What are Some of the World's Most Isolated Places?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

The world has a surface area of about 197 million square miles (510 million square kilometers), and a population (as of 2011) of about 6.9 billion. This leads to an average global population density of about 35 per square mile (13 per sq km), but in practice, people are highly concentrated in cities and around arable land, making the average population density for many areas much less. Some gigantic regions, such as the Sahara Desert, Siberia, and Greenland, only harbor a few thousand people every 100,000 square miles (258,999 sq km). Some of the world's most isolated places are very cold or very dry, but not necessarily.

Cape Town, South Africa is the nearest major city.
Cape Town, South Africa is the nearest major city.

For starters, the most isolated place in the entire world is likely Antarctica. The continent is 5.4 million square miles (14 million sq km), and is inhabited by about 4,000 research scientists in the summer and 1,000 in the winter. There are just over 25 research stations in the Antarctic, all but a few located within a hundred miles of the coast. Aside from the Amundsen-Scott research station at the South Pole, the Antarctic interior is essentially empty. This makes sense — here at the ends of the Earth, rain barely ever falls, the sun doesn't shine for weeks or months on end, and temperatures drop as low as −130°F (−90°C).

Tristan de Cunha, which is located in the South Atlantic halfway between Brazil and South Africa, is the most remote archipelago on Earth.
Tristan de Cunha, which is located in the South Atlantic halfway between Brazil and South Africa, is the most remote archipelago on Earth.

Another of the world's most isolated places is Tristan da Cunha, the most remote archipelago on Earth, 1,750 miles (2,816 km) west of South Africa. Tristan da Cunha is located in the south Atlantic, about halfway between southern Brazil and South Africa. With a population of just over 250 people, Tristan da Cunha's economy is based on its lobster factory and the sales of stamps and coins to collectors overseas. The closest major city, Cape Town, is a three-hour flight away. Due to its geography, the South Atlantic has very few islands.

When it comes to the most isolated places on the main inhabited continents, some of the top contenders are Koryak Okrug, in far east Siberia, with a population density of only 0.2 people per square mile (0.1 people per square kilometer), certain parts of Northern Siberia, the West Australian Desert, and Northwest Canada. In some of these areas, it would be possible to detonate an atomic bomb in plain sight, and not a single person would notice. In some of the most isolated areas, the population density fails to convey the true loneliness of the area, as most of the population is clustered in towns and villages separated by hundreds of miles (100 miles = 161 km).

Siberia, where the Soviet Union established gulags, is one of the most isolated places in the world.
Siberia, where the Soviet Union established gulags, is one of the most isolated places in the world.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments


well promotion is what it's all about. however I'll likely never visit hawaii. my great-aunts went there and hated it. i laughed a bit when i heard they were going. They would have better time, at their age, in a tourist trap or las vegas. all seven went. funny, huh?


So in point of fact, this article is a means to promote tourism to Hawaii!

I live in a fairly isolated spot. But not because it's sparsely populated, but because of inaccessibility to neighbours. Perhaps the term “remote” has other facets.


Anon111440: According to the dictionary, "isolated" means "far away from other places". Hawaii, therefore, is isolated. Get your information straight before you call someone "mental".


Describe my mental acuity as having above average density, but I cannot make sense of a statement in the last paragraph; "In some of these areas, it would be possible to detonate an atomic bomb in plain sight, and not a single person would notice." All I can respond with is ????


So far, the only "anon" here is asking if everyone else is mental.


Are you all mental? Hawaii is not isolated. The mere fact that there are regular flights to and from the islands should tell you that.

Pitcairn Island is the most isolated inhabited part of the world. You have to take a 30 hour boat ride to get there. You can't take a floating plane. It is simply out there.

If you can jump on a six hour flight and arrive to a place full of resorts, how is it more isolated than being crammed in a boat for 30 hours and landing on an island two miles long with only 50 people?


@ PelesTears - I can attest to the fact that Hawaii is the most isolated place on earth. I moved to the Big Island from Los Angeles with my family. It was great, but within a year we were all getting island fever. I can describe it as a sort of homesickness. The change in pace from the bright lights and twenty four hour accessibility that is LA to the "everything is closed by seven" lifestyle that was/is Hawaii began to drag on us.

At a certain point it really hits you; that you are living on a small island that you can circle by car in a day. It takes a considerable amount of cash and at least six hours flight to reach any mainland. Even a sense of disconnect from the real world seems to sweep over you; making you almost feel like your marooned.

From what I know this is often the make or break moment for people who move to Hawaii. We ended up staying though, and those were some of the best years of my life. The only reason we ended up leaving was because of health reasons. The volcanic vog can wreak havoc on those suffering from asthma.


@ PelesTears - I would also like to add that Hawaii has some of the world’s most varied climates. The islands have 11 of the 13 climate zones, making the island chain the perfect place for any type of weather.

Some of the weather on the Big Island’s Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea Peaks can be pretty brutal. Snow, wind chill and ice are all factors at the highest elevations. There are even huge variations in the humidity level between the windward and leeward sides of the islands.

I too know from living on the big island that you can experience tropical forests and beaches on one side of the island, and scoot over to the next to watch the Ironman triathlon in the desert. Although the islands may be the most isolated place on Earth, there certainly is enough climate variability that makes it seem not so bad.


Believe it or not, Hawaii is actually the most isolated population center on the planet. The islands are over 2,300 miles from the closest land mass (California). I used to live on the Big Island, and this is one of the facts that the islands pride themselves on. This also makes the islands some of the most ecologically isolated places on the planet. I once learned that most of the species on the island are about 100,000 years behind any other species (as far as evolution is concerned).

Most of the native species on the islands are unique; being found in no other place on earth. There are also no native reptiles, or large mammals. You also won’t be able to find fatally poisonous land animals or insects on the entire island. Most of the species on the islands never evolved with these defense mechanisms because there was little need.

The islands are some of the only places on earth where you will find twenty foot tall tree ferns, or touch sensitive plants (Actually called the Mimosa Pudica, but commonly called the touch-me-not). If you every go wandering through the rain forests of Hawaii, it is almost like you are in a Jurassic world. It is absolutely unbelievable.

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