Image © EagleCam
Humans love extremes. Extreme sports, extreme weather and extreme places. Higher, harder, longer. Hotter, wetter, deeper. No one recalls the second-lowest point on earth, but everyone knows the lowest - the Dead Sea. Go extreme or go home. There's no place for also-rans in this blog post: only the extremest of the extreme.
The world's coldest place: Oymyakon, Sakha Republic
Image © Hannes Rada
At -2ºC sea water freezes. At -11ºC bubbles freeze. At -34ºC, boiling water will turn to snow the moment it's poured outside. At -38.8ºC mercury freezes.
What's life like in the Sakha Republic then, where temperatures regularly hit -50ºC? Pretty chilly, it turns out. To the locals, however, -50ºC is a balmy day. In Oymyakon, the world's coldest village in the world's coldest republic, the temperature has been known to plummet to -71.2ºC. How do humans survive under such extreme conditions? Thermal underwear and lots of hugs probably.
The world's hottest place: Death Valley, California
Image © Frank Kovalchek
Despite being armed to the teeth with 21st-century tech, mankind just can't seem to agree on the world's hottest place. Some say Libya, some say Iran and the Americans say America, naturally. We're gonna side with the US on this one: California's Death Valley deserves the accolade if only for its unflinching name.
Entire years have been known to pass in Death Valley without a drop of rain falling. At times, the ground can become hotter than the air, reaching a sizzling 94ºC. How do you like your eggs?
Despite its searing temperatures, Death Valley can still sustain life. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, is an entirely different proposition.
The world's lowest place: the Dead Sea, Israel
Image © israeltourism
At 422 metres below sea level, the shores of the Dead Sea are earth's nadir. Short of descending into the depths of hell, this is as low as it goes. The traditional Dead Sea postcard depicts a buoyant bather smugly reading a newspaper; if you're planning a trip to the world's oldest spa, give your pics a postmodern twist by posing with an iPad. Try to maintain a steady hand though - the salt water's revitalising properties don't extend to electronics.
The world's highest place: Mount Chomborazo, Ecuador
Image © Makram
Measuring 'just' 20,000 feet, Ecuador's Mt Chomborazo is only two-thirds the height of Everest. That hasn't prevented it from becoming the closest point to space due to some sort of jiggery-pokery affecting the earth's shape. Our planet is an oblate spheroid, which is a geometric way of saying it has a fat booty. That's right: you could gasp your way to the summit of Everest and there'd still be an Ecuadorian closer to God.
The world's remotest place: Tristan de Cunha
Image © NASA
With the nearest continent 2,000 miles away, Tristan de Cunha is as isolated as it gets. It's not lonely though: the island has 272 residents who share just eight surnames between them. If you're wondering how they get on, the answer's very well. In such a remote spot, people are naturally drawn together. Like, really together.
Assuming you don't have a private seaplane, your best bet for reaching Tristan de Cunha would be to hop on one of the cruise ships that occasionally visit. Or you could just admire it from the safety of the internet, and leave the islanders to their island-y stuff.
The world's wettest place: Meghalaya, India
Image © NativeEyes
The wettest place on earth, surprisingly, is not Glasgow. That honour goes to the Indian state of Meghalaya - Sanskrit for Abode of Clouds. If you're daft enough to leave the UK in search of even wetter climes, a brolly and rain mac probably won't cut it in Meghalaya, whose annual rainfall is just shy of 500 inches. It has been known to double that figure in record years however, because the only thing better than 500 inches of raindrops falling on your head is being drenched by the full 1,000.
The world's driest place: Atacama Desert, Chile
Image © Danielle Pereira
Chile's Atacama Desert is believed to be the driest place on earth. Some of the weather stations out there have supposedly never recorded a drop of rain - though someone really ought to check that their sensors aren't faulty.
The world's flattest place: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Image © roman crowley
Salar de Uyuni is a remarkable place for many reasons. Bolivia's beautiful salt plain is as flat as a chapati and so large it's visible from space. Despite Salar de Uyuni's resplendence, it may not be there for much longer: as luck would have it, it's sitting on the world's largest lithium deposit; you know, that stuff we rely on to power our laptop and smartphone batteries. That's right: the world's premium site for batteries is also the flattest. There's a joke in there somewhere.
The world's deepest place: Krubera Cave, Georgia
Image © Modato Gms
At a depth of over 5,500 feet, Georgia's Krubera Cave calls for a big rope and even bigger cojones to explore. Best leaving this one to the hardcore speleologists.
The world's highest road: Marsimik La, Himalayas
Image © Tanveer Singh
Have you ever wondered what it's like to take the high road? Pretty spectacular it turns out. At 18,000 ft, Marsimik La in the Himalayas is the world's highest drivable pass. Bring a packed lunch and a spare jerry can with you - service stations are hard to come by.