Whether they’re entirely uninhabited or with very low populations, this guide will take you on a journey to the places few humans get to experience. These isolated spots are difficult to travel to, totally unique, and will leave you with the most adventurous kind of wanderlust.
Pitcairn Island, South Pacific
Ideal for those who truly want to get away from it all, the island of Pitcairn off the coast of New Zealand is the least-populated territory on earth with just 50 full-time residents. Its extremely remote position in the ocean makes it one of the best places in the world for stargazing, and the quartet of islands that form the archipelago (Pitcairn is the only populated one) remains the only island group in the world listed as an official International Dark Sky Sanctuary. While tourism remains the primary economic resource, the island still doesn't see many visitors. The lush-yet-rugged isle is just under 2 square miles in size and 3,000 miles from the nearest continent, meaning a visit will require a minimum of 32 hours on a boat.
Cape York Peninsula, Australia
There are more national parks inside this northernmost tip of the Australian continent than any other part of Queensland, as well as some of the world’s most isolated and secluded coral reefs for snorkeling, fishing, and scuba diving. It was here that Captain James Cook had his first interactions with Aboriginal Australians, eventually making records of the native flora, fauna, and languages. The rugged peninsula is still home to many Indigenous communities to this day. A trip to Cape York will take at least seven days by car via a 745-mile mostly unpaved road connecting the city of Cairns with the peninsula.
This Tibetan region, otherwise known as the "Roof of the World," averages about 2.5 miles in altitude and spans the size of Germany, Poland, and Lithuania combined. Elevations can stretch over 4 miles above sea level in some spots, giving it an extremely arid, cold climate with a surprisingly plentiful and diverse community of endangered wildlife. The Changtang National Nature Reserve, the second largest nature reserve on earth, heads conservation efforts protecting this wildlife. Along with the unique animals such as snow leopards, wild yaks, Tibetan sand foxes, and black-necked cranes, Changtang is also home to a small population of an elusive nomadic herding culture.
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
The largest scientific research station in Antarctica, McMurdo was built on rugged volcanic rock 2,415 miles from Christchurch, New Zealand, and 850 miles from the South Pole. Temperatures at the base have reached minus 58 degrees F in the winter with winds exceeding 100 knots at times. Access to the Ross Island station is available via ship into the harbor as well as small aircraft landing strips on the nearby sea ice and shelf ice. Antarctica is the most isolated continent in the world and the only one without any full-time residents.
Known as the coldest inhabited place on earth, Oymyakon is located just a few hundred miles from the frigid Arctic Circle. The town is home to about 500 permanent residents who have adapted to temperatures averaging minus 58 degrees F in the wintertime; the lowest temperature on record was recorded at minus 90 degrees F in 1933. This settlement isn’t just freezing, but it’s also extremely isolated as well. The nearest major city, Yakutsk, is located 576 miles away (two days by car), and the region is plunged into darkness for 21 hours per day during winter.
Tristan da Cunha, Saint Helena
Part of the same single territorial grouping under the British Crown as the remote island where Napoleon was exiled in 1815, Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited place on earth. The island’s population is about 300 people, most of whom are farmers or fishermen, and it is 1,243 miles from the closest community on the “neighboring” island of Saint Helena. At just 7.5 miles across and about 1,750 miles from Cape Town, it takes a six-day boat journey to reach the isle from South Africa.
Although Choquequirao is often referred to as Machu Picchu's sister city, you won’t find any lines queued up there. Unlike Machu Picchu which clocks its visitors at 2,500 per day, this “other” lost city is certainly not for the faint of heart. The archeological site is praised as one of the most remote Inca ruins found throughout the Peruvian Andes, and it can only be accessed after several days of mule rides, hiking, and wilderness camping. This may not always be the case, however, as rumors continue to circulate about a $50 million plan for a cable car that could bring up to 3,000 visitors up to the ruins per day in the future.
Vale do Javari, Brazil
There are parts of the world we only know about thanks to advanced satellite technology, and in 2018, a drone captured the images of a previously undiscovered tribe of indigenous people in the Vale do Javari territory of the north Brazilian Amazon. The territory, home to the largest number of isolated indigenous peoples on earth, encompasses more than 8.5 million hectares and is only accessible by waterway or by air.
Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
The deepest part of the Dallol Volcano inside Ethiopia's Danakil Depression is located about 400 feet below (yes, below) sea level, making it one of the lowest points in the world. Just as impressive, it is also known as one of the hottest places on earth with the daily average max temperature topping 106 degrees F. Locals have been making the precarious trek to the region to mine for salt for centuries, and the spot has only just begun to attract tourists.
This infamous town in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is located about 800 miles from the North Pole and is known as one of the world’s most isolated inhabited areas. There’s a population of just 1,500 residents in the town, and teachers carry guns to protect their students from polar bears (hunting for polar bears is strictly forbidden, and shooting one in self-defense will require a personal inquiry from the governor of Svalbard). Another interesting feature of Longyearbyen? It became illegal in the town to bury their dead within city limits in 1950 after it was discovered that the temperatures were consistently too low to allow bodies to decompose.