9 Remote Islands You Probably Didn’t Know Existed

Whether it’s because of Instagram’s alluring travel shots or the increasing accessibility of flights, today’s travelers are jet-setting across the globe at record-breaking rates. Previously isolated destinations like Iceland and Antarctica are now welcoming an almost unmanageable amount of tourists.

But fear not, aspiring explorers: Remote, nearly untouched destinations do still exist. With significant prep, planning, and funds, you can try to visit these nine remote, under-the-radar islands.

1. NIUE

Niue isn’t just a remote island—it’s one of the smallest countries on Earth. Located about 1500 miles northeast of New Zealand, between Fiji and the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean, Niue is a tropical paradise with top-notch natural adventures including limestone caving, swimming alongside wild spinner dolphins, and exploring one of the world’s largest raised coral reefs. The island is a self-governing nation in free association with New Zealand, and saw its first inhabitants more than 1000 years ago. Niue is more accessible than most remote islands: Air New Zealand offers weekly flights to Niue’s Hanan International Airport.

2. BOUVET ISLAND

The uninhabited, volcanic Bouvet Island is located 1600 miles southwest of Cape Town, South Africa—and almost any other inhabited land mass—making it one of Earth’s most remote islands. Discovered by French naval officer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier in 1739, the island was claimed by the UK in 1825, and then claimed by its current occupant, Norway, in 1928. Today, the island, which was the setting of 2004 film Alien vs. Predator, is considered a nature reserve; its residents include fur seals and penguins. Bouvet Island is accessible by select cruise ships, but according to Polar Cruises, landing at Bouvet Island is so unpredictable they allocate two days (days 13 and 14 of the typical itinerary) to actually make it.

3. TRISTAN DA CUNHA

Another remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha is a hop, skip, and a one-week, 1750-mile boat ride from South Africa. The island is a dependency of the British overseas territory Saint Helena, and was discovered in 1506 by a Portuguese sailor, Tristão da Cunha, but the waters were so rough he couldn’t even land his ship. With a population of 275 residents (and a ban on new residents), Tristan da Cunha is the world’s most remote inhabited island. Residents are primarily Christian and farming is the main source of income. Getting to Tristan da Cunha is anything but easy; travel is done entirely by ship or expedition cruise.

4. BEAR ISLAND

Part of Norway's Svalbard archipelago, Bear Island (Bjørnøya) is a 110-square-mile nature reserve located halfway between Norway and Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard group. Bear Island’s terrain is rough and rugged, with near-vertical cliffs, sea caves, strong winds, and few protected bays for docking boats. While the island has no human residents, it’s home to an enormous variety of seabird colonies. Polar bears visit on rare occasion. Similar to most uninhabited islands, getting to Bear Island is tough—but these three brothers show it can be done. They hitched a ride with a cargo ship and spent two months surfing the isolated, icy waters.

5. NORTH SENTINEL ISLAND

By NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided by the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey - Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On North Sentinel Island, 750 miles from Myanmar in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, you can’t snap selfies or binge-watch Game of Thrones. The Sentinelese tribe, considered one of the world's last uncontacted peoples, have remained cut off from the rest of the world for 60,000 years. That means no Internet, no HBO, and, as a handful of unfortunate travelers have discovered, no outside visitors. Dubbed “the hardest place to visit on Earth,” the Sentinelese greet visitors to the island with spears and arrows. Researchers observing by helicopter are shot at with arrows and stones.

For that reason, little is known about the Sentinelese tribe. Here’s what we do know: They typically eat coconuts, fish, turtles, and small birds; they survived the 2004 tsunami, and the entire population could be wiped out by disease if they come in contact with outsiders (which has become an issue over the past 10 years). Can you visit North Sentinel Island? Out of respect for the tribe and for your own life, the answer is probably no.

6. ITTOQQORTOOMIIT, GREENLAND

While not technically an island, Ittoqqortoormiit—one of the most remote parts of the already remote island of Greenland—is covered by ice and snow for nine months of the year. In size, Ittoqqortoormiit is approximately as large as Great Britain, but in population? Just 450 souls. The town is filled with colorful wooden houses and offers plenty of Arctic scenery. In summer, icebergs float down nearby Scoresby Sund, the longest fjord on earth. Ittoqqortoormiit is accessible by cruise ships or by air, with two weekly flights from Iceland and West Greenland.

7. HANS ISLAND

Though it has no natural resources—really, it's just a barren slab of rock—Canada and Denmark are constantly “battling” to claim this half-square-mile territory, which is located between Ellesmere Island and northern Greenland. The island is named for Hans Hendrik, a Greenlandic hunter and explorer who joined several 19th-century British and American expeditions to the far north. Fortunately, the current battle for control of Hans Island requires no ammo, weapons, or injuries. In perhaps the friendliest fight ever, the Canadian and Danish militaries regularly wage a “whiskey war”—leaving a bottle of Danish snaps or Canadian whiskey and their country’s flag atop Hans Island for the other country’s military to find. Can you visit Hans Island? Perhaps, but given its size and lack of amenities, there are few (if any) actual tours out there.

8. SOCOTRA ISLAND

Described as “the most alien place on earth,” Socotra Island has 800 rare species of flora and fauna, including several that are up to 20 million years old. One-third of Socotra’s species are found only on the island, making it the Indian Ocean’s answer to the Galapagos. The 80-mile-long island is part of Yemen, and despite its listing as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, it still remains off most travelers’ radar. It’s home to 50,000 residents who reside in the archipelago’s main cities like Hadibu and Qalansiyah. Most visitors arrive to Socotra via Yemenia Airway and Felix Airways; a stopover in Yemen (about 240 miles away) is required. Travelers can also arrive by sea, but because the island receives two annual monsoons and suffers from offshore piracy, air travel is the way to go.

9. LONGYEARBYEN, SVALBARD

The world’s northernmost town with a significant population, Longyearbyen is located on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard. Longyearbyen’s winters get pretty frigid—12° F is the usual high—and all houses are built on stilts to avoid sinking and sliding when the island's top layer of permafrost melts in summer. In terms of tourism, Svalbard offers impeccable opportunities to view the aurora borealis, not to mention one-of-a-kind views of the native reindeer, polar bears, walruses, foxes, seabirds, and whales. The island has a few relatively inexpensive accommodations, and direct flights are available from Oslo and Tromsø, Norway.

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 

Amazon
Amazon

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If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44

Amazon

You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64

Amazon

Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160

Amazon

Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60

Amazon

Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212

Amazon

Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18

Amazon

LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120

Amazon

Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120

Amazon

The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The White House; $100

Amazon

Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120

Amazon

Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

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The Trailblazing Story of Alexandrine Tinné, the Victorian Explorer Who Attempted to Cross the Sahara Desert

Alexandrine Tinné was an avid explorer.
Alexandrine Tinné was an avid explorer.
Haags Historisch Museum, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A well-chaperoned Grand Tour of Europe offered wealthy Victorian women a way to safely admire civilization’s wonders, but such travel held little interest for Dutch heiress Alexine Tinné. Having studied books on geography, archaeology, and botany at the Royal Library in the Hague, Tinné longed to explore uncharted regions. Her travels would bring her along the White Nile and later, deep within the Sahara Desert.

An Escape From Victorian Life

Alexandrine Tinné, circa 1855–1860.Robert Jefferson Bingham, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In the mid-19th century, exploration was considered a gentleman’s pursuit. The Royal Geographic Society had never financed an expedition led by a woman (and wouldn't until 1904). But Tinné didn't need anyone to authorize or fund her trip, having inherited a fortune when she was 9 years old after the death of her father, Philip Frederik Tinné, a wealthy Anglo-Dutch sugar merchant and shipbuilder [PDF]. She could afford to travel in luxury with her mother, Baroness Henriette van Capellen, a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Sophie of Württemberg. When Tinné was 19, she and her mother traveled Europe and Scandinavia before heading to Egypt to enjoy pleasure cruises on the Nile.

According to Mylinka Kilgore Cardona, a history professor at Texas A&M University who is reworking her dissertation The Six Lives Of Alexine Tinné [PDF] into a book, Tinné’s travels offered a chance to escape the narrow confines of Victorian life. “She got to be her authentic self when she was outside of Europe,” Cardona tells Mental Floss. “She got rid of the corsetry and the crinolines and dressed like a local, albeit a wealthy local. Had she gone back to Europe she would have most likely been forced back into those expectations and highly encouraged to marry.”

Eventful Expeditions

Tinné was so intrigued by Africa, she launched an 1863 expedition to what is now Sudan to discover the source of the Nile, something European explorers had sought since Roman times. Ornithologist Theodor von Heugelin and botanist Hermann Steudner joined Tinné’s 1863 expedition, which required a flotilla of boats to ferry her entourage of soldiers, maids, porters, and clerks, as well as the required camels and donkeys. Tinné’s five dogs, carried in panniers by porters, also accompanied the group.

Though she didn't find the source of the Nile, her adventures were still fruitful. Tinné documented her travels along the region’s waterways and settlements, compiling photographs and drawings now housed in museums. The plants she collected and pressed became the basis for Plantae Tinneanae, a book on the botany of Bahr el-Ghazal, and her letters, sent home by dispatch, described experiences that included traders promising to proclaim her Queen of the Sudan and receiving a marriage proposal from a sultan. 

To a niece, Tinné wrote of her intention to travel beyond Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan. “When you look at the map you will see there is at the SouthWest of the Equator, a large space empty of names, it’s there we want to go to.”

Accounts of her travels not only thrilled newspaper readers of the day, but also were presented at The Royal Geographic Society. Yet some critics called Tinné a dilettante and claimed women were ill-suited to risky endeavors. “Exploration was this very macho masculine thing in the 19th century,” Cardona says. “To be out exploring and facing your fears. Then you have this 20-something-year-old woman doing it. How manly can it be if she is doing it too?”

Troubled Travels

Alexandrine Tinné's travels were far from solitary.Die Gartenlaube, 1869, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Tinné’s excursions were far from a leisurely holiday. Her entourage grew as she traveled, straining their resources. When food supplies ran low, her soldiers threatened to mutiny. In self-taught Arabic, the heiress persuaded them to continue, but she soon had to reverse course: While in Bahr el Ghazal, several members of her expedition became severely ill. Tinné and von Heugelin survived, but her mother, Steudner, and two maids died.

Tinné returned to Khartoum, where Adriana van Cappellen, an aunt who had previously left the expedition, had remained. Only weeks after Tinné arrived in Khartoum, Van Cappellen died unexpectedly. Despite suffering yet another devastating loss, the young explorer chose not to return to the Hague. “And now you will probably ask yourself what I am going to do,” she wrote to her niece. “And I don’t think you will be very astonished when I tell you I am going to stay in the East.”

For the next four years, Tinné lived in Alexandria, Tunis, and Tripoli, sailing the Mediterranean, but still longing to explore uncharted regions. In late 1868, she launched another expedition, aiming to be the first European woman to cross the Sahara. It would be her last.

The expedition began in Tripoli, but ended before ever leaving the country. In August 1869, at the age of 33, Tinné was killed during a fight between her camel drivers and guides while traveling between Murzuq and Ghat [PDF]. She knew the dangers inherent in exploration, at one point expressing her preference for an interesting life: “If you hear today or tomorrow that I have been sent to the other world, then don’t think my last moments were lived in bitterness.”