World's most isolated destinations
There's a chance – just a small chance – that we might all have become a little too reliant on our phones. That we might have become obsessed not with doing things, but with staying in touch with other people who are doing things.
You only have to flick through the apps on your phone to know this is true: Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, email …They're all ways of remaining in contact 24 hours a day, of reading news, of passing on tales of your own. They're media for sharing, for letting friends and followers know what you're up to at any given point in your day.It's stressful just trying to keep up. So why not get away from it all? The following are destinations that will truly take you away from it all. They'll quite often take you away not just from phone signals and wi-fi and all of your family and friends, but from civilisation itself. These are among the genuine wild, exciting and remote places remaining on the planet.
THE MONGOLIAN STEPPE
WHERE IS IT? In Central Asia, the Mongolian steppe is a huge area of high-altitude grassland that's inhabited mostly by nomadic families.
WHY GO? If you ever want to feel a deep sense of isolation, try standing in the middle of the Mongolian steppe, the wind whistling in your ears, the treeless landscape stretching to the horizon on all sides, with not a soul to be found. It's beautiful; it's scary. There are, however, people out here. The nomadic families of Mongolia still live in the white, felt-covered gers that dot the barren landscape, and tourists are usually welcome to spend a few nights with them, watching as they eke out a living as farmers and herders in this barren but beautiful place.
WI-FI CONNECTION Poor to non-existent.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Almaty, Kazakhstan
HOW TO GET THERE: There's an international airport in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator; from there, you'll need a local guide to set up accommodation with a nomadic family.
WHERE IS IT On the southern tip of South America, spread across Chilean and Argentinean territory.
WHY GO It's the sheer size of Patagonia that impresses people. Not just the size of the territory itself, but the size of everything within it: the towering, jagged mountain peaks; the huge glaciers calving ice into frigid waters; the endless, barren valleys marked with petrified forests. It's also, however, the silence. Though it's accessible by sealed road from several established towns, Patagonia is so wild, so rugged and so unpredictable that it truly does feel as if you're standing on the end of the Earth. And at nighttime, as you curl up in a tent or a cabin and listen to the howl of the wind outside, it's a truly awe-inspiring experience.
HOW TO GET THERE The best access to Patagonia's national parks is via the towns of El Calafate, Rio Gallegos and Ishuaia in Argentina, and Punta Arenas in Chile. All are accessible by air from Santiago or Buenos Aires.
WI-FI CONNECTION Patchy at best.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Santiago, Chile.
TRISTAN DE CUNHA
WHERE IS IT In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Cape Town and Buenos Aires. This is the world's most remote inhabited island.
WHY GO Because there is nowhere else in the world quite like Tristan de Cunha. This tiny island nation, some 2000 kilometres from the nearest inhabitance, doesn't even have its own airport. It takes a week-long ride on a polar supply ship from Cape Town for tourists to visit Tristan and its 267 inhabitants. The island has no mobile phone coverage, and the only way to access the worldwide web there is at a single internet cafe. There are also no hotels, meaning visitors stay with local families, and are often expected to help out with daily chores.
HOW TO GET THERE There are nine ship passages annually from Cape Town to Tristan de Cunha. It's a week-long voyage, and visitors will have to stay on the island for a month before being picked up again.
WI-FI CONNECTION Don't go near that internet cafe.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Johannesburg or Buenos Aires.
CHADA KATAVI CAMP
WHERE IT IS This six-tent safari lodge is in Katavi National Park, a game reserve in far western Tanzania, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
WHY GO There are plenty of isolated safari camps out there, but this is one of the most remote. It's a three-hour flight by private plane from the tourist centre of Arusha to get to Chada Katavi, a tiny campsite on the rim of the Chada Plain. Unlike Tanzanian hotspots such as Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, it's doubtful that you'll see any other tourists in Katavi. Instead you'll spot lions, buffalo and elephants on the vast flood plains, crocodiles and hippos in the river systems, and birdlife in the air. And at the end of the day? A luxurious permanent tent. And silence.
HOW TO GET THERE Chada Katavi is open from June to mid-November; during that time there are two weekly flights from Arusha to Ikuu airstrip, and it's a further 20 minutes by 4WD to the camp.
WI-FI CONNECTION In your dreams.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Johannesburg.
WHERE IS IT? Ittoqqortoormiit is a tiny, unpronounceable settlement of only 450 people on the east coast of Greenland.
WHY GO There's life in Ittoqqortoormiit. Most of it, however, is not human. It comes in the form of the polar bears, musk oxen, reindeer and walruses that call this sometimes bleak but always beautiful land their home. And it's an isolated home. The surrounding sea is completely frozen over for nine months of the year. The nearest neighbour to Ittoqqortoomiit is Daneborg, a national park patrol station some 600km north. In winter there's only one flight in or out a week. The main form of transport in town is a dog-sled. The local pub is only open one night a week. However, despite everything, the people are friendly, and the landscape is like nothing you've ever seen before.
HOW TO GET THERE During summer there are two weekly flights to Ittoqqortoomiit from Reykjavik in Iceland. Some cruise ships also call into the port.
WI-FI CONNECTION Try your cruise ship, if you are on one.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Trondheim, Norway.
WHERE IS IT This Canadian territory is set in the country's far north-west, bordering Alaska on one side, and the province of British Columbia on the other.
WHY GO There's no way you're going to be thinking about checking your emails while you're embarking on one of the world's great adventures: a canoeing expedition down the Yukon River. And there's no chance you'll be considering checking Facebook while you're climbing one of Canada's tallest mountain peaks in Kluane National Park. And even when access to those trappings of modernity is possible, when you're hanging out in little towns like Whitehorse and Dawson City, there will still be very little urge to indulge in them. Because the Yukon is all about simple, beautiful pleasures: meeting locals, trekking mountain paths, eating hearty meals, and taking it all in sans technology.
HOW TO GET THERE The only major airport in the Yukon is Whitehorse, which has flights coming in from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Frankfurt.
WI-FI CONNECTION Possible but resist.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Fairbanks or Juneau, Alaska.
WHERE IS IT The place otherwise known as Easter Island is a tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean about 3700km off the coast of Chile.
WHY GO If you've seen photos of the large stone heads that dot Rapa Nui – and, no doubt, you have – then you already possess all the reasons necessary to visit this tiny, remote island. Because those "moai", which are actually entire carved figures rather than merely heads, say so much: they represent all that's amazing, and different, and mysterious on Easter Island. This outcrop in the Pacific is home to only 6000 people, though it does have a smattering of eco-resorts, and activities such as hiking, snorkelling and surfing on offer. Most visitors will be drawn, however, to those moai.
HOW TO GET THERE LAN Airlines flies seven times a week from Santiago to Hanga Roa on Rapa Nui (a five-hour journey), and there's one flight a week from Tahiti.
WI-FI CONNECTION Limited to non-existent.
NEAREST STARBUCKS: Santiago.
WHERE IS IT About halfway between continental Norway and the North Pole. In other words, it's quite chilly.
WHY GO There are more polar bears than people in Svalbard. That might at first sound like a very good reason not to go, but it's also a perfect demonstration of just how remote and isolated this Arctic archipelago really is. Svalbard's largest town, Longyearbyen, is a four-and-a-half-hour flight north of Olso. The entire area is only home to about 2500 hardy souls, and there's very little to do in winter but hunker down and watch the occasional showing of northern lights. Once the sun rises, however, Svalbard is a haven for those who like to do their exploring on snowmobiles, or dog sleds, or even on foot across huge glaciers. Just keep an eye out for bears.
HOW TO GET THERE There are seven flights a week between Olso and Longyearbyen, as well as five a week from Tromso.
WI-FI CONNECTION Non-existent beyond Svalbard.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Trondheim, Norway
WHERE IS IT This tiny village is set high in the north-west corner of Namibia, a good day-long drive on dirt tracks from the nearest settlement.
WHY GO Puros is marked on the map as a town, but it won't feel like any other town you've ever visited. There's really nothing there except a few galvanised iron huts and a campsite. But people come for the isolation, for the beautiful, rugged landscapes that surround on all sides, for the chance to see marauding desert elephant in their natural habitat, and for the opportunity to visit a local settlement of Himba tribespeople still living the same way they have for centuries. It's unlike anywhere else.
HOW TO GET THERE From the Namibian capital of Windhoek, you'll need a 4WD to get you up to Palmwag, where you can overnight before completing the drive to Puros the next day.
WI-FI CONNECTION Dream on.
NUMBER OF STARBUCKS Johannesburg
WHERE IS IT Taransay is an island in the Outer Hebrides, off the far north-west coast of Scotland.
WHY GO No one lives permanently on this windswept outcrop of heather-covered land. Taransay is a hiker's paradise, a place where you'll be completely undisturbed as you tramp across the twin islands (connected by a thin isthmus), walking along rugged cliff tops, down past flawless white-sand beaches, and along the island's charming moors. There are three self-catered accommodation options on Taransay which offer a total of 22 beds, meaning very few people will be able to share this experience of true Scottish wilderness. But it does get lonely. Be sure to pack the whisky.
HOW TO GET THERE After flying to the town of Stornaway on Lewis and Harris, make your way to Horgabost Beach, where transfers run to the Taransay guesthouses.
WI-FI CONNECTION Down another dram.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Inverness, Scotland.
TAMBOPATA RESEARCH CENTRE
WHERE IS IT Deep in the Peruvian Amazon, about a seven-hour boat ride from the town of Puerto Maldonado.
WHY GO This is as wild as it gets: a tiny settlement of scientists and travellers in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. The accommodation is comfortable, if a little basic. All rooms only have three walls, with one side open to the sights and sounds of the jungle outside. This area is known primarily for its population of macaws, the world's largest parrots, richly plumed birds that flock here to feed on mineral deposits in the soil. A dawn viewing of the macaws at play should be on ever nature-lover's bucket list.
HOW TO GO Tourists will need to fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, and then catch a narrow boat for about seven hours up-river.
WI-FI CONNECTION Focus on the real twitters.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Trujillo, Peru
MASOALA NATIONAL PARK
WHERE IS IT This 2300sq km reserve of rainforest and marine parks is in the north-east corner of Madagascar.
WHY GO There's only one road into Masoala, and it's often closed. The only other way to access this spectacular, wild area of national park is by boat, a three-hour ride from the town of Maroantsetra. Once you're in, however, you're in another world. On land, there are 13 species of lemur to be found, including the red-ruffed lemur, and the nocturnal aye-aye. Other exotic-sounding beasts include leaf-tailed geckos, Madagascar red owls, serpent eagles and tomato frogs. In the ocean humpback whales glide serenely by, while 3001 fish species swim below. The only accommodation options are one luxury lodge, or three basic campsites. This place is seriously wild.
HOW TO GET THERE From Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo, make your way north to either Maroantsetra – where boat transfers into the park can be arranged – or Antalaha, where access to Masoala is via bush taxi or mountain bike.
WI-FI CONNECTION Set your "out of office" message.
NEAREST STARBUCKS Johnanesburg, South Africa.