A journey to the 10 remotest islands on the Earth

A journey to the 10 remotest islands on the Earth

Many of us have read the story about Robinson Crusoe. We can imagine a small island with coconut palms, surrounded by an endless ocean, and a lonely man with long hair and a long beard stuck on the island for years. He is looking at the horizon, but nobody and nothing come to save him. Are there such islands on the Earth, far from any continent, far even from other islands? Yes, there are, and not all of them are like the island of Robinson. Some of them are even inhabited today, with some of the most isolated communities on our planet. Let’s try to reach some of these pieces of land- the 10 (and one more) remotest islands on the Earth!

Let’s go on a journey!

So, let’s become explorers, hunting for the farthest and remotest pieces of land on the Earth. But before we do it, we need some knowledge of geography. First, we have to identify these places. Where are they? How remote are they? Obviously, we have to look at the oceans and search for them somewhere in the middle of the blue.

The oceans of the Earth

There are 4 or 5 oceans on the Earth- Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, and Southern. According to some scholars, there is no Southern Ocean, but its territory is just the southernmost parts of the first three oceans. This is because the Southern Ocean is not a “normal ocean” like the other four, but a ring around Antarctica, without a clear northern boundary.

Land and water
Land and water

Anyway, the oceans are the largest bodies of water on the Earth, while the seas are only ocean parts closer to a continent, or a large archipelago. That’s why we can’t expect to find the remotest islands in the seas, but we have to look at an ocean.

The Arctic Ocean is too small, and its central part is empty- no pieces of land there. All of its islands are too close to the continents. So, although these islands are desolate, extremely cold, harsh, inhospitable, and far from the “normal civilization”, they are not what we are looking for. We are not looking for “the most desolated”, many deserts in the middle of the continents are not less desolated too.

Let’s define the remoteness

We are looking for the remotest islands, which means, the most separated pieces of land, from other pieces of land. And it is not so simple as it may look.

Some examples

For example, let’s look at Easter Island. The nearest continent to the island is South America. From the west, it is quite separated from the other islands of Polynesia. Undoubtedly, it is very remote. But there is another, a smaller island, 391 km east of it. It is Sala y Gomez Island, a completely uninhabited rocky islet. But since both Easter and Sala y Gomez are very remote, closer only to each other, we can consider them as one of the “remotest islands” on the Earth.

Another example can be Kerguelen Island. It is not an island, but an archipelago. So, it is pointless to separate the largest of the islands from the other islands. They form a whole entity together, and the whole archipelago can be again one of the “remotest islands” on our planet.

Geographical remoteness

And again, we are looking at the geographical remoteness of a landmass, no matter whether it is inhabited or not. Yes, we can expect to find the remotest human communities on the Earth, and it is true, but we are not looking for human remoteness (humans can be remote in the middle of Sahara, in the South Pole, or just on a ship in the middle of an ocean).

Remote, desolate, lonely
Remote, desolate, lonely

So, following these criteria, let’s define the 10 remotest islands on the Earth and try to reach them! And if you are anyway looking for human remoteness like Robinson Crusoe, you can be sure you will find it on these islands!

The remotest islands on the Earth

Let’s look at the three largest oceans on the Earth- the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean, including their southern parts. In quest of the remotest islands of the Earth, obviously, we have to look at their widest regions, where the continents are most separated.

The Pacific is the largest ocean on Earth. Presumably, we should look at its center. However, a large part of it is “filled” by the archipelagos of Oceania. Although the distances between them are long, they are not as long as in the “empty” waters. So, the remotest islands should not be there.

Then, how about the vast spaces of waters without land? In the Pacific, they are almost empty, with a few exceptions. Of them, only Easter Island, and its neighbor Sala y Gomez is really remote. We can find such spaces in the Atlantic, and in the Indian Ocean, especially in their southern parts. In conclusion- these are the areas where we can find the remotest islands on the Earth. So, let’s go!

10. Saint Helena Island

Endless blue surface. And a tiny piece of land, in the middle of the emptiness. Like a small lonely planet lost in the endless cosmos. Now, imagine that you travel not only on the surface of the Earth but also in time, to the first half of the 19th century. You reach this tiny piece of land, and there you can see a very important person, spending the last years of his life. Yes, he is Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French Emperor, now exiled here, far from the world.

This is Saint Helena Island. It is located in the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean, closer to Africa, and farther from South America. It is a tropical volcanic island, with its highest peak called Diana’s Peak (818 m/2684 ft altitude). The island is inhabited, it is a British colony and has a capital- Jamestown, as well as several other small towns and villages. In total, around 4500 people are living on the island, quite isolated from the rest of the world.

When the first sailors found the island in 1502, it was uninhabited, covered by a local forest of strange trees that can’t be seen anywhere else on the Earth. Unfortunately, later the Europeans destroyed a part of the forest, and ignorance imported many European animals. Thus, they seriously damaged the local natural environment. As a result, now the island looks quite differently than 500 years ago. But it still offers stunning views and landscapes “at the end of the Earth”.

A landscape from Saint Helena Island
A landscape from Saint Helena Island

How to reach Saint Helena Island

Although Saint Helena is one of the remotest islands on the Earth, nowadays, it is not so difficult to reach. You can easily obtain a visa for the island. Then, you just have to travel to South Africa. There are regular flights from Cape Town, Windhoek, and Johannesburg to Jamestown. And if you want to reach the island by sea (which is definitely more exciting), you can do it by a cruise trip, or by the freight ship MV Saint Helena, again from Cape Town.

9. Ascension Island

Let’s go to the north. Let’s leave the tiny piece of land and disappear deep and far through the vast blue “space”- the Atlantic Ocean. Not far from the equator, we can find another tiny piece of land, again like a spot in the endless blue emptiness. This is Ascension Island, located somewhere in the middle between Africa and South America.

Ascension is a volcanic island, located about 100 km west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It was discovered in 1501 by the Portuguese, and at that time it has been a barren piece of land, covered mainly by lava rocks, with very little vegetation on it, consisting mainly of grass and moss. But just like Saint Helena, the Europeans have imported many foreign animals and plants. As a result, today its flora and fauna are completely different than 500 years ago.

Today, there are about 870 people constantly living on the island, mainly in its capital Georgetown. If you visit the island, you can see some British historical buildings, dating from the 19th century. The rest is nature, and it is stunning, especially from the highest peak, and the seacoast.

At the coast of Ascension Island
At the coast of Ascension Island

How to reach Ascension Island

Same as Saint Helena Island, it is not so difficult to reach the island. Again, there are flights from Johannesburg in South Africa, as well as from Saint Helena Island. If you want to reach it by sea, today it is possible only by cruise. No regular freight ships are traveling to Ascension since 2018. Once you arrive on the island, you can easily explore it on foot or by taxi (the only possible local transport). And don’t feel strange to discover that everything is very expensive! But the adventure to be in such a “far from the world” place is worth it!

Check your transport to Ascension Island!

Now, let’s go to the vast Pacific.

8. Easter and Sala y Gomez Islands

The Pacific is the largest ocean on Earth, but it is not empty. Again, if we compare it with space, there would be many clusters of stars- the archipelagos of Oceania. But there are areas with “vacuum”, where we can find only one-two “lonely stars”. And the remotest of them is Easter Island (called also Rapa Nui), and its distant satellite Sala y Gomez Island. Of course, the distances in the real space are much different, but you can get the picture.

Easter Island is full of mysteries. It is well-known for the strange stone statues of heads, some with weird hats, called “moai”. Unlike the remote islands in the Atlantic, Easter Island has been inhabited probably from 300 AD. It has been a tropical paradise covered by lush forests, far from everybody and everything, like another planet. Its first inhabitants have created a unique local culture. However, with the arrival of the Europeans, everything has changed significantly.

Today, the island is almost deforested. The modern native people are quite separated from their old culture and it has remained a mystery. Now the island belongs to Chile, and it tries to develop tourism.

Moai on Easter (Rapa Nui) Island
Moai on Easter (Rapa Nui) Island

As for its tiny satellite Sala y Gomez– it is even more remote. Or at least it is what you can feel there. It is rocky, uninhabited, and highly difficult to reach, like a perfect place if you want to hide from the world. Today, it is turned into a marine protected area.

How to reach Easter and Sala y Gomez islands

Easter Island is easy to reach since there are regular flights from Santiago de Chile, as well as one flight from Tahiti per week. But again, due to its extreme isolation, not too many travelers go to visit it. It is too “far from the world”, and usually people visit it as a part of their round-the-world journey. There are also some cruise lines passing nearby. The best of them is the ship, Soren Larsen, traveling from New Zealand.

Check your accommodation in Easter Island!

But concerning Sala y Gomez- now it is extreme. There are no flights to the island, and there is no port, wharf, or another place for boats to reach the island. Only in calm waters, boats can reach some “easier” lava rocks that allow you to step on the coast. As a result, only scientists and special expeditions travel there. There are also some cruise ships passing nearby, but the tourists can see the island only from distance.

Check your transport to Easter Island!

Now, let’s move to the Indian Ocean. Five of the remotest islands and archipelagos on the Earth are located there.

7. Kerguelen Archipelago

This time we reach a more desolate place. It is an island with an extremely complex shape, surrounded by about 300 much smaller satellite islands and islets. It is cold, windy, wet, in harsh conditions. The whole island and most of its satellites are covered by tundra. And the highest mountains on the island are covered by a thick glacier cap.

This is Kerguelen Archipelago– a lonely and extremely remote place. The archipelago is almost uninhabited. The only inhabitants there are between 45 and 110 scientists and researchers, living in the main base Port-aux-Francais. Fortunately, since its discovery in 1772, not too much has changed in its natural environment. You can see sea birds, seals, and some insects. Also, the island’s nature is known for its local Kerguelen cabbage that can be found only on Kerguelen and the “neighboring” remotest islands on Earth in the southern Indian Ocean.

How to reach Kerguelen Archipelago

This time it is difficult, not like the other islands above. Kerguelen is definitely not a tourist place. There is no airport, and the only way to reach the archipelago is by ship, but it is not easy either. Currently, there are only four regular ship trips throughout the year.

Besides them, there are some rare and occasional cruise journeys. And that’s all. These trips are very expensive- be ready for 6000 to 8000 USD per person! Once you arrive in Port-aux-Francais, you can just walk around the main island, since most of the other islands are almost inaccessible. In other words- be ready for serious adventures!

6. Prince Edward Islands

We proceed with our journey in the open “blue space”. And we discover a small system of two islands, one bigger and one smaller, like the Earth and the Moon. They are called the Prince Edward Islands. The larger one is Marion Island and the smaller- Prince Edward Island.

These two lonely islands are located almost in the middle of the distance between the Equator and the South Pole. If they were on the same latitude in Europe or the USA, probably they would be nice places with a moderate climate, hot summers, snowy winters, covered by forests and agricultural fields. Instead, they look like a desolate sub-polar tundra, constantly hit by strong winds, rain, snow, and almost permanently covered by clouds.

These two islands are uninhabited, politically belonging to South Africa. The only inhabitants there are scientists and researchers, staying only temporarily in the local base on Marion Island. Prince Edward Island is even wilder- there is no human base on this island, and it is only occasionally visited by the scientists.

How to reach the Prince Edward Islands

It is very difficult. The islands are not a tourist destination. There are two ways to reach the islands. The first way is by a private cruise, but it is very rare and very expensive. And the second way is to become a scientific team member. You can join the scientific ship S. A. Agulhas from Cape Town in South Africa, which is possible only once a year.

When the ship arrives, it remains two months, then leaves the island with the team from the previous year- thus scientists remain on the island for 14 months. And if you want to explore the islands, you can do it only by hiking on foot and by a scientist’s boat to Prince Edward Island or around.

5. Crozet Islands

This is another cluster of desolate islands, with almost similar conditions and images like Prince Edward- harsh, chilly, rainy or snowy, and windy. They belong to the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, and again, they are uninhabited, with only temporary teams of scientists on their research base, located on the largest of the islands- Ile de la Possession.

The Crozet Islands are divided into two groups. The western group consists of three islands- one large and two small. And the eastern group consists of two large islands. The two groups are separated by a more than 90 km wide space of water. All they are covered by tundra and rock with volcanic origin.

How to reach the Crozet Islands

Same as the other Sub-Antarctic islands in the Southern Ocean, they are not a tourist destination, and there is no airport. Again, the only way to reach the islands is to travel as a part of a scientific team, or on a private cruise to the research base on Ile de la Possession. There is a ship traveling from Reunion Island, and its route includes also the Kerguelen Archipelago, and the other isolated islands of Saint Paul and Amsterdam.

Once you reach Crozet, again, the only way to travel around the islands is by local team’s boats. Needless to say, it can be dangerous, as most of the time the ocean is harsh, with big waves. You can hike the large islands, while the small islands in the west are too rocky and more difficult to access.

4. Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands

Now we go to a warmer zone, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There are two volcanic islands, one larger and one smaller. The larger is called Amsterdam, and the smaller- Saint Paul. They are located around 90 km from each other, and they are not considered an archipelago.

These islands are covered by grass, but there are even some small forests of a local low tree on Amsterdam Island. The climate is wet, often rainy. Being farther from the South Pole and closer to the Equator, there is no snow on the islands, and the temperature never drops below 0°C. The islands are uninhabited, but there is a permanent scientific station on Amsterdam Island. There is no station on Saint Paul, but only a cabin used by scientists and some intrepid travelers in their visit to the island.

How to reach Saint Paul and Amsterdam islands

It is very difficult, and again- only by ship. And since there are only teams of scientistс, again, you have to join them, which is not an easy task. At least you have to prove that you can be useful to them in some way.

Another way is to travel on your own yacht. Since the ocean is quieter in these latitudes, compared to the area of the Sub-Antarctic islands in the south, it is easier. But again, you have to obtain a travel permit to be allowed to land on these islands. If you choose Saint Paul, the best place is to enter the volcano caldera, which provides calm waters and a good place to anchor. Then you can wander around the island and enjoy the stunning views far from the world.

Now, let’s go to the Atlantic.

3. Tristan da Cunha and Gough Islands

This is the place where we can find the remotest human population on Earth. Welcome to Tristan da Cunha, and its settlement (you can call it “city”, “town” or “village”) of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas- the remotest human settlement on our planet! Yes, it is not a scientific station, it is a real human settlement, inhabited not by scientists, but by ordinary families- men, women, children. They are around 250 people, with a local government, a school, a hospital, and two churches. They were born, grow, and spend their whole life here, far from the world, like on another planet.

These islands consist of a small archipelago with the main island Tristan da Cunha, the neighboring Inaccessible Island, and the small Nightingale Islands. And around 350 km south of them is Gough Island. Only Tristan da Cunha Island is inhabited, the other islands are wildlife reserves, and the only humans visiting them are scientists, like on the other remotest islands. The climate is humid, a bit windy, and often rainy. Snow is possible only on Gough Island sometimes.

Tristan da Cunha Island
Tristan da Cunha Island

How to reach Tristan da Cunha and Gough Islands

It is easier to reach these islands, compared to most of the islands above, but is more difficult than visiting Saint Helena and Ascension, because there is no airport. So, the only way to travel to Tristan is by ship. Regular ships travel between Cape Town, Tristan da Cunha, and Saint Helena, but they are still rare. You can also arrive there by yacht, or by cruise. There is no need for a visa, but you must obtain a visitor’s stamp on your passport and arrange it in advance by writing an email to enquiriestdc1@gmail.com.

As for the other islands, it is not difficult to visit, once you reach the main island, Tristan da Cunha. They are declared as UNESCO Site Heritage, and you can visit them by well-arranged local cruise with a local guide. Or, you can visit Gough independently, but again, only if you are a part of the local scientific team.

Let’s go further to the ends of the world!

2. Heard and McDonald Islands

Now we back to the southern part of the Indian Ocean. And we get further south, closer to Antarctica, yet still far from this, as well as every other continent. These are Heard and McDonald Islands, a wild, desolate, heavily glaciated, and lonely archipelago. Its nearest neighbor is Kerguelen, one of the other remotest islands on Earth.

Heard and McDonald are volcanic islands, and their volcanoes are active. Heard is the largest one. The other islands, islets, and rocks are located within a 40-45 km wide water space in the ocean. They are cold, with conditions closer to those in coastal Antarctica. The only vegetation on the islands is some grass, moss, and lichen, only on the glacier-free areas. The islands are completely uninhabited. Unlike the other islands above, there is even not a constant scientific station, but only temporary shelters and remnants of old huts. The islands are so remote that they have been discovered not earlier than 1850.

How to visit Heard and McDonald islands

Visiting these islands is a serious challenge. They are extremely remote, far from any tourist streams. There is no airport, and even no ports, harbors, or any kind of established place for ship landing. The islands are completely wild, as they have always been.

Today, they are governed by Australia and they are declared as natural reserves. So, the only way to visit them is to join a scientific expedition and obtain a special permit from the government, which is quite difficult.

If you somehow manage to arrange it, you can find one of the several points on the coast where you can land by boat. You can camp there or use the existing huts or other shelters on the coast. Then, the only thing you can do is hiking along the coast or on the glaciers, as well as trying to reach the neighboring islands by boat.

But these islands are still not the remotest. There is one more island…but before we get to it, let’s visit another piece of land, which, although not the remotest physically, for many people can be the remotest mentally.

A “bonus”: Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago

These pieces of land are so small, that they could be well-fit a cartoon image of an island, not larger than a house, surrounded by endless blue. Only the coconut palm is missing. But the size of these islets is the same. They are so small that high ways during a storm can cross above them and can spray the whole of them. The whole archipelago can fit inside a large stadium. And the largest of the islets is 30 m wide and 80 m long. It is just a tiny spot in the middle of the endless ocean. There is nothing else around them, hundreds of miles away.

Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago is the only place in the Atlantic Ocean where the mantle rocks from the ocean bottom emerge above the water surface. There is almost no vegetation on them, not even grass and moss, with exception of the largest islet.

But there is still a human presence on the archipelago. There is a scientific station on the largest islet, managing by four people who rotate after a certain amount of days. Every day they go out of their house, look around and see only an endless blue to the horizon. Their islet is so small that they can’t go for a walk or jogging. They are stuck on a tiny tip of the ocean bottom that has appeared above the surface in the middle of endless blue emptiness.

Can you reach Saint Peter and Saint Paul archipelago, and how?

Yes, at least you can see them. Some cruise lines pass near the rock archipelago but don’t provide landing on it. Or you can see them from aside from your private yacht. But if you want to step on the rocks, you need a permit, and there is an anchorage point on the largest islet. Another option, as usual, is to join a scientific or military team.

Now, let’s go to the remotest island on the Earth- the remotest of all! Welcome to Bouvet Island!

1. Bouvet Island

This is “the end of the Earth”- not only geographically, but also physically. It is so remote, so desolate, and so lonely place that you would feel there like you are left on another planet. Besides, the conditions on the island are extremely harsh. The island is almost entirely covered by a glacier, and the ice-free places along the coast are so rugged and difficult to access.

Bouvet Island has a marine Antarctic climate. It is almost constantly hit by cold rain and snow, and the rough seas around it make its approach extremely difficult and risky. The island terrain is so rugged that there is almost no place to build anything. There is only one place on the island that allows a kind of shelter, and this is the place where the automated weather station was established. This is the only trace of human presence on the island, and even this station is inhabited only sometimes by scientists.

How to visit Bouvet Island

It would be more difficult than climbing Mount Everest, unless you are a scientist, working on the station. But the challenge is worth trying. Currently, there are cruises, organized by Oceanwide Expeditions that reach Bouvet Island, but usually don’t land on it, simply because it is very difficult.

As for scientists- they usually land on the island by helicopter from a ship anchored near the island. Anyway, landing on the island by inflatable boat is still possible and some expeditions have done it, but they were very well equipped, and they have landed at the only possible point on the western coast of the island.

Members of one of these expeditions have reached the highest peak of Bouvet Island- Mt. Olavtoppen (780 m). Only they know what is to stand on the highest point of the remotest piece of land on the Earth. We can only imagine that it has been fantastic!

These are the remotest islands on our planet- far from the rest of the civilization, and far from the world with its problems, wars, pandemics, and endless vanity. However, reaching these islands is not just “to escape from the world”, it is an explorer’s challenge, for some of the islands quite extreme. Yet it can be a fantastic adventure, providing breathtaking sights and views with the experience to be isolated and surrounded by the endless blue surface of the ocean.

Take a look at some travel books about the remotest islands on the Earth!

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A journey to the 10 (and one more) remotest islands on the Earth. A journey to the 10 (and one more) remotest islands on the Earth. A journey to the 10 (and one more) remotest islands on the Earth.

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