From islands populated by the descendants of mutineers to islands so tiny their inhabitants reside in boats nearby, the world is studded with thousands of beautiful islands that are remote, rare, and unique. Here are ten remarkable examples of breathtaking atolls, islands within lakes within islands, and other captivating and unusual islands that humans have managed to call home without using a house boat.
Tristan da Cunha: Most Remote Island on Earth
(Images via Google Maps)
The most remote inhabited island group in the world, Tristan de Cunha in the southern Atlantic Ocean, is so tiny its main island has no airstrip. Home to 272 people sharing just 8 surnames, inhabitants suffer from hereditary complaints like asthma and glaucoma. Annexed by the United Kingdom in the 1800s, the island’s inhabitants have a British postal code and, while they can order things online, it takes a very long time for their orders to arrive. But then, that’s the trade off for having your own island settlement some 2,000 miles from the nearest continent.
Vulcan Point: Island in a Lake in an Island in a Lake in an Island in a…
(Images via elbruz and Google Maps)
Winning the M.C. Escher award for geography, the Vulcan Point of the Philippines is a popular tourist destination. Located on the island of Luzon, it’s actually an active volcano (Taal Volcano). This gives Vulcan Point the distinction of not only being an island in a lake on an island, but a volcano in a lake on a volcano. Spread the word…if you can keep it straight.
(Images via diario di bordo and Google Maps)
Isola Tiberina is the only island in the Tiber River, which runs through Rome. This tiny island (or ait) is rich in legend. One myth holds that the island rose out of the river after the locals threw the tyrant Tarquinius Superbus into the Tiber in revolt. Since 293 B.C.E. at least, the island has been alternatively considered a place of healing and divine power (the Greeks built a temple) and darkness (for a time in the Middle Ages it was the holding place of criminals and other undesirables. Remnants of basilicas, monuments and a modern obelisk all can be seen on this tiny boat-shaped island accessible by two small bridges.
(Images via Republic of Nauru and Google Maps)
From WebUrbanist: “Nauru is the smallest independent island country in the world. This Pacific island is only 8 square miles, and is the third smallest country in the world next to Monaco and Vatican City. Once its natural reserves of phosphate were depleted, this once-rich island nation first became a haven for money laundering and then had to seek aid from Australia. The island has since become a way station for asylum seekers looking to enter the land Down Under.”
(Images via birdguides, wikipedia and Google Maps)
Foula is the most remote British island to be inhabited year round. Part of the Shetlands, the 30 residents cling to the coast and make a living from wool production and a little fishing. Originally settled by Norsemen in the 800s C.E., the Scots colonized the island in the 1500s, but the culture is still strongly Nordic.
(Images via sacredsites, bugbog, intute and Google Maps)
This famous and remote Polynesian island in the Southern Pacific (just “off” the coast of Chile by 2,200-odd miles) is home to some of the most mysterious carvings on earth. Through famines, wars, disasters, epidemics, the inhabitants of one of the world’s most remote islands are famous to many, and Rapa Nui (the true name of Easter Island) is a popular tourist destination. There is disagreement about when it was settled (estimates range from 200-1200 C.E.) but the numerous dramatic events threatening the population – such as mass abductions that wiped out half the population in the 1800s – have made a permanent mark on history.
(Images via travelimages, lizasreef, oceandots and Google Maps)
The Pitcairn Islands are famous for being the home of the descendants of the mutineers of the notorious ship Bounty. Though not its own country, it is a sovereign jurisdiction. It’s also the tiniest one on earth, with only 48 residents from 9 original families. The culture was once famously strict and religious, but now the social rules have loosened a bit (alcohol is consumed) and only 8 residents attend church.
(Images via alternativeculture, Twip and Google Maps)
The Surin Islands off of Thailand are so undeveloped and relatively remote, sea gypsies (the only full time inhabitants) reside in boats in the waters surrounding the two biggest islands. However, the North and South islands, which are divided by a small channel, are popular during parts of the year as camping and diving destinations for tourists.
(Images via cookislands, wikipedia, ntlworld and Axel)
The Suwarrow Atoll, part of the Cook Islands, was only temporarily inhabited. It’s been sporadically visited (and named) by different European and Russian explorers, but it was the New Zealand hermit Tom Neale who finally took up residence, for 15 years, in the 1950s. He wrote a book about the experience, but the Suwarrow is actually more famous as an actual Treasure Island. Many chests of gold coins and other treasure have been found throughout the centuries at Suwarrow.
An Island of Your Own?
Perhaps after seeing all these islands people call home, you’re thinking of taking up residence on your own patch of sand or rocky outcrop. Keep it convenient and rent out Singer Castle on Dark Island. No, it’s not remote (perfect for those commutes to the city for work), but it’s certainly unusual. From WebUrbanist: “The island sits in the St. Lawrence river between Ontario, Canada and New York, USA. Dark Island isn’t known for its tropical jungle or white sand beaches. The real gem is the 100 year old castle on the island. It was originally built in 1905 as a hunting lodge family retreat by Fredrick Bourne (Then president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company). With towers and secret passages abounding you could literally be your own King of the Castle. The island would be a great getaway from the hustle and bustle, and is still only a short helicopter ride away from New York or Toronto, but it is currently only available for rent. Price: Available upon request – for rent.”