John Donne once said than “no man is an island entire of itself.” But you know what is an island? An island.
The word itself conjures a degree of isolation; long white beaches, resorts with swim-up bars; a sleepy paradise set in the sea.
Of course, not all islands are like this. Some are far removed from the creature comforts we so much enjoy. Some challenge us, dare us to conquer them.
Welcome to the 25 most remote islands in the world.
Gunkanjima, Hashima Island, or ‘Battleship Island,’ is an abandoned fortress-like island off the coast of Nagasaki in Japan. Once densely populated, it has been uninhabited for over 40 years and now remains as a complete ghost town.
Blessed with rich coal deposits underfoot, the island was populated with employees of theMitsubishi Corporation during the industrial revolution. Ten-storey apartment blocks and massive concrete buildings were erected to house the workers and a community thrived. It became known as ‘Midori nashi Shima,’ the island without green. It had the highest population density in the world until the last piece of coal was plucked from the caverns and the island lost its purpose.
Everyone left, nature took back what was hers, and green returned once again. The island is accessible through organised tours and was used as a shooting location in the James Bond movie Skyfall.
2. Easter Island
Easter Island is an intriguing place off the coast of Chile. It’s completely isolated and surrounded by masses of empty ocean on all sides. The island’s most curious inhabitants are its giant Maoi heads, massive monuments carved from volcanic rock that dot the landscape from centre to shore. The biggest of all is El Gigante, which stands nearly 72 feet tall.
They were built by the Rapanui people, early inhabitants of the island, and there are many theories as to how they built and transported these massive sculptures between 1250 and 1500 CE. No trees grow on the island, as the early civilizations chopped them all down to build canoes and eventually stranded themselves here.
Nowadays, less than 2,000 people live on Easter Island, but the history and mystery of the place has inspired great fascination.
3. Christmas Island
There are actually two remote destinations in the world called Christmas Island, so named for the day on which they were discovered. We’re focusing on the one in the middle of the Indian ocean near Java. Known less for Santa Claus and more for its giant red crabs, the island is surrounded by spectacular reefs for diving and snorkelling. Every year millions of tiny baby red crabs invade the island and migrate down to the oceans. It happens around October or November as a sort of… early Christmas present.
4. Deception Island
Where is the most unlikely place for a volcano? Amid the ice and snow of Antarctica, of course. Deception Island, in the South Shetland archipelago, is one of only two volcanoes in Antarctica.
The frozen continent is isolated enough on its own, but Deception Island is isolation within isolation. What is most curious about the island is that it is actually the caldera or crater of an active volcano. In 1967 and 1969 it erupted, damaging local science stations in the area. The central caldera was flooded by the sea, creating a large bay now known as Port Foster. Rather than creating masses of destructive and fiery lava, Deception Island’s volcano melts the glaciers that cover half the island, releasing copious amounts of steam.
It’s an odd place to build a business, but tourists love to come and bathe in the hot springs powered by the volcano.
5. Rabbit Island
Japan has its fair share of remote islands and surprisingly many of them are covered in things you wouldn’t expect — furry, nimble creatures being one of them.
Okunoshima or ‘rabbit island’ off the coast of Hiroshima is covered from top to bottom in rabbits. There was once an old poison gas factory at the centre of the islands, where the cute creatures were used as test subjects. One day, children from the nearby coast came to Okunoshima, set all the rabbits free, and blew the cover on the island’s secret gas factory. Since then, the rabbits have done what rabbits do best — reproduce — covering every inch of the island in bunny cuteness.
You can hop a ferry over to the island and hang out with our cotton-tailed friends, but remember to bring the biggest pack of lettuce you can carry.
6. Alcatraz Island
San Francisco’s Bay area is well-known for the infamous island that lies out in the bay — Alcatraz. Operating as an offshore prison, the state’s most dangerous criminals were once restrained behind its walls, their screams disappearing faintly into the ocean air. It was in operation for 29 years and supposedly not a single prisoner ever escaped its watery grip — though over the years people have claimed sightings of supposed escapees. The 1962 escape inspired the plot of the movie Birdman of Alcatraz, starring Burt Lancaster. Alcatraz was also the inspiration for Azkaban in Harry Potter, although it is unknown if the real thing ever housed any wizards.
7. Ascension Island
This remote and desolate volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic was shaped by Darwin, Hooker, and the Royal Navy. Ascension Island is a tiny chunk of land between South America and Africa. It is only accessible by army charter planes and has only been permanently inhabited since 1815 when the British Royal Navy commandeered its use as a place of exile.
It became a rest spot for historians like Charles Darwin and Joseph Dalton Hooker, who subsequently turned it into an ecological experiment. Once upon a time, trees were shipped in to turn the island into a liveable oasis; now the major import is groceries to feed the islanders. It has few visitors, but those who do make the trip can enjoy the ‘world’s worst’ golf course according to the island’s own website, as well as fishing and hiking.
As a rite of passage, many travellers dump a can of paint on a rock in the middle of the island before they leave. If you do this, it is said you will never return to Ascension Island.
8. Assateague Island
Assateague Island off the coast of Maryland is a 37-mile stretch of glorious sand. There are no people living here, but an infinitely more charming group of citizens: a herd of wild ponies. They have flourished here for hundreds of years, living of the island’s fresh greenery and water from ponds. Local legend suggests that the feral equines are the ancestors of the only survivors of a shipwreck that happened off the coast hundreds of years before. The shipwreck has never been found, but archaeologists believe it may lie buried under metres of sand.
9. Kerguelen Islands
The Kerguelen Islands form an archipelago in the middle of the South Indian Ocean, more than 2,000 miles away from civilization and 3,299 miles from the nearest coast of Madagascar. They’re owned by France, and dubbed the ominous ‘desolation islands.’ The only inhabitants here are scientists, engineers, and researchers, of which there are between 45 and 100. Its martian landscape is made up of a number of separate land masses which stretch over 100 miles and are almost entirely covered in glaciers. The only way to access them is by ship, and it’s probably not the most luxurious of holiday destinations.
10. Bouvet Island
This remote volcanic cay is known as ‘the loneliest place on earth.’ Halfway between South Africa and Antarctica, the Bouvet Island is the most remote place in the world. It’s more than 1,400 miles away from Tristan da Cunha, which is incidentally the most remote inhabited place in the world. It’s an absolute paradise for seals, seabirds and penguins, as well as a diverse array of flora, but anyone trying to set foot here would have a difficult time scaling the towering glacial cliffs.
11. Curral Velho
Curral Velho isn’t the name of the island, but of a fishing village on the isle of Boa Vista. Boa Vista is the third largest island in the Cape Verde chain off the west coast of Africa. But life wasn’t easy for the settlers in Curra Velho. Freshwater was hard to come by and navigation around the island was tricky. After a pirate attack the residents eventually moved their settlement to a different site and Curra Velho was left abandoned.
In the absence of humans, the sea creatures moved back in, laying their eggs in the sand. Environmental protection has stepped up in the area to protect the wildlife, who have called the island home for much longer than people ever have.
Nauru in French Polynesia is ominously known as ‘the country that ate itself.’ Nauru was basically once a massive pile of bird poop in the middle of the ocean. Since bird droppings make great fertilizer, excavation began, but after a hundred years of lucrative income the reserves of excrement ran out and the economy collapsed.
13. Ambrym Island
You’re more likely to find ash and sulphur than luxury accommodation on this little-known volcanic island in Vanuatu. But a pair of active volcanoes are the jewels in the crown in this little islet. Hike 4- 6 hours through the tropical forest, camping in huts built by the locals and eating the local catch, on your way to volcanoes Maroum and Benbo. If you’re so inclined, dropping a white chicken into the roaring crater of Maroum banishes bad luck for the launcher — but not so much the poor chicken.
14. Poço da Pedreira
Poço da Pedreira is part of Santa Maria, one of the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. Off the beaten track, an old quarry has been transformed by rainwater into a picturesque pond. Hiking up to the platform beside sheer red stone cliffs rewards you with picturesque views of the valley and a park bench to rest your limbs. Carry on up a pedestrian route at the back of the quarry and you’ll be graced with a bird’s eye view of the calm pond from the top.
15. Great Pacific Trash Island
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California is the abominable island-sized pile of plastic accumulated in the Pacific ocean. Of the 5 formidable collections of garbage in the Earth’s oceans, this one is the largest. The island is enormous, essentially equaling twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. Microplastic concentration in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is continuing to increase, and unless we wish to live on a planet made entirely of plastic with no sea life to speak of, we have to make a change immediately.
Definitely not a tourist destination.’
16. Swan Islands
The Swan Islands off the coast of Honduras are said to be some of the most beautiful in the world. They are home to a small military squad, but also an unexpected animal. Not a swan but a cow who is said to roam the island. The cows that used to inhabit the smaller island were thought to be extinct, but signs of a single cow and her calf remain as fresh tracks turn up every morning. the mystery is that no one has ever seen her.
17. Bear Island
Bear Island is so bleak that no people live there apart from the folk who man the weather station. At the southern end of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, the black sands and sheer cliffs make this a barren wasteland for human habitation. It is, however, a protected nature reserve.
18. Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha, sitting in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Africa, self-identifies as the ‘remotest island.’ Belonging to the United Kingdom, its capital is called Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, but the name is about the only thing it has in common with Edinburgh.
Only 29 people battle the harsh climate and changing weather on Tristan da Cunha, but at least they can order packages from Amazon. The isle’s residents have a British postcode, but it’s likely there’s a postman on a street somewhere in Scotland scratching his head over a mysterious delivery. If you want to try sending the inhabitants something delightful the postcode is TDCU 1ZZ.
19. Raoul Island
This active volcanic island that sees regular earthquakes and even cyclones is a test of endurance for the volunteers and conservationists who live here for up to 6 months at a time. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation selects a handful of people and regularly sends manuals and preservation kits for the brave souls who live and work in the steep and rugged terrain that makes up most of the island. The rewards are plenty, however, as the wildlife here is fascinating. Tui, parakeets and petrel roam the skies while the snorkelling is out of this world.
20. Macquarie Island
There are never more than 40 people living on Macquarie Island, but there are a hundred times that number of penguins. The island is out to sea halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica, controlled by the Tasmanian government. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997. During the nesting season, the entire world population of royal penguins gather on its shores.
21. St. George Island
Alaska is pretty remote in itself, so the islands surrounding it are some of the most isolated places in the world. St. George Island, part of the Pribilof Islands has a mere population of 112. The people are far outnumbered by the millions of seabirds and hordes of roaring seals that call the place home. It’s also home to over 75% of the known population of red-legged kittiwakes, a type of gull.
The tiny island of Niue (pronounced “new-ay”) is in the middle of the South Pacific and 2,400 miles from New Zealand with whom it has free association. Commonly referred to as ‘The Rock,’ this beautiful island is packed with limestone caves and surrounded by coral reef with some of the clearest waters on the planet — as deep as 100m. Niue has just 1,300 inhabitants, but each one of them enjoys free Wifi, and Pokemon cards are legal tender. The island aims to be fully organic by 2020 and 80% renewable by 2025. Sounds like a dream come true.
23. Floreana Island
Floreana Island forms part of the Galapagos archipelago and is teeming with wildlife. Located 600 miles from the mainland of Ecuador, Floreana Island is a volcanic rock with less than 100 inhabitants living permanently on its shores. It’s a popular diving and snorkelling spot and an absolute haven for flamingos, giant tortoises, iguanas, and sea turtles.
24. Novaya Zemlya
Novaya Zemlya, or ‘New Land,’ is made up of two Arctic islands along Russia’s northwestern coast. Between 1954 and 1990, Novaya Zemlya was the chosen site for over 100 Cold War nuclear tests. These included the 1961 detonation of the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear blast ever produced by humans. The mountainous terrain is as inhospitable as it is remote, and the temperature drops to below freezing for the majority of the year. However, Novaya Zemlya is one of the only known habitats of the Arctic Fox.
25. Cocos Island
This tiny island off the coast of Costa Rica was once the perfect place for pirates. Surrounded by shark-infested waters and rumoured to have hordes of buried treasure, the Cocos are great for a spot for relaxing and spending a night offshore on your boat (overnight stays on the island are prohibited).
A few park rangers are the only residents, but this UNESCO spot can be explored with a guide. Tropical birds, lush rainforests, and an abundance of waterfalls are there to greet you. Diving around the reefs is the best sport, as the waters are teeming with a plethora of curious sea creatures including hammerhead sharks, manta rays, dolphins, whale sharks, reef sharks, orcas, and humpback whales.