For those who desire a little quiet hermitage, I’ve recently discovered that taking a solo camping trip can be just the ticket. If you want a little more isolation, the following destinations look like some fantastic places to be a recluse. I have described only two locations based on my experiences (PNN El Cocuy and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi), so I look forward to visiting the rest! Except for Alert, Canada. That frigid place in the middle of nowhere doesn’t look all that appealing to me.
The long and varied journey to the park in the northern part of the Andes mountain range keeps the number of visitors to a minimum. It involves a lengthy ride through the mountains on a bus with screeching brakes that are in desperate need of new pads; followed by a jarring ride on a road riddled with pot-holes, in a local’s truck that no longer has shocks; and completed by an hour-long hike at roughly 13,000 feet carrying all your gear on your back. Your sleeping options are limited to a tent you pack in or a cabana that offers less heat than a meat locker. But once you’re there, you will realize the joy and elation of being nearly all alone in a weird and unique environment that exists only a few places on Earth.
2) Rongbuk Monastery Guesthouse – China
You don’t need to climb the tallest mountain in the world to experience the solitude Mt. Everest can offer. Staying at the guesthouse at an elevation of 16,732 feet might have you winded just walking to the bathroom, but gazing up at the snow-covered peak that has claimed the lives of more than 200 climbers will likely make you feel pretty small in the grand scheme of things, which is usually a good exercise in humility.
3) Wilson Island – Australia
If you want to experience near-seclusion without high-altitude trekking, an ideal location is the island in the Great Barrier Reef that shares its name with the beloved volleyball friend of Chuck Noland in Castaway. As only twelve guests are permitted on the five-acre island at a time, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful and relaxing place perfect for a recluse. If you desire to see life, but not of the human variety, visit in January when green turtles and loggerhead turtles come ashore to lay their eggs.
4) Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve – South Africa
If you prefer the company of animals of the non-human variety, there are few better places to stay than in game parks in Africa. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, the oldest proclaimed natural park in Africa, is home to the Big Five—elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and cape buffalo—as well as a plethora of other animals including zebra, giraffe, hyenas, crocodiles, warthogs and numerous others. Staying in a safari tent in the park puts you right in the midst of the wildlife, where your only neighbors are the slithering snakes, mischievous monkeys, elegant Wahlberg’s eagles and a few other adventurous travelers like yourself.
5) Alert – Canada
If the idea of merely spending time alone isn’t enough, and you want to put your survivor mettle to the test, look no further (as if you can) than Alert, the world’s most northern inhabited land, a town some 500 miles from the North Pole with a population of five. Yes, five. As it is a far cry from another city—the nearest being roughly 1,200 miles away—and a really far cry from being a tourist destination, you must bring your own sleeping bag. And provide your own food. And build your own accommodation, specifically an igloo to adequately combat the icy temperatures.
6) Kobuk Valley National Park – USA
Avoid the throngs of people that flock to well-known national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite by traveling to the least-visited national park in the U.S. Thirty miles north of the Arctic Circle, Alaska’s Kobuk Valley offers visitors complete solitude in lieu of trails, roads or campgrounds. In typical fashion for many who inhabit the Last Frontier, most park visitors are skilled hunters, and subsist primarily on caribou. Make like Katniss Everdeen and shoot your dinner with a bow and arrow if you’re up for the challenge. At any rate, it is likely to be just you, the caribou and a few other animals.
7) Pitcairn Island – South Pacific
Another idyllic place that is mostly devoid of people—only fifty call it home—is Pitcairn Island, noted for being the landing spot and eventual home of nine mutineers from the H.M.S. Bounty who settled there more than two hundred years ago. Located just south of the Tropic of Capricorn, the island enjoys warm weather year-round, and is home to many birds and nine plant species that exist only on the island. The island is volcanic, however, so be sure to visit before it blows!
8) Glover’s Atoll – Belize
Apparently even many Belizeans aren’t too familiar with this ninety-square-mile ring of coral reef located forty-five miles off the coast of the mainland. The unspoiled atoll offers privacy, solitude, snow-white sand, coconut trees and a vibrant underwater world that can be mere inches from your nightly lodging if you stay in a thatch cabin over water. With your only neighbors being animals you’ll barely hear unless they jump out of the surf, Glover’s Atoll seems like heavenly seclusion.
9) Svalbard – Norway
If Norway is considered a quiet and remote country, than Svalbard, an island 400 miles north of Norway, must be even quieter. Roughly 2,000 people reside on the island in the only town aptly named Longyearbyen. As it is located above the Arctic Circle, the inhabitants—mostly coal miners and scientists—live in months of continuous daylight and then months of continuous darkness. While it is not known for having a productive agriculture, it does house the Global Seed Vault, an underground store of the world’s plant seeds in case of a global doomsday.
10) Tristan Island – South Atlantic
To visit the most remote inhabited place in the world you’ll need to go to Tristan Island in the Tristan da Cunha group of four islands, located about 1,700 miles from Cape Town between Argentina and South Africa. As a testament to its remoteness, Tristan boasts a meager population of 271 and there are only seven surnames among the inhabitants. Visiting is allowed, but taking up permanent residence can be difficult. There are no spare houses, only a few jobs exist, and, perhaps the biggest barrier to entry, new residents must be approved by the Island Council.
What’s the most remote place you’ve been? Let me know in the comments!