The Largest Archipelagos in the World

The landscape of the Norwegian Archipelago.
The landscape of the Norwegian Archipelago.

What Is An Archipelago?

An archipelago is a geographic feature comprised of a chain of islands. These islands may be found near a large land mass or in the middle of the ocean, far from a mainland area. The majority of archipelagos originated due to volcanic activity and are located near hotspots. Erosion, sediment deposits, and tectonic displacement may also result in archipelago formation. This article takes a closer look at archipelagos around the world with the largest number of islands.

Archipelagos With The Largest Number Of Islands

1. Norwegian Archipelago

The Norwegian Archipelago is by far the largest archipelago in the world, according to number of islands. This island chain, located off the coast of Norway in northern Europe, consists of at least 240,000 islands, coral reefs, cays, and islets. Within this grouping is the Svalbard archipelago, which is located at roughly the midway point between Norway and the North Pole, in the Arctic Ocean. Over 60% of the area of this archipelago is protected as either a national park or nature reserve, which are home to the Arctic fox, reindeer, and polar bear. Additionally, these islands are important breeding grounds for a number of migrating seabirds.

2. Archipelago Sea

The Archipelago Sea is the second largest archipelago in the world with around 40,000 islands and islets. It is located within the territory of Finland in the Baltic Sea, at the midway point between the Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia. Many of the islands that make up this archipelago are very small, however others are large enough to sustain permanent human settlements. The largest of these are known as the Aland Islands, an autonomous region of Finland.

3. Canadian Arctic Archipelago

The third largest archipelago in the world is the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, which is located in the northern region of Canada. This archipelago consists of 36,563 islands, most of which make up a large part of the Nunavut Province and a smaller area of the Northwest Territories. These islands, some of which are closer to Greenland than Canada, are surrounded by the Hudson Bay, Arctic Ocean, and Beaufort Sea. The largest island within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago is Baffin Island, which covers an area of 195,928 square miles and is considered the 5th largest island in the world. It has a population size of approximately 10,745.

4. Stockholm Archipelago

The Stockholm Archipelago consists of 28,945 islands, making it the fourth largest archipelago in the world. It is located in the Baltic Sea and is considered part of the territory of Sweden. Most of its islands are located near the coastline and follow a north to south directions. Ships coming to Sweden by way of the Baltic Sea must pass through the Stockholm Archipelago to reach the city of Stockholm. The deepest passages are found near the cities of Sandhamn, Soderarm, and Landsort.

5. Indonesian Archipelago

The fifth largest archipelago in the world is the Indonesian Archipelago, which is located within the Malay Archipelago between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. According to the Indonesian Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs, this archipelago is made up of 17,504 islands. The National Institute of Aeronautics and Space, however, reports that the number of islands in this archipelago is actually 18,306.

The Archipelagos Of The World With The Largest Number Of Islands

RankLocation (total number of islands)Name of the archipelagosNumber of islands, islets, reefs, coral reefs and cays
1NorwayNorwegian Archipelago240,000
2FinlandArchipelago Sea40,000 (approx.)
3CanadaCanadian Arctic Archipelago36,563
4Stockholm archipelago, SwedenStockholm archipelago28,945
5Malay ArchipelagoIndonesian Archipelago17,508 – 18,306

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