Best ‘middle of nowhere’ places
Nevado Mismi, Peru
The Amazon is the world's most voluminous river, but it was not until a few years ago that anybody could truly pinpoint its headwaters. In 2001 a GPS-laden National Geographic survey team climbed high into the Andes of southern Peru, about 700km from Lima and 3000km from the Amazon's mouth. Here, on a rock wall on the 5,597m-high mountain, Nevado Mismi, they identified a dribble of water as the river's origin. If you are intrepid enough to want to visit Nevado Mismi, begin in Arequipa and head for the village of Tuti; the walk in is not difficult.
Olkhon Island, Russia
Travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway as it skirts Lake Baikal, the world's deepest freshwater lake, and you appreciate the place's remoteness - about 3.5 days by train from Moscow, and three days from Beijing. Containing around 20% of the world's fresh water, the lake also contains Olkhon Island near its midpoint. Around 72km long, Olkhon is Baikal's largest island, and by some climatic quirk it is said to get more sunny days than the Black Sea coast, even as the rest of the lake and its surrounds mope beneath heavy cloud.
Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
Want a sense of just how big Russia really is? Then picture this: Kamchatka Peninsula, drooping off its east coast, is closer to Los Angeles than Moscow. Among Russia's least visited areas, the 1200km-long peninsula is also perhaps its most spectacular, a hyperactive geothermal land containing more than 200 volcanoes. The surrounding lava fields were used as testing grounds for Russia's lunar vehicles. Once, it was a six-month journey to get here; today you can fly from Moscow, though it is still an 11-hour flight, surely the longest domestic flight on the planet.
Scotty's Castle, United States
In the 1920s Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson was sold the ultimate snake oil - the idea that there was gold in California's Death Valley. In the dry, scorching conditions the ailing Johnson found something more precious: improved health. So, he built a castle in the desert valley with the second-highest temperature on record. Today, the Spanish-style ranch 70km from the nearest Death Valley settlements looks like a folly, although it is rather snug behind its sheepskin curtains and with its 1,000- pipe theatre organ.