1. Palmerston Island
Palmerston Island is located 2,000 miles northwest of New Zealand. The scenic white sand destination is home to 62 people, 59 of whom are direct descendants of a man named William Marsters, who settled the place. There are no shops or markets on Palmerston because the community does not use money except to purchase supplies from the outside world. Palmerston is typically visited by a supply ship twice a year, but it is not uncommon for residents to go up to 18 months without a shipment.
As long as you can hack the 8-day boat voyage from Tahiti, residents are very welcoming of visitors and invite them to stay in their personal homes. You won’t be roughing it completely – there are two telephones on the island, as well as 6 hours per day of electricity and 4 hours of internet access.
2. Supai Village, Arizona
Despite the fact that the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited locations in the United States, nearby Supai Village is visited much less often. The tribal center of the Havasupai Tribe, Supai is a remote village located in the southwestern branch of the canyon. Tourists are welcome at the protected reservation, but it takes a rugged 8-mile hike or horseback ride, unless you can snag a helicopter.
Havasupai means “People of the Green Blue Waters” in reference to the four beautiful waterfalls to be found along the Havasu Creek. The waterfalls serve as the community’s water source. The 208 permanent residents get their mail via mule.
3. Oymyakon, Russia
If you’re a fan of extremes, you may want to put Oymyakon, Russia on your bucket list. This remote location is the coldest continually inhabited place on the planet, with average temperatures of -58 degrees. To get there, fly from Moscow to either Takutsk or Magadan, which will put you about 560 miles away. Then it’s a treacherous drive on the “Road of Bones” to Oymyakon.
There is no running water because everything is frozen, so be prepared to use an outhouse – quickly! It is impossible to grow crops in this climate, so typical meals include frozen fish, reindeer meat, and (get ready for this) ice cubes of horse blood with macaroni. Somewhere around 500 residents make their lives in this frozen locale, a place that experiences 21 hours a day of darkness.
4. Pitcairn Island, British Overseas Territory
You may be familiar with the story “Mutiny on the Bounty,” and if you are, you’ll recognize Pitcairn Island as the location settled in 1790 by the mutineers from that tale. There were earlier settlers, however, as the mutineers discovered the remains of a Polynesian establishment, including earthen ovens, burial sites, and stone gods.
Pitcairn Island is a British Overseas Territory located 3,300 miles from New Zealand, which plays the role of the island’s administrative headquarters. Today 50 people call Pitcairn their home. Tourists who undertake a 32-hour yacht ride visit regularly, but rarely does a new resident settle there.
5. Siwa Oasis, Egypt
Despite being the historically exciting location of Cleopatra’s Bath, the Siwa Oasis is not regularly visited because it is a 5-hour bus ride from Cairo. But the area’s isolation in the middle of the Western Desert has kept the residents’ Siwi language and Amazigh culture very well preserved.
If you can handle the bus ride, you will be rewarded with the chance to swim in Cleopatra’s Bath, a luxurious mineral spring, as well as sample delicious locally-grown olives and dates. There is an eco-lodge built of mud and salt available to house visitors.
6. Socotra Island, Yemen
Socotra Island is unusual in that it has 40,000 residents yet only built its first road in 2011. It is also home to 800 rare species of plants, some with such odd shapes that they look like they came from another planet. In fact, the unusual appearance of these plants, 1/3 of which cannot be found anywhere else on Earth, is evidence of life’s ability to adapt to the environment.
The island is located about 400 miles from the capital of Yemen and has a tropical desert climate. You can fly there from Sanaa.
7. Tristan da Cuhna
This remote island is volcanic, but that doesn’t stop about 258 people from calling it home. And there are many creature comforts to be found on Tristan da Cunha, including stores, schools, churches, and a hospital. There is no electrical grid, but residents do have gas generators for power.
The island was named by its discoverer, who gave the place his moniker but never actually set foot upon it. Today, the island is a British territory. To visit, you must plan carefully. It is a 1,732 mile boat ride from Cape Town, South Africa, and ships visit the island only 9 times per year.
8. Utqiagvik, Alaska (Barrow)
This frigid city has two names. Barrow was the name given in honor of Sir John Barrow, 2nd Secretary of the British Admiralty, though it is not clear why. But archeological evidence suggests that people have been living there since at least AD 500. The native people call the city Utqiagvik.
Despite the 3-month “warm” season consisting of temperatures around 36F (cold season averages 3F with 65 straight days of darkness), an impressive 4,429 people make their home in Utqiagvik. They heat their homes with natural gas and have water and sewer service, as well as phone, mail, radio, cable, and internet. There are hotels and restaurants. However, the city is only accessible via a 1 ½ hour plane ride from Anchorage.
9. La Rinconada, Peru
Located high in the Andes Mountains, La Rinconada is the kind of place you might like to say you’ve been, but you won’t want to linger long. At over 16,000 feet, it is the highest human habitation in the world. Visitors often experience symptoms of altitude sickness, including headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath.
About 50,000 people live there due to a gold rush in the early 2000s, but the majority live below the poverty line in a community with no amenities, infrastructure, or plumbing. There are no real roads, but a 6 hour ride from the closest city will get you close enough to hike up.
10. Bantam, Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The isolation of the Cocos Islands, located about 1,700 miles from Perth, Australia, has kept the traditional oral language and religious and cultural practices of the native Cocos Malay thriving. About 600 people call the islands their home.
But despite its isolation, the area also invites tourism. Residents are welcoming and have made efforts to provide activities like snorkeling, surfing, kitesurfing, and bird watching available to visitors. There are flights twice a week from Perth.
11. Changtang, Tibet
Though not quite as high as La Rinconada, Tibet’s Chantang is up there with an altitude range of 4,000 to 9,000 feet. Colloquially called “The Roof of the World,” this 990-mile stretch of plateau is inhabited only by nomadic people called the Changpa. Of course, a variety of wildlife also call the place home, especially snow leopards and yaks.
If you like the idea of roughing it in Chantang’s cold, arid climate, you can access the area via Leh Airport, Udhampur Railway Station, or in a vehicle from Manali or Srinagar. However, you’ll need a permit to enter, and those can cost several thousand dollars.
So where will you go first? Is a warm private island in your future, or do you plan to rough it in the frigid temps near the top of the world? The isolated life certainly has its charms, and we can understand why the residents of these 11 remote places are happy where they are.
Though you might not be ready to completely eschew the convenience of drive-through restaurants and smartphones, any one of these locations would make an educational and worthwhile vacation.