1. TRISTAN DA CUNHA
A century ago, it was said the sun never set on the British Empire. While that era’s long gone, the United Kingdom still holds onto a motley collection of territories and dependencies, among them a scattering of small, volcanic islands in the South Atlantic which comprise a single overseas territory: Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha.
St. Helena, final prison for Napoleon, is the best known. But the most fascinating of the three is Tristan da Cunha. Lying 1200 miles from Saint Helena, 1500 miles from South Africa and 2100 miles from South America, Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited island in the world, with a permanent population of just around 300. The island rises 6800 feet out of the South Atlantic and is mostly mountainous — a volcano, in fact — with the only flat land being the island’s only village, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. When the volcano erupted in 1961, damaging the settlement, the island’s entire population was relocated to England for two years.
The island was first permanently settled by a group of men from Salem, Massachusetts, who claimed the island for themselves in 1810. All but one of them died two years later, and, in 1816, the United Kingdom annexed the territory to prevent use of the island by Napoleon’s would-be rescuers. All islanders today are descended from 15 founders who arrived between 1816 and 1908, and, to this day, share only eight surnames. The island’s economy is based on rock lobster, postage stamps, and coins, and all land is communally owned, with each household allotted potato plots and a certain amount of livestock. The entire population comes together for Sheep Shearing Day, which marks the beginning of the summer season.
With no airport, passage to the island is only possible via a fishing boat that arrives from South Africa every few months. You are, after all, at the end of the earth. Read more about Tristan da Cunha at National Geographic.