Although there are dark-sky cities throughout the U.S., there’s nothing quite like being out in the middle of nowhere — literally — to enjoy not only stars but plenty of solitude in nature as well. But traveling to these unique, one-of-a-kind destinations isn’t as easy as just hitching a short ride from the airport.
Here’s what it takes to get to some of the world’s most secluded places for a truly away-from-it-all experience.
Gásadalur, Faroe Islands
Estimated cost: $1,289
You can see one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls at this secluded destination. Set atop a grassy seaside cliff with a tumbling waterfall pouring into the ocean is the tiny village of Gásadalur. Rugged mountains surround it on three sides, the sea on the fourth.
The village tucks away on the far western edge of the Faroe Islands, centered in the ocean between Iceland, Scotland and Norway. Transport yourself to simpler times of snug homes with grass-thatched roofs, visit its famous waterfall or hike the path that was once its primary connection to the outside world.
How to get there: Although the village was cut off from the outside world prior to 2004, a hole blasted through a mountain now allows automobile access directly from the airport, which makes it no longer the most isolated place in the world.
Ellesmere Island, Canada
Estimated cost: $25,990
Want to experience a one-of-a-kind vacation in Canada? Take a journey lasting over three weeks with a seasoned expedition team on the National Geographic Explorer cruise ship to Ellesmere Island. Home to polar bears, muskox and narwhals, the glacial landscape provides the perfect backdrop to hike, kayak and photograph wildlife.
How to get there: The best way to visit Ellesmere Island is on a summertime expedition. Striking out from Reykjavik, Greenland, 24-day expeditions visit Inuit Villages and remote shorelines, including two days on Ellesmere Island.
Estimated cost: $1,465
Discover the most remote inhabited community in the Western Hemisphere when you visit the village of Ittoqqortoormiit. Just 450 people live in this colorful village, featuring houses painted bright shades of blue, red, gold and green, clinging to the foot of a snowy coastal mountain.
Stay in the village and immerse yourself in local culture from visiting the local museum to seeing people go about their daily routines. You can also take a tour of other villages via dogsled or cross-country ski, or go sightseeing on snowmobile or foot.
How to get there: Fly to Reykjavik. The second flight to Akureyri lets you transfer to a small aircraft to access Nerlerit Inaat Airport, Greenland. Although this is the main airport, you won’t be renting a car and going on your way. A 15-minute helicopter flight shuttles you from the airport into town.
Supai Village, Ariz.
Estimated cost: $310
Tucked in a side canyon at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, Supai Village is one of the quietest and most remote places in the lower 48 states, according to the USDA. Mail is still delivered by mule, and the village has little more than a cafe, lodge, store and museum.
The main attractions are its remote places, which include tumbling blue-green waterfalls and pastel canyonlands. Swim in a sparkling natural pool beneath the 190-foot Mooney Falls, or have a picnic with 120-foot Havasu Falls as a backdrop. There’s also a hike-in campground and trails leading to the Colorado River just 10 miles away.
How to get there: Fly to Las Vegas and rent a car for the 221-mile journey that will take you to Hoover Dam and along a stretch of Route 66. Spend the night at Peach Springs before tackling the last 64 miles of dirt road to Hualapai Hilltop.
Estimated cost: $9,797
Tucked away in the South Pacific more than a thousand miles from anywhere else, the Pitcairn Islands offer a truly unique experience.
The only inhabited island in the tiny chain, the Pitcairn Islands were first settled by the HMAV Bounty mutineers, and their descendants still live on the island today. Dive the famous shipwreck, swim in a sea-sculpted tidal pool overlooking the ocean or visit nearby islands to have long stretches of sandy beach to yourself.
How to get there: Getting to the Pitcairn Islands is an adventure in itself. Fly to Tahiti and spend a day or two enjoying the beach as the next leg of the journey — five hours and 40 minutes by flight to Mangareva — only happens twice a week. Ferry to Rikitea village where you’ll board the MV Claymore II for a 32-hour sea journey to the Pitcairn Islands. The entire journey lasts 11 nights and 12 days, including your stay in Tahiti before and after boarding the MV Claymore II.
Estimated cost: $2,126
You’re guaranteed to see a polar bear when you visit Longyearbyen, providing you pop into the Svalbard Museum. A taxidermy specimen is on display, posed for a fierce selfie, along with life-size seals, caribou and other arctic wildlife.
The northernmost permanent settlement in the world, Longyearbyen is one of the planet’s most remote places with lots to do. Uncover the secrets of early attempts to reach the North Pole by air at the North Pole Expedition Museum, take a dog sled journey or send up a prayer in the world’s northernmost church. Visit a walrus island, or discover where backups of the world’s seeds are kept in an underground vault.
How to get there: Amazingly, getting there is easy. Just hop on a plane headed to one of the most isolated cities in the world.
Estimated cost: $8,863
As the fifth-largest continent in the world and with an indigenous population of zero, virtually anywhere you go in Antarctica will land you in one of the most secluded places on earth. The only humans you might encounter in Antarctica include 1,000 to 4,000 scientists and roughly 44,000 seasonal tourists. And you might want to book your trip soon, considering it’s one of the destinations that are disappearing.
There’s plenty of wildlife and adventures awaiting you in remote places on the continent. Join a tourist expedition and enjoy activities such as camping out under some of the starriest skies in the planet thanks to a lack of light pollution. Explore coastlines in a kayak, or strap on snowshoes or crampons to delve inland. Bring a camera to capture photos of wildlife that include penguins, grey whales and seals.
How to get there: Start your journey at the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia, Argentina. Your expedition boat serves as your base camp as you journey along the Antarctic Peninsula.
Estimated cost: $2,880
Siberia has a reputation for being cold, and Oymyakon bears the title of being the coldest inhabited place on earth. Bundle up for a winter road trip between December and April to experience Oymyakon during its winter splendor. Make sure to park in a heated garage, or your car will never start again. The coldest months are from December through early February, when temperatures can dip to nearly 60 degrees F below zero.
Experience the unique culture of citizens who spend much of the year dealing with freezing temperatures and extremes that can swing between 96 below zero to 94 degrees above. Because crops can’t grow, local cuisine revolves around meat and fish, sometimes eaten in frozen dishes or in a warming soup.
How to get there: Fly to Yakutsk and book a five-day winter tour through VisitYakutia.com. Stay with an Oymyakon family and explore local culture ranging from net fishing and horse breeding to exploring an ice tunnel.
Changthang Plateau, Leh, India
Estimated cost: $2,615
Stretching from eastern India’s Ladakh region through Tibet to China, the Changthang region covers nearly 435,000 square miles. Its altitudes soar from 14,100 feet to nearly 23,000 feet, making it uninhabitable for all but the hardiest of inhabitants and one of the most remote places on earth.
Visit the Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to a variety medicinal plants and wildlife species. Look for the black-necked crane, yaks, blue sheep and a host of other animals along sandy tablelands and marshy plains framed by snowy peaks. Visit some of the highest lakes in the world, where even the saltwater freezes in winter. And, discover the culture of Tibetan herders.
How to get there: Fly to Leh where you can arrange a tour or guide to visit remote places on the Changthang Plateau.
Angle Inlet, Minn.
Estimated cost: $1,072
Angle Inlet is the northernmost place in the lower 48 states. A 1783 surveying error during the Treaty of Paris left a random chunk of land known as the Northwest Angle completely surrounded by Canada on the northern edge of the Lake of the Woods.
You’ll need a car to get there and have to cross the international border twice, so bring your passport. You’ll re-enter the U.S. at Jim’s Corner, a little shed where you’ll check in with U.S. Immigration by video phone. Once there, play golf at the northernmost golf course in the country, or take to the lake to enjoy some of the best walleye fishing in the U.S.
How to get there: Reach this remote place by flying into International Falls and driving 168 miles to reach the Northwest Angle. Make sure your rental car agreement allows travel into Canada, as that’s the only way to get to this slice of Minnesota.
Green Bank, W.VA.
Estimated cost: $792
Green Bank lies in the 13,000-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone where TV, Wi-Fi, cellphones and even microwaves are verboten. The silence avoids interference with the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, which listens for energies in outer space as minute as a lone snowflake hitting the ground.
You can’t upload selfies, but you can call your friends from a genuine payphone, something that’s hard to find in the rest of the U.S. Enjoy a respite from electromagnetic fields in Green Bank, and take a telescope tour, visit the observatory’s science center or hike miles of unspoiled nature.
How to get there: Fly to Charlottesville, W.Va., and rent a car, as trains and buses only run within an hour’s drive of the town. Just make sure it doesn’t have automatic tire pressure sensors, which interfere with the telescope.
Tristan da Cunha
Estimated cost: $2,463
Although Tristan da Cunha is one of the most isolated islands in the world, the warm hospitality of its 300 or so English-speaking residents is well-known.
Enjoy your time hiking a dormant volcano, visiting colonies of rockhopper penguins, fishing or taking a cruise to nearby wildlife preserve islands. Get to know locals one-on-one with a homestay that includes full board and laundry for $66 per day per person. Private guest houses with up to three bedrooms or remote huts are other options if you prefer more privacy.
How to get there: Reaching Tristan da Cunha is more complex than flying to Cape Town, South Africa, and setting out on the six-day boat journey to the island. You’ll need approval from the Island Council, which looks at your past criminal history, use of habit-forming substances and even physical health.
Estimated cost: $963
Formerly known as Barrow, Utqiagvik — pronounced oot kay-ahg vik — lies on the far northern tip of the state north of the Arctic Circle. More than just a place to get away from it all, the village is one of the best places in the U.S. to see polar bears, caribou and other arctic wildlife.
Visit from September through March to see dazzling displays of the aurora borealis or during the third week of June for the annual whaling festival where a dancer is thrown high in the air from a blanket of seal skins.
Get a taste of what life has been like for centuries at the Inupiat Heritage Center as you browse through artifacts or watch traditional crafts demonstrated by elders-in-residence.
St. Matthew Island, Alaska
Estimated cost: $10,847
Tucked in the central Bering Sea more than 120 miles from the nearest land, St. Matthew Island is the most isolated location in Alaska and far from human habitation. You won’t find hotels or resorts on the picturesque island, with its fields of summer wildflowers and dramatic cliffs.
Clear, tumbling creeks provide hydration for the island’s abundant wildlife that ranges from puffins and snow white buntings to arctic foxes, voles, walruses and whales.
How to get there: You can set sail on a summertime cruise from Nome that visits the island as well as scenic ports in Russia and Alaska. Enjoy time on the island away from crowds, photographing its dramatic landscapes and abundant wildlife as you tour or hike.
La Rinconada, Peru
Estimated cost: $1,144
Not only is La Rinconada one of the more remote places in Peru, it’s the highest permanent settlement in the world. Set at an elevation of more than 16,700 feet, the city has more than 50,000 residents who live without modern amenities such as running water or sewers.
A nearby goldmine is where most of the local men — and some women — work. Savor local cuisine in one of a half-dozen restaurants along the main road through town, and stay in the lone hotel, the Hotel Royal. Trek into the picturesque Andes during the brief summer season to savor vistas of jagged snow-capped mountains towering above green valleys with sparkling blue lakes.
How to get there: The first leg of your journey — flying to Juliaca — is the easy part. Get a taxi at the Juliaca Airport, which will reliably only get you to Ananea. Hire a local driver, or hike the last seven uphill miles along the narrow mountain road, gaining 1,000 feet in elevation along the way.
Estimated cost: $3,049
Regarded as one of the most isolated islands in the world, Easter Island is located on the eastern edge of the Polynesian Triangle in the South Pacific Ocean. This small 63-square-foot island lies more than 1,000 miles from the next populated area in the Pacific Ocean.
To its original inhabitants, the island was known as Rapa Nui. In 1722, however, Dutch explorers landed on the island and named it Paaseiland, or Easter Island. In the late 19th century, Chile annexed the island, which now greatly relies on tourism to sustain itself. No doubt, if you visit,you will be awed by the close to 900 mammoth stone figures, which were created centuries ago by the Rapa Nui culture and still stand watch on this most secluded island.
How to get there: Getting to Easter Island is relatively easy. First, fly to Santiago, Chile. Then, book a flight with Latam Airlines to Easter Island from there.
Siwa Oasis, Egypt
Estimated cost: $1,686
In the heart of Egyptian’s Western Desert, about 31 miles east of Libya’s border, you can visit the isolated Siwa Oasis. Due to heat extremes that can arise in desert conditions, visiting this destination sometime during the winter season is advised.
While there, you can choose to have a unique experience by booking a room at the Adrere Amellal. The hotel, which features 40 rooms, is built entirely out of mud and salt. Be aware that there’s no electricity, just candlelight.
To sightsee locally, rent a bicycle or hire one of the tricycle drivers in the area. Enjoy fare from local restaurants and colorful, handmade souvenirs while you’re out and about.
For a one-of-a-kind adventure, make sure to visit the Great Sand Sea, which is known as the world’s third-largest dune field. After your trip to the sands, come back to Siwa and enjoy a soak in Cleopatra’s Spring, which is a warm spring located on the path to the Temple of the Oracle.
How to get there: To get to Siwa Oasis, you’ll first have to fly to Cairo. From Cairo, you can arrange a three-day, two-night tour to visit the Siwa Oasis.
Palmerston Island, Southern Cook Islands
Estimated cost: $2,634 + cost of boat to the island
Described as the “island at the end of the earth” by the BBC, Palmerston Island is part of the Cook Islands, which are a small group of islands that are connected by a coral reef. Planes and helicopters cannot land there, so the only access is by boat.
Palmerston lies approximately 300 miles northwest of Rarotonga, which is where you can possibly find a boat to take you to this remote, yet beautiful, location. Apparently, only those with a determined and adventurous spirit should consider this journey across the Pacific to one of the most isolated places on earth, which takes somewhere around nine days to complete, according to the BBC.
When you reach Palmerston, don’t expect hotel accommodations or restaurants. Instead, you’ll be hosted by a family who lives on the island and will dine on meals of fresh fish that they prepare for you, according to the Palmerston Island website.
How to get there: Getting to Palmerston Island takes some careful planning because it’s only accessible by boat, and the availability of boats varies. First, you will need to fly to Rarotonga. Once there, you will need to inquire about shipping schedules to the island via cargo or find a tourist boat willing to make the journey and agree on a price.
Tuamotus Islands, French Polynesia
Estimated cost: $1,717
These flat clusters of small islands with white or pink sand beaches and aquamarine lagoons are a quick plane ride from Tahiti. Although there are various islands you can choose from, the island of Rangiroa is considered to have some of the best amenities for tourists, so don’t expect some of the most secluded beaches here.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities for those who wish to venture into the lagoon. For land activities, you can opt for a visit to the island’s pearl farm, where you can learn about the island’s black pearls. Although there is a local winery, you won’t be able to tour it. Instead, taste the fruits of its labor at one of the island’s hotels or restaurants.
How to get there: Hop a flight to Tahiti first. Once there, you’ll take another flight of one to two hours to Rangiroa. Should you desire to visit several of the islands, inquire with Air Tahiti about an air pass, which can save you money over individual bookings.
Socotra Island, Yemen
Estimated cost: $3,736
Home to approximately 800 species of fauna and flora, many of which are only found there, Socotra Island is regarded as a Galagapos Island of plant life. Located in the Indian Ocean approximately 200 miles from the mainland of Yemen, this remote area is also hailed as “where the weird things are” by National Geographic. Visitors will find plenty of unique plant life, such as the dragon’s blood tree with an umbrella-like canopy and blood red resin.
With an average temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the island features sandy beaches, limestone caves and majestic mountains, along with a variety of birds, one species of bat, a rare variety of skink and the legless lizard.
Although the island is home to around 40,000 people, don’t expect a resort-type atmosphere for this secluded destination, complete with beachfront hotels and restaurants. Instead, you’ll find a place devoted to ecotourism, centered on honoring the population’s way of life.
How to get there: First, hop a flight to Muscat, Oman. From Muscat, you’ll take a flight to Salalah, Oman. From Salalah, you’ll take a chartered ferry to the island via a tour company such as Lupine Travel, which you will need to arrange far in advance as tours to the area book quickly.
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Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.
Travel costs were determined using Google Flights from Los Angeles International International Airport (LAX) for a trip running from Dec. 17 to 22, except for destinations with limited travel access (St. Matthew’s Island, Ellesmere Island, Ittoqqortoormiit). Bus and train fares were determined through Wanderu. Car rental rates are for an intermediate-sized car using the Kayak website. Gas prices are round trip using GasBuddy’s Trip Cost Calculator and the national average gas mileage of 25 mpg.
About the Author
Jodi O’Connell is a freelance wordsmith based in Sedona, Arizona, who writes about everything from vacation vagary and adventure sports to real estate and pets. She spent more than a decade in Arizona’s real estate industry advising first-time homebuyers and commercial investors before indulging her passion for the written word on a full-time basis. Her articles appear on websites as diverse as U.S. News and World Report, USA Today, Hipmunk, Roots Rated, and Travelocity.