Located midway between South Africa and Argentina in the Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha is the world’s most remote island – the nearest speck of land, St. Helena, is a whopping 2430 km away, and it’s over 2800 km (~1750 miles) to the nearest continent, Africa. Made up of six separate volcanic islands, it almost seems a shame to write about it, but with such natural beauty it would also be a shame to deny its existence.
Left largely ignored after its 1506 discovery due to its “rugged mountain landscape, absence of natural harbor, lack of land agriculture and a harsh climate,” the islands are now inhabited by the world’s most isolated community after once being an important trading route between Europe and the Indian Ocean.
The entire population of some 270 inhabitants is concentrated on the only flat bit of this volcanic landmass, the hamlet of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas on the main island. There are a few other islands in the archipelago, all uninhabited: Inaccessible Island, Nightingale Island, Middle Island and Stoltenhoff Island. Gough Island, some 300 km away, hosts a weather and scientific research outpost.
Surviving on basic industries such as farming and fishing, the population has become one of the most extraordinary in the world thanks to living in such desolate, limited conditions. Nevertheless, the lonely nature of the British territory attracts tourists from around the world, even if you do need permission from the Tristan government to enter. Accessible only by boat from Cape Town, Tristan da Cunha’s remoteness is, ironically, its “reason to be”.
All visitors to Tristan da Cunha must receive a permission from the Tristan Government. Write an email to email@example.com and specify when you plan to go, where you intend to stay and the purpose of your visit.
There is no airstrip on Tristan da Cunha.
Travelling to Tristan da Cunha requires careful planning. It takes five to six days to travel the 2810 kilometers from Cape Town. The South African polar research ship SA Agulhas and the fishing vessels Edinburgh and Baltic Trader do the voyage between Cape Town and Tristan da Cunha several times every year. A return ticket on Agulhas is about US$1300, a return ticket on one of the fishing vessels is US$800. Schedules and further information is available on the official Tristan da Cunha website.
Due to rugged, steep terrain, going all the way around the island is difficult, but if just staying in the village of Tristan, the flat, grassy ground is easy to maintain.
There is a paved road (the M1) from Edinburgh (aka The Settlement) to the Potato Patches, which are about 3 miles away. Local transport is available to the Potato Patches. This local transport could be an islander’s car, tractor, and during the mornings, a bus service also operates (using an actual bus). Note that the bus is targeted at pensioners, who can ride on the bus for free. The charge is £5 return. Note that you cannot rent any vehicles on the island.
The Island organizes fishing excursions, walks, climbs and even golf for visitors. Once again, consult their website for more information.
Take a trip to Inaccessible Island from the main Tristan Da Cunha Island. Despite the name, it is possible to visit the island. Only visitors escorted by guides from Tristan da Cunha are permitted to visit the island, and most visitors come as part of a cruise ship itinerary. There are no permanent settlements on the island and you should bring your own food or drinks. Along with (relatively) nearby Gough Island, Inaccessible Island was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.
Eat & Drink
The only public place available is the Prince Philip Hall which occasionally serves food, the building also houses the Albatross Bar – the islands only pub. Opening hours are sketchy to say the least, and the only time it’s very likely to be open is when cruise ships are docked at the island. If you are hungry and the hall is closed, your only other bet is a visit to the Island shop.
Self-catering accomodation is £20 per night, while home stays, which include meals and laundry, cost £40 per night. There are discounts for Tristan Islanders and children. Booking information is available on the Island’s official website.
Relatively nearby to the south is Gough Island, another British dependency.