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The most remote places to visit

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

Whether you seek wintery realms at the bottom of the earth, islands lost in time and separated from the mainland by thousands of miles of calming deep blue sea, or solitary experiences that you can, with some preparation, drive to, these are some of the remotest destinations on earth where solitude is a way of life.

Antarctica

There are few places on earth where one can experience nature without the stamp of a civilisation. But Antarctica is one such place. It is an evolving landscape of vast wintery towers, giant islands with frozen lakes, collisions of ice and snow against the most impossibly blue water. It is home to whales, penguins and seals but the only light each night comes from a sky punctuated by the stars of the Milky Way and painted with the technicolour phantasmagoria of light that is the Aurora Australis — the southern lights. It is a pure enchantment.

There are a handful of entrances to Antarctica — mostly by chartered flight from Punta Arenas in Chile or ships crossing the Drake Passage, of which the latter is by far the most alluring. Expeditions ran by National Geographic Expeditions are fascinating, with opportunities to learn from seasoned explorers while cruising from Uruguay via the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island before sailing into the Antarctic Peninsula.  

Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

Motuo, Tibet

Surrounded by snowy peaks piercing fluffy clouds and steep ravines lush with lilies, azaleas and orchids, the remote county of Motuo has long been a pilgrimage for adventurous travellers seeking out one of the world’s hardest to reach destinations. As the lowest area in the Tibet Plateau, Motuo’s climate is surprisingly subtropical, which means plenty of rainfall and delightful spring days, though the mountains that separate it from the outside world act as an almost impenetrable halo, always capped with snow and striking from within the incredibly well preserved ecological landscape of forests, alpine lakes and surging waterfalls.

There are two main routes to Motuo. The traditional hikes are best but can be a little treacherous, leading hikers through the frozen Himalayas, with stunning mountain views and a crossing over a heart-wrenching suspension bridge — hiking from Pai and stopping at various villages along the way remains the most popular option. Alternatively, the Motuo Highway that traverses forests, tunnels and bridges before eventually connecting to the national road network offers a more accessible route and an equally beautiful one.

Decorated white tibetan yak

Isla de Pascua, Chile

Mysterious Isla de Pascua — known in English as Easter Island — is 1289 miles away from Pitcairn Island (another very remote island) and 2182 miles away from the coast of mainland Chile. Travelling there means disconnecting from modernity and connecting to the ancient moai — the stone heads (and bodies) synonymous with Easter Island — as one traverses the three volcanoes that make up the island’s landmass, white sand beaches and a stunning if slightly alienesque topography of gently rolling shamrock-coloured hills that are adorned by hundreds of moai but not a single tree.

The only way to reach the island currently is by air with LATAM from Santiago, Chile but hold out until 2021, and it’ll be possible to fly with Four Seasons on their new private jet, on a 24-day tour of the ancient world.

Anakena Beach in Easter Island

The Blue Eye Spring, Albania

The Albanian Riviera may not have the style and fame of the French, but with its stretches of white sand beaches and pretty coastal towns, it sure has the looks. But a short drive away, hidden within the rustic, barely touched inland, there’s a rare almost dreamlike natural phenomenon bubbling from the ground: the Blue Eye spring. The water here is so ethereal. The centre, where the underground spring bubbles up, is cast in a magical dark blue, while waves of turquoise and emerald greens surround it lending it the appearance of a giant blue eye.

The route to the Blue Eye Spring is short enough if you start at Saranda but its remote location isn’t well signposted (though things have improved in recent years to the point that there’s now even a restaurant) and the only route is by road. The turn off for the spring is about halfway between Saranda and Gjirokastaand, and it’s marked by a sign that points to a dirt road. Head down the road to find the solitary guard who takes a small entry fee. 

Blue Eye (water spring)

St Helena

Napoleon died six years into his exile on St Helena. And while his body was eventually relocated to Paris, his nameless tomb sits there still. It’s there, where a quiet “Moment de Memoire” is held every year on the anniversary of his death below lush mountaintops lost 1200 miles southwest of the coast of Africa, and 3500 miles east of the coast of Brazil.

The solemnity of Napoleon’s story is perhaps in contrast with the ideals of travel and even the chirpy British image that St Helena cultivates for itself, but it is also emblematic of the island outpost. This is the United Kingdom in extreme isolation, lost at sea and in time, a celebration of past victories and overt Britishness where images of the Queen hang in most hotels, where the internet almost doesn’t exist and whose most notable resident is a very old and very large tortoise called Jonathan. But it’s also pretty, with mountain trails along the peak of an extinct volcano, lush foliage and stark desert-like landscapes, all with some of the most devastatingly beautiful sea views available anywhere in the world.

Getting to St Helena used to be an interesting experience. A five-night cruise from Cape Town aboard the charming RMS Saint Helena for days of games with the crew and a very particular brand of old-world elegance — with afternoon tea on deck and cocktails with the captain amongst the most notable pursuits available. But now there’s an airport, infamous for issues with wind shear, construction delays and daring landings — that at the time of construction only four pilots were qualified to deal with — leading to the epithet “the most useless airport in the world”. The easiest route to the island is to fly from Johannesburg on a Saturday or if you fly in the winter, a Tuesday from Cape Town — both with Airlink. 

Saint Helena Island

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