Even for a country already as remote and sparsely inhabited as Greenland, Ittoqqortoormiit, located on the eastern coast, takes the cake as the most isolated town of them all. The town’s 450 residents are served by just one grocery store (and a couple of convenience stores), although hunting and fishing, as well, are a way of life amongst residents. Tourists to the town generally engage in wildlife and wilderness adventures, from dogsledding to kayaking. There’s a small historic museum in town as well.
Founded in 1906 on the remote Arctic island of Svalbard (technically part of Norway), Longyearbyen serves as the capital of the territory and home to fewer than 3,000 residents. The town is practically crime-free — there were only nine violent cases investigated by police in 2013 — although gun ownership is high so that residents may fend off potential polar bear attacks (seriously). The town is generally used as a jumping-off point for explorations of Svalbard’s glaciers and fjords.
The westernmost municipality in the United States, Adak is located in the far western portion of the Aleutian Islands, a chain of islands coming off southwest Alaska and reaching toward eastern Russia. At the latest census, the town had a population of only 326. The town was developed as a naval base in the years after World War II, although the base has since closed down.
Adamstown is technically an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, although there is a small local government set up for the island’s approximately 50 residents. At least they get satellite TV. The island has no airport and no hotels, but if you want to visit, you can brave the sea journey and find a homestay accommodation during your journey.
With over 3,300 residents, the town of Hanga Roa represents almost 90% of the inhabitants on Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui. The island is famed around the world for its large stone heads, or moai, and the mystery surrounding their creation. Although part of Chile, the island is located more than 3,700 kilometers from the country’s capital of Santiago.
The village of Supai is located within Havasu Canyon, the home of the Havasupai Tribe. Getting to the village is difficult, with no roads connecting it to the outside world. To enter, you either need to take a helicopter ride or hike along an 8-mile trail from a hilltop above. The village is so remote that the nearest food, water, and gas are over 60 miles away in Peach Springs, Ariz. Oh, and it’s so isolated that they still use mules to deliver the mail.
The frigid village of Oymyakon experiences temperatures averaging almost minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, giving it worldwide recognition as the coldest inhabited area on the planet. The village’s name means, quite ironically, “unfrozen water,” due to the presence of a nearby thermal spring. Despite the name, the ground in Oymyakon is so frozen that it is nearly impossible to have indoor plumbing, and cars in the village need to be kept running or else they will not be able to start up again. Funnily enough, summers in Oymyakon, although very short, have temperatures in the 60s and 70s.
8. La Rinconada, Peru
La Rinconada is one of the most populous towns on this list but distinguishes itself as the highest city in the world. The altitude and mountainous landscape make life harsh in this city, which is largely devoted to mining gold. The conditions are so tough that the city lacks adequate sewage and water systems, and many residents are living under the poverty line.
9. Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha
First settled in 1816, the island of Tristan da Cunha is considered to be the most remote permanently inhabited land on Earth, over 1,700 miles away from the nearest coastline in South Africa. Because of such sparse residency in its early goings, the island is home to residents who come almost entirely from one of the same seven families. The island may lack restaurants and traffic lights, but it does have an internet cafe and a golf course, so make of that what you will.
As the northernmost community in the United States, Barrow, also called Ukpeagvik in the native language of the area, is one of the coldest and remote settlements in the country. As of 2010, the town had a population of about 4,500. With wind chill, temperatures can reach almost minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the coldest months, so don’t plan on visiting unless you’ve got a high tolerance for the freezing cold.
11. Bantam Village (among other settlements), Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Transferred to Australian control in the 1950s, the Cocos, or Keeling, Islands were uninhabited until the 19th century. The main settlement on the islands is Bantam Village, located on the “Home Island,” the eastern of the two main islands that make up the territory, and where most of the approximately 600 residents of the Cocos Islands live. It’s no surprise given the islands’ name that the major crop is coconuts.
Located about halfway between Iceland and Norway, although in fact a territory of Denmark, the Faroe Islands are a remote community of just under 50,000, with Tórshavn serving as the capital. The island has more sheep than people, so animal lovers may find a calling in this remote locale. One of the city’s most popular attractions is the Tinganes historic district, which was, and continues to be, a central area for the island’s political happenings.
13. Medog (Motuo) County, China
With only 12,000 residents in the entire county, Medog, or Motuo, County in Tibet was until only a few years ago almost completely inaccessible. The region was so isolated that one could reach it only through traversing various mountains, with weather conditions often making the trek impossible. Although a new highway, the first to connect the county to the rest of China, is estimated to be open for only eight to nine months each year, it represents a large step toward making the county less remote.
Although the extreme northern scientific settlement of Alert is perhaps Nunavut’s, and Canada’s, most remote locale, Iqaluit earns distinction as being the smallest of Canada’s territorial/provincial capitals. Of the approximately 7,200 residents in the city, a majority are native Inuit peoples. If you’re keen to check out the incredible Canadian wilderness up north, but still want access to some creature comforts, Iqaluit is the best jumping-off point as a traveler, as it has the most hotels and other services in the province.
This post has been updated to make it more clear that Canada is comprised of both territories and provinces, and not just provinces. Sorry to our neighbors up north for the confusion.