From cities and towns, what is the most isolated capital city and in the world? What is it like to live there? How remote are you talking about here? These are all questions that come up when discussing remote cities.
Determining which is the remote city is somewhat subjective yet it’s got to be backed up with some data too. In the case of remote cities, we’re going to look at two factors: population and type of transport.
How do we define remote for the purpose of this article? We’re looking at capital cities here but even still your definition may vary from mine. For example, some people might not think that Perth Australia is remote because it has an international airport and a population of over one million (and nearly two million people in the greater metropolitan area). On the other hand, some might argue that remote is not physical distance but rather how easy it is to access. So while Perth airport has flights arriving from all sorts of places every day, only a few airlines fly there and no one flies direct from North America or Europe.
Let’s talk about a few remote cities and at the end determine which we can deem THE most remote.
Table of Contents
Perth, Western Australia
Almost every list on the internet includes Perth as its most remote. It’s a hard one to fathom and I’m not necessarily inclined to include it on a remote city list. Perth is a stunning city in western Australia. Its CBD or central business district is compact and has beautiful high-rise buildings. It then extends out to many suburbs,
Perth is a thriving city not too far from the Indian Ocean. In terms of getting there, it’s not the easiest when coming from Europe or the US. There are no direct flights to the city. Most UK and EU flights only go to Bangkok, Singapore, or Tokyo and you need to catch connecting flights onwards to the gem in WA.
I spent 6 months here back in 1999. What an amazing city with its wonderful night scene around Northbridge and a great train system that can take you to Freemantle (Freo) in 30 minutes. I wasn’t aware of being remote at any stage while living here. However, when it came time to move on to Sydney I realized, hell, it’s a long way across the Nullarbor Plain and further again.
There are viable internal flight options but they tend not to be the cheapest. As a backpacker, I was interested in driving across and experiencing proper outback Australia.
Make sure you put Perth on your bucket list. For me, the best city in Australia, even if it is remote.
Iquito, Peru is the largest city on Earth without road access. The remote Peruvian city has a population of 371,000 and is located in the Amazon rainforest bordered by the Amazon river on one side and impenetrable rainforest on the other.
It takes an average of four days to reach Iquito from Yurimaguas via boat or plane which makes imports expensive by Peruvian standards. Although there have been indigenous populations in this area for thousands of years it wasn’t until 1880-1914 during the South American rubber boom did Iquito grow with a small impact from oil tourism and black market trade.
The remote location of Iquito has been both a blessing and curse as it’s inaccessible to outside influence but makes imports expensive and difficult. However, the remote location has persisted throughout history even when rubber production shifted elsewhere.
Thinking of visiting? Make sure you have all your shots and travel insurance.
Related reading: Read about Humantay Lake near Cusco, Peru.
Hobart, Tasmania (Australian Territory)
Hobart is remote, but it’s also the most beautiful city in Australia.
The capital of Tasmania, Hobart is remote by definition. It’s on an island off the southern coast of mainland Australia and its closest neighbor, Melbourne on the Australian mainland, is over 2200 miles away. That makes it pretty remote for someone living in Asia or Europe! Yet while being remote might be a disadvantage to some people, there are ways that it can be advantageous too. For example: -It means fewer tourists crowding your streets -It means you have more room to grow before running out of space and because so few people live here (almost half of all Tasmanians), you get a lot more personal attention from local businesses and government services.
Since remote locations like this don’t have a lot of people, they tend to get overlooked by outsiders, which means you’re more likely to be left alone.
Known once upon a time as Van Diemen’s Land, it was founded as a British penal colony in 1804 and saw many life hardships for hardened criminals as well as petty thieves. Back in the 19th Century you probably couldn’t get more remote with prison ships setting sail from The British Isles. Many didn’t survive the horrendous voyage to Tasmania and very few criminals and innocents returned home. It really was a one-way trip.
It is the second-oldest capital city after Sydney, New South Wales. As of 2020, it has an estimated population of 232,000 people. It also serves as an Antarctic gateway for scientists.
Shipping is the primary industry on the island yet tourism is huge business in the area. It has greater visitor figures than Perth and other popular destinations in mainland Australia.
Hobart, remote as an island but an open gateway for tourism and shipping hub.
Nuuk, Greenland remote Northernmost city
What is the most remote capital city in the world? It turns out that there are many remote cities, but one stands out as being more remote than any other. Nuuk Greenland, a remote city of only 18000 people, is the most isolated capital city in the world.
The closest airport is 4km outside the city with flights to Iceland primarily as well as domestic flights to most regions of Greenland flying over ice sheets. It also has a twice-weekly boat departure with Arctic Umiaq Coastal Ferries with one going North and the other South.
There are no roads between settlements in Greenland so, for Nuuk, and the only way in is by boat or plane. It does have a harbor that allows for large cargo ships such as oil tankers and cruise liners who stop over on their journey between Iceland and Norway.
During World War II, the United States establish multiple airstrips on Greenland. To this day there are 18 airstrips, a legacy from the war.
Nuuk is certainly remote, once you make the painful journey to the area, it’s so worth it for the number of outdoor activities you can experience and the culture of the Inuits abound here.
Yakutsk is so lost in the vastness of Russia and Siberia. It’s both a remote city of the world, and it’s one of the coldest major cities in the world.
It is located in Russia, 450 km from its border with Mongolia. Yakutsk has an airport and is served by Russian Airlines including Sakhalin Airlines and Yakutia Airlines. It’s connected with flights from other cities in Russia. The city is best known as a hub for diamond trading but it’s also home to the Mammoth Museum where you can see fossilized woolly mammoth bones and other ice age animal fossils such as rhinos.
You can read more about remote cities and villages of Russia here.
Luganville, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Luganville is the one true town/city on Espiritu Santo Island, a part of the archipelago of Vanuatu. And so it is one of the most remote towns in the world. It’s not just remote geographically speaking, but also remote from other countries and remote from major population centers. So what makes this city so remote? And why do people live there anyway?
Espiritu Santo is one of the 83 islands that make up Vanuatu, a country located in the South Pacific Ocean. A remote place like this might not be ideal for your average city dweller, but remote cities can be desirable to many people.
Espiritu Santo has one town, Luganville, with about 14,000 residents who all work either on the island or on one of its many remote offshore islands. The town only has about 400 people that are not native to Vanuatu, but it’s still enough for this place to be considered a real city especially with the tourists who arrive from Australia to visit Champagne Beach.
Champagne Beach rose to fame in 2019 when it was mentioned by Forbes as being one of the finest beaches in Oceania and in 2013 it was in CNN’s top 10 beaches in the world. You can read more about Champagne beach, Vanuatu here.
Espiritu Santo was first discovered by Europeans in 1606 and throughout history, it traded hands between France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was also a remote place for most of this time because there were no ship or plane routes to it until recently when Vanuatu started running flights from Australia in 2003.
Before this remote island had a population, Espiritu Santo used to be a remote volcanic island with tropical rainforest vegetation and steep cliffs.
Nowadays the remote island has a few more roads and buildings than it used to, but there’s still so much untouched tropical forest nearby that you can visit if you want! Just make sure your plane is prepared for landing on an unpaved airstrip before going somewhere remote like this one.
Unfortunately, Santo island elevated its remote status in April 2020 when a category 5 cyclone, called Cyclone Harold, devastated the islands of Vanuatu. Santo island was cut off in its rebuilding as it happened during the Global COVID 19 Pandemic and so the aid was not able to get through amid all the general shutdown restrictions.
The remote city of Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and one of the most remote cities in the world. The remote location, combined with its beautiful beaches makes it an attractive vacation spot for people all over the world.
Hawaii’s isolation means that goods are more expensive than in other parts of America, but this also means you can find some rare items here that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
If you want to visit Honolulu, your best bet is to take a short flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco (or even Tokyo!) which will only take about five hours each way. You may also choose to fly into Kona International Airport instead if your destination is west coast Oahu island or Kauai.
The reason I have added Honolulu to this list of the world’s remote locations is that, geographically, Hawaii is stuck right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It seems strange to pick it when it is accessed by a gazillion planes in and out every day. It’s a prime vacation destination for Americans and more besides. It is of course a wealthy city as Hawaii is the 50th US State.
Mêdog in Tibet is considered a remote city of the world. Mêdog is an extremely remote outpost in the world. The road to Mêdog was only completed in 2013. Up until then, it was accessible by horses and mules and determination to make the climb to over 4,000 meters.
Really the population has been stunted by lack of access. This remote city had no hospitals or schools for years because of its isolation. Today, the road is open just eight months out of the year with mudslides and heavy snowfall preventing travel during that time. (sounds like a good place for a remake of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)
Medical care and education are limited and infrastructure is old school Tibet at best. If you’re looking for quaint and getting a sense of tradition Tibet then Mêdog should be on your bucket list
As I said at the start of this, a definition of a remote city is subjective yet, mix in some data and we can get a clearer picture.
Isolated cities are not just remote because of their location on a map but due to the difficulty in getting there too. To pick one of the above cities is certainly hard but I would pick Mêdog due to getting a road only in 2013, its limited infrastructure, and harsh climate.
It is possible to find remote locations all over the world with some research and an adventurous spirit! Why not check out Patagonia and Humantay Lake near Cusco in Peru.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about these remote cities around the world, what they offer visitors, and how accessible they are for travelers from other parts of the globe.