With the world’s population rapidly approaching 7 billion people, it’s getting harder and harder to get away from it all. Humans have colonised every habitable place on the planet. Antarctica, once considered the most remote and inhospitable place on the planet now boasts a population of 5000 people. Things are bad when you can’t even go to Antarctica without having to jostle scientists for elbow room. Luckily for you, I’ve scoured the Earth to find the last places around where you can catch your breath.
- Edinburgh of the Seas, Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, 1,750 miles off the west coast of Africa. You’ll probably be living in the town of Edinburgh of the Seas, confusingly located on an island also called Tristan da Cunha. Edinburgh of the Seas is the only major settlement on the island, or at least as major a settlement can be for an island with a population of 269.
There are several other islands in the archipelago, the most prominent being Inaccessible Island. That’s not a nickname. The first discoverers in 1652 couldn’t find a way any further inland than the beach. It took 230 years of exploring before a survey team managed to find the center of the island. Every attempt to colonize Inaccessible Island has ended in failure, including several tries at simply stocking it with cattle.
For such a tiny, sparsely populated, utterly remote archipelago, Tristan da Cunha has had more than its share of disaster. In 1880, an American named Jonathan Lambert became the first permanent settler on the main island. He declared himself sole ruler of the island, and then promptly died in a freak fishing accident. In 1961, a volcanic eruption on the main island meant that the entire population had to be evacuated. You’d think that having your entire town buried under a river of molten rock would be just about the worst that fate could throw at you, but when everyone returned in 1963 they found that, in their absence, the surviving parts of the town had been sacked and raided by pirates. In 2008, the island’s fishing factory and electrical generators were destroyed in a fire, in one swipe knocking out all power and destroying the entire economy.
- Alert, Nunavut
There’s a big signpost outside of town with dozens of signs stating the distance to other cities. New residents get to put up a new sign showing how far it is to wherever they came from. There’s basically nothing else there. In other words, the major social activity in the most remote northern town on earth is to meditate on just how remote they all are.
- Supai, Arizona
Here’s a place for people who want to get away from it all without ever leaving the continental United States. With a population of fewer than 500, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire country, Supai is absolutely perfect for those looking for a little peace and quiet. The only problem is access. No roads go to Supai, which would be a major problem for any town. SUpai goes one further, however – the town is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
As it is, Supai is an eight mile hike through the blistering Arizona desert. This makes the use of horses almost a necessity. 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.
- Motuo, China
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.
- Chang Tang, Tibet