From Cape Horn all the way to the Arctic Circle, the world’s largest countries provide a beautiful snapshot of the variety of geography, climate, and wildlife on the planet. Collectively, the world’s largest countries contain rainforest and tundra, mountains and valleys, coastline and desert.
As we explore the largest nations of the world, we visit five different continents, some of the world’s most spectacular geography, and every type of climate imaginable.
Excitingly, it’s always changing, too: history has taught that geopolitical boundaries shift dramatically as the centuries pass. In the next decades, who’s to say which countries will become the world’s largest?
When 11.5 percent of all the land in the entire world is claimed by just one country, it’s not surprising to learn that the tenth largest country (Algeria) could fit into the largest (Russia) seven times over. When all 10 of the world's largest countries are taken together, they total 49% of the earth's entire 149 million square kilometres of land.
The 10 Largest Countries In The World (by total area)
- Russia - 17,098,242 sq. km
- Canada- 9,984,670 sq. km
- United States - 9,833,517 sq. km
- China - 9,596,960 sq. km
- Brazil - 8,515,770 sq. km
- Australia - 7,741,220 sq. km
- India - 3,287,263 sq. km
- Argentina - 2,780,400 sq. km
- Kazakhstan - 2,724,900 sq. km
- Algeria - 2,381,741 sq. km
Rankings By Land Area Only
The above data has been derived from CIA World Factbook and ranks countries based on total area that is the sum of all land and water areas delimited by international boundaries and/or coastlines. However, it must be remembered that the rankings change when the countries are ordered by land area only. For example, Canada has the highest number of lakes in the world and when the country's area occupied by water bodies is subtracted from its total area, it ranks as the fourth largest country with China and the United States ranking above it.
Size And Population Not Connected
Another notable observation is that the largest countries in the world are not necessarily the world's most popluated countries as well. Although they have larger land masses, extremes of climate and terrain in countries like Russia and Canada limit human habitation over larger parts of their territory. The three most populous countries in the world, China, India, and the US rank fourth, third, and seventh on the list above.
1. Russia: 17,098,242 sq.km
Russia’s 17.1 million square kilometers easily make it the world’s largest by area. In fact, if Russia were to lop off 7 million square kilometers, it would still be the largest—and the lopped-off section would rank seventh overall! It represents equivalent to 11% of the world's landmass.
Like China, Russia, a transcontinental country stretching from Asia to Europe, borders 16 countries. It has 9 different times zones! Despite being the world's largest country, Russia is extremely sparsely populated and hosts only about 2% of the world's population.
Russia's origin can be traced to the Kievan Rus of the 9th century which expanded under the rule of Viking chieftain Rurik. Another notable expansion of territory occurred in the late 16th century during the rule of Ivan the Terrible, the first official tsar of Russia. By the early 18th century, Russia became the world's third-biggest empire and constituted the largest part of the Soviet Union when the latter was established. On December 25, 1991, the Russian Federation or Russia that we know today was born with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
2. Canada - 9,984,670 sq.km
Canada’s 9.984 million square kilometers make it the largest country in the western hemisphere and in North America. The United Kingdom would fit into Canada by more than 40 times! However, an interesting point to note is that 9% of the country's surface is occupied by lakes. The country hosts about 50% of the world's natural lakes. If the water area of the lakes is left out, Canada would be smaller than the US by land size alone.
Canada also has the world's longest coastline at 202,080-kilometer. It is bordered by three oceans: Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific to the east, north, and west, respectively. To the south, the country borders the United States for nearly 9,000 kilometers making it the world's longest land border! Like Russia, Canada also has a comparatively small population compared to size with most of it concentrated within 100 km of the Canada-USA border.
3. United States of America - 9,833,517 sq.km
The United States ranks third on the list with a total area of 9.83 million square kilometers. The contiguous states and District of Columbia constitute 83.65% of the total area of the country. The rest belongs to Alaska, Hawaii, and the insular US territories. The country shares its land borders with only two nations, Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. With a coastline of 19,924 km, the country ranks 8th in the world in terms of coastline length.
In terms of population, the US again ranks third among the countries of the world but its population is way lower than that of China and India both of which have populations of over a billion. The US has an estimated population of over 330 million.
4. People’s Republic of China - 9,596,960 sq.km
With a total area of 9.59 million sq. km, China ranks as the world's fourth-largest country. It is the largest country in Asia located entirely in the continent as Russia extends into Europe. China borders 14 countries. By land area alone, however, it comes in second place. However, the determination of the exact size of China is a matter of great debate as the country claims many territories challenged by border disputes like Taiwan, South Tibet, Aksai Chin, and others.
Unlike Russia and Canada, however, China's also ranks high on the population scale. In fact, it is the world's most populated nation with over 1.4 billion people. The population is distributed unevenly across its vast territory.
5. Brazil - 8,515,770 sq.km
With 8,515,767 sq. km, Brazil ranks fifth on this list and is South America's biggest country by size. It occupies 47.3% of the land area of the continent. The country has a coastline of 7,491 kilometers. Brazil borders all other South American countries except for Chile and Ecuador. It has four time zones. Brazil is also the world's longest country extending for 4,395 kilometers from north to south. Both the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn runs through Brazil, the only country where this happens.
6. Australia - 7,741,220 sq.km
With 7.74 million sq. km, the island country of Australia is the world's sixth-largest country by size. The approximately 4.4 million square kilometer difference between Australia and India represents the second-largest size difference between countries ranked consecutively in the top 10. Australia is over twice the size of India.
It’s the largest country in Oceania by far. Technically it is so large that it doesn’t even qualify as an island but as a continental landmass. The vast majority of its population lives in coastal cities like Sydney in the east and Perth in the west, and with good reason: the Australian Outback is one of the world’s driest and hottest regions.
7. India - 3,287,263 sq.km
The world's seventh-largest country, India, is located in South Asia where it covers an area of 3.28 million square kilometers. The country has a land border of 15,000 kilometers and a coastline of 7,516.6 kilometers. It shares its land borders with seven countries.
Although seventh on this list, India ranks second on the list of the world's most populated countries. It has a population of over 1.3 billion and it is estimated that India will surpass China to become rank number one in population by 2027.
8. Argentina: 2,780,400 sq.km
Argentina from South America, the world’s 32nd most populous country, is the world’s eighth-largest, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world by area. It borders five other countries. Its 2.78 million square kilometers include some of the most varied geography and climate in the world.
9. Kazakhstan - 2,724,900 sq.km
The transcontinental country of Kazakhstan covers an area of 2,72 million square kilometers in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Formerly part of the USSR, the largest nation in the world for most of the 20th century, Kazakhstan’s current main claim to fame is its status as the largest landlocked country in the world—and the only landlocked country in the top 10. Kazakhstan is equivalent in size to Western Europe and is bordered by five countries.
10. Algeria - 2,381,741 sq.km
The only African country on this list of 10 largest countries in the world, Algeria ranks number 10 with an area of 2.38 square kilometers in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It is bordered by six countries and the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The southern part of the country is occupied mostly by the Sahara Desert.