Inaccessibility
A “pole of inaccessibility” is that point on a continent that is the greatest distance from any ocean in any direction. For example, the North American pole is in South Dakota. Of the 7 continents, however, the most inaccessible pole lies in the frigid wastelands of Antarctica.
In 1958 the Soviet Union tried, and failed, to establish a base at the Antarctic Pole of Inaccessibility. Before abandoning their project, however, in classic soviet fashion, they constructed a statue of Lenin to oversee the icy landscape and mark the USSR’s global reach.
Tristan da Cunha, South Atlantic Ocean
Tristan de Cunha is an archipelago of small islands located in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The nearest land to the island is South Africa, which is roughly 1,700 miles away, while the South American coast lies at a distance of about 2,000 miles. The islands have a total population 271 people, mostly farmers and craftsmen. Although the island now has some television stations and access to the internet via satellite, it is still the most physically isolated location on planet earth. The island’s rocky geography makes building an airstrip impossible, so the only way to travel to it is by boat. It was once regularly connected to South Africa by a British transport ship, but this service has since been interrupted and now the only visitors to Tristan da Cunha are deep sea fishing boats.
As a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base in southern Nevada its primary purpose is to support development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems. The intense secrecy surrounding the base has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and given that the US government didn’t even acknowledge its existence until 2003, it’s a hard place to visit indeed.
International Space Station
Although found at a slightly higher elevation than the rest of our contestants, the International Space Station is undeniably one of the most isolated places in the world. And like most of the hard-to-reach places on our list its populated by those mavericks of exploration…scientists.
On April 18th 2009 researchers at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy combined a series of maps to create a new map showing the most interconnected and remote places on earth. The maps are based on a model that calculated how long it would take to travel to the nearest city of 50,000 or more people by land or water. The first image shows the final map of connectedness while the second image shows a zoomed view over the world’s most remote place: the Tibetan plateau. From here it is a three-week trip to the cities of Lhasa or Korla – one day by car and the remaining 20 on foot, which statistically speaking officially makes this the most isolated place in the world.