With every passing year, the world seems to grow smaller. Regions once considered inaccessible are now just a drive or flight away. A few frontiers however, continue to remain isolated. Most are difficult to access, while others are difficult to navigate, but they’re certainly worth the schlep.
Around September every year, Macquarie Island witnesses a great migration. Parades of royal penguins—over 8,50,000 pairs—descend upon a 35km-long strip of land for breeding season. It is almost the world’s entire population of the species, and they have been honeymooning here for centuries. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Macquarie is a hotbed for marine life.
It hosts over 3.5 million birds of 25 different species, and the largest colonies of king penguins and elephant seals in the world. Getting there requires a healthy bank balance and an iron stomach, for the island lies halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica and is at least a three-day cruise through very choppy waters. The Australian government has kept infrastructure to a bare minimum. There are boardwalks to ensure that the island’s ecology is not affected by tourists, but not much else. Visitors can spend the day exploring with a guide, but must return to their ships at night.
Kamchatka Peninsula, often called the Ring of Fire, is a region with 29 active volcanoes and the second highest concentration of hot springs in the world. There are natural parks in the area, where brown bears roam freely. And for sports enthusiasts, Kamchatka offers some of the country’s toughest ski slopes. Despite its obvious potential, the region’s inaccessibility keeps it largely off the tourist track. It was a forbidden zone for most civilians during the Cold War due to its geographical proximity to North America and has only recently opened to foreign travellers.
The only way into Kamchatka is via commercial flights from Moscow, and a few other Russian cities, but travelling within the region is tough because good roads and public transport are practically non-existent. Modified trucks can be hired to get around, but a better way to explore the peninsula is through guided trekking, skiing, or dog-sled trips.
Mustang was once the thriving medieval kingdom of Lo. It has often been described as the Forbidden Kingdom. The Dalai Lama called it the last bastion of living Tibetan Buddhism. Located in Nepal, along the northern Himalayas, entry to it was forbidden to foreigners until 1992. Over the last decade or so, tourists have been permitted to trickle into the area. Most undertake a 12- to 16-day trek from Jomsom, a village on the southern edge of the district, to the walled city of Lo Manthang, the last surviving example of a medieval Tibetan city. The trek offers a glimpse of life in a region that has had very little interaction with the outside world. It takes visitors through a stark landscape full of striking rock formations, barley fields, and canyons, including one of the world’s deepest, the Kali Gandaki Gorge.
Geographically, Tristan da Cunha is the most sequestered inhabited part of our planet. Located in the South Atlantic Ocean, it is 2,430 km from civilisation. Understandably, getting there is a long haul. Visiting the Tristan da Cunha archipelago (includes the Nightingale, Inaccessible, and Gough islands) is only possible through a five- to ten-day ship journey from Cape Town (2,800 km), South Africa. Visitors that do take the trouble are richly rewarded. Scaling the island’s volcanic Queen Mary’s Peak provides thrills, while wildlife enthusiasts can take boat trips around nearby islands, home to some of the world’s largest seabird colonies. Permissions for the journey and the ticket must be sought months in advance from the island administration, but passengers can still be offloaded for priority travellers like scientists.
The sparsely populated town of Ittoqqortoormiit in Greenland attracts tourists for three reasons: It’s the gateway to the world’s largest national park, the Northeast Greenland National Park; it has preserved the country’s traditional way of life that revolves around hunting and fishing; and it’s one of the most isolated permanent settlements in the northern hemisphere. The primary way to leave or enter the tiny town is through flights to Reykjavik and other parts of Greenland. In summer, a few cruise ships also stop over at Ittoqqortoormiit. Visitors to the area go dog-sledding and skiing in Northeast Greenland National Park or to the massive glaciers and fjords that surround the town. Others observe the region’s polar bears, walruses, and seals, and soak in stellar views of the aurora borealis.
Appeared in the November issue 2014 as “Middle Of Nowhere.”
is a freelance journalist, struggling stand-up comedian, and former Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. He prefers travelling to places that are devoid of hipsters.
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