6 of the World's Most Remote Communities

Coastline with mountain across the water
Photo: michael clarke stuff/Wikimedia Commons [CC by 2.0]

Some people just need to get away from it all every now and then, but while most of us are satisfied with a weekend trip to the mountains, others take the more committed route of moving out into the wild (aka anywhere more than 20 minutes from the nearest grocery store). Then there are those who choose to live days and even weeks away from the nearest coffee shop or ATM. These hardy pioneers are attracted to the laidback, simple lifestyle found in remote communities. Life in these places isn't necessarily easy, but it can be free of some of the complexities that plague modern-day life.

Some of these far-flung settlements were built to support a business concept, and others are the remnants of communities that have been functionally isolated for hundreds of years. If you ever get sick of polite society and think you're up for the challenge of living way out there, take a look at these six remote communities.

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Tristan da Cunha

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Tristan da Cunha is officially the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, sitting 1,750 miles from the nearest land in South Africa. The main island of Tristan da Cunha is 7 miles across and a little under 38 square miles in all and has a permanent population of less than 300. The islands were discovered by Portuguese explorer Tristão da Cunha in 1506. The island wouldn't get its first resident until American Jonathan Lambert showed up in 1810. He declared the islands his own but died in a boating accident only two years after establishing his empire. Eventually, the island came under the control of the United Kingdom where it remains today, a British Overseas Territory with Saint Helena and Ascension Island.

Most citizens live in the settlement of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, where residents make a living farming or working for the local government. The island makes a fair amount of income from the sale of coins and stamps from this unique British postal code. Health care on the island is free, but serious injury could necessitate flagging down a passing fishing vessel to ask for a 1,750-mile ride to Cape Town, South Africa.

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Saint Helena

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Saint Helena is a neighbor to Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island (Well, relatively speaking: they are 1,510 and 810 miles apart, respectively) and has about 47 square miles of land. The island is dominated by Diana's Peak, a 2,684-foot-high mountain that doubles as a national park.

A little more than 4,000 hardy souls call Saint Helena home, most the descendants of British colonists. Saint Helena residents make their living working for the government, exporting goods like coffee and prickly pears, and growing New Zealand flax. If you want to travel to Saint Helena, you'll need to vie for one of the few seats available to civilians on a flight operated by the British military or buy a ticket on one of the ships that visits its port about 30 times a year.

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Ascension Island

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Like Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha, Ascension Island is found in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 1,000 miles from South Africa. Ascension Island falls under the administration of the United Kingdom and was first discovered by Portuguese explorer João da Nova in 1501. The island is home to an airfield used by the U.K. and U.S. militaries, both of which greatly contribute to the island’s total population of about 880 people. It is impossible to become a citizen of Ascension Island, and all residents require an employment contract.

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Wikimedia Commons.

Foula is a small island jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean off the northern tip of Scotland. The island is only 2.5 miles by 3.5 miles and is home to a mere 31 people. The island’s inhabitants traditionally made their living from fishing, but in recent years tourism and sheep herding have emerged as revenue generators. The island lacks a harbor, though a small airport makes getting to and from the mainland a relatively painless affair. On an environmental note, the lighthouse that warns ships away from the southern tip of the island is powered by wind and solar power. You can get a sense of the island through this video.

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Easter Island

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Easter Island, famed for its iconic stone statues, is also one of the most remote communities in the world. It's more than 1,200 miles away from the closest inhabited island and 2,180 miles from Chile, the nearest large land mass. The island is 15.3 miles by 7.6 miles and has at least 4,000 residents. Polynesians are believed to have been the island’s first inhabitants, arriving sometime between 300 and 1200 BC. The Polynesians were experts in the art of traveling vast distances in large, open-decked canoes. Today many residents make a living catering to the tourists who flock there to explore the nature, history and culture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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McMurdo Station, Antarctica

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McMurdo Station is a science and research facility operated by the U.S. government through the National Science Foundation. The station is located near where British explorer Robert Falcon Scott built a base in 1902 and was first started in 1956. Today, McMurdo has up to 1,258 residents, though that number drops dramatically during the winter. Residents must deal with average summer daily temperatures that can drop well below zero (the average high is minus 13.5) and a complete lack of flights during the winter. Thankfully, they do have Internet access.