I recently moved to Boston from a much smaller city, so trust me when I say that I understand the need to get away. Something about living among throngs of other people (I mean in a city sense, not a crowded boarding house sense) seems unnatural, and leaves me pining for the elbowroom I once enjoyed. I am sure that I’m not the only person who has felt these feelings from time to time, and as such, I thought it appropriate to develop a list of 15 places you can live with little (if any) human contact. From isolated islands in the Arabian Sea, to the mountains of Australia and beyond, this article provides an extensive look at the most remote locations in the entire world. Perhaps more importantly, these are places where a person could actually live (as opposed to under the ice of the Arctic). Maybe this list of remote places will even convince some readers to move out of their crowded city, making these places slightly less isolated than they once were. If you can think of some isolated places that did not make our list, feel free to mention them in the comments.
If you’ve ever seen an ’80s action movie, you know that the place where every protagonist goes to seek spiritual guidance is the isolated temples of the Tibetan monks. Stereotypical plot crutches aside, there is something to be said about a place being so remote that it has served as the spiritual center of several generations of monks. This is especially true when you consider how important peace and quiet is to reaching the kind of state that characterizes the monks’ beliefs. The incredible ruggedness of the Tibetan mountains makes them almost impassable for travelers, and the relatively sparse population of the Tibetan province in general sets these lonely places apart from the rest of civilization.
14. McMurdo Station, Antarctica
I don’t know if there is anywhere in the entire world that is more isolated than Antarctica. The high winds and almost constant sub-zero temperatures make this entire continent almost completely uninhabitable. That is, unless you’re one of the select researchers chosen to study the Antarctic at the McMurdo Research Station. If the complete isolation of Antarctica appeals to you, I would suggest you start studying now, as the researchers at McMurdo are some of the most accomplished geologists and biologists in the entire world. Living at McMurdo isn’t all hot chocolate and penguins, however, as the seclusion and lack of daylight is said to take a serious psychological toll on the stations inhabitants. But if isolation’s your thing, you could certainly do worse than the high–tech facility at McMurdo.
13. Pitcairn Islands
If you look on a map of the Pacific Ocean, you will eventually see a group of four small islands, totally isolated from the Asian mainland. These are the Pitcairn Islands, four volcanic islands still governed by the British Territorial Government. The inhabitants of the island are the descendants of native Tahitians who coupled with a group of nine bounty mutineers hundreds of years ago. This famous story, however, hasn’t increased the foot traffic in these isolated island communities. Recent surveys have found that the islands only house about 50 year-round inhabitants. The main reason for this is that neither a tourism, nor industry economy has ever developed in Pitcairn. Therefore, there aren’t many reasons for people to visit the out-of-the-way island chain. Pitcairn is famously the least populous national jurisdiction in the world.
12. Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland
For those of you who missed this elementary school lesson on irony, the small island of Iceland is actually very lush and green while its nearby (and much larger) neighbor, Greenland, is actually very cold and icy. With this fact in mind, it is easy to imagine the seclusion that one could achieve while living in Ittooqqortoormitt, Greenland, a large archipelago on the country’s eastern edge. Aside from its amazingly unique name, Ittooqqortoormitt is most known for its small population. The fishers and hunters in the area don’t have to share very much of their prey, however, because as of 2013, the population of this large archipelago was a mere 452. Maybe Ittooqqortoormitt would be able to attract more settlers if Greenland was as lush as its name suggests.
11. Svalbard Norway
For many of the entries on this list, the reason why the place is so isolated is that the local climate isn’t all that appealing. Such is the case with our next entry, a small Norweigen town located within the Arctic Circle. Svalbard is a small island town which currently boasts about 2,700 permanent residents (mostly miners). Despite having a fairly high population (at least compared to some other entries on this list), the island is almost completely cut off from much of the outside world. The trip to Svalbard usually consists of a long boat trip threw some of the most perilous waters in the Eastern Hemisphere. This leaves the residents free to enjoy the months of continuous darkness in the winter.
10. Supai Arizona
Some of you may be surprised to see somewhere in the United States grace our list, but our next entry certainly fits into the category of isolated places. As of 2010, only 208 people resided in Supai, with almost all of them being members of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. To this day, Supai can only be reached by helicopter or mule. In fact, all U.S. mail is brought to the small settlement by mule train. Because of the lack of motor vehicles, there are no paved streets through the community and it is 8 miles from the nearest road. The U.S. Department of Agriculture refers to Supai as the “most remote community” in the continental United States. In fact, the 2000 U.S. census famously missed Supai all together, recording a population of 0 for its surrounding area.
9. Rural Minnesota
Any of our readers who have spent any time in the U.S. know how incredibly spacious that country is. Apart from the East and West coasts, there are huge tracts of land in Middle America that are largely unsettled by its citizens. One of the most remote of these locations is the rural farmland of upper Minnesota. Aside from the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota has a very low population density. This makes some of its more out-of-the-way regions incredibly isolated. WWE and UFC star, Brock Lesnar, has famously taken advantage of this isolation. He, his wife, and kids bought a farm in upland Minnesota which is at least 50 miles away from any human contact.
8. Socotra Island
The next entry on our list is so isolated that the plant life on the island is noticeably different from anywhere else in the world. Socotra Island in the Arabian Sea never experienced significant numbers of settlement, and therefore had little interaction with the plants traditionally grown in the mainland surrounding it. Because of that, the unique flora looks like something out of a science fiction movie. In fact, local officials have billed Socotra as “the most alien-looking place on Earth”, hoping to jumpstart the tourism industry there. With any luck for you isolation seekers, however, the lack of travel infrastructure will keep this small island as remote as it is today. Socotra currently boasts a population of less than 44,000.
7. International Space Station
The title of this list was originally supposed to be “the 15 Most Isolated Places on Planet Earth.” After discovering our next entry, however, I knew that a change had to be made. This is because the most isolated locations that I could discover wasn’t actually on Earth, but was instead in the endless vacuum of space. Since 1988, the International Space Station has been a fixture of international space exploration. This globally funded satellite is a valuable tool for several scientific expeditions, requiring a team of dedicated astronauts to constantly man this astronomical outpost. Since only a small number of expeditions can be made to the station every year, this is truly one of the most isolated places that any person can be.
6. Tristan de Cunha
A lot of the entries on this list are islands. This is normal, since the ocean naturally isolates these places in a way that could not be accomplished on the mainland. Our next entry is odd, however, because as a series of islands, you would think that at least some of them would have been heavily settled at some point in their history. Instead, the archipelago of Tristan de Cunha remains one of the most remote places in the entire world. Currently hosting a population of less than 300, these islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean are cut off from much of the outside world. The island’s mountainous landscape makes an air trip almost impossible, and there is currently no shipping lane which makes routine stops in the archipelago (they used to be a British transport line which connected Tristan de Cunha to South Africa).
5. Kerguelen Islands
A little-known fact of geography is how sparsely populated much of the Indian Ocean still is. Despite being close to the burgeoning population of India, many of these islands have still been devoid of significant settlement. A perfect example of this is the Kerguelen Islands, which are about 2,000 miles away from the Asian mainland. Far from a tropical paradise, the so-called “Desolation Islands” climate steers away most visitors. The islands are very well known by sailors for their frigid, windy landscape, and the local volcanoes aren’t exactly inviting either. The population on these islands is also largely seasonal based, and the amount of people traditionally varies from 45 in the winter to a whopping 110 in the summer.
4. Ural Mountains, Russia
Like all great remote places, our next entry has a fascinating (and somewhat spooky) story to accompany it. The Ural Mountains are a remote mountain chain located along the western Russian border. This means that at one point, this entire area was under the jurisdiction of the now defunct Soviet Union. Because of this, the disappearance of 9 experienced hikers in the mountains in 1959 took a suspicious turn. Despite the official Soviet report, news of a ravaged campsite and radiation burns on the bodies of the climbers has led many to suspect foul play. Even the official reporter who recorded the initial facts of the incident was later found dead with all his notes from the Ural’s missing. These are the kinds of things that happen in the most isolated areas in the world.
3. Adak, Alaska
The state of Alaska calls itself “the last frontier”, and the Alaskan city of Adak certainly lives up to this moniker. Adak is not only both the westernmost and southernmost point in Alaska, but is actually the westernmost point of the entire United States. This small island was settled as a U.S. Naval base, but the abandonment of that station has left less than 300 people living there. Seeking to bolster its economy, Adak recently began seriously marketing the island for tourism. This investment included opening up a new Mexican restaurant, and changing the city’s slogan to “where the winds blow and friendships grow“. For now, though, those living in Adak can enjoy the island’s incredible isolation, and rest easy knowing that discount tacos are a short four–wheeler ride away.
2. Cape York, Australia
The state of Alaska may call itself “the last frontier”, but when people think of untamed wilderness, their minds are often drawn to the Australian outback. As such, it should come as no surprise that Cape York in northern Australia is one of the most isolated places in the entire world. On the northernmost tip of the Australia continent, Cape York is only a half-hour drive from Cairns. This half-hour, however, is over some of the roughest and most dangerous terrain in all of Australia. In fact, the entire peninsula that makes up Cape York is home to an extremely well populated crocodile habitat. Though, if the isolation is enough to help you forget the constant danger from crocs, Cape York is supposedly a great location for sport fishing.
1. Siwa Oasis, Egypt
When researching the most remote places on Earth, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a settlement which is quite literally in the middle of the desert. Siwa Oasis is a small paradise located in the center of Egypt’s Western Desert. This means that anyone hoping to go to Siwa would have to travel through the vast landscape of a desert which has little to no infrastructure. The Siwa Oasis is so isolated that the language (Siwi) and culture (Amazigh) of the local natives has been almost entirely preserved. This has made it an important destination for those researchers who are dedicated enough to make the trek. Those seeking out this remote vacation are best served by taking a flight to the Egyptian capital of Cairo, and then making the 4-hour drive into the heart of the desert.
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