Society

The 10 Least Densely Populated Places in the World

A list of the 10 least densely populated nations, territories, and islands on the planet. The most isolated areas with fewest number people per square km.

149 million square kilometers (57.5 million square miles) of land is a huge area. It's actually all the land area on earth. But with 7,125,000,000 people sharing our planet, it boils down to 48 people sharing each square km.

Geography isn't fair: In New York City there are 10,725 people sharing each square kilometer; in Singapore, density is over 7,300; in Hong Kong, nearly 6,400; these places can feel as cramped as an endless subway ride. However, there are also regions like Western Sahara, where the crowd thins out to a soothing - if not lonely - 2.25 persons in the same space. So where in the world can you go if you want to get away from everyone? Pack your binoculars for these next ten destinations - you'll need them to spot the nearest human.

10 – MAURITANIA

Mauritania - officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania - slides into 10th place with a population density of 3.36 people per kilometre square, a statistic that speaks to the nation's climate: 90% of the West African country is made up of desert, forcing one-third of the population to the less arid South-Western coast and the capital of Nouakchott. As a result of massive drought, the country's desert has been expanding since the 1960's. And, in spite of its substantial natural resources - it is the 39th largest country in the world - Mauritania has one of the lowest GDPs in Africa with over 20% of its population living on less than 1.25 USD per day.

9 – SURINAME

Suriname is a tiny country perched on the North-Eastern coast of South America. It is the continent's smallest nation, and also one of its least-densely populated. At 3.26 inhabitants per square kilometer, the only Dutch-speaking country across the Atlantic from the Netherlands has a population of about 540,000, half of which is located in the country's capital, Paramaribo, in the North. 12.6% of the country is protected under preservation laws that aim to foster its forests and animals – endless expanses of untouched rainforests and savannah extend below the northern 20% of the country, and into Brazil.

8 – ICELAND

The name alone screams isolation - who would want to live in a place called Iceland Truly, however, the country is temperate and its low population density is largely due to its natural wonders - the volcanoes, geysers, sand, and lava fields that riddle the land. Sitting at a cool 3.15 people per square kilometer, Iceland is the ideal travel destination if you're looking for peace, beauty, and a fair amount of Scandinavian socialism. The country has the smallest population - roughly 324,000 people - of any NATO member. It also has no army, which is perfect if you're looking to storm its vastly empty beaches in search of Norse tombstones and 13th-century sagas.

7 – AUSTRALIA

The travel destination that is on the tip of everyone's tongue also has one of the world's smallest person-per-km ratios: there are roughly 23,766,500 Aussies spread over the 7.69 million square kilometres of island, a density off 3.09. However, the number is just as misleading as the statistics for other occupants of the list - most Australians live on cities that hug the coast, leading to a roughly sketched ring that circles an vast expanse - the Australian Outback - largely deserted, more of a travel destination than inhabitable landmass. The deserted Outback makes the continent the world's driest, flattest, most arid and least hospitable to organic growth, in spite of the rain forests and mountain ranges that occupy other areas of the country.

6 – FRENCH GUIANA

Neighbouring Suriname to the West, French Guiana sits on the North-Eastern coast of South America and comes in 6th with a population density of 2.65 people per square km. Although it is technically part of France and the European Union (French Guiana's currency is the Euro), it is largely detached and independent of from its densely populated French colonizer. Half of the population lives in Cayenne, a city in the North of the nation on the Atlantic coast. Tropical and ancient forests, mangroves, savannas and wetlands make up most of the uninhabited landmass, making it impressively biodiverse and - thankfully - well protected by natural reserves.

5 – NAMIBIA

Although only slightly less populated than French Guiana, Namibia's uninhabited areas differ greatly from its South-American counterpart with the Namib Desert's arid, dry soil taking up a large part of the country. The Southwestern African country sits on the Atlantic Ocean and borders similarly-sparsely populated Botswana to the East. The last census puts its population density at 2.56 people per square km. In spite of its mostly desert and dune-like geography, the country itself is temperate, as it is fairly elevated. Warmbad to the south is the only place where the country's temperatures match its landscape. Droughts in the country are common, though not as common as countries further north in the Sub Saharan region.

4 – MONGOLIA

The country that is known primarily for Genghis Khan and impressive breeds of horses is also one of the world's least-densely populated: a mere 1.92 people occupy each square kilometer of this enormous landmass. The difficulty in occupying much of the land, coupled with the fact that it is bordered by both Russia and China go a long way in justifying its low population density, however, a quickly-growing population could change this nation's ranking in coming years. Winter in Mongolia is subject to winds coming in from Siberia, making Ulaanbaatar, with an average temperature of -1.3 degrees Celsius, the world's coldest capital.

3 – PITCAIRN ISLANDS

The Pitcairn Islands, one of the world's most remote inhabited locations, are located in the far South Pacific. Made up of four volcanic islands belonging to the United Kingdom, only one of the four islands, Pitcairn, is inhabited, with a population of 56 and a density of 1.19 people per square kilometer. Indeed, the 56 people descend from four original colonizing families. Much of the Pitcairn islands are inaccessible, or difficult to access, due to high limestone cliffs covered in sharp coral that form a barrier to the more inhabitable interior. Pitcairn itself is quite fertile and friendly to human habitat. Part of it's low population stems from it's remote nature, and the fact that it currently has no landing strip for airplanes, though yachts and cruise ships are welcome in its harbour.

2 – FALKLAND ISLANDS

With a population of 0.21 people per square kilometer, the Falkland Islands, another territory under UK jurisdiction, is the second-least densely populated territory on Earth. An archipelago comprised of 778 islands, with a total population of 2,932 inhabitants, has seen growth recently due to an immigration influx. The two main islands, West & East Falkland, are untouched breeding grounds for a variety of birds. The islands themselves are hilly and mountainous, with a cold, windy, and humid clime. Although the tiny population produces a very low GDP, its GDP per capita is quite high and the islands rank well on the human development index.

1 – GREENLAND

The world's least-densely populated territory is Greenland, with a rate of 0.03 people per square kilometer. The country belongs to the Kingdom of Denmark and has been inhabited for over 4500 years by native peoples from Canada and Nordic settlers from Scandinavia. Most of Greenland is covered in ice, with the population residing mainly along the west coast, where lack of glacial cover has given way to rocky coast. If Greenland's ice were to melt, sea levels around the world would rise by 7m - a telling statistic for the geography and inhabitation of the three islands. With a population of roughly 56,000, Greenland is the number-one recommended spot if you want to feel like you've left all of humanity behind.

Least Densely Populated Countries And Territories In The World

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RankCountriesDensity (pop/square km)
1 Greenland (Denmark)0.03
2 Falkland Islands (UK)0.21
3 Pitcairn Islands (UK)1.19
4 Mongolia1.92
5 Namibia2.56
6 French Guiana (France)2.65
7 Australia3.14
8 Iceland3.24
9 Suriname3.26
10 Mauritania3.36
11 Botswana3.48
12 Libya3.50
13 Guyana3.65
14 Canada3.65
15 Niue (NZ)6.18
16 Gabon6.25
17 Kazakhstan6.31
18 Central African Republic7.42
19 Russia8.42
20 Chad8.78
21 Bolivia9.46
22 Turkmenistan10.70
23 Mali11.60
24 Republic of the Congo13.00
25 Oman13.50
26 New Caledonia (France)13.90
27 Saudi Arabia14.00
28 Belize14.10
29 Niger14.40
30 Argentina14.40

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