Today, more than 55% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, the urban population is expected to more than double, with almost 7 out of 10 people living in urban areas. In a world that is increasingly urbanising, the idea of a home in the middle of nowhere might seem strange, yet, at the same time, it’s also quite exciting. In such a house, it’s easy to disconnect from the distractions of everyday life, avoid neighbors, and enjoy simplicity and solitude.
We’ve selected some of the most spectacular homes in the most secluded places, from the world’s smallest inhabited island to a house in the middle of a river. These secluded dwellings demonstrate that sometimes the best experience you can have is the feeling of being truly alone, far removed from other people and cities.
1. Ellidaey Island, Iceland
In 2020, a photographer, Hörður Kristleifsson, posted a photo on Instagram of a tiny white house standing alone on a remote island. The image quickly went viral, and the house was immediately dubbed as the “world’s loneliest house.” This sparked numerous mysterious theories surrounding the small building.
One rumor suggested it was built by an eccentric billionaire planning to use it as a refuge in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Others hypothesized that a religious hermit could be residing there, while a popular theory proposed that the house belonged to the famous Icelandic singer, Bjork.
However, the reality surrounding this house on the island is far less exciting than the theories surrounding it. It is situated on Ellidaey, a remote island south of Iceland, which is part of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Today, Ellidaey is deserted, but it was once home to five families. The last of these families departed in the 1930s, and the island has been uninhabited ever since.
The now-famous house is owned by the Ellidaey Hunting Association and was built in the 1950s. It is not permanently inhabited, serving primarily as a base for puffin hunting trips. Despite its isolated location, the house is equipped with a rainwater collection system for fresh water but lacks electricity, internet, or indoor plumbing.
Access to the island is limited, with an infrequently running ferry service and a cable pulley system installed by the hunting association for transporting supplies.
2. Drina River House, Serbia
On a rock in the middle of the Drina River in Serbia lies the famous Drina River House. This unique site is situated near the town of Bajina Basta, on the edge of the Tara National Park. The house gained worldwide fame when a photo of it was featured in National Geographic in 2012. Since then, it has attracted tourists and photographers from around the globe.
The Drina House was built in 1968 by a group of young boys seeking a place to sunbathe. It began with them placing boards on the rock, but the idea soon expanded and transformed into a small cabin.
The unpredictable Drina River, with its wild nature, has presented numerous challenges. Large water levels have repeatedly flooded the house, demolishing it and carrying it away. However, local enthusiasts have consistently rebuilt it.
Access to the house is not straightforward. Those who wish to see it up close would need to take a boat or swim.
3. Just Room Enough Island, USA
Among the 1,864 islands dotting the Saint Lawrence River, a part of the Thousand Islands archipelago straddling the U.S.-Canada border, one island stands out due to its size. Known as Just Room Enough Island or Hub Island, it offers a unique take on isolation.
Just Room Enough Island, comparable in size to a tennis court, covers an area of 3,300 square feet, making it the smallest inhabited island in the world.
The Sizeland family, who owns Just Enough Room Island, purchased it in the 1950s. They built a small cottage that consumes nearly every square inch of dry land, leaving just enough room to plant a tree. Subsequently, they renamed the land from Hub Island to Just Enough Room Island.
Though the Sizelands initially intended it to be a quiet, remote getaway, a place to find solitude away from the rest of the world, the island’s uniqueness started attracting tourists from all corners of the globe, often thwarting their aim for solitude.
Visitors can hire a boat or join a tour to visit Just Enough Room Island, but they can’t really set foot on it. After all, it’s only big enough for the house and the tree. There is hardly any room for error – just one misstep, and you’ll find yourself swimming.
4. Katskhi Pillar, Georgia
The Katskhi Pillar is a natural limestone monolith that rises more than 40 meters (130 feet) into the air. On top of this towering structure sits the most isolated church in the world. Although it’s not a conventional house, it has been inhabited and used for religious purposes for centuries, making it a fascinating addition to the list of houses in the middle of nowhere.
Located in the western part of Georgia, Katskhi Pillar is very difficult to reach. There are no railway lines in this part of the region, so the only means of transportation is by car or bus. The final approach can only be made on foot, requiring roughly a 20-minute hike. The only way to ascend to the top of the pillar is via a 40-meter iron ladder, which is steep and potentially dangerous.
Monks have lived atop the Katskhi Pillar for centuries. The last to do so was Father Maxime Qavtaradze, who resided there for 20 years until his death in 2015. Today, no monks live there; they climb only to pray and then return to the monastery below.
In 2018, Patriarch Ilia II, the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, decreed that only men from a religious order can enter the church at the top of the pillar. Women have never been permitted to climb the column at any point in history.
5. Amangiri, USA
If you’re looking for an ultra-luxurious escape in the middle of nowhere, there’s no better choice than Amangiri hotel. The resort sprawls across 600 acres near the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and the picturesque Lake Powell. Yet, despite its proximity to these attractions, the hotel itself feels completely removed from the outside world. It’s surrounded by desert and mountains, offering breathtaking views and serene privacy.
The resort’s minimalist architecture employs a monochromatic color scheme that mirrors the hues of the desert, allowing the structures to blend seamlessly with the stark beauty of the landscape. It’s built around a central swimming pool cradled by a rock escarpment.
Beyond its architectural beauty, Amangiri offers a level of luxury and tranquility that is difficult to match. There are 34 suites, with prices starting at $3,700 for the lowest tier – as well as a separate four-bedroom private home, which does not list its price on the website.
Thanks to its stunning surroundings, supreme privacy, and glamorous accommodations, Amangiri is very popular among celebrities. Everyone from Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and Ariana Grande to Emily Ratajkowski, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber have chosen this extravagant hotel for their vacations since it opened in 2009.
While access to Amangiri is easier than to many locations on this list, it still requires a journey. The nearest public airport – Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas – is a four-and-a-half-hour drive away. However, most of the rich and famous prefer to arrive by private jet.
6. Boulder House (Casa do Penedo), Portugal
Constructed between four large boulders, the Boulder House got its start in 1972 as a rural retreat. The builder and initial owner had a vision to create a dwelling that integrated seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. The boulders serve as the house’s foundation, walls, and ceiling, creating a structure that appears to be a natural part of the mountain range.
The house’s interior continues the rustic theme. The furniture, including a staircase, is made of logs, and there is a fireplace for warmth during the cooler months. Each room in the house has a different shape, each one adapted to a particular geometric feature of the rock. There is also a swimming pool outside, along with an open-air tank that showcases the natural shape of a large stone boulder.
Access to the Boulder House is moderately challenging, as it’s situated in a relatively isolated area. The road leading to it is quite steep and narrow, and there are no public transportation options available. Despite these obstacles, the house attracts a significant number of tourists each year. There are many attractions available for visitors – from guided tours to swimming in the pool near this unusual house.
7. Aogashima Island, Japan
Located in the Pacific Ocean, Aogashima Island is a part of the Izu archipelago. Despite being over 350 kilometers (approximately 220 miles) from Tokyo, the island is officially part of this city. However, compared to the bustle of one of the most populous metropolises in the world, Aogashima feels worlds apart, offering isolation and solitude at the highest level possible.
Aogashima is a double volcano, with the island itself being a large volcanic caldera and, within it, a smaller central cone forming a secondary volcano. This structure creates an island with dramatic landscapes, including rugged cliffs encircling a central crater.
The current shape of the island dates back to a major eruption in 1785, after which Aogashima remained uninhabited for 50 years. Today, it has a population of about 150 people, making it one of the most remote and least populous municipalities in Japan. The island has just one store, one post office, and three bars.
The only ways to reach Aogashima are by boat or helicopter from Hachijojima Island, which has an airport and can be accessed by air or boat from Tokyo. Accommodation on Aogashima is limited to six Japanese-style inns and one free island campsite. A list of accommodations can be found online, but it’s only available in Japanese.
8. Eremo di San Colombano, Italy
Deep in the Leno Valley of Trento Province in Northern Italy, solitude is elevated to a whole new level and isolation literally taken to new heights. Here, one can find the Eremo di San Colombano, or the Hermitage of San Colombano, which is built into a cliff approximately 120 meters (nearly 400 feet) above the Leno River.
Sheltered by a roof of natural rock, this sanctuary is dedicated to Saint Colombano who, according to legend, as a young knight, slew the dragon that caused problems for the local population. The Hermitage appears to have been inhabited since 753 AD. It’s quite challenging to pinpoint the construction date of the church or its annex, but it’s widely believed to have been built between the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century.
This hermitage was in use until 1782, and after the abolition of eremitic practice, was tended to by the people of the valley. In 1996, the Autonomous Province of Trento had the church refurbished, particularly the interiors, restoring it to its original beauty.
Today, the Eremo di San Colombano is managed by the local parish of Rovereto and Trambileno. It’s open to the public during the summer months through to October. Visitors can reach the hermitage by climbing up a short path and ascending a stairway of 102 steps carved into the rock.
9. Crystal Mill, USA
The Crystal Mill is one of the most photographed places in Colorado. It sits on an outcropping of rock just above the rushing Crystal River, surrounded by lush forest, with the near-perfect backdrop of the surrounding mountains. The nearest town, Crystal, is essentially a ghost town, further emphasizing the mill’s isolation.
Built in 1893, the Crystal Mill isn’t actually a mill in the traditional sense, but rather a wooden powerhouse or compressor station. It used a water turbine to drive an air compressor, and the compressed air was then used to power other machinery or tools for local silver mines. When the mine closed in 1917, the mill was abandoned. Sixty-eight years later, Colorado declared the mill a landmark.
Access to the Crystal Mill is a real challenge. It is reachable only in the summer and fall months by a rough, one-lane, 4-wheel-drive road. If you’re not interested in driving, the Mill can be reached by foot, but the hike will take about 4-5 hours. There are no services or amenities at the site, and the building itself is not open to the public due to safety concerns.
10. Boathouses of Lake Obersee, Germany
If you try to imagine what a house in the middle of nowhere might look like, a boathouse on Lake Obersee might be the first thing that springs to mind. Photos of this rustic hut, surrounded by magnificent mountains and beautifully reflected in the calm water, are very popular on social media. However, reaching these huts is not particularly straightforward.
Firstly, it’s essential to note that there are not one but two huts at Lake Obersee. The only way to reach them involves an hour-long boat trip across Königsee Lake, followed by a hike to Obersee. The hike to the first boathouse takes approximately 20 minutes. The second boathouse is situated on the opposite side of Obersee and requires an additional half-hour hike along the lakeshore.
Primarily used for storage and as shelter for small boats, these boathouses are not designed for permanent residency. Yet, their remote location and simple, functional design encapsulate the essence of solitary retreats.
What sets this location apart is its photographic appeal. The tranquil Obersee Lake, the dramatic mountainous backdrop, and the quaint boathouses converge to produce a picture-perfect scene.