The 10 Most Desolate Places on Earth

Not really a people person? These ten places might be your paradise.


The Kerguelen Islands – also known as Desolation Islands – have no original inhabitants. Located in the southern Indian Ocean, it’s surrounded by 300 other tiny uninhabited islands and is a six-day boat journey from the first sign of civilization on a tiny island off Madagascar. The only people who populate the island are French researchers and scientists; there are between 50 and 100 on the island at any given time. The harsh, freezing climate and icy glaciers covering the main island make it inhospitable for tourists.


Pitcairn Island. This UK territory is so remote that only 50 hardy souls live there; they’re all the direct descendants of the mutineers from the HMS Bounty and their Tahitian companions who arrived in 1790.The population is dying out and the government is attempting to lure new immigrants to the island. There is much to like: it is thousands of miles from civilization, exceptionally beautiful with green hills and clear blue water.


Devon Island in Canada’s Nunavut Territory is the largest uninhabited island on the planet with a landscape so cold, rocky and isolated that scientists have spent two decades there pretending it’s Mars. You’ll pretty much feel as far away as Mars; the nearest population is 229 people 50 miles away on Cornwallis Island.


Physically speaking, Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited location on earth, lying 1,200 miles from the nearest inhabited island, Saint Helena and 1,500 miles to the nearest continental land, South Africa. With only 262 permanent inhabitants, you’re more likely to see one of the many rockhopper penguins or albatross than you are another person.


Ittoqqortoormiit, located on the eastern shore of Greenland, is home to a myriad of wildlife, such as seals, walruses, narwhals, polar bears, and Arctic foxes, that far outnumber the 450 residents of this cold settlement. There is one grocery store, but there are a few tourist amenities, such as a place to rent a kayak, snowmobile, or a dog-sled, and there are some wonderful hot springs to visit.


Officially the most remote place on earth is Chang Tang, Tibet. In 2009, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre named the Tibetan Plateau as the world’s most remote place. It would take three weeks to get to any city with a detectable population – Lhasa or Korla. You could drive one day, and then would have to walk the other 20 days. Rough terrain, freezing temperatures, and the utter desolation lend a definite air of “do not disturb”.


Point Nemo: Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility is the one place on this list you can’t visit. It is the place in the ocean that is farthest from land. It lies in the South Pacific Ocean, 1,670 miles from the nearest island (Ducie Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands). It is the deadest place in the entire ocean; no nutrients reach the area and being so far from land, it receives no run-off from coastal waters. Reaching it by boat is extremely challenging but if you somehow did it, you could literally say you were in the middle of nowhere.


At 2,000 miles off the Chilean coast, Easter Island is comparatively more accessible than many of the places on this list but none can make you feel that total emptiness as much as this tiny rock in the middle of the southeastern Pacific Island. The Maoi – the giant heads that instantly come to mind – increase that sense of desolation because they are facing away from the ocean. They’re not greeting you; they’re telling you to leave. The island is inhabited by about 6,000 people and the economy these days is mostly spurred by tourism.


Bouvet Island has the distinction of being the most remote island in the world, a desolate, ice-covered ghost of mountain hovering over frozen deep black waters. The island is a dependency of Norway and is largely uninhabited by humans, though it’s lousy with southern elephant seals and Antarctic fur seals. Humpback whales and killer whales are often spotted in the surrounding waters too. If you decide to go, there is one amenity for humans though: the top-level country code domain for the island is .bv. It isn’t in use because nobody is there. Just flat, infinite black water and the perpetual ice that grows deeper year after year, separating it ever further from humanity.


International Space Station. There can be nothing more desolate than floating in a tiny vessel in the vast nothingness of space, looking out at the earth that is your home, untouchable and beautiful from so far away. The solitude and ache for home must be unparalleled, and the intrepid souls who venture so far from home not knowing the fates that await them are heroes.

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