World Facts

10 Common Geography Misconceptions

Test your knowledge and find out some of the most common Geography misconceptions in this article.

Whether you are currently in school, graduated recently, or left a long time ago, there are some Geography facts that everyone is confident in stating. For example, Paris is the capital of France. But do you know what is the capital of Switzerland? The answer might not be what you expected. Test your knowledge and find out some of the most common Geography misconceptions below:

10. Africa is not a country

The map of Africa on a globe. Image credit: Wael alreweie/Shutterstock.com

Africa is not a country but a continent that is made up of 54 countries. The population of Africa is around 1.2 billion, and there are approximately 2,000 languages spoken across the entire continent.

9. Geneva is the capital of Switzerland

Aerial view of the Bern old town with the Aare river flowing around the town on a sunny day. Image credit: Peter Stein/Shutterstock.com

As Geneva is one of the world’s financial hubs, many people believe it to be Switzerland’s capital city. Whereas others believe Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, to be the country’s capital. However, Switzerland does not technically have a capital city, but a federal city that acts as the capital, and that is the city of Bern.

8. The Nile is the world’s longest river

The Nile River snaking its way through Juba in Sudan. Image credit: Frontpage/Shutterstock.com

There is a lot of debate around which river is the longest, but in recent years the Amazon River has held the title as the longest river in the world.

7. Iceland is covered in ice

Tourists ride horses at Kirkjufell during Icelandic summer. Image credit: Blue Planet Studio/Shutterstock.com

Despite its name, Iceland is not covered in ice. Iceland has a relatively mild climate thanks to the Gulf Stream. The country experiences changes in weather when the warm Gulf Stream air comes into contact with the cold Arctic air; it is possible to experience all four seasons in one day. Icelanders often remark “if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes and you’ll get something different”.

6. The Mississippi is the longest river in the USA

The Missouri River carving its way through the hills. Image credit: Kavram/Shutterstock.com

Contrary to popular belief, the Mississippi River is not the longest river in the United States. The Mississippi River is 2,202 miles long, whereas the Missouri River is 2,341 miles and therefore takes the title of the longest river in the U.S.

5. The Matterhorn is Europe’s highest mountain

View of Mt Elbrus from Mount Cheget. Caucasus, Russian Federation. Image credit: Photo_Olivia/Shutterstock.com

The Alps are home to some of the highest mountains in Europe. The Matterhorn, in the Swiss Alps, is the most famous mountain in the Alps; it stands at 14,690 feet tall. However, it is not the tallest mountain in Europe. Mt. Elbrus, located in the Caucasus Mountains, is the tallest at a height of 18,510 feet.

4. Sydney is the capital of Australia

Parliament House, Canberra. Image credit: Heath Doman/Shutterstock.com

Australia’s capital city is not Sydney or Melbourne, which is often the second choice. Australia’s capital is, in fact, the city of Canberra. Canberra is the 8th largest city in Australia, and it is the only city in the world where you can skydive over the country’s parliament house.

3. Deserts are hot

Antarctica is a cold desert. Image credit: Ivan Hoermann/Shutterstock.com

The word "desert" usually conjures up images of sand dunes and relentless heat. You may think of the Sahara, Gobi and Kalahari. However, a desert is defined as an arid region that has “little rainfall that supports only sparse and widely spaced vegetation or no vegetation at all.” By this definition, Antarctica is also a desert, more specifically, a cold desert.

2. England and the United Kingdom are the same thing

Geographic map of the United Kingdom with its constituent countries. Image credit: Bennian/Shutterstock

England and the United Kingdom are not the same thing. England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

1. Cape Town is the capital of South Africa

Houses of Parliament (Cape Town, South Africa). Image credit: PhilippN/Wikimedia.org

This is partly true. South Africa actually has three capital cities and is one of the few countries in the world that has more than one capital. Cape Town is the legislative capital, Pretoria is the administrative, and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.

About the Author

 Steph is a British-born-Lisbon-based writer who loves to travel. She enjoys exploring towns and cities in all four corners of the world. 

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