The Remotest Island in the World
Next time you feel like really getting away from it all, why not sail on down to Tristan da Cunha? It’s the remotest inhabited island on earth -- as far removed in time and space from the rest of the world as you can get.
The tiny volcanic island bobbing in the South Atlantic Ocean is 2,000 miles away from South America and 1,700 miles from the nearest coast in South Africa. Its closest inhabited neighbor is Saint Helena island, a mere 1,350 miles to the north.
Tristan da Cunha has no airport or deep-water harbor, no hotels and no Wi-Fi. But there is one road in the one town of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, a post office/cafe, a general store, an island administrator, and 245 friendly residents.
Luckily, there is also a bar – the remotest bar on earth -- called the Albatross. You’ll be ready for a stiff drink after your voyage there, which takes six to seven days (weather depending) on a fishing boat or freighter out of Cape Town, South Africa.
Planning ahead for travel to Tristan is essential. The town council must approve your visit and they suggest submitting paperwork, along with booking one of the dozen or so rustic guesthouses or homestays (averaging $70 per night including all meals), and securing passage a year in advance. Even after all that, you may still not be able to disembark once you arrive, and your ship may have to turn back if the ocean is too choppy for the small landing craft needed.
Tristan da Cunha is a British Overseas Territory, one of a handful of far-flung remnants of the former British Empire. It is named for the Portuguese explorer Tristão da Cunha who first spotted it in 1506, though he never visited, due to rough seas and the lack of a natural harbor.
The seven-mile-wide island was annexed in 1816 by the United Kingdom and over the ensuing years, a scattering of settlers began to find their way to the island, joining the few British military who had been stationed there – shipwrecked sailors from England, Italy and the Netherlands, along with American whalers, and a group of single women from Saint Helena.
If you are lucky enough to defeat all the challenges to get there, Tristan is the perfect place to unwind without the distractions of most other getaways. You can take a guided tour to the top of Queen Mary’s Peak, the currently quiet 6,700-foot volcano that dominates the island, and enjoy the views; watch the amazing rock-hopping penguins cavorting along the shore; or play nine holes of golf on the one course that also doubles as a cow pasture, with its own unique hazards.
Lobster fishing and the sale of postage stamps are the island’s economy. Locals grow most of their own food. They also sell handcrafts, including beautifully knit sweaters and so-called “love socks” – a traditional gift once made by young women of the island for their suitors -- the various striped designs signaling the woman’s level of amorous interest.
Holiday celebrations at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Old Year’s Night, Anniversary Day, Queen’s Day, Ratting Day (traditional rat hunt with island dogs), birthdays, christenings, and weddings, are always complemented with buffet feasts and ever-popular community dances at Prince Philip Hall in the center of town.
Visiting Tristan da Cunha is the closest thing to traveling back in time -- an unforgettable experience for anyone who manages to get there.
Enjoy both videos below made by author, travel writer, and National Geographic Channel host, Andrew Evans.
Photos (from top): Tristan da Cunha as seen from the International Space Station, February 6, 2013, NASA.gov; Edinburgh of the Seven Seas settlement, The Official CTBTO Photostream, Flickr; laundry on the line, Maurits Heech, Flickr; island children, Maurits Heech, Flickr; outside the Albatross Bar, UltraPanavision, Flickr; location of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean; a home in the settlement, Maurits Heech, Flickr; Queen Mary's Peak, Brian Gratwicke, Flickr; Rockhopper penguins, UltraPanavision, Flickr; fresh local lobsters being prepared for shipping, Tristandc.com; Santa Claus delivering gifts to island children, UltraPanavision, Flickr; Queen's Day games, Tristandc.com.