The Smallest Countries In The World By Total Land Area

By Antonia Čirjak on June 5 2020 in World Facts

Vatican City.
Vatican City.
  • Vatican City is the smallest country in the world, and it is placed under the jurisdiction of the Holy See, which means it is governed by the Pope.
  • Tuvalu is an island country located exactly midway between Hawaii and Australia.
  • Throughout its history, Nauru was occupied by different countries, it was even under Japan's rule during World War II.

When it comes to countries and their impact on the world, it is safe to say that size does not matter. The smallest countries can sometimes be widely influential, instigating important events that shaped the world.

Throughout history, smaller countries have conquered and colonized places much bigger in land area. The size of a country does not matter when it comes to how important it can be for the rest of the world. But which countries are the smallest by land area? And are there things about them more interesting than their size? Read on to find out!

1. Vatican City

With the land area of only 0.17 square miles (0.44 square kilometers) and a population of only about 825 people, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. Vatican City is actually an independent city-state that is found within Rome in Italy. That’s right; an entire country can be found within Rome.

It was established with the Lateran Treaty in 1929, and many probably know of it because it is the place where the Pope lives. Vatican City is governed by the Holy See, which is the term used to describe the jurisdiction of the Pope. The Holy See is the reason why Vatican City is able to remain spiritually, diplomatically, and temporally independent. Many important cultural sites can be found in Vatican City, which is especially interesting, seeing as how small it is. The most important ones are St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel, of course.

2. Monaco

Monaco is another sovereign city-state and is the second smallest country in the world. Its land area is only 0.78 square miles (2.02 square kilometers), and it can be found on the French Riviera. You have probably heard of Monaco as being a tourist destination for the wealthiest people, and that is not entirely wrong.

Monaco borders with France on almost all sides, with just one bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Despite being extremely small, Monaco actually has a reasonably high population. The most recent number of people living there is 38 682. This makes Monaco the most densely populated sovereign city-state on our planet. Monaco is divided into quartiers, or simply quarters, and arguably the most famous one is Monte Carlo. Monaco is home to some of the richest people in the world, and approximately a third of its population is believed to be millionaires.

3. Nauru

After two well-known countries, it is time for one that many probably haven’t heard of. Nauru is an island country that can be found in Micronesia, in the Central Pacific. It is the third smallest country in the world, with a land area of just 8.1 square miles (21 square kilometers). This is significantly larger than the previous two entries on our list, but still extremely small when compared to most other countries in the world. The population of Nauru is made up of mostly people from Micronesia and Polynesia.

It used to be a German colony, but throughout both World Wars, the ownership over the island changed constantly. It finally gained its independence in 1968. The island is a famous mining site, being especially rich in phosphate-rock deposits. The country was also a tax haven and a center for illegal money laundering for a short time. Quite a fascinating history for such a small, unknown country!

4. Tuvalu

Tuvalu is another island country located in Polynesia. With a land area of 10 square miles (26 square kilometers), it is the fourth-smallest country in the world. The easiest way to find Tuvalu on a map is to search between Hawaii and Australia. It is around midway between those two countries. Tuvalu has an interesting and rich history. It was originally inhabited by Polynesians, mostly those that were constantly traveling between islands. This was almost three thousand years ago.

The island (and its surrounding islands) were discovered by European explorers in the 16th century and were under the influence of many countries in the following years. It culminated when the United Kingdom got a hold of the islands (then called the Ellice Islands). The islands were under British rule until 1976 when they finally ceased to exist as a colony under that name, and Tuvalu was born. However, it gained full independence in 1978.

5. San Marino

The fifth smallest country in the world by land area is San Marino. This country can also be found within Italian borders, and its land area is 24 square miles (61 square kilometers). San Marino, just like Monaco and the Vatican, is a well-known country, but not many people are aware of exactly how small it is. An interesting fact about San Marino is that it has the lowest population out of all the countries that are members of the Council of Europe. Its population is estimated at around 33, 562.

Since its only neighbor is Italy, San Marino maintains strong cultural and economic connections to the country that is surrounding it. It helps that the Italian language is official in San Marino as well. Tourism plays a large part in the economy of San Marino, and it is often placed high on the lists of the most beautiful tourist destinations.

The Rest

After naming the five smallest countries in the world, it is only fair that we give a few honorable mentions. Following San Marino, we have Lichtenstein, with a land area of 24 square miles (61 square kilometers). You will notice how the land areas of the following countries start getting significantly larger than those in the top five.

At number seven, we have the Marshall Islands, with a land area of 70 square miles (181 square kilometers). The Marshall Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. Saint Kitts and Nevis are placed on the eighth spot, followed by the Maldives and Malta at number ten. In order, their land areas are 101, 115, and 122 square miles (261, 298, and 316 square kilometers).

The Smallest Countries In The World By Total Land Area

RankCountryArea (km sq)Area (sq mi)
1Vatican City0.440.17
5San Marino6124
7Marshall Islands18170
8Saint Kitts and Nevis261101
12Saint Vincent and the Grenadines389150
14Antigua and Barbuda443171
18Saint Lucia606234
25Sao Tome964372
30Cape Verde4,0331,557
31Trinidad and Tobago5,1281,980
41East Timor14,8745,743
47El Salvador20,7218,000

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