Tranquility and Peace of Mind on Earth’s Most Crowded Island

by Owen James Burke


Santa Cruz del Islote, Colombia. Photo: Angélica Montes Arango.

At just 2.4 acres, the Colombian island of Santa Cruz del Islote is home to 1,200 people. That’s four times the population density of Manhattan, with most buildings no more than a single story.

Legend has it, Santa Cruz del Islote was discovered about 150 years ago by some traveling fishermen who found the island free of mosquitoes–an anomaly most anywhere in the tropics–and put ashore for the eve. That morning, they awoke to find they’d slept the night through without being awoken by the oppressive barrage of the loathsome critters they were so accustomed to. They decided to stay.


Most people on Santa Cruz del Islote report a high quality of life and say they’ll never leave, until they have to. One thing the island has no space for is a cemetery. Photo: Hotel Punta Faro.

Today, there are 90 houses, one all-age discoteca, and a school on .004 square miles of a combination of natural and artificial land (the island had to be expanded to accommodate the school). The only undeveloped space is about half the size of a tennis court.

As you might surmise, there are few facilities–no doctor, no running water, no sewer system–and there are few employment opportunities on Santa Cruz del Islote, so residents mostly work in resorts on neighboring islands.

“Life here is calm and delightful”, one long-time resident told the Toronto Star. Photo: Luca Zanetti Photography.

Among their troubles, which residents might just consider an inconvenience more than anything, is erosion. The seaward corner of the island receives a constant battering from the open Caribbean to the north. To shore up their abodes, occupants of this corner of the island are constantly piling stones, washed up coral and shells to keep the seas at bay. Photo: Luca Zanetti Photography.

With but a couple of hours of daily electricity provided by a single generator, there’s little intrusion from technology, social media and the outside world, no one locks their doors, there’s virtually no crime, and the children are remarkably well-behaved. Go figure. I wonder if they’d welcome one more…

Read more at Condé Nast Traveller. -OJB

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