By Jess Goulart
Photo courtesy of Mazzali.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood… and I–I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” wrote Robert Frost.
So what about the road really, really, really less traveled. Like, hardly at all. Ever. By anyone.
From extreme climates to isolated peoples, zero transportation to zero accommodations, only-for-the-wealthy to only-for-the-crazy, here are BTR’s top 10 outlier destinations that would have made Frost proud.
The Flaming Cliffs, Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Amidst this Asian desert’s rolling dunes, travelers can visit a massive formation of amber rocks that cascade skyward like an upside down waterfall. The aptly-named site glows crimson in the setting sun; beyond it, a vast, austere emptiness spreads as far as the eye can see. Beautiful, yes, but The Flaming Cliffs are most famous for their paleontological significance: dinosaur eggs were discovered here, among other fossils. On calm days you can reach the cliffs by camel.
Petit St. Vincent (PSV), The Grenadines
Nestled in the southern half of the Grenadine Islands near Barbados, the only way to reach PSV is by boat. The entire landmass is only 115 acres–but it does have a monopoly on caribbean beauty. Plus, because of its location to the equator, the temperature often hovers around 85 degrees fahrenheit. Now for the bad news: all of PSV is a luxury resort–you can’t visit unless you’re a guest there and you can’t be a guest there unless you pay a lot of money. But hey, we can dream.
Rapa Nui, Polynesia
Photo courtesy of Nicolas de Camaret.
In the southeastern Pacific Ocean, this Polynesian destination is better known by the name given to it by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen: Easter Island. Exactly 887 moai, or carved stone statues with humanoid faces crafted by an ancient people, jut out of its rocky shores. The mysterious history draws people from all over the world, though it remains one of the least inhabited places on earth. According to Lonely Planet, there are nearly a hundred possible places to stay, but they are expensive and low in amenities. An exception to that is the Explora hotel, which is located on an isolated corner of the island and specializes in small, guided explorations.
Patagonia, Chile, and Argentina
Explora has a sister hotel in Patagonia, a far southern area of South America that includes various extreme terrains (coasts, mountains, desert) and is shared by both Chile and Argentina. Patagonia is an outdoor adventure seeker’s paradise full of climbing, hiking, backpacking, and camping. The area is roughly four times the size of the UK and though there are pockets of population near the coasts, further inland is still rife with the untouched wild.
Sakhalin Island, Russia
A beautiful island off of Russia’s Eastern coast just north of Japan, the climate here is so unforgiving that it remains sparsely populated despite being a key player in the oil boom. Most of the indigenous people have disappeared as a result of power struggles between the surrounding nations, but the Nivkh tribe still has a strong presence in the north. Because of their long history of little contact with the outside world, most of their ancient traditions remain intact. If you can make it to them, they’ll gladly give you a demonstration.
This is the least visited country in the world and the second least populated after Vatican City. The “closest” major landmass is Australia, and it’s still over 2,400 miles away. The island sits upon one big raised coral reef, which means it has an incredibly delicate ecosystem–one that has been irrevocably disrupted by decades of mining and, now, the rising Pacific Ocean. If you want to make it here, do it fast, because it is predicted to soon disappear back below the waves.
Kerguelen Islands, Indian Ocean
Obviously, no outlier list would be complete without a nod to the world’s most remote, little-traveled continent: Antarctica. The French territory is also known as the Desolation Islands and for good reason as most of the land is ash rock built up from millions of year of lava flow from the surrounding volcanoes. There’s no permanent settlement and no airport; should you decide you want to visit, the only way is take a cruise ship or earn a relevant PhD and be invited.
Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
Photo courtesy of Montecruz Foto.
On the eastern coast of Uruguay, this hamlet has little in the way of modern conveniences. And by little, we mean none–no running water, no electricity, and no roads running to it. The only way to reach the area is in a four-wheel drive vehicle or on a hike through the surrounding desert-like terrain. Its most defining feature is a stretch of “moving sand dunes,” which are formations accosted by the strong sea wind so relentlessly they constantly shift positions.
Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands
This settlement with less than 50 inhabitants is the only one on this Pacific Ocean stretch of islands. All of the inhabitants are descendants from a famous ship called The Bounty. In 1790, eighteen mutineers overthrew The Bounty’s captain and settled at Adamstown, allegedly unwilling to give up their sexual freedom and exploitation of the Tahitian islands and return to England. The only way to get to the island is by boat, and once there, overnight stay is limited to pre-arranged couch-surfing at the homes of locals. The town’s website also warns to be sure and arrange transportation off the island, or you’ll likely be stuck there for “weeks, if not months,” an especially effective threat if you know that the sale of alcohol is highly regulated.
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha
Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwicke.
In the deep South Atlantic Ocean, this is considered the most isolated permanent settlement in the world. Getting to the island is a chore. First, you have to email their government for permission. Then, you have to charter a boat for a six day voyage from Cape Town, South Africa–the nearest landmass, which is still over 2,000 kilometers away. Also, there is only one pub, so BYOB.