It’s hard to imagine that even today, there are still places on Earth that largely remain unexplored and uninhabited. These last frontiers of our world are home to a variety of plants and animals that have never been classified, some of the most unique landscapes one could find, and even groups of people that remain isolated or in limited contact with the outside world.
10. Vale Do Javari, Brazil
The Javari Valley in the Amazon rainforest is home to several isolated indigenous tribes, some of them having lived there for tens of thousands of years. It’s the largest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the world, and many of them have managed to preserve their traditional ways of life and culture even today. Their first recorded contact with the outside world was in the 19th century, when rubber tappers first arrived in the region, followed by foreign missionaries in the 20th century.
The Javari tribes are believed to be some of the last remaining uncontacted tribes in the world, though that’s rapidly changing. While various Brazilian governments in the past have made efforts to protect them – like increasing patrols and enforcing stricter penalties for illegal activity in the valley – their way of life is regularly threatened by poachers, illegal loggers, and cocaine smugglers, as the Javari valley falls on a major smuggling route.
9. Cape Melville, Australia
The “lost world” of Cape Melville is a unique plateau ecosystem in northern Australia, accidentally discovered by researchers on an expedition in the region back in 2013. It’s an isolated plateau on top of Cape Melville – a remote mountain on the Cape York Peninsula. The plateau is known for a distinctive type of vegetation that is found nowhere else in the world, and is home to many species of flora and fauna that have never been documented.
That includes a type of primitive gecko previously thought to be extinct for millions of years, a gold-colored lizard, a brown spotted frog, and many others. Further expeditions in the years since have revealed other plant and animal species unique to the plateau, though scientific research remains limited due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the region.
8. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
The Fiordland National Park on South Island, New Zealand is one of the largest national parks in the world. At over 1.2 million hectares, it’s home to countless fiords, mountains, streams, forests, lakes, and valleys, making it an ideal place for explorers and adventurers. One can find many endemic species of plants and animals in the many nooks and corners of the park, along with pristine, untouched landscapes unique to the region.
Fiordland has a long and rich history, with evidence of human occupation dating back to at least the 13th century BC. For most of that time, large parts of the park have remained inaccessible due to the rugged terrain and harsh weather conditions. Even today, Fiordland remains mostly unexplored, with much of the region still waiting to be discovered and studied by professional teams.
7. Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean
The Mariana trench in the western Pacific Ocean is the deepest part of the Earth’s oceans, reaching a depth of about 36,201 feet, or about seven miles, at its deepest point. As one can expect, much of the underwater region remains unexplored, largely due to its extreme depth, pressure, and cold temperatures that make it almost impossible for scientists to reach it.
Geologically, the Mariana trench is a part of a global network of underwater troughs formed by the collision of two tectonic plates. At its deepest points, the pressure can reach more than eight tons per square inch, which is about thousand times stronger than the pressure on the surface. While the ocean is already largely unexplored, it’s particularly difficult to mount research expeditions to the Mariana trench with traditional methods due to its extreme depth. Till date, only three people have managed to reach it with specialized equipment.
6. Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Despite being the third largest island nation in the world, it remains one of the most unexplored and mysterious countries on the planet, largely due to its remote location, uneven terrain, and limited infrastructure. Only a small percentage of Papua New Guinea’s land has been explored by outsiders, leaving out a vast expanse of uncharted territory that are home to many diverse and unique ecosystems.
The country’s dense rainforests, high mountains, and volcanic islands make it a challenging destination for explorers and scientists. The terrain is often steep and difficult to traverse, and many areas are inaccessible by road, requiring air or water transport. In addition, Papua New Guinea is known for its biodiversity and high number of endemic species, even if we’re yet to document and classify all of them.
5. Patagonia, Chile
Patagonia refers to the southern end of South America, comprising large parts of southern Chile and Argentina. It’s one of the most sparsely-populated and remote regions on Earth, with a population density of about 1.5 people per square kilometer. Patagonia is known for the diversity of its landscapes, as it’s home to everything from glacial fjords, steppes, deserts, and rainforests.
Due to its remoteness, Patagonia remains mostly uninhabited and unexplored. The area is known for its extreme weather – particularly in the fjord region – with powerful storms and other unpredictable weather conditions making larger scientific expeditions impossible. The infrastructure is another problem, as there’s no way to access many of the region’s remote parts by road. As a result, Patagonia features some of the most pristine landscapes and ecosystems in the world.
4. Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
Yucatán is a peninsula in south-east Mexico, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. It’s home to one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world, and the vast majority of these caves are yet to be fully explored. They’re only accessible through natural sinkholes that lead down to the underground network of rivers and lakes, also known as cenotes.
Despite the ever-growing interest in cave diving and exploration, there are still thousands of unexplored caves and cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula, as many of them are inaccessible and incredibly dangerous to traverse. In addition to the cenotes, there are also many flooded underwater cave systems that might take hundreds of years to discover, let alone fully map out. The Sistema Sac Actun, for example, is the largest underwater cave system in the world, extending over a total length of over 347 kilometers.
3. Tepui Mountains, South America
Tepuis are table-top mountains reaching heights of over 10,000 feet, making them prime areas for scientific exploration due to their isolated and untouched ecosystems. They’re found in the Guiana Shield – a South-American region that covers parts of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. These mountains are characterized by their steep cliffs, unique flora and fauna, and extreme isolation of ecosystems, which has resulted in the evolution of numerous endemic species.
Due to their remote nature, the tepui territory remains unexplored. Many of these mountains with steep cliffs are located in remote areas that are difficult to access, and the terrain makes professional exploration dangerous and costly. Additionally, limited funding and resources available for scientific expeditions means that only a handful of researchers have been able to study this ecosystem.
2. Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
The Son Doong cave in the Quang Binh province of central Vietnam is easily the largest known cave in the world. First discovered in 1990 by a local named Ho Khanh, it was only fully explored by the British Vietnam Caving Expedition team in 2009. Son Doong Cave is part of a larger, unmapped cave network in the area, and many believe that it’s only one part of much larger cave systems that are yet to be discovered. According to one estimate, about 70% of the region’s caves remain unexplored due to inaccessibility.
The Son Doong is approximately 5.5 miles long, with a height of over 650 feet and width of about 500 feet in some places. It was formed over millions of years by the erosion of limestone, giving way to numerous caverns and underwater systems no one has ever seen. It also contains its own unique ecosystem, with underground rivers, waterfalls, and even a jungle inside the cave network. While it’s a popular destination for adventurous tourists and explorers, access to Son Doong is tightly controlled due to safety concerns, with only a limited number of permits issued each year.
1. 40% Of Australia
Australia is easily one of the least inhabited countries in the world, mostly because a large part of it is an inhospitable, barren wasteland. It’s also perhaps one of the last unexplored regions on Earth, as exploration and habitation in the Australian outback – an umbrella term for the desert regions in the country’s interior – is still extremely difficult.
According to a 2008 report by two conservation agencies – the Pew Environment Group and Nature Conservancy – more than 40% of Australia is still untouched by outside contact. They classified it alongside Antarctica, the Amazon, the Sahara Desert, and Canada’s northern Boreal region as one of the last remaining wilderness zones, which is saying something in a country that already adds about 1,000 new species to the tree of life every year. According to another, more recent study, about 500,000 Australian species are still undocumented, and it would take at least 400 years to complete even a basic sweep of all of its diverse flora and fauna.