Beautiful photos show what life is like in the world's most isolated settlement, which sits at the foot of an active volcano in the middle of the South Atlantic ocean

Peter Schaefer/EyeEm/Getty ImagesThe remotest settlement in the world is on a volcanic island in the middle of the South Atlantic.
  • The settlement called Edinburgh of the Seven Seas sits on the island of Tristan da Cunha and has been dubbed the remotest settlement in the world. It’s one of the British Overseas Territories.
  • Only accessible by boat – many of which depart from the nearest city of Cape Town, South Africa – the journey to Tristan takes nearly one week to complete.
  • Islanders describe their home as peaceful and safe. Less than 300 islanders and visitors live there.
  • Tristan is actually an active volcanic island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. The last time it erupted was in 1961, which forced islanders to evacuate to England.
  • Often just called “the Settlement,” its economy relies on the export of crawfish, known as “Tristan Rock Lobster” and collectable stamps.
  • Tourism is a small part of the economy, but you need permission to visit, and since there are no hotels on the island, the government has a homestay program in place for visitors as well as several guesthouses.
  • Visitors may catch a glimpse at rare wildlife and plant species that call the island home.


Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is known as the remotest settlement in the world.

Source: Smithsonian, INSIDER


It lies at the edge of an island in the middle of the ocean, Tristan da Cunha.

Google Maps

Source: Tristan da Cunha, INSIDER


Located in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean …

Google Maps

Source: Tristan da Cunha, INSIDER


… it’s more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the nearest developed city or town.

David Forman/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha, INSIDER


The island of Tristan da Cunha is more than 1,700 miles (nearly 2,800 kilometers) off the coast of Cape Town.

Google Maps

Source: Tristan da Cunha, INSIDER


And the settlement is just a small part of the volcanic island, sitting 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) above sea level.

Google Maps

Source: Tristan da Cunha, INSIDER


The island is one of Britain’s 16 overseas territories.

Chris Ison – PA Images/Contributor/Getty ImagesA ship leaves Portsmouth Harbour in England to patrol the waters around Britain’s territories in the South Atlantic.

Source: Britain’s Treasure Islands, BBC


The settlement was named after the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s second son, after he visited in 1867.

Print Collector/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Traveller’s Point, Tristan da Cunha


But the 255 people who currently live there — including native islanders and stationed researchers — just call it “the Settlement.”

Source: Traveller’s Point


Being the remotest settled island in the world is Tristan’s claim to fame.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


The island is so remote that the government actually recommends visitors start to plan their trips a year in advance.

Geoff Renner/robertharding/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


And it’s not as simple as just booking a round-trip flight, either.

ImYanis / Shutterstock

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Before booking a flight, prospective visitors need to get their trip approved by the Tristan government.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Once visitors have timing ideas, they need to email the Secretary to the Administrator and provide reasons for their visit and what they hope to do while on the island.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


The island is only accessible by boat across the South Atlantic Ocean — most trips leave from Cape Town, South Africa.

Mark Hannaford/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


The trip from Cape Town’s port takes approximately six days, and the ships leave on an inconsistent schedule — sometimes they set sail multiple times per month and sometimes they skip a month entirely.

Source: Tristan da Cunha, Tristan da Cunha


Once visitors finally do make it to shore, they will get to see the settlement and the level of hospitality that it’s known for.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


One islander told a reporter from Redfern Natural History Productions that it’s one giant family-like community, and everyone is there to help each other out.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


He said if someone kills a large animal for eating, they share it. If someone’s home is destroyed, someone else will host them or help them repair it.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


“Everyone on the island, we call them brothers and sisters,” he said.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


He also said, “It’s safe” in terms of criminal activity. Children can run around without supervision …

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


… and he says they don’t lock their doors. Even if they travel out to where the potato patches are, they can leave all the windows open and nothing would happen.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


Another native islander was asked about what it was like to grow up on Tristan. He joked: “Pretty good, as long as you can find something to do.”

Source: Where’s Andrew


He said there’s an element of freedom he’s able to get on the island that he didn’t have when he spent time in England — freedom to roam around and explore the natural landscape.

Source: Where’s Andrew


Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is a rural settlement, which sustains itself by growing mainly potatoes on patches of land about a mile away from the town.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


There’s one road that leads to the patches …

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


… and anyone can take the bus to get there.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


Every family living on the island has a few fields to grow potatoes and other crops.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


They harvest inside “walled patches” and use hand tools rather than harvesting machinery. The walls are made from volcanic rock.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


They can also use the space to take care of their livestock and let them graze.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


The numbers of livestock each family owns are controlled by the government to prevent overgrazing of the limited land — each household can own two cows, while a single householder can only have one.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


More than 40% of the island’s territory is declared a nature reserve.

Source: Britain’s Treasure Islands


Animal life includes rare bird breeds and rockhopper penguins.

Auscape/Contributor/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


There are three different species of albatross native to the island. But hundreds of albatross chicks are eaten by mice every year.

David Forman/Getty ImagesPictured above is the yellow-nosed albatross.

Source: Island Conservation, Tristan da Cunha


The same boats that brought people to the island brought mice and rats as well. In killing the chicks of native birds, the rodents could be eradicating a number of species.

Source: RSPB, Tristan da Cunha


In fact, it’s such a problem that the islanders have an entire holiday dedicated to ridding the island of the vermin — Ratting Day.

Courtesy of Tristan da Cunha Photo PortfolioPictured above are rockhopper penguins on the lava rocks.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


On this holiday, men team up and compete to see who can catch the most, and the biggest, rats and mice — it was an idea thought up before mice repellent existed on the island.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Dogs are able to help the teams figure out where the rats are.


After hunting in and around the potato patches, teams return to Prince Philip Hall to receive prizes and have a dance-filled celebration of the day.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Judges count the rats and measure the tails to decide which team wins.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Holidays also include Old Year’s Night on December 31 to bring in the new year, and Queen’s Day on March 12 to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


As well as traditional Catholic holidays. Pictured below are residents at Saint Mary’s Anglican Church on Easter Sunday.

Kent Kobersteen/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


The church was built in 1923 and was the first on the island.

David Forman/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Before it, islanders held services in people’s homes.

David Forman/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Islanders say they feel a sense of community while dealing with death just as much as they do while living and celebrating life.

Kent Kobersteen/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


“Whether family or not, a passing touches the hearts of the whole community, and this is when you see islanders not only as a community but as a family,” wrote one islander, Dawn Repetto, on the community’s website.

Kent Kobersteen/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Roughly seventy families call Edinburgh of the Seven Seas home — they’re reportedly all farmers.

Mark Hannaford/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Of the 255 people currently living on the island, 29 are not part of the permanent group of residents. And of the 247 permanent islanders, there are only nine different last names.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Scientists visit the island to gather information on the rare plant and animal species living on the island among the volcanic rock.

David Forman/Getty Images

Source: Smithsonian


There’s also a station that monitors radioactivity and seismic waves, where scientists come to work as well.

Source: Smithsonian


The settlement has all the basics you would expect from any small town today. It’s got a supermarket …

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


… an internet cafe, since WiFi isn’t so easily accessible …

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


… several handy stores …

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


… a police force, although there’s said to be just one police officer on the job …

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions, Where’s Andrew?


… bus stops …

David Forman/Getty ImagesPictured here is the bus stop on the one road from the settlement to the potato patches.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


… and a few bars.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions, Tristan da Cunha


Their local economy depends largely on the harvest of rock lobster — which they sell internationally — and fish.

David Forman/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


The farming part of life in Tristan allows islanders to grow their own food without having to import.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


They also sell postage stamps to collectors abroad …

RFStock/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


… and make a limited amount through tourism.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


While some cruise ships have added the port to their route from Africa to Latin America so tourists can have a peek into this style of remote life, it’s generally not somewhere people just pass through.

David Forman/Getty Images

Source: Smithsonian, Lonely Planet


Visitors can plan their trip around the next voyage listed on the South African National Antarctic Programme’s schedule. The route isn’t simple though, making six stops all together.

Source: South African National Antarctic Programme


The ship’s schedule is also not guaranteed. So the government suggests padding your travel time in Cape Town with an additional two days.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


The S.A. Agulhas isn’t the only option for travellers, though. There are a handful of different ships that carry passengers across the route.

Mark Hannaford/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Two are fishing vessels provided by the fishing company Ovenstones, which only carry 12 passengers each.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


There are a few options when it comes to tourist accommodations.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Some islanders open up their homes to visitors on a homestay basis. They collect 75% of the guest fees while the other 25% goes to the government.

Peter Schaefer/EyeEm/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


There’s a museum called “Traditional Thatched House Museum” that’s available as a guesthouse for one night for two people. The price includes tea, coffee, milk, sugar, candles, sleeping bags, and a “traditional Tristan cooked meal” for lunch.

Source: Tristan da Cunha


Tourists can climb the active volcano on their visit. This peaceful, quiet settlement was almost destroyed in 1961 when the volcano erupted and sent lava spewing down the mountains.

Source: Tristan da Cunha, Redfern Natural History Productions


You can see here how close the lava got to the settlement. It stopped before it reached the buildings.

Source: Tristan da Cunha, Redfern Natural History Productions


It left behind a great deal of volcanic rock.

Source: Tristan da Cunha, Redfern Natural History Productions


Islanders were forced to evacuate. Most went to England, where they got a taste of modern life.

Terence Spencer/Getty Images

Source: Tristan da Cunha


An islander told the Redfern Natural History Productions reporter the first time he had ever ridden in a car was in England during the evacuation. He said he only really rides on donkeys on Tristan.

Source: Redfern Natural History Productions


But while the UK Government assumed that the evacuation would be permanent, the islanders voted overwhelmingly in favour of returning to the world’s most isolated community in 1962. Most families returned in 1963.

Carl Mydans/Contributor/Getty ImagesPictured above is a boat filled with islanders returning home to Tristan da Cunha in 1963.

Source: Tristan da Cunha

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