Earth Science - Other

Worlds Smallest Countries

Len Morse's image for:
"Worlds Smallest Countries"
Image by: 

Many travelers and those interested in geographical trivia have, at some point, wondered about the world’s smallest countries. Where are some of these places and exactly how small are they? Are they really worth visiting? Is there anything truly interesting about them? Read on.

The countries listed below rely on many different forms of income, the most common being tourism and agriculture/food processing. Other industries include clothing/footwear, construction, banking, and light manufacturing. External government assistance is also a form of income for some less-than-healthy economies.

The following ten independent nations are listed from smallest to largest, based on landmass. Each country’s data is shown as follows:

- Name

- Approximate land area, estimated population (as of July 2009), approximate location

- Other data of interest

== World’s Smallest Countries ==

- Vatican City (a.k.a. Holy See)

- 0.44 sq km (0.17 sq mi), 826 citizens, surrounded by Rome, Italy

- Vatican City is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and in an unusual combination of the current and the ancient, has the world’s only Latin ATMs. Although it is a different shape, it takes up less area than Washington, D.C.’s National Mall. As Vatican City has no permanent citizens, workers and their families are granted citizenship until the workers leave. The economy is supported by donations, tourism, and stamp and publication sales, and there are no taxes.

- Monaco (Principality)

- 2 sq km (0.77 sq mi), 32,965 citizens, French Riviera on the Mediterranean Sea, near Italy

- Monaco can fit inside New York City’s Central Park and is the most densely populated country on earth. It is known worldwide for the high-stakes casinos of Monte Carlo, luxury recreation, Grand Prix racing, and Actress-turned-Princess Grace Kelly. Native-born citizens, called Monegasques, make up only about one-fifth of the total population. These folks are not allowed into the casinos, but they do not pay taxes, either. For all other residents, the reverse is true.

- Nauru (Republic)

- 21 sq km (8 sq mi), 14,019 citizens, Polynesia, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia

- Nauru is the smallest island nation. At one time, Nauru’s only real source of income was phosphates (bird droppings), but hard times have fallen upon the once-rich island. It is now barren and run-down, and has become something of a thorn in the paw of Australia, which currently keeps Nauru’s government from bankruptcy. Nauru Joined the U.N. in 1999.

- Tuvalu

- 26 sq km (10 sq mi), 12,373 citizens, Polynesia, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia

- The name means “group of eight,” but there are nine atolls. Only 5 meters (16 feet) above sea level and quite small, Tuvalu has become increasingly vulnerable to constant population growth, coastal erosion, and the possibility of rising sea levels. Tuvalu leases its Internet domain name “.tv” for contract royalties, creating the most unusual source of income on this list. With a total of only eight kilometers of roads (as of 2002), Tuvalu hosts the smallest road network in the world.

- San Marino (Republic)

- 61 sq km (24 sq mi), 30,324 citizens, North-central Italy, near the Adriatic coast

- San Marino claims to be oldest republic in the world, founded in 301 A.D. by a stonecutter named Marinus. As a testament to the country’s political prudence during Napoleon’s attempt to conquer Europe, various relationships were forged, and San Marino remained untouched by the otherwise persistent emperor. Tourism provides approximately half of San Marino’s income, making its citizenry one of the richest in the world.

- Liechtenstein (Principality)

- 160 sq km (62 sq mi), 34,761 citizens, between Switzerland and Austria

- Liechtenstein is extremely prosperous and self-sufficient in the business world, enjoying low taxes and varied financial services. However, in 2000, banking regulation loopholes were found, and in 2003 the government enacted anti-money-laundering legislation to quell concerns. It is only slightly smaller than the city of Washington, D.C. and is one of only two double land-locked countries (bordered by two neighbors) in the world; the other is Uzbekistan.

- Marshall Islands (Republic)

- 181 sq km (70 sq mi), 64,522 citizens, Polynesia, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia

- This archipelago is made up of 34 atolls and islets, two of which are named Knox and Bikini. Another, Kwajalein, houses an important U.S. missile test site and also encircles the world’s largest lagoon. Marshall Islands became independent of the U.S. in 1986, and has since continually requested reparation for U.S. nuclear testing that occurred mostly during the 1950s.

- Saint Kitts and Nevis (Federation)

- 261 sq km (101 sq mi), 40,131 citizens, Caribbean Sea, southeast of Puerto Rico

- The smallest country in North America, both Saint Kitts and Nevis became independent of the U.K. in 1983. Some liken the shapes of these islands to a baseball bat and a baseball. Nevis continues its years-long effort to separate from Saint Kitts.

- Maldives (Republic)

- 298 sq km (115 sq mi), 396,334 citizens, Indian Ocean, south of India

- Maldives is the smallest country in Asia, with only 200 of its 2,000 total islands being inhabited. After many decades of single-party government control, the first constitution was ratified and the first multi-party presidential election was held in 2008. The new president faces a weak democracy and ongoing poverty. More than 80% of the land is less than one meter above sea level and, like Tuvalu, is therefore susceptible to future erosion and possible rising seas.

- Malta (Republic)

- 316 sq km (122 sq mi), 405,165 citizens, south of Sicily, Italy

- Malta is actually an archipelago, of which only three islands are inhabited. Economically, Malta has been quite successful in tourism, finance, and freight since the mid-1980s. They joined the EU (European Union) in 2004 and began using the euro as currency in 2008. Fans of the classic detective story “The Maltese Falcon” should note that Peregrine falcons are now extinct from the island, although they do live elsewhere.

== Territory Versus Country ==

According to, a territory is “a non-sovereign geographic area that has come under the authority of another government.” Thus, while some areas may be quite small and geographically separated from other countries, they are not independent entities. For example, Pitcairn Islands, Gibraltar, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, and Cayman Islands are British Territories, and American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam are American Territories.

== Summary ==

Travelers who intend to visit one of these tiny places should go learn more than what the meager paragraphs above provide. While trivial facts may stimulate your interest, nothing can substitute for true, intensive research.

Most of this article’s data was derived from the CIA’s World Factbook, as well as Nations Online, various Geography pages, and other sources.

More about this author: Len Morse

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow