Adventure travel often takes us to some of the most remote corners of the globe to visit places that few other people ever experience. But what if you wanted your travels to literally take you to the extremes? This is a list of the absolute most extreme places on the planet based on specific criteria and, as you'll see, some of them will take you into demanding environments that certainly aren't for the faint of heart.
The Lowest Place on Earth
Unlike Everest, the lowest place on Earth – that is located above water anyway – is much easier to access. The shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan sits 418 meters (1371 ft) below sea level. But, it is easy to drive there and actually wade into those waters, where the mud is said to have cosmetic and healing properties.
Traveling through Jordan is quite safe and easy, with Intrepid Travel offering a trip that includes a stop at the Dead Sea.
The Highest Point on Earth
There are few places on Earth that are as extreme as Mt. Everest, the 8848 meter (29,029 ft) mountain that is the tallest on the planet. Despite its incredible height, however, each year several hundred people make the climb to the summit, where high winds and extremely cold temperatures push mountaineers to their physical limit. But it is the extremely thin air (oxygen is a third of what it is at sea level) that truly makes this an extreme destination, where altitude sickness is a serious concern at every step of the way.
Climbing Everest is not cheap - it costs upwards of $50,000 per person. But there are a number of companies that can guide you to the summit, including the Adventure Consultants and Himalayan Experience.
The Hottest Place on Earth
The World Meteorological Organization officially recognizes Death Valley as the hottest place on Earth, thanks to a record-setting temperature recorded back in 1913. That's when the mercury actually climbed above 136ºF (57.7ºC). During the warmer months of the year, temperatures average well over 110ºF (43.3ºC), which is plenty hot for most of us.
Since Death Valley is part of the National Park System in the U.S., accessing this extreme environment is very easy to access for those who choose to do.
The Coldest Place on Earth
Russia's Vostok research station in Antarctica recorded the coldest temperature ever back in 1983 when the thermometer plunged to -128.5°F (-89.2°C). That's cold enough to freeze water almost instantly and cause human skin to contract frostbite nearly as fast.
It isn't easy for the average adventure traveler to visit Vostok however, but the Antarctic in general is much easier. There are a number of companies that offer Antarctic cruises of course, but if you want to really explore the continent than Adventure Network International is the one you want to contact.
The Windiest Place on Earth
Antarctica may be the coldest place on Earth, but it doesn't hold the record for being the windiest. That distinction goes to Barrow Island in Australia, where a windspeed of 253.5 mph (408 km/h) was recorded back in 2010, besting a 75-year old record that had been set on Mt. Washington in the state of New Hampshire.
Because Barrow Island is an "A" Class nature preserve, visiting it is a bit harder than Mt. Washington, which can be climbed just about any time of the year provided you are equipped to handle it. The island is actually off limits to visitors without a special permit, although you can explore the surrounding waters by boat.
The Driest Place on Earth
Surrounded on one side by the Andes Mountains and Chile's Pacific Range on the other, the Atacama Desert is considered the driest place on the planet. In act, there are certain places there where it has not rained in recorded history. The lack of moisture and high altitude of the Atacama makes it one of the best places for stargazing in the world too.
Visiting the Atacama Desert is also quite easy. There are a number of resorts and hostels in the town of San Pedro, with options for adventure tours into the desert on foot, mountain bike, horseback, and even other modes of transportation available.
The Most Remote Place on Earth
It is often difficult to quantify just how "remote" a place is, but the idea of a Pole of Inaccessibility is one popular measure. POI's are defined as places that are the furthest from any ocean, which as you can imagine can lead to some distance spots on the map. In Asia, the Pole of Inaccessibility sits at a point located in China's Xinjiang region, not far from the border with Kazakhstan. That point actually sits 1644 miles (2645 km) from any coastlines. That makes it the furthest point on Earth from an ocean.
Xinjiang is one of the more distant places in China, but it is still easy to reach the area, which does have some historical and cultural attractions that travelers will likely enjoy.
There are of course other extreme places on the planet, but it is difficult to top this list for true natural extremes. If you manage to visit each of these places, you truly have gone to the ends of the Earth.