The 17 most isolated cities in the world

At times we all dream of getting away from it all. The hustle of the urban jungle, the stress, the noise, and pollution. In today’s globalized world that’s all about big cities and urbanization, we often forget how the world used to look like before the amazing technological advancement. Luckily, there are still some amazing, pristine spots on our planet that are almost untouched by human civilization. Each of the cities mentioned in this article is somehow cut-off from the rest of the world. Some of them are just hard to reach, others are geographically distant or simply isolated in a profound sense. Some of them feature tropical climate, while others- freezing Arctic temperatures or relentless deserts. Here are the 17 most isolated cities in the world that people call home.

17. Villa Las Estrellas, Antarctica

villa las estrellas
by SnowSwan CC by SA 3.0

Villa Las Estrellas is one of the rare civilian settlements in Antarctica. This island is under the jurisdiction of Chile and has all the components of an average small town. The small island town has a population of around 200 people that decreases even more during the winter months when the town looks like a completely abandoned place. However, this town isn’t only geographically isolated from the rest of the world. Internet access is practically inexistent except for the three computers in the local school.

16. Funafuti, Tuvalu

Funafuti

If it wasn’t for affordable air travel, no one would probably visit the capital of this small island nation. Funafuti is home to 6,000 residents and is basically a coal-filled with palm trees and surrounded by endless rolling seas. If you look at the map, Tuvalu looks like it’s just floating in the middle of nowhere. The nearest populated landmass is Fiji, 1,134 kilometers away. And Fiji is pretty remote itself, by the way. To get to a major city, you would have to fly to either New Zealand or Hawaii. That’s probably the main reason why Funafuti receives only 350 tourists a year: less than one every day!

15. Torshavn, Faroe Islands

torshavn

Located about halfway between Iceland and Norway, comfortably sitting in the North Sea, the Faroe Islands are a remote community of just under 50,000. Torshavn is the capital. The island is very scarcely populated and actually has more sheep than people. Flights from Copenhagen, Reykjavik, Edinburgh, and Bergen make the town relatively well-connected for its geographical location. However, the scarce population and endless countryside can make you feel like it’s the last place on Earth at times.

14. Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

nunavut

Iqaluit is the capital of the most remote region in Canada- Nunavut. Actually, it’s the only city in Nunavut so technically that makes it the capital. The town is located so far away north that it’s almost uninhabitable and you can barely see any trees. The only thing that makes this town connected to the rest of the world is a four-hour flight from Ottawa.

There aren’t any roads or railways so if it wasn’t for the airport, this surrounded-by-nothing town would be completely cut-off from the rest of the world. The town has very short summers and cold, long brutal winters. Iqaluit has approximately 7,200 residents. Most of them are native Inuit people and this is a great starting point for exploring the great northern wilderness of Canada.

13. Longyearbyen, Norway

Longyearbyen most isolated cities
The Norwegian town of Longyearbyen is actually closer to the North Pole than it is to Oslo. The arctic location makes Longyearbyen super-cold throughout the year. And during the winter the town sees long stretches of unbroken darkness. To avoid collapse when the ice beneath them starts melting, all houses in the city are built on stilts. Longyearbyen has 3000 inhabitants and approximately one-third of them are foreigners.

The community has a shockingly low crime rate, partially because of the fact that it’s illegal to live here without a job or a permanent address. Moreover, it’s also illegal to die there, because it’s too cold for bodies to decompose; something that caused a deadly disease outbreak in the past. Gun ownership is unusually high primarily to protect against the threat of polar bears. And the police enforced a law that anyone traveling outside of the city must carry a weapon and know how to use it.

12. Siwa Oasis, Egypt

Siwa is surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of dry Saharan desert, and the oasis can be reached only by road. The oasis is filled with idyllic palm groves and freshwater springs. Cell phone service and internet are not available and the community’s isolated location allowed the tribal Berber culture to remain intact throughout the years. In terms of time needed to reach, Siwa doesn’t appear remote; it’s less than 12 hours driving away from Cairo.

However, the idea of a 23,000 people town just thrown in the middle of the Sahara Desert sounds just fascinating. Even though it’s close to Cairo, Siwa really feels like another universe. This is one area where the weather conditions make it impossible for governments to control their own borders. If you step outside during the day you will see what am I talking about!

11. Hanga Roa, Easter Island

places to see before you die

Hanga Roa makes up for more than 90% of the population of Easter Island, famous for the large stone heads and the mystery surrounding them. The island is a part of Chile but it’s located more than 3000 kilometers away from the mainland. Its specific location between the two volcanoes Rano Kau and Maunga Terevaka gives you the feel like you’re at the end of the world. And the giant mysterious stone heads add to that feeling. The only way to reach the island is through its small airport or the two tiny ports of Hanga Roa Otai and Hanga Piko.

10. La Rinconada, Peru

la rinconada

La Rinconada is located deep in the great Peruvian Andes, comfortably sitting at 17,000 feet above sea level. This makes La Rinconada the highest human settlement on our planet. Water supply is a big problem in this small mountain town but even despite this, the town has a population of 50,000 people. Even though it’s located in Peru, the town has climate conditions that closely resemble of Greenland.

Fun fact: La Rinconada actually has its own gold mines located beneath the La Bella Durimiente glacier near the city.

9. Coober Pedy, Australia

Coober Pedy is a consequence of the revolutionization of Australia’s opal mining industry. 100 years ago a gemstone was discovered in the remote southern desert in the worst possible place to build a mining town. However, this wasn’t a problem for the local authorities; Coober Pedy was built underground and today has a population of around 2000 people and they have some underground shops, bars, and even churches. Today, Coober Pedy produces most of the world’s opal and nowadays it’s even turning into a popular tourist attraction. For more information, check out my article about things you can only do in Australia.

8. Oymyakon, Russia

oymyakon most isolated cities

Russia is worldwide-renowned for its super-cold weather and it sure takes a lot to be the coldest city in the country. The remote town of Oymyakon has temperatures averaging minus 60 degrees Celsius in the winter! This makes Omyyakon it the coldest inhabited area on the planet. Ironically, the name of the town means ‘unfrozen water’ but that’s because of the thermal springs surrounding the area.

However, despite its name, the ground in Oymyakon is actually frozen throughout most of the year. This makes indoor plumbing difficult and if you have a car you need to keep it on all the time or it will stop working. On the other hand, summers are completely different and even though very short, the temperatures rise up to 30 degrees Celsius. The city is surrounded by steeps and there’s no other town for miles to come that makes Oymyakon a perfect fit for this list.

7. Medog, Tibet

medog tibet most isolated cities

Hidden in the Tibetian Mountains, you’ll have to go through nearly-impassable terrain and horrible weather conditions. But at least there’s an actual road leading to the town, built in 2013. Medog’s founders sure chose the most peculiar place to build a city. The city is technically located in a valley but it’s completely surrounded by towering mountains from all sides. This makes the town a perfect hiding place for criminals running away from the authorities.

And yeah, if you get hurt or ill, good luck getting to the hospital! Especially before the road was open it wasn’t a strange thing to see people dying from a simple thing like an infected cut. But even today, when there is a road, it’s only accessible 7 months in the year due to difficult weather conditions.

6. Urumqi, China

most isolated cities in the world

Urumqi in China is the furthest city away from the coastline in the world. This small town is 2,240km away from the sea. Located in China’s far northwestern, Urumqi is surrounded by desert and mountain passes from all sides. Not only is Urumqi geographically remote from the rest of China but it’s also culturally distinct. People here are mostly Muslim, all board signs appear in Arabic, and they aren’t very fond of Beijing and the Han Chinese.

This often results in riots that take a lot of casualties. Even though it’s remote, the small town is an outpost on the legendary Silk Road. This makes the city a transport hub for people traveling around Central Asia. That means Urumqi even more interesting; it’s like a big bus station located in one of the most remote places on Earth!

5. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia

petropavlovsk

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is a city of 180,000 situated on an extremely cold, storm-lashed Kamchatkan Peninsula. It’s really a wonder how people actually manage to survive here, surrounded by volcanoes and impassable mountains. The only way to reach this city is the local airport via a tiny plane. Additionally, there’s no other community close to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky because, well, it’s practically impossible to build a settlement on this hostile stretch of land. The closest significant capital is Juneau in Alaska. Moscow is 4,000 miles away and it’s literally easier for locals to visit North Korea than their own capital!

4. Tristan Da Cunha

Tristan Da Cunha
by Yagerq/ Creative Commons

This village in the South Atlantic is one of the most isolated communities on our planet. The nearest settlement is 1243 miles away! Tristan Da Cunha was named after Tristan Da Cunha, the Portuguese sailor who discovered the island. However, today the town is referred to as simply ‘The Settlement’ by its 300 residents. I know this is going to sound funny but the quickest way to get there is taking a six-day boat ride from Cape Town. That’s 1500 miles to the east!

The island has vibrant wildlife and also hosts an active volcano. Interestingly, in 1961, this volcano erupted and the population had to be evacuated but not to South Africa but to Great Britain because the island is formally a British territory. Fortunately, the damage was minimal and residents could return to their normal lives a couple of years later.

3. Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

ittoqqortoormiit greenland

The whole country of Greenland is pretty remote as a whole but Ittoqqortoormiit on the eastern coast is definitely the most isolated town in the country. Ittoqqortoormiit has 450 residents, only one grocery store and hunting and fishing are still a way of life among locals. Once you arrive, getting anywhere else will be a challenge: Greenland is practically one gigantic piece of ice with challenging weather and roads are basically non-existent. If you wander out of the town in any direction you’ll soon find yourself lost in Greenland’s endless wilderness of ice.

2. Iquitos, Peru

iquitos most isolated cities in the world

Buried deep inside the Amazon jungle, Iquitos is surrounded by hundreds of miles of inaccessible rain-forests. It’s so deep in the jungle that it will take you around four days of boat riding to reach civilization. Iquitos only has one single outward road which dead-ends in the only neighboring settlement 65 miles away. With 400,000 residents, Iquitos is the largest city on the planet that’s not connected to the outside world by road.

People here have to import everything, which makes the price of everything sky-high, at least for Peruvian standards. If you somehow end up here, you better pray that the only airport connecting this city to Lima doesn’t get closed down due to weather conditions. It would take you forever to go back to civilization!

1. Yakutsk, Russia

yakutsk
by Степанов СлаваCC by 4.0

Yakutsk is the capital of the Yakutia region in Siberia. The region covers more than one million square miles but it’s home to less than a million people. This means there’s only one resident per square mile on average! The region is divided into multiple administration centers the size of an average US state and many of these only contain one inhabited village.

Needless to say, getting to Yakutsk is certainly a mission impossible. Interestingly, the only road leading to Yakutsk is only opened in winter. Yes, in the winter when the rivers completely freeze. Furthermore, Yakutsk is not connected via railway and the only alternative option to reach is via river but that’s only possible in the summer.

Because of its location, Yakutsk used to host a classic Soviet prison and it’s easy to see why. In a warm winter, the temperature drops to -30 Celsius at best with -50 Celsius temperatures being completely normal. Finally, check out this article if you would like to discover more hidden gems in Russia.

Did you like this article? Then, you should also check out my list of the most haunted islands around the world. Do you think I didn’t mention some places that are worth mentioning? Let me know in the comments below!

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23 thoughts on “The 17 most isolated cities in the world”

  1. Wow. I dig getting away from it all. But this is a bit much LOL. My wife visited Iquitos for some Peruvian healing stuff about 6 years ago. She said it was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by jungle and noted the accessibility thing. Also said they saw jaguar footprints on the grounds a few years prior. I’d love to visit.

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Hi Bryan. Greenland has sovereignty over many aspects of its policy but it still is a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. I referred to it as a separate entity because it’s far away from the mainland (and actually much bigger than the mainland) and it has people with distinct characteristics and culture.

      Reply
  2. I wouldn’t mind visiting Coober Pedy provided they have a good cafe or Coffee supplies from Melbourne lol. If I get good coffee i can survive anywhere 🙂

    Reply
  3. Such an intriguing post. Where do you get all these gems of information from? 😀
    Funafuti is somewhere I really want to go if it is safe. So surprising to see that in the most famous tourist destinations like Australia there can be cities which are so inaccessible

    Reply
  4. Interesting post, have you been to all of these places? I’ve visited two – Coober Pedy and Iquitos. Now I’m tempted to visit the rest!!

    Reply
  5. This is quite an interesting list. I have never thought of places like this as India has many small villages. I went to one of about 150 families in Himachal Pradesh where people live in a time when words mattered and life was simple. But I wish I get to see one or two from this list, especially in Peru.

    Reply
  6. Most of these places have extreme weather in common, so understandably less people live there. Pretty interesting that some survive because of a certain company or business. Coober Pedy has solved it by moving the town underground. While some of the big cities have underground tunnels and businesses (Houston and Montreal come to mind), I didn’t know there were entire underground cities! I wonder if Tuvalu receives some of the ships that carry cargo and passengers.

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  7. In today’s times, it was a total surprise to know that there are still isolated cities in the world. When you highlighted the Villa Las Estrellas in Antarctica, I got reminded of our experience in Barrow, Alaska. Siwa Oasis in Egypt looks a place straight out of ancient movie scene and I got fascinated to see it. Large stone heads at Hanga Roa are quite iconic. Did not know that La Rinconada in Peru the highest human settlement. While these are the most isolated cities in the world, each of them has something so unique and would be worth to visit them.

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