There is something ghostly and odd about remote, scantily populated islands that have captured the imagination of intrepid travelers since the beginning of time. Desolate and detached, these obscure outposts provide visitors with a sense of isolation that can be both enlivening and unnerving.
Spending time on a remote island gives you a visceral sense of an alternative, alien way of existing, cut-off from the reassuring comforts of modern urban living, severed from the herd, vulnerable… and free. And, a visit to a remote island can energize the soul and provide invaluable perspective for the brave voyager willing to make the journey.
Here is our BUCKiTDREAM list of four of the world’s most strange and remote islands, and some advice on how to visit them. Make a note of the rocky outposts that intrigue you the most in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
Tory Island, North Atlantic Ocean (Ireland) Accessible only by a stomach-churning boat trip across 10 miles of raucous North Atlantic waters, Tory is the most remote inhabited island of Ireland. The first language on the island is Irish (which has nothing in the slightest in common with English), although English is understood and spoken by most natives. The population of the island is 150 and there are four towns – West Town, East Town, Middle Town and New Town.
Tory has its own king, the current Rí Thoraí (‘King of Tory’) being a local painter named Patsy Dan Rodgers. Although the island has no trees due to the gale force winds that sweep across it from the raging North Atlantic, it does have an abundance of rare birdlife and some of the most spectacular and frightening cliffs and sea stacks you’ll see anywhere in the world.
The island has quite a few cozy cottages available on Airbnb, as well as several guesthouses. The ferry to Tory runs daily during the summer, and five times a week the rest of the year. If you’ve ever seen the hit Irish comedy series, Father Ted, then that might give you an indicator of what to expect on strange and remote Tory Island!
Pitcairn Island, South Pacific Ocean (British Overseas Territory) Any merchant seaman, from any part of the world from Philadelphia to Pakistan to the Philippines, who has had any experience of contact with Pitcairn Island – be it a mere sighting of her vague outline in the distance, or a few static-distorted words of radio contact, or (low and behold) a physical rendezvous with a skiff sent out by the island to receive supplies – retells the tale, again and again, in salty dockside drinking dens for as long as they live.
Pitcairn is an achingly remote island with a population of 57 people, all of whom are descended from nine British sailors from HMS Bounty and a handful of Tahitian women. The nine sailors took control of the Bounty in a mutiny in 1789 (inspiring scores of books and movies including Mutiny on the Bounty), set the remaining crew adrift in the ship’s lifeboats, picked up some Tahitian women, and made for the most remote island they could find. Descendants of the sailors have inhabited the island in deep isolation ever since.
The main attraction of Pitcairn Island is its incredible… bizarreness! The current inhabitants still have the same surnames as the nine sailors who mutinied, and the version of English they speak has more in common with what was spoken in 18th century England than it does with anything spoken today! Pitcairn is the smallest democracy in the world and in 2015 it voted to legalize same-sex marriage, although apparently nobody on the island is planning to marry anyone of the same sex anytime soon! Still, nice to have the option.
Pitcairn is only accessible by boat, and boats to the island are rare. Some people have hitched a ride on a cargo ship while others have chartered small private vessels. Getting to Pitcairn is difficult, but if you can find a way, visiting this remote island will definitely be the trip of a lifetime!
Easter Island, South Pacific Ocean (Chile) Easter Island is a Chilean-administered Polynesian island in the South Pacific. A UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is famed for its 887 giant-headed statues that have stood on the island, staring forlornly out to sea, since they were erected by the Rapa Nui people between 1250 and 1500 AD. These statues are completely unique and well worth seeing.
Most of the 6,600 inhabitants of Easter Island are indigenous Rapa Nui, and taking a tour with a local is a great way to discover all of the mysterious archeological secrets that the island holds. LAN flies to Easter Island six days a week from Santiago de Chile and once a week from Tahiti. There are plenty of hotels on the island, and quite a few pretty resorts, too.
St. Helena, South Atlantic Ocean (British Overseas Territory) This lonely tropical island sits like the smallest possible needle in the biggest possible haystack, in the middle of the vast South Atlantic Ocean. The British imprisoned Napoleon on the island and he died there in 1821. The current 4,500 inhabitants of the island are descended from British settlers and African and Indian slaves who were brought to St. Helena to work on plantations.
Getting to the island is a real treat. The RMS St Helena is a passenger/cargo ship, and the last operational Royal Mail ship in the world. It travels between Cape Town, Ascension and St. Helena. Journeying across the South Atlantic on this old ship is a special experience – great food, comfortable accommodation and cozy evening in the bar – just like in the classic days of transatlantic steamship travel!
You can also fly to St Helena on a weekly Airlink flight from Cape Town or Johannesburg. There are numerous historic forts and mansions to see on the island, as well as stunning scenery and wildlife (especially birdlife).
Hopefully, you are now feeling eager to be a castaway on a remote rock for a few days of peace and… strangeness. And if you should venture to one of these isolated outposts, don’t forget to share you once-in-a-lifetime island experience on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter