While several of these countries are notable for their picturesque beaches, many will also face increasing challenges as climate change threatens to melt sea ice and subsequently raise sea levels and place low-lying lands underwater. In many places, this effect may displace millions of people in the years to come. That said, we present the 10 Countries With The Lowest Average Elevations In The World.
10. Trinidad & Tobago (270 feet)
Trinidad & Tobago is a national comprised by two small islands in the Caribbean off of the coast of Venezuela. It is likely that these islands were once attached to the mainland of South America. Trinidad is the bigger of the two islands, at about 60 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide. It is also much flatter, and experiences more flooding. Tobago lies about 30 kilometers northeast of Trinidad, and is geologically part of another group of islands called the Lesser Antilles. This island is very volcanic, and actually has peaks reaching around 3,000 feet. These islands are both tropical in terms of climate, and average about 211 centimeters of precipitation per year.
9. Guinea-Bissau (230 feet)
Guinea-Bissau is a small country on the Atlantic Coast of Western Africa. Its land is relatively flat, although the higher Fouta Djallon Plateau can be found situated in the southeast. The coastal parts of Guinea-Bissau are so low and flat that tidal waters can wash as far as 62 miles inland. Locals have made the most of this phenomenon, and will even go so far as to use the brackish waters to flood their rice paddies.
8. Senegal (225 feet)
Senegal is known as the “gateway to Africa” because it occupies the westernmost point of Africa. It lies in a low depression in the land called the Senegal-Mauritanian Basin. Its small, Cape Verde Peninsula is the only place in the country with elevations above 300 feet. Because of its unique location, Senegal contains many different climates and soil types. Its habitats include semiarid grasslands, oceanfront, and tropical rainforests. Like its neighbor Guinea-Bissau, high tides cause salty water to wash into its rivers, traveling up to 125 miles inland.
7. Estonia (200 feet)
Estonia is the most northern of the three Baltic states in northeastern Europe, itself situated above the other two, those being Latvia and Lithuania. Around 1,500 small islands are included in this country’s territory. The topography of the area is greatly influenced by glacial activity, which caused many of the small hills, lakes, and rivers that define its landscapes. These bodies of water primarily drain into the Gulf of Finland. Estonia receives about 586 millimeters of precipitation per year.
6. Gambia (115 feet)
The Gambia is a tiny strip of land surrounded by Senegal in Western Africa. It is only 15 to 30 miles wide, yet nearly 300 miles long. Its unusual shape and location are due to a territorial dispute between France, who once controlled what is now Senegal, and Britain, who once controlled the lower part of the Gambia River. Since this river dominates the geography around it that comprises the country, the country is mostly flat and relatively sandy. The Gambia is one of Africa’s most densely populated countries.
5. Denmark (110 feet)
Denmark occupies a small peninsula known as the Jutland Peninsula, which extends north from the central part of Europe. The country is slightly hilly due to sporadic glacial activity that occurred at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, but its highest point reaches only 568 feet above sea level. Its lowest point, Lammefjord, is a fjord lying almost 23 feet below sea level. Denmark also contains several small islands in the Baltic Sea.
4. The Netherlands (100 feet)
“The Netherlands” means “low-lying country,” and this country is certainly well named. Most of its land has been reclaimed through strategic water management techniques dating back to the Middle Ages. Lakes and marshes have been drained, and many cities are surrounded by dikes that hold back the seawater. In fact, the most densely populated areas lie just behind these dikes. Buildings in these areas are often built on concrete piles anchored up to 65 feet deep into the silt. The Netherlands also experience high winds, since there is little topographic variance to slow the wind coming in off of the seas.
3. Qatar (90 feet)
Found on the west coast of the Persian Gulf, Qatar has one of the world’s largest reserves of petroleum and natural gas. The country is only about 100 miles long and 50 miles wide, and most of it is a flat, low-lying desert. Temperatures can reach as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, and with only 3 inches of rain per year, there are no permanent bodies of fresh water. Qatar is known for its dramatic sand dunes and the salt flats that lie near the coast.
2. Jamaica (60 feet)
Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean, and is known for being among the most beautiful. Despite its low average elevation, the country is home to many interior mountains and plateaus. In fact, places in its Blue Mountains rise to about 7,000 feet. Jamaica experiences fairly consistent winds and has a tropical climate, averaging about 82 inches of rain per year.
1. Maldives (5 feet)
The Maldives is a chain of over 1,200 small coral islands, known as atolls, in the North Indian Ocean. The atolls formed as coral built on top of an ancient, now submerged, volcanic mountain range. Despite being on top of a mountain range, the Maldives' highest natural point sits less than 8 feet above sea level! That point is on Addu Atoll. However, a golf course on the Villingili Resort on Seenu Atoll has a man-made prominence on Hole Number 8, which laughably surpasses it at around 16 feet. Only about 200 of these Maldivian islands are populated, and many of them are used almost exclusively for tourist activities. All of them are extremely close to sea level, and large barrier reefs serve to help protect them from the seasonal monsoon storms.