If you ever came across our blog before, you probably know that Passport Symphony focuses on off-the-beaten-track destinations and its content caters to travelers who like getting off the beaten track. However, there are some islands on our planet that give the word “off the beaten track” a new meaning. Yes, even in the 21st century and the peak of human civilization there are still some remote islands where few (or no) people tread. In this post, we’ll show you which are the 26 most isolated islands in the world.
Some of them are thousands of miles away from the nearest landmass, others are inhabited by tribes who are hostile towards visitors, and a few even have a climate so hostile that even getting there is a real challenge.
Tromelin, French Southern and Antarctic Lands
We start this list of the most isolated islands in the world with Tromelin, a beautiful tropical island, located around 600 kilometers north of Mauritius and 2,500 kilometers away from continental Africa. Officially, the island is a part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands but Mauritius also claims sovereignty over the island. At the moment of writing, the highest point of Tromelin sits at 7 meters above sea level and is threatened by the rising water levels of the ocean.
The island is a nesting ground for sea turtles, has facilities for scientific expeditions and a weather station, and is currently inhabited by 3 meteorologists who stay on the island.
Bear Island, Norway
Bjornoya, also known as Bear Island is the southernmost island of the remote archipelago of Svalbard. The island lies halfway between continental Europe and most of the other islands that make up the Svalbard archipelago (roughly 400 kilometers away from both landmasses). The island is famous for its divine nature which is why it was proclaimed as a nature reserve in 2002. Bear Island doesn’t have any airports and the only way to get there is by taking an individually chartered boat through the blistering cold Norwegian Sea. As you might imagine, this isn’t something most people are interested in and the majority of the maritime traffic to the island consists of research vessels.
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Christmas Island, Australia
According to legendary broadcaster and biologist, David Attenborough, Christmas Island is one of the world’s top nature experiences. Every year, at the start of the wet season, during the moon’s last quarter, the island hosts the annual red crab migration. The island is home to around 1,800 residents and most of its territory consists of the homonymous national park. Interestingly, Christmas Island is actually closer to the coast of Indonesia (370 kilometers) than the nearest point of mainland Australia (around 1,800 kilometers away).
Novaya Zemlya, Russia
If you look at the map, Novaya Zemlya isn’t very far from mainland Russia. In a sense of geographical remoteness, the island is only 400 kilometers away from the nearest coastal town of mainland Russia. However, the island’s harsh and inhospitable weather and the fact that the coastal mainland towns that lie near the island are quite remote themselves. Novaya Zemlya consists of two islands, simply called Severny (northern) and Yuzhny (southern) and the two furthest points of the islands are around 1,000 kilometers away.
The nearest airport to Novaya Zemlya is located in the city of Amderma which is separated from the island by 600 kilometers of blistering cold waters.
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North Sentinel Island, India
North Sentinel Island is one of 572 islands that make up the Andaman Chain in the Bay of Bengal. Technically, the island is a part of India but is inhabited by tribal Sentinelese people who want nothing to do with the modern world and are always very hostile towards outside visitors. The island is located roughly 450 kilometers away from the coast of Myanmar and around 1,300 kilometers away from Chennai, the nearest city in mainland India.
Deception Island, Antarctica
Located off the Antarctica coast and roughly 1,000 kilometers south of Argentina, Deception Island is one of the most isolated islands in the world. The island was inhabited until the 1960s when an active volcano erupted and today, the only living beings you can find there are members of research expeditions, people taking an Arctic cruise tour, and of course, adorable chinstrap penguins.
Norfolk Island, Australia
Norfolk Island was one of the rare islands of Australia that wasn’t colonized by European settlers in the 19th century simply because it was too far. The island lies in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and New Caledonia, roughly 1,400 kilometers east of Evans Head. Norfolk Island was originally settled by Polynesian tribes and then served as a convict penal settlement for over a century until it became an External Territory of Australia in 1914.
Ellesmere Island (Umingmak Nuna), Canada
Lying in the highest part of the Arctic, Ellesmere Island is a spectacular mountainous island inhabited by no more than 130 people. By area, this is the largest Canadian island but it’s more than 1,000 kilometers away from the nearest point of mainland Canada (the island is actually closer to Greenland). Most of its territory is covered by ice, snow, and treacherous passes, and getting there is a real challenge.
To get to one of the most isolated islands in the world, you have to fly from Ottawa to Iqaluit and from there, take a charter plane to Tanquary Fiord in the southern part of the island. On average, this whole journey will cost you around USD 8,000 but the spectacular nature of the island is totally worth it.
Coronation Island, Antarctica
Coronation Island is the largest of the South Orkney Islands, a group of islands in the Southern Ocean around 600 kilometers away from the northeastern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The island was discovered by American sealers in 1821 and because of its unique features, it was designated an Antarctic Specially Protected Area. Most of its land is covered by glacial ice with only small areas of ice-free terrain along the coast. The island is currently uninhabited.
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Zemlya Georga, Russia
When the most isolated islands in the world are the topic, we simply can’t forget about the Russian island of Zemlya Georga. The island was discovered by British explorer Frederick George Jackson who named the island after Prince George V. Zemlya Georga is the largest and longest island of the Franz Josef Archipelago. It’s located in the Arctic Circle, roughly 1,500 kilometers away from mainland Russia and around 2,000 kilometers away from Greenland.
This means that there’s not a single airport within 2,000-kilometer proximity and navigating the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean is always challenging. Getting to the island is almost a mission impossible but the raw fairytale-like natural beauty of the island dotted with bays, deep inlets, capes, large glaciers, and ice domes is surely worth the hassle.
Rat Islands, Alaska, USA
Rat Islands is the most remote archipelago in the United States. It’s so far from the coast, it’s actually closer to the Russian region of Kamchatka than it is to mainland Alaska. Because of its hostile environment, none of the islands are inhabited. The archipelago lies near the boundary of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, which is one of the most earthquake-prone parts of our planet.
Severnaya Zemlya, Russia
Severnaya Zemlya is another Russian archipelago in the Russian high Arctic, located near Siberia’s Taymyr Peninsula, between the Laptev Sea in the east and the Kara Sea in the west. The island is famous for being home to the largest glacier in Russia, the Academy of Sciences Glacier which is 724 meters long.
Until recent years, the archipelago was joined to Eurasia by ice that was blocking the northern passage of the Atlantic and the Pacific. However, in 2012, the permanent ice reached a record low and water started flowing to the south of the archipelago.
Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway
Speaking of the most isolated islands in the world, Spitsbergen is the largest and only populated island that’s a part of the Svalbard archipelago. The island lies in the Arctic Circle, 950 kilometers away from Norway and 830 kilometers away from Greenland. Most of the island is covered in snow and ice, and the island has one of the largest populations of polar bears. The main settlement of the island is the city of Longyearbyen which is one of the most isolated big cities in the world.
Macquarie Island, Australia
Situated around 1,000 kilometers away from New Zealand and 2,000 kilometers away from Australia, Macquarie Island is one of the most isolated islands in the world. The island is home to around 40 people and more than 3 million seabirds, including nearly a million penguins. Because of its incredible natural diversity and extraordinary wildlife, the island has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
South Georgia, British Overseas Territory
The island of South Georgia is a part of the British Overseas Territory and lies in the Atlantic Portion of the Southern Ocean, from where the nearest landmass is 2,700 kilometers away (on the southern coast of Argentina). The waters surrounding the island abound with animal life but the only people who stay on the island are members of research expeditions who stay in the British Antarctic Survey research station. In addition to being one of the most isolated islands in the world, South Georgia also has a very hostile climate which is probably the main reason why the island didn’t have any indigenous population until it was discovered in 1914.
Tuvalu is a remote country in the middle of the Pacific located around 3,400 kilometers away from Australia and around 4,000 kilometers away from Hawaii. This island might not be as isolated as some of the other islands on this list because there are some other Pacific islands in its proximity but the fact that it’s so hard to get there makes Tuvalu a perfect fit for this list. The only way to reach the island is by taking a flight from Fiji (which is also in the middle of nowhere) and there are only two flights per week.
Kiribati is an island nation in Oceania located in the heart of the Central Pacific, roughly 4,000 kilometers away from Australia, and 4,500 kilometers away from North America.
Straddling the equator and the 180th meridian, Kiribati is the world’s only country that’s situated in all four cardinal hemispheres. Due to its remoteness, getting to Kiribati can be quite challenging; the only two airlines to have direct flights to Kiribati are Fiji Airways and Nauru Airways (two other remote island nations).
Easter Island, Chile
Located around 3,500 kilometers off the coast of Chile, Easter Island is a small, triangular volcanic island in the South Pacific famous for the gigantic stone statues that we’ve all seen pictures of but know very little about. Despite being one of the most isolated islands in the world, Easter Island (or Hanga Roa) clearly had an ancient indigenous population that left some remarkable remnants of its civilization that make people scratch their heads even today. At the moment, the island is home to around 8,000 permanent residents and most of its territory is covered by Rapa Nui National Park, a site that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
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Diego Garcia, British Overseas Territory
Diego Garcia is a small island in the center of the Indian Ocean, located around 3,000 kilometers away from Madagascar and 3,800 kilometers away from Indonesia. It’s the most remote member of the Chagos Archipelago, the third most remote British overseas territory (keep reading to find out which are the other two). The island is located in the middle between Australia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and India which made it a perfect air and naval support base for the British military. The island was once home to around 1,000 residents, all of which were relocated when the island was turned into a military base in 1971.
Bouvet Island, Norway
Technically, Bouvet island is a Norwegian territory but the nearest landmasses to it are Antarctica (around 1,600 kilometers away) and South Africa (around 3,000 kilometers away). The entire island is a nature reserve which means the Norwegian government strictly restricts the number of visitors per year with special permits that are only given to research vessels. The island is entirely covered by a glacier and in the winters, the waters surrounding the island turn into drift ice. That’s why the island doesn’t have any ports or harbors and the only way to reach it is via helicopter.
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Nauru is another small island nation in the Pacific. It’s the third-smallest country and the least visited country in the world, only visited by 300-400 people per year on average. The island is a large phosphate mine with amazing beaches and breathtaking coral reefs but unfortunately, the island lost a lot of its natural beauty because of the massive mining activities that were carried out without much planning for the future.
Gambier Islands, French Polynesia
The Gambier Islands (not to be confused with Gamber Island in Canada) are a small, volcanic archipelago in the Pacific that’s around 6,000 kilometers away from Chile and around 5,000 kilometers away from New Zealand. The archipelago can only be reached via boat from the city of Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, another relatively isolated but much more famous island. Today, the island is home to around 1,500 indigenous residents, most of which live on the largest Mangareva Island.
Tristan da Cunha, British Overseas Territory
Tristan da Cunha is the southernmost point of the British overseas territory of St. Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. The island lies around 3,000 kilometers away from South Africa and 4,000 kilometers away from the nearest coast of South America. It’s named after the Portuguese sailor who discovered the island. Interestingly, since there is no significant infrastructure near the island, the quickest way to get there is by taking a six-day boat ride from the coast of South Africa.
Amsterdam Island, French Southern and Antarctic Lands
Located halfway between Madagascar, Australia, and Antarctica, Amsterdam Island is a part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands in the southern Indian Ocean. The island is inhabited by only 25 people who are a part of research groups studying biology, meteorology, and geomagnetism. The island is volcanic and has one active volcano although there aren’t any records of previous eruptions. The quickest way to get to the island is by taking a multi-day boat journey from Perth or Madagascar.
The Kerguelen Islands, French Southern, and Antarctic Lands
No list of the most isolated islands in the world can be complete without the most remote island of the French Southern and Arctic Land. Kerguelen islands are a group of windswept islands in the Indian Ocean filled with vast plains of tussock grasses, glaciers, and rocky outcrops. The islands are located around 4,000 kilometers away from Antarctica and around 5,000 kilometers away from the nearest coast in Africa. The island is a haven for seals, terns, penguins, and albatrosses. Because of the unfavorable weather conditions, the only human residents on the island are scientists and military officials.
Pitcairn Island, British Overseas Territory
Lastly, we round up this list of the most isolated islands in the world with Pitcairn Island, a small volcanic island in the South Pacific. The nearest landmass to Pitcairn Island is the coast of Chile which is around 5,500 kilometers away and the coast of New Zealand (roughly the same distance). The island is located in the center of one of the world’s largest marine reserves- 830,000 square kilometers (slightly larger than Texas) of open ocean and is home to 47 people, making it the least populous national jurisdiction in the world.
How did you like this list of the most isolated islands in the world? Did you ever visit any of them? If not, which one would you like to visit the most? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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