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Explore 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?
1. Vostok Station, Antarctica
With a population estimated at somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000 people, 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 guide.
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.
5. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
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.
6. Oymyakon, Russia
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.
7. Chimborazo, Ecuador
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.
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