You’ve been to some pretty remote places. You’ve traveled far north to Greenland and far south to Antarctica. You’ve explored Australia’s Outback and Africa’s Sahara desert. And you’ve hopped between tiny specks of land in the Pacific Ocean. But you’ve never been quite this far away from civilization. You finally reached Tristan da Cunha.
Tristan is the most remote inhabited place in the whole world. It’s more than 2,000 miles from South America, 1,500 miles from South Africa, and even 1,200 miles from its sister island, Saint Helena. Portuguese explorers first sighted the volcanic archipelago in the early 16th century, though rough seas prevented them from landing on the islands. The Dutch, the French, and the Americans all tried to claim the area after that. But the islands became a British Overseas Territory.
Today, less than 300 people call Tristan home. They’re greatly outnumbered by penguins, albatrosses, and petrels. Since the island doesn’t have an airport—you can only access it by sea—the community is truly on its own. The people are farmers and fishermen. Potato patches dot the steep land. A crawfish factory in Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the only settlement, is the largest employer. A bus service, the Potato Patches Flier, drives back and forth along the M1, the lone road. While visitors are an uncommon but welcome distraction.
After six days at sea—you departed from Cape Town—you arrive in Calshot Harbor with weak sea legs. Edinburgh of the Seven Seas was founded as a military garrison to guard against French attempts to rescue Napoléon, who was imprisoned on Saint Helena. It continued to be an important base through World War II, when the British monitored Nazi U-boats in the South Atlantic. But the island was completely evacuated during a volcanic eruption in 1961. Everything had to be rebuilt when people returned two years later.
Now the Village, the only flat land on the island, has mostly one-story buildings. There are a few churches, a school, a hospital, and a supermarket. The post office doubles as the tourism center. The museum is located in a traditional thatched house. Park 61, a volcano park, offers paths and views over the entire island. While a single bar, in Prince Philip Hall, is open only in the evening. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, it probably won’t take long for you to feel like a local.