With a blend of resilience, creativity, and technology, humans have been making surprisingly far-flung locales our homes for many generations.
Ever wonder what some of the world’s most remote inhabited places are like today? They’re challenging to visit, but fun to learn about: here’s what life is like in these impressively isolated locations.
Ittoqqortoormiit is remote, yet beautiful: this Greenland town’s brightly colored buildings look striking against the rocky, frozen ground.
With 450 residents, the town sits on the edge of the Northeast Greenland National Park, the largest national park in the world. You can take a plane most of the way there, but you’ll need to take a helicopter to complete the journey—or you can make the trip by boat.
The town doesn’t get many tourists, but it does have a guest house to host them in. Visitors have to contend with the lack of cell phone service, so the guest house provides a collection of DVDs for entertainment. For many, though, the Northern Lights are entertainment enough— they’re especially striking in December and January when the sun never rises in Ittoqqortoormiit.
Tristan da Cunha
By most definitions, the distinction for the world’s most remote inhabited location goes to this island.
Although it’s a British territory, Tristan da Cunha is located far from Great Britain itself. On the map, Tristan is surrounded by an expanse of blue: it sits smack in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, between the southern parts of Africa and South America. It’s a bit telling that one of Tristan’s nearest neighbors is an extinct volcano named Inaccessible Island.
Tristan also has a giant volcano in the middle of the island, but around it, more than 200 people make their permanent homes. The island is a week-long boat journey from Cape Town, but with no island airport, there’s no other way to get there.
Everyone on the island lives in the same village, and each depends on farming for survival. Fishing vessels periodically bring groceries and supplies from the mainland. The island’s way of life may seem slow and old-fashioned, but locals there claim to love it.
Oymyakon isn’t just remote—this Russian town is also famous for being the coldest continuously inhabited place on Earth.
About 500 people live there, contending with winter temperatures that average around -60 degrees F, and winter nights that are 21 hours long. The Arctic Circle is closer to this town than the nearest city is. Modern life there requites some modifications: it’s almost impossible to use indoor plumbing when everything is frozen, so most people use outhouses.
The town’s long, brutal winter is brightened by a little celebration at the end, though. Locals mark the end of winter with the annual Cold Pole Festival. The festival includes activities like ice fishing and reindeer races, because in the world’s coldest town, what are winter activities in the rest of the world are actually the heralds of spring.
Siwa Oasis in Egypt isn’t so far from other inhabited places on the map, but since it’s surrounded by daunting desert, it still qualifies as very remote. Thanks to this isolation, the people who live there have their own unique language and culture.
However, tourism is more common in Siwa Oasis than in many of the world’s remote places. People visit to admire ancient ruins, go on desert safaris, and taste locally-grown foods like olives. Although getting there requires a train and bus trip more than nine hours long, the striking views and unique landscape make it worthwhile.
With only 50 residents, Pitcairn Island is known as the world’s least-populated territory, as well as one of the most remote. It sits in the middle of the Pacific between Australia and South America, more than 3,000 miles from the mainland. Like Tristan da Cunha, it’s a far-flung British territory.
This tiny island boasts just one sandy beach, but the green foliage and dramatic cliffs make the landscape beautiful if intimidating. However, as with many remote locations, the island’s peaceful beauty is complicated by the high cost of living, low incomes, and difficult lifestyle. Supplies get shipped in from New Zealand, while the island sends out a single export: local honey.
Chile’s Easter Island is so famous for its ancient statues that it’s easy to forget people live there. This remote Pacific island, located 1,200 miles east of Pitcairn Island, is home to over 5,000 people.
Tourism to see the famous statues helps support the local economy. However, dealing with the masses of tourists also poses a challenge for locals. The tiny island struggles with problems ranging from too much trash to overfishing. Such remote locations may be stunning, but living there can be challenging.
Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow) is located at the northern edge of Alaska, making it the northernmost U.S. town. It’s well within the Arctic Circle, so far north that winters there include two months of no sun at all.
You can’t get there by road, only plane, but 4,000 people still live there year-round. Most residents use snowmobiles to get around. There’s a fair amount of tourism in Utqiaġvik, though, with attractions like the Iñupiat Heritage Center to teach visitors about the local history and culture.
Villa Las Estrellas
If you thought living in Antarctica was only for scientists and researchers, think again. The frozen continent actually has two civilian settlements, of which Villa Las Estrellas is the largest.
This Chilean Antarctic village is (unsurprisingly) home to just a few people, who live in the village’s 14 homes. The town also has a post office, church, gym, and even a school. In the summer, the population reaches 100, but not everyone stays for the brutal winter.
The occasional tourist visits for nature-watching and ski or snowmobile tours. However, for much of the year, there’s not much happening in Villa Las Estrellas, since the local weather often makes it unsafe to leave the house at all.
This tiny village in Arizona is actually tucked inside the Grand Canyon. It’s considered the most remote inhabited area in the contiguous U.S.
Unlike some parts of the Grand Canyon, you can only get to Supai by helicopter, pack animal, or foot. It’s the only place in the U.S. where the mail still comes and goes by mule.
The surrounding areas are famous for their stunning waterfalls and scenery, which attract a fair number of tourists, hikers, and photographers each year. However, about 200 members of the Havasupai Tribe make Supai their permanent home.
Longyearbyen is best known as the northernmost town in the world (not counting research bases). In spite of its remoteness, over 2,000 people live in this Norweigian island town.
Coal mining originally brought people there, but these days, tourism and research are the dominant local industries. Locals must brave a year that sees four months of darkness and four months of daylight. However, life there includes access to many modern amenities, like a movie theater and restaurants. The colorful buildings brighten up the beautiful but stark landscape.
The famous Doomsday Seed Vault, which contains backups of each of the planet’s crops, is Longyearbyen’s other claim to fame.
Taking a vacation to the world’s most remote inhabited places is more challenging (and more expensive) than your standard trip—but many of these fascinating locations are open to visitors. Which one would you most like to see for yourself?