Six Most Difficult Places To Visit On Earth

Our family was fantasizing about the next cool place we’d love to go! Somewhere exotic. That often means difficult travel plans.

We reminisced about our fantastic trip to Alaska, which took some planning and travel time. AK is huge, almost half the area of the continental US, so it takes longer to get anywhere you’d want to go.

We eschewed a cruise, looking for a more rugged experience. A six-hour plane ride was followed by an overnight stay, because the bus we needed to catch only runs once a day. That took a mere two hours. Next, we traveled by raft, twenty miles down the Kenai River system. We saw over fifty eagles! 

Adolescent eagle on driftwood
Click above for the podcast if you prefer! Louie and Microphone

One more boat ride and we made it to at our destination, the remote Skilac lake in the AK wilderness. We hiked a rugged animal trail with a steep elevation above the treeline for a glorious view. Since it was summer, the sun stayed up until after one AM! 

The first pic above is Kevin’s, taken from the shore after midnight. The second is mine, taken the next night from our cabin. I was afraid to go down to the shore because of roaming bears! Kevin is braver. 

We also went to a falls by sea plane and saw many many bears, but I’ll save that for another post.

I started thinking about remote places. I love trivia. I find geography interesting, too.  I own my poor sports knowledge, but I was surprised that my next lowest score on my trivia app was in geography? WHAT? 

I started studying. Here’s one. What is the driest place on Earth? I bet you’re thinking the Sahara, in Algeria. That’s the largest hot desert. 

Sahara Desert, Algeria

But the driest place is in Antarctica. It’s a 4800 square kilometer area called The Dry Valleys. There has been no rainfall there for nearly 2 million years. There is no ice, snow, or water of any kind.

Dry Valleys

Not a place I’d want to go.

No thank you.

What nine countries that begin with the letter P? …Portugal, Peru, Paraguay, Panama, Pakistan, Poland, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines and Palau. 

I had to look Palau up! Palau is an archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean, consisting of 340 coral and volcanic islands. It looks fantastic. There are waterfalls, you can snorkel with harmless jellies in a lake, swimming, beaches, and the diving is highly rated. I am adding it to my bucket list. Just looking at that water makes me want to see it. I love the color blue. Here’s a blog post all about how rare blue is in nature!

While remote, several airlines fly there. This is doable by plane, in 36 hours and only four stops. Easy enough.

What about harder places to get to? When I think remote, I definitely think Antarctica! Let’s make it more remote. How about trying to go it its tallest mountain!

Vinson Massif

Vinson Massif is the tallest mountain in Antarctica. Its peak reaches 4897 m (16,067 ft). It was first surveyed in 1957 and named after U.S. Congressman Carl Vinson, a strong supporter of the Antarctic research expeditions.

The peak was first climbed in 1966. Apparently, it is not technically challenging.  Hm. Climbing it would be a challenge for ME, which is what made me think of mountains in remote places in the first place.

What is a real challenge for everyone, is getting there. 

The nearest airport is in southern Chile. Only cargo planes have the range to reach the smooth ice cap just west of the mountain. No runways for commercial flights. The flight takes six hours. That said, you have to get to Chile first!

For me, that would take 14 hours.

Okay, after a fourteen hour flight, then a six hour flight, you board another plane for a one hour flight. It’s very remote but takes less time than travel to Palau.

Hm…we forgot about getting to the mountain. Then actually climbing it.

King penguins walking on the beach

Don’t count on an adorable greeting committee. I’m sure these penguins would be nowhere in sight.

We’re talking about the interior of Antarctica.

Vinson Massif is  2880 km (1,800 miles) from the closest city or town. (The south pole, which has a research facility, is the distance from Chicago to New York.) But a research facility doesn’t count. Hey, it’s my blog post, so my rule.

Even in summer, the average temperature is -20 ° F despite 24 hours of sunlight / day. Expeditions cost $50,000 a head! Perhaps four hundred people have reached its peak, most of them in the past fifteen years.

Yes, I’ve scared myself out climbing Vinson Massif.  Just look at that ice field!

Antarctica Ice Field and Mountains

Let’s look at other remote places. The peak of Mount Everest comes to mind. At 8848 meters,(29,035 ft.)  it is the tallest peak on Earth. Easy trivia question. 

Everest

Here’s another trivia question. Which planet has the tallest mountain in the solar system?

Mars!

With a height of about 13.6 miles, Olympus Mons is about two and a half times Mount Everest’s height above sea level, making Olympus Mons the tallest planetary mountain. All right, Mars would be impossible to get to at present,  so let’s get back to  Everest.

Mars

Mount Everest is on the China Nepal border. So we need to fly to Kathmandu, Tibet. From there, you join a plane tour or charter a small plane to fly to the mountain.

Getting to Katmandu would take me 26 hours over two days. We haven’t even tried to climb the mountain yet! It is a technical challenge for even expert climbers. (says captain obvious) I’ve read that an expedition to the top costs in the neighborhood of $70,00-100,000 US dollars. 

4000 people have attempted it to date. Of those 4000, 223 have died. So 1 in 20 people die who attempt it.

It sure is gorgeous.

Alpine glow on Everest
photo courtesy Glaciologist Kimberly Casey

But we’re going for remote here. And the second tallest mountain on Earth, K2, also in the Himalayas, is technically more remote. 

K2 is 237 meters shorter than Mt. Everest. K2 has reputation for being far more hazardous than Everest, and the statistics don’t lie.  K2 is located on the China Pakistan border.

Flying to Karachi, the capitol of Pakistan would take me longer, about 31 hours. And I found that travel to the mountain would take another 16 or so hours. According to a K2 website, K2 is so remote that it is not even visible from any inhabited place! The nearest village on the south (Pakistan) side of the mountain is Askole, approximately 6-8 days from Base Camp. (I bet that’s quite a hike)

Ouch! 

 For every 100 climbers who have summited K2, 29 have died. The weather is worse on K2 than Everest. The climbing is more difficult. A scant 306 people have ever stood on the summit of K2, with 77 people dying in the attempt. 

 

I would be saying no thank you to that ladder above, and running back to base camp for a cup of hot chocolate. Hopefully with a cupcake in a pink box!

Let’s get off these difficult to reach mountains and go somewhere remote and warmer!

 

There’s an island called Pitcairn. (With a P!! Not a country though.)

With 51 inhabitants, Pitcairn Island is one of the smallest and most remote territories on Earth. It’s no wonder that they have a dark sky sanctuary.

An international dark sky sanctuary is “public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.” 

Dark Sky Pitcarin Islands

With that picture above from the Pitcairn tourism website, I’m ready to go!

I checked this out thoroughly! We need to fly to Tahiti in French Polynesia. That would take me 21 hours. Once we arrive in Tahiti, we’ll need to likely spend a few nights in a hotel. Not a bad option… it is Tahiti! Or we could time our arrival. There is one flight via Air Tahiti per week, on Tuesdays, Tahiti to Mangareva. Mangareva is another island about 300 miles from Pitcairn. In Mangareva, we need to take a ferry to a village called Rikitea. (see below for a shot of Rikitea)

Rikitea, French Polynesia

Guess what? Pitcairn is remote. There are no airports!

On Rikitea, we board the ship to take us the rest of the way. This ship only travels to Pitcairn once every three months! This last leg will take 32 hours across the ocean.

Pitcairn may win the prize for remote! 

Sounds as if we’re staying for three months. I’ll need to bring Louie!

Louie

Perhaps Pitcairn doesn’t win the prize for most remote.

There are other islands that do. They’re in the Indian Ocean, nicknamed The Desolation Islands. They are 3,000 miles from the nearest town, in Madagascar. They are frigid and windy and incredibly remote. They are closer to Antarctica than Madagascar, but I am looking for civilization, not land mass. 

Keguelen

Grande Terre is the biggest island in this volcanic archipelago, which consists of 300 islands covering an area about the size of Delaware. The white stuff in the pic above is a glacier named Cook Glacier. The population changes from about 45 in the winter to 110 in the summer. Most of the residents are scientists, according to NASA. I’m sure you can guess about the temps.

Getting to Madagascar would take over thirty hours for me. There is no airport on any of the Desolation Islands. No, not a surprise. To and from is by supply ship four times a year.

It takes six days –or 144 hours– via ship. And like Pitcairn, we’d need to stay for three months, then to catch the ship back.

I’d rather go to Picairn! Actually, Palau would take less travel time. And Peru has Machu Picchu. That’s on my bucket list. That’s Peruvian hot cocoa (and a cream puff) below.

Hot cocoa and a cream puff

Do any of the above remote destinations appeal to your sense of adventure? Or any countries that don’t begin w a P?

Tell me, what’s on your travel bucket list? I’d love to hear all about it!

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14 thoughts on “Six Most Difficult Places To Visit On Earth”

    • Thanks! I thought so, too. Easter Island is also remote but at least they have an airport! It’s a five hour flight from Chile or Tahiti.There are cruises, too.
      All this talk is giving me the travel bug.

      Reply
  1. You’re more adventurous than I am. Australia is my big dream. I’d love to snorkel the coral reef. This September my husband and I get to travel to Nova Scotia. I’m still working on my manuscript, STRANDED. Maybe I’ll get new insights.

    Thanks for the travelogue. Your pictures, especially of Alaska, are amazing.

    Reply
    • I loved Alaska! I had to hold back or I would have clogged the post w more pics. Australia is quite ambitious! Snorkeling the reef sounds perfect. So does Nova Scotia. Have fun and take lots of pics. Good luck w/ STRANDED.

      Reply
  2. Great and informative post as usual. Has me thinking of a trip somewhere exotic like New Zealand. However, after spending 3 hrs on a plane with a one year old I think I will stay home for awhile.

    Reply
  3. Love this article. But I think I love it so much because I can travel sitting at home in my own couch. I can’t believe how much you fit in there.

    Reply

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Susan Berk Koch
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