Be prepared and pack a full survival kit for Death Valley. This may sound dramatic, but California’s killer desert is an extreme environment, and those ill-equipped risk paying the ultimate price.
There are countless dangers in Death Valley, with rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders prowling the desert floor and abandoned mine shafts and tunnels that are hidden from sight. But the greatest peril here is the extreme temperature. Put quite simply, Death Valley is hot.
The highest ambient air temperature ever recorded was here, at Furnace Creek in 1913, when scientists took a reading of 56.7C, whilst surface temperatures have been known to exceed 93C. Drought is constant, the summers long, and the risks significant. Those visiting are advised to avoid hiking in the heat, to pack sufficient water, and to look out for signs of trouble — with dizziness, nausea, and headaches pointing to problems for those not used to the extreme conditions.
World’s Most Visited City: Bangkok, Thailand
For the last four years, the Thai capital has been the most visited city on the planet. The latest figures reveal that 22.78 million international overnight travellers head to Bangkok on an annual basis.
Having overtaken London, the long-time leader, this is now the place to be for those keen to keep up with the latest tourist trends.
Visitor numbers have begun to plateau in London, the UK’s capital slipping to third on Mastercard’s latest Global Destination Cities Index, with Paris moving into second place, with 19.1 million visitors annually.
Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and New York make up the nearest also-rans on a list of 200 cities, with Bangkok once again taking the crown — and no sign that its appeal is about to wane. Tourism accounts for one fifth of Thailand’s GDP, making this good news for the powers that be there.
World’s Coldest Inhabited Place: Oymyakon, Russia
Located deep in Siberia, Oymyakon’s claim to fame is its cold, cold climate. This remote village in rural Russia is considered the coldest permanently-inhabited place on the planet. Thinking about moving in? You need to be tough in order to survive here.
Oymyakon is the coldest spot in the Northern Hemisphere, with Vostok Station in Antarctica the one place on the planet prone to lower temperatures. There’s a monument here to mark the time when, in the 1920s, temperatures dipped to -72.2C.
It isn’t often that cold, but the ground is always frozen and life is hard. Perhaps unsurprisingly, few people want to live in such conditions and the population is decreasing, with fewer than 1,000 residents still prepared to put up with the frigid climate. To put things into perspective, were you to venture outside naked on an average day in Oymyakon, you’d freeze to death inside a minute. Cold in the extreme, be sure to bring a coat.
Lowest Point On Earth: Dead Sea
There’s nowhere else on Earth quite like the Dead Sea. Located in the Jordan Rift Valley, with Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west, this ranks amongst the saltiest bodies of water on the planet.
Some ten times saltier than the ocean, floating in the Dead Sea’s waters comes easily. Surviving there? That’s not quite so simple. Because the Dead Sea is so salty, life is limited, this a harsh environment that makes it all but impossible for plants and animals to thrive – hence the name.
It might be barren, but this inland ocean is a fascinating spot that beckons those with an interest in all things extreme. Lying 430.5 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea’s surface and shores count as the Earth’s lowest point of elevation. It’s also the deepest hypersaline lake in the world, another notable boast that marks this out as an extreme place indeed.
World’s Deepest Cave: Krubera Cave, Abkhazia, Georgia
Krubera is the deepest known cave on Earth. Just reaching the entrance is a significant undertaking, this located deep in Arabika Massif, part of a remote mountain range in Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia.
Made the long and difficult trip? Your challenge has just begun. Krubera is one of just two known caves that are deeper than 2,000 metres. When Ukrainian explorers discovered its remarkable depths in 2001, it took them two weeks to reach the bottom.
Still think it’s a good idea? Do bear in mind that it’s dark, damp and dangerous, with countless perils — including subterranean waterfalls, hidden drops and the constant risk of flooding. The passages are narrow, the water frigid and the chances of getting lost all too real. For those keen to push the boundaries, however, it’s well worth taking a chance to reach such depths. Inaccessible but awesome, there can be no question that Krubera is an extreme location.
World’s Most Expensive City: Singapore
If you want to settle in Singapore, start saving. The Southeast Asian city-state is a fabulous place to reside (it’s the second most safe city in the world), but those keen to live here find it comes at quite a cost.
For the last five years, Singapore has been revealed to be the Most Expensive City In The World. Food, healthcare and education are all are increasing; Singapore is going through an affordability crisis.
For a long time, Tokyo held the title as the world’s costliest city, but since taking over the top spot in 2014, Singapore has only become more and more expensive.
Hong Kong and Paris drew level with Singapore in 2019. Yet for those who have crunched the numbers, Singapore’s eye-watering cost of living means there is nowhere in the world that hits your wallet harder. The figures, drawn up by the Economist Intelligence Unit, take into account the prices of 150 goods and services, including food, utilities and accommodation. Yet again, Singapore tops the bill.
World’s Most Remote Island: Tristan da Cunha, Saint Helena
Like to escape it all? You should give Tristan da Cunha a try. This island is the most remote inhabited archipelago on Earth, there’s nowhere better for anyone seeking solitude.
Just 250 people live a quiet life of solitude here, in the South Atlantic Ocean. The nearest neighbours? Trust us on this one – there’s no need to give them a second thought.
With Saint Helena 1,343 miles away, South Africa 1,500 miles and the shores of the Falkland Islands 2,166, you couldn’t be more cut off. There’s no airstrip and a long boat ride from Cape Town – a trip that takes six stomach-churning days on wild seas — is the only way in and out.
Just seven miles long and covering an area of less than 40 square miles, most people here live in the quaintly-named Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha’s sole settlement. Still too busy? For those seeking somewhere even more isolated, there’s always Inaccessible Island – part of the archipelago chain and even harder to reach – to explore.
World’s Smallest Island: Bishop Rock, England
One thing is certain about Bishop Rock: it’s impossible to get lost here. Located in the turbulent Atlantic Ocean, four miles west of the remote Isles of Scilly, this is the smallest island on Earth that is able to boast a building.
That building? The majestic lighthouse that was completed in 1858, its predecessor having been washed away before it had even been opened. The seas are wild out here, 30 miles off the picturesque Cornish peninsula. Measuring 49 metres from top to bottom, the so-called King of Lighthouses is the joint tallest in England.
Everything else here is tiny. Indeed, so small is Bishop Rock itself, there’s room for nothing else, the lighthouse perched on a miniscule ledge that peeks out above the waves. When the tide is high, the lighthouse covers just about every inch of the island. It might be minute, but Bishop Rock has a big job to do. This is an important shipping lane and, with huge waves lashing the dangerous rocks all around, those travelling the wild seas are reliant on its shining light.
World’s Most Active Volcano: Mt. Kilauea, Hawaii
Mount Kilauea is a terrifying sight. The most active of the five volcanoes that, together, form Hawaii, this explosive beast erupted on an almost constant basis for 35 years, between 1983 and 2018.
Things have quietened down somewhat in recent times. But such is Kilauea’s devastating power, its threat must not be underestimated.
Believed to be more than 200,000 years old, Kilauea emerged above sea level 100,000 years ago and has been wreaking havoc ever since. Boasting a large caldera and two active rift zones, this is a destructive force like no other.
Indeed, the town of Kalapana was buried in 1990, whilst more recently, both Kapoho and Vacationland Hawaii have been destroyed. In 2018, an explosive eruption sent ash 30,000 feet into the air, whilst the relentless lava flows created new lands, extending one mile out into the ocean. Got an eye for the extreme? Kilauea ticks all the boxes, but do be careful.
World’s Tallest Waterfall: Angel Falls, Venezuela
Reaching Angel Falls can be a complicated affair, but those who do make the journey deep into Venezuela reap rich rewards indeed. The highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world always makes for a spectacular sight.
It might be hard to get to, but there’s no doubt that making the effort is well worthwhile. Standing 979 metres tall, with an awesome 807-metre plunge, Angel Falls rumble, the waters tumbling over the edge of the imposing Auyan-tepui, in Canaima National Park, and onto the rocks far below. Like to get a fresh perspective?
It’s possible to swim in the picturesque pool that lies beneath the falls, providing the conditions are suitable, with the summer months considered the best time to take a dip. Lie back and relax beneath a shower that is almost one kilometre from top to bottom. For anyone interested in extreme experiences, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Farthest Point From Earth’s Center: Chimborazo, Ecuador
You might think that Mount Everest is the highest point on the planet. You’d be mistaken. That honour, in fact, goes to Chimborazo, a stratovolcano in the Andes that few people outside of Ecuador have even heard of.
This might sound far fetched, such is Everest’s awe-inspiring altitude, but science has ruled that Chimborazo is the highest.
This anomaly is due to the fact that the Earth is not a perfect sphere. The planet is, in fact, an oblate ellipsoid, a misshapen circle that is flatter at the poles and that bulges at the equator.
This means that, measured from the centre of the Earth rather than from sea level, as is traditional, Chimborazo’s snow-capped summit, standing tall at 6,263 metres, is technically higher than Everest’s. This makes it Earth’s closest point to Outer Space — and a location that beckons those drawn to extreme places.
Snowiest Place On Earth: Paradise, Washington
It might sound like the perfect place to spend a little time, but Paradise doesn’t always live up to its name. Located on the southern slopes of majestic Mount Rainier, this is a picturesque location, for sure.
But the extreme weather for which Paradise is renowned means this is no place for the unprepared, with wild conditions commonplace and those ill-equipped often requiring rescue.
It’s all about the winter weather here, with Paradise considered the snowiest place on the planet (where snowfall is measured on a regular basis). During the winter of 1971 and 1972, an astonishing 93.5 feet of snow fell on Paradise, a world record that is still a major talking point here today.
This is a place that can be beautiful and bleak at the same time ‘ with everything blanketed beneath the pristine surface and conditions hazardous. Planning a visit to Paradise? Be prepared and always factor in the likelihood that you’re going to be snowed in.
Flattest Place On Earth: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Located in south-western Bolivia, striking Salar de Uyuni has to be seen to be believed. The largest salt flat on Earth, this is a barren place, with few features or landmarks, and home to limited life. That ensures that this is an extreme environment. It also makes Salar de Uyuni a fascinating place to visit.
Spanning more than 4,000 square miles, the immense salt flats are all that remain of the vast prehistoric lake that one stood here, amidst the eye-catching Andes. The lake having long since dried up, all that remains is the white salt that gleams in the sunshine, some remarkable rock formations, and a series of small islands that are dotted with robust cacti.
So harsh is the environment here that few creatures call it home. The notable exception? The shocking pink flamingos that have somehow managed to adapt to life in Salar de Uyuni, the birds beckoning visitors and ensuring that this extreme land retains its place on the South American tourist trail.
World’s Longest Place Name: Taumatawhakatangi’hangakoauauotamatea’turipukakapikimaunga’horonukupokaiwhen’uakitanatahu, New Zealand
There’s a hill in New Zealand that, at first glance, couldn’t look less extreme. Located close to Porangahau in Hawke’s Bay, it’s modest in size ‘ the summit standing at 1,000 feet ‘ and carpeted in grass.
It’s the hill’s moniker that makes this an extreme location as its ridiculously lengthy name is believed to be the longest place name on the planet.
Simply known to locals as Taumata, Taumata (we’ll call it that too!) has Maori origins ‘ a rough translation ‘The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land swallower who travelled about, played his koauau (flute) to his loved one’.
There are, perhaps unsurprisingly, variations in the spelling ‘ this version, boasting 85 characters, is recognised by Guinness World Records, although a longer form (this one 105 letters long) also exists. Either way, it is as impressive as it is extreme, and for anyone passing by, stopping for a photograph at the famous sign here is not to be missed.
Windiest Place On Earth: Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica
Commonwealth Bay is no place for the faint of heart. Regarded as the windiest place on the planet, this is a wild location and a land of great extremes. Cold and remote, few visitors ever make it here. Those who do experience this Antarctic environment at its fiercest tend to regret it.
Discovered in 1912 when it became the headquarters of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 18 men spent two bleak years living in ramshackle wooden buildings here before the project was abandoned. Those buildings still remain, but their residents have long gone ‘ this a harsh environment that is hostile to human life.
The average wind speed here is 50 miles per hour, although the raging gusts and gales often reach three times that figure. The storms are worst during the winter months and, although the resident penguins seem content enough, we don’t recommend Commonwealth Bay as a destination on your travel bucket list.
Coldest Place On Earth: Vostok Station, Antarctica
The sun often shines at Vostok Station, but don’t be fooled. This is a harsh environment renowned for being cold. The lowest natural temperature ever recorded on Earth (-89.2C) was taken here. Extreme indeed, this is not a place to be underestimated.
There are few people to be found at this remote Russian research station, established in 1957, and still manned today, with 25 scientists and engineers based here during the short summer months, and just 13 brave souls remaining in winter, when temperatures plummet and survival becomes a significant challenge.
Located at the so-called Southern Pole of Cold, and not far from the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility, the extremes here should come as no great surprise. Bare and barren, with nothing to see on the horizon, and life all but non-existent, Vostok Station presents countless challenges for those based in the no-frills buildings here. Extreme and intense, this is not a place to top up your tan.