When we look at the map of the Earth, one of the first things that we see is that its surface is divided into land and water. The land consists of several continents and millions of islands, and the water is all the oceans and seas. We, humans, live on continents and islands. Do you know which one is the largest continent on Earth? This is Eurasia. Yes, maybe it is not what most people know, but I will explain it below. Now, let’s learn about Eurasia, and explore its extreme geographical points.
Time for a geography class. Open the map of the Earth. As everybody knows, there are seven continents on our planet- Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, and Antarctica. But wait a moment….
Europe and Asia
Look into Europe and Asia. Do you notice that they are only parts of one larger continent? Yes, that’s right, the terms „Europe” and „Asia” exist only due to cultural and political reasons, but in the physical geography, there are no such continents. The real continent is called Eurasia, and it is the largest piece of land on the Earth.
Now, let’s define Eurasia because it is not that simple as it may look like. And we have to do it to determine its extreme points. First, should we exclude the islands? If we do it, we will have only the mainland of Eurasia, but is this what this continent looks like? If yes, then we can easily determine its northernmost, easternmost, westernmost and southernmost points, as well as its central points.
So, are the islands parts of Eurasia? If not, then countries like the UK, Ireland, Iceland, and Malta are not European. Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, the Maldives, and even Singapore, are not Asian countries. Can that be true?
Here we think from a physical geography point of view. Forget about culture and politics, these are purely human imaginary factors, and we humans are too pride when raising these factors above everything else when determining the continents. But now this is not the topic. At least because continents have been created long before any human (with his cultural and political mindset) started to walk on the Earth.
Instead, let’s look at the physical map of the Earth, including the terrain of the ocean bottom. We can easily notice that there is a shallow area between the coastline and the ocean depth. This area is called “continental shelf”, and it is the underwater part of the continents. In other words, a continent doesn’t finish at a nice beach but proceeds much further underwater to a certain “edge”. Beyond this edge, the ground steeply “sinks” deep into the ocean. And this edge is the real boundary of the continents.
Then, you can see that there are many islands, located on the continental shelf. They are parts of the shelf that is over the water. So, from a geographical point of view, we have to add them as parts of the continents. Now the UK is a part of Europe, and Indonesia is a part of Asia. Or more precisely, both UK and Indonesia are parts of Eurasia. These islands are called „Continental islands”.
But other islands are rising straight from the deepest bottom of the ocean, on a mid-ocean ridge, such as Iceland, or the Azores. They are usually made by volcanic activity. These islands are geographically not parts of any continent. The only factor that makes them parts of a continent is again human- cultural and political, but as I already decided, we will skip this factor.
Ok, let’s start our Eurasia extreme points journey.
The extreme endpoints of Eurasia
Eurasia is the largest physical continent on the Earth, a part of the „supercontinent” Afro-Eurasia, which is the largest piece of land on our planet. Its division into Europe and Asia comes from the Antiquity and remained until today due to political and cultural reasons. But since we are looking only for the physical continent and its extreme points, let’s define them- both on the mainland and on the continental islands.
The westernmost points of Eurasia are in Europe. And the countries hosting them are Portugal and Ireland. Let’s first go to the westernmost point of mainland Eurasia- Cabo da Roca.
The westernmost point of mainland Eurasia- Cabo da Roca
Longitude: 9°30′2″ W
It is in Portugal, not far from the capital Lisbon. This point is at one of the spectacular cliffs rising over the Atlantic Ocean, providing stunning panoramic views. There is a lighthouse, and a monument for photos, showing the geographical data of this place. The whole area around is very beautiful, with high cliffs and small beaches hidden between the promontories.
How to reach Cabo da Roca
It’s easy. The best way is to visit and explore Lisbon, which is a very colorful city, with a long history, and a lot of things to see and do. Then, you can go to Sintra by train or by bus, and by another bus (Bus No. 403) traveling to Cascais, you can stop at Cabo da Roca. From there, you just walk some 30 mins to the cape, and you can enjoy- not only the notorious geographical point but the whole coastal area nearby. And you can do all of this as a nice day-trip from Lisbon.
But the shelf of Eurasia proceeds further westward, and its westernmost piece of land is in Ireland. This is Foze Rocks.
Westernmost island point of Eurasia- Foze Rocks
Longitude: 10° 41.3’W
The island of Ireland extends a little west of Portugal. But its western coast is quite rugged. If you look at the map, you can see some small islets located there, and one of them is the westernmost. It is Tearaght Island- a steep, rocky, uninhabited, and inhospitable piece of land, where the giant waves of the Atlantic break on its high cliffs.
But even this island is not the westernmost. Some rocks are sticking out of the ocean- the last “drops” of land on the west of Europe.
How to reach Foze Rocks
It’s not that easy. First, you have to travel to the nearest villages on the coast of Ireland. This is the easy part- first, you have to reach Dunquin- the westernmost village of the country. To do this, you have to travel by train or bus to Tralee, for about 4 hours. Then you have to take a bus that you need to change at Dingle with another bus to Dunquin.
But from here, the only way to reach Foze Rocks is by private boat. And the boats can’t stop at the rocks, but just nearby, only during calm waters. Then, you can approach the rocks only by inflatable boat or by swimming. Again- only if the water is enough to calm, with is quite seldom. Once you step on the rocks (which is by the way again difficult), when you look westward, there will be nothing else in front of you but the vast Atlantic Ocean.
Yes, there are even more lands west of these rocks- the Azores and Iceland. But they are “parts of Europe” only politically and culturally. Geographically, they are mid-ocean volcanic islands, not parts of any continents, so, we will skip them in this journey. Now, let’s “jump” to the easternmost points of Eurasia.
The extreme East of Eurasia is different. It is because it shares the same continental shelf with North America. So, there is an easternmost point of mainland Eurasia only, but the continental islands, located on the commonly shared shelf can be considered geographically as parts of both continents. That’s why we will focus only on the mainland, and its extreme east- Cape Dezhnev.
The easternmost point of Eurasia- Cape Dezhnev
This point is in Chukotka, Russia. It is so eastern that it is in fact located in the Western Hemisphere. At the same time, it is quite north, not far from the Northern Polar Circle. Bering Strait begins east of the cape, dividing Asia from North America, and it also divides the Arctic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean.
Cape Dezhnev is a harsh and inhospitable place. The nearest settlement nearby is the village of Uelen, located some 20 km northwest of the cape, at the seacoast of the Chukchi Sea. The land around is desolate- a headland, covered by tundra, which is green in summer, and hidden under deep snow in the rest of the year. There is a monument with a lighthouse on the cape, marking this important geographical point.
How to reach Cape Dezhnev
It’s challenging and in general, expensive. First, you have to obtain a travel permit for Chukotka, and this is not an easy thing. Once you do it, you need some transport to reach Cape Dezhnev, and it is difficult too. There are two main ways. First, you have to travel to Uelen, the nearest settlement from the cape. And since Uelen is not connected by any road with the rest of the world, you can do it only by boat, or by helicopter.
But an easier way to reach Cape Dezhnev is by Arctic cruise. These cruise lines cross Bering Strait and some of them stop near the cape, so you can walk to the monument mark of this extreme point. And here you have a good advantage- you can do it without a need for a special permit, and even without a Russian visa (according to the rules, it is allowed if you stay on the land no longer than 72 hours)!
Now, let’s go to the south.
When we identify the extreme South of Eurasia, we have to look at Southeast Asia. There is the southernmost point of mainland Eurasia, and there are many more continental islands, located south of the mainland. So, let’s go to Malaysia and Singapore.
The southernmost point of Eurasia- Tanjung Piai
You can easily see where should be the southernmost point of mainland Eurasia. Obviously, it is in the “bottom” of Indochina, more precisely, the Malay Peninsula. But when we look at this area, we see that Singapore is an island, not a part of the mainland, so we have to find the point on the mainland beside Singapore. And yes, it is on its western side- a point, called Tanjung Piai.
Tanjung Piai is a lowland cape, very near the Earth’s Equator. The area around it is covered by palms, and tropical forests, but the point itself is well-arranged as a tourist attraction. There is a geographical-themed monument, wooden walking lanes, and some pavilions.
How to reach Tanjung Piai
This place is very close to developed and famous destinations like Singapore and Johor Bahru. So, it’s relatively easy to reach it. Roads are leading to Tanjung Piai village, and the cape is not far from there. The only problem is that there is no direct public transport, but the buses from Singapore and Johor Bahru travel only to the town of Gelang Patah. From there you have to proceed 66 km by taxi, which can be a bit expensive.
So, Tanjung Piai is a not-so-convenient place to visit, because it is not a famous tourist destination, but for geography lovers, it is worth the challenge.
But as we can see on the map, the southernmost island point of Eurasia is further south. So, let’s see it. This is Ndana Island in Indonesia.
Southernmost island point of Eurasia- Ndana Island
Where is Ndana Island? Look at the map of Indonesia. You can see a chain of islands, following the famous Bali Island. This chain is called Nusa Tenggara, and it gradually goes east-southeastward. One of the largest islands of the chain is Timor. Now, look southwest of Timor- there is a smaller island- Rote. But if you zoom further, you will see a small island southwest from Rote Island. This is Ndana, the southernmost piece of land of Eurasia.
Ndana Island (called also Pamana Island) is a relatively flat island, with low forest in the middle, and large savanna-like periphery at the coastline. It is an off the beaten „tropical paradise”, with only one small settlement on its northern side. You can go to its southern coast and enjoy „the end of Eurasia”, staring at the ocean. Beyond it, there is Australia.
How to reach Ndana Island
It is an off the beaten place, not so popular, so it is relatively difficult to reach. The best starting point is West Timor, Kupang City. There is a daily ferry to Rote Island. From there, you can travel only by local transport- motorcycle, or some private local vehicles. You have to move to Ombok, a village on the southwestern end of Rote Island. Then, you can find a private boat to Ndana Island, and you can walk around it for 2-3 hours, reaching its southern coast.
Traveling to Ndana Island is not so easy, but its nothing, compared to the northern extreme points of Eurasia. Let’s jump to the North.
If we want to reach the northernmost points of Eurasia, we have to look at the Arctic Ocean, not far from the North Pole. So, let’s begin with the mainland.
The northernmost point of mainland Eurasia- Cape Chelyuskin
We have to go to Russia. Let’s find the Taymyr Peninsula, and search its northernmost tip. This is Chelyuskin Cape- the northernmost continental mainland point on the Earth.
It is a harsh and desolate place. The cape is relatively low, stony, and its land part is covered by tundra. There is nothing too spectacular at the cape itself, and the only thing that shows that this is a special point is a small stone monument on the coast. But the whole environment is stunning- wild, silent, and cold.
This is in Russian, but the stunning views of Cape Chelyuskin and the area is really worth watching!
How to reach Cape Chelyuskin
As every geographical point in such a northern place, reaching Cape Chelyuskin is a very difficult and challenging experience. First, a normal Russian visa is not enough, you must obtain a Taymyr travel permit (which needs at least 2 months in advance to get). Then, there are no roads to Cape Chelyuskin, but you can reach it only by boat (icebreaker) or eventually by winter mobile vehicles on winter „zimniks” (winter snowy roads). Probably the easiest (but very expensive) way is to join an Arctic cruise that stops at Cape Chelyuskin. Today, there is a small polar station at the cape.
But now let’s identify the northernmost island land of Eurasia. It is further north, and it is called Rudolf Island, one of Franz-Josef Land Archipelago.
Northernmost island point of Eurasia- the northern coast of Rudolf Island
This is the northernmost point of land in the „supercontinent” Afro-Eurasia. It is the northernmost island of Franz-Josef Land Archipelago, the northernmost point of Russia, and somehow, the northernmost point of … Europe, if someone still insists on Europe as a „separate continent”.
Needless to say, it is a very remote place with extremely harsh conditions. There isn’t even tundra, but almost the whole island is covered by a glacier. It is uninhabited, and the only human presence there is some occasional visits of scientists (and some extremely rare and rich tourists).
How to reach Rudolf Island
Again, it’s difficult. Very difficult. Rudolf Island, as well as the whole Franz Josef Land, is located in the Arctic Natural Reserve, and the whole zone is protected. So, first, you would need an expensive, and very difficult to obtain a permit. Then, there isn’t any transport for this island. The “easiest” way to reach it is by joining an Arctic cruise which makes stop at the island’s coast.
Another possible way to reach Rudolf Island is to join a North Pole expedition. Needless to say, it is an extreme challenge, requiring equipment, skills, and again, a lot of money. And when you arrive at Rudolf Island, you have to reach its northern coast, Cape Fligeli- the northernmost point of Eurasia.
These are the extreme endpoints of Eurasia. But let’s see two other extreme points- the central points of the continent.
The center of Eurasia
Eurasia is not a circle, square, or another simple shape piece of land. It is quite complicated, and there have been made a lot of calculations to identify its center. In general, there are two types of centers. The first one is called “Pole of inaccessibility”- the farthest point from every coast. And the second one- “Geographical center”. Let’s identify these two points in Eurasia.
The Pole of Inaccessibility- Gurbantunggut Desert, Hoxtolgay, China
Coordinates: 46°16.8′N 86°40.2′E
This place is identified as the farthest point from every ocean coast in Eurasia. And since Eurasia is the largest continent on the Earth, this is also the farthest point from the ocean on our planet. Hoxtolgay is a town, located not far from this point. Its citizens are the people who live farthest from any sea coastline, so if they want to go to a sea beach, they have to travel more than everyone else.
But the Pole of Inaccessibility is not exactly in this town, it is around 30 miles (50 km) east-southeast of it. However, there is nothing at this point- only a desert- the Gurbantunggut Desert. No monuments, or other signs. Maybe this is what makes this point more exciting- of course only for adventurous travelers.
How to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility of Eurasia
It is not so easy. First, you have to reach Hoxtolgay City. You can go to China, travel to Urumqi (by plane or by train from Beijing, or other big cities), then by another train, you have to go to Karamay. Or, you can reach Karamay from Kazakhstan, again by train or by plane. Then, you have to take a bus to Hoxtolgay. Once you arrive there, you have to find a private transport to the desert. Your driver will drop you there, and you have to walk on the wilderness only with your equipment, and your GPS showing the exact coordinates of this spot.
Let’s see the other “center” of Eurasia- its Geographical center
The geographical center of Eurasia
This is a bit difficult to determine. It is not necessarily the farthest point from the ocean, but it is based on another method. Imagine you have Eurasia as a flat sheet of plastic in your hand. Then put a pencil under the sheet, so that it can balance perfectly on it. The point where the pencil touches the sheet- this is its center.
Obviously, it is not so easy to make such an experiment with the real Eurasia, so there have been made various calculations. The result is several different points, depending on how Eurasia is determined, whether it includes the islands, or not, how about the Gulf of Ob, or even some political factors. So, we can choose one of these points. Let it be The Center or Asia near Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China.
How to reach the Center of Asia near Urumqi
It is easier than the Pole of Inaccessibility. Once you reach Urumqi, you can easily go to this point by taxi. It is only around 20 km southwest of the city. And there is a well-established monument, with an alley presenting all the Asian countries. Yes, Europe is missing, but according to the calculations, it is actually the geographical center of Eurasia. Seems we don’t have a choice but just to trust those who have calculated it.
So, this is Eurasia- the largest continent on the Earth. You can see how far its extreme points are from each other. If you want to cross the whole continent from west to east, you have to travel from Portugal, through the whole of Europe, then to cross the whole Russia, the largest country in the world, until you reach its end at the Bering Strait. It is not only long but in most of the way, very difficult to cross, especially in the middle of Siberia.
Or, if you want to cross it from south to north, you have to travel from Malaysia, through the whole Southeast Asia, Tibet, Mongolia, the middle of Siberia, until you reach the Arctic Ocean. If you want to include the islands, such an expedition would be even more difficult and extreme.
But we travelers are such kind of people. We want to travel to the ends of our planet. We know that there are large areas where traveling is extremely difficult, and not for everyone. For now, such crossing of Eurasia looks like an almost impossible dream, but who knows- there are still some people who would accept the challenge. Would you like to be one of them?
PS. Expect soon articles about the extreme points of the other continents!
Check out some geography and travel books about Eurasia!
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