the world’s harshest and most hostile environments with
our round up of the most extreme places on earth you can actually
visit. Far from sand and sundowner holidays (you’ve had enough of
those) these places will push your boundaries. Why be a mere
tourist when you can be an explorer?
With a population estimated at somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000
Antarctica is a land of
extremes. The coldest and driest continent on the planet is
home to Russia’s Vostok Station, located near the south geomagnetic
pole. On 21 July 1983, it was here that the coldest temperature
ever recorded on Earth was recorded – a chilly -89.2 degrees
celsius. Only reachable by vessels specially strengthened to
protect against the ice, visitors who come to trek through the
wilderness must come well-prepared – by which we mean knowledgeable
Starkly dramatic, the national park that defines this valley’s
borders is only a little smaller than Connecticut. Hellish summer
heat reached an all-time high in 1913 clocking a prohibitive 56.6
degrees celsius and the hottest temperature ever recorded. The
narrowness of valley prevents air circulation, helping earn Death
Valley its title as “the hottest place in the world”. Yet, in
winter months and shoulder seasons the area draws LA
who hop on the highway and hit up the poppy-blanketed hills of the
Antelope Valley en route.
Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert takes the prize for being one of
the world’s driest destination. In fact, it’s so dry that NASA
decided it was the perfect location to test its Martian rover.
Lunar landscapes aside, it’s also one of the best locations on
earth to appreciate the Milky Way. The Atacama Desert’s 41,000
square miles of diverse terrain includes spurting geysers,
wind-sculpted golden dunes perfect for surfing and cliffs of
colourfully striped strata known as Rainbow Valley. Sparsely
populated, the Atacama Desert has several hotels to choose from
that cater to tourists who come to explore the parched terrain.
These waters are no joke. Deemed the most treacherous on Earth,
Gansbaai in South Africa is prime Great White Shark territory. A
few miles off the coast lies Shark Alley, a small channel of water
between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock. This pool of water is home to
the densest population of Great Whites in the world. Dicing with
death not your thing? Try whale watching from the sandy white
shores of Pearly Beach.
Salar de Uyuni
Covering 4,000 square miles, the otherworldly terrain of Salar
de Uyuni is a sight to behold. Containing about ten billion tons of
salt, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat and
one of the most remarkable vistas in all of South America. Left
behind by prehistoric lakes that evaporated long ago, the sea of
blindingly bright salt in polygonal patterns draws hordes of
backpackers, making it feel slightly less extreme but no less
impressive than the other destinations on this list.
As the coldest inhabited place on earth, the small Russian town
of Oymyakon is just short of inhabitable. With a population of just
500, the town was once used only as a location for political
exiles. The ground is permanently frozen and the town currently has
only one hotel. This Siberian destination the coldest community on
Earth averages -50 degrees celsius and reached -67.8 degrees
celsius in 1924.
The farthest point from the Earth’s centre (or the closest place
to outer space) either way you spin it, this places exists at the
extremities of the globe. The inactive volcano of Mount Chimborazo
stands at over 20,000 feet high; last erupting in approximately 550
AD, standing on Mount Chimborazo puts you closest to outer space
than man can ever reach on foot. Although its peak is completely
covered by glaciers, the mountain does has several routes for
climbers. Venture at your peril.