Lost Islands of the World

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Lost Islands of the World
Traveler's guide to deserted islands for when you really, really want to be alone

by Borgna Brunner

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Clipperton Island:
Blue Lagoon and Pirate's Lair

Navassa Island:
Isle of Pristine Beauty and the Guano Act of 1856

Heard Island and McDonald Islands:
Fire and Ice

Howland Island:
Island of the Earhart Mystery

Bouvet Island:
The Most Remote Spot on Earth

This guide is for those of you who genuinely want to get away from it all. If you think that means a week on Nantucket or even the Galapagos, you've come to the wrong place. What we're talking about here is real isolation—not just an absence of other tourists, but of everyone. No amenities, no hotels, no nothing.

There are no truly solitary places on Earth's large landmasses. Package tours with names like "Magical Mongolia" send throngs into the barren steppes, traffic jams clog Timbuktu, and the most desolate stretches of the Algerian Sahara now crawl with gun runners. The only hope for a small speck on Earth that's all yours for a little while is an island—one that has been lost, abandoned, or forgotten by civilization.

But there's a price to pay for this kind of privacy. You may be required to charter a helicopter, endure extreme temperatures and hostile (but nonhuman) inhabitants, scale dangerous cliffs, navigate treacherous reefs, or outrun lava floes—finding some peace and quiet away from 6 billion other humans requires extraordinary measures.

Photo by Dr. Dick Williams, provided by Southwest Volcano Research Center
Smoke rises from McDonald Island's volcano.

If this guidebook seems to beckon to you in the way a Frommer's or a Club Med brochure does not, then read on—you're about to be introduced to the crème de la crème of deserted islands. There's an island to fit every personality, whether you're a nature lover or a history buff, a sun worshipper or adventure seeker. Our offering includes, among others things, Norwegian islands (without Norwegians), Australian islands (without Australians), and French islands where you don't need a word of French.

First, an answer to the most frequently asked question among our breed of travelers: "if I were stranded on a deserted island and could bring one thing, what should it be?" We recommend you skip the grueling decision-making involved in figuring out your ten all-time favorite CDs, or deciding between War and Peace and Remembrance of Things Past. There is no danger of getting bored on these islands, no chance of getting stuck sitting under a palm tree, staring out at an endless horizon. And strike the word "stranded" from your vocabulary—our travelers would describe their state as "transported" . . . or "delivered."

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