The Smallest Countries In The World By Total Land Area

By Antonia Čirjak on August 18 2020 in World Facts

Vatican City on a map.
Vatican City on a map.
  • 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.
  • Monaco, the second smallest country in the world, has a population of 38,682, making it the most densely populated sovereign city-state on the planet.
  • Tuvalu is an island country located in Polynesia. With a land area of 26 square kilometers or 10 square miles, it is the fourth-smallest country in the world.

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. 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: 0.44 sq. km

With the land area of only 0.44 square kilometers or 0.17 square miles, 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 an enclave of Rome in Italy. That means that the city-state is surrounded on all sides by Rome, Italy's capital city. 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. It was established with the Lateran Treaty in 1929 that recognized Vatican City as an independent state under the Holy See's sovereignty. 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: 2.02 sq. km

Monaco is another sovereign city-state and is the second smallest country in the world. Its land area is only 2.02 square kilometers or 0.78 square miles, 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 all sides but one that borders 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 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: 21 sq. km

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  21 square kilometers or 8.1 square miles. 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.

Nauru 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: 26 sq. km

Tuvalu is another island country located in Polynesia. With a land area of 26 square kilometers or 10 square miles, 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 61 sq. km

The fifth smallest country in the world by land area is San Marino. This country is also an enclave of Italy like the Vatican City, and its land area is 61 square kilometers or 24 square miles. 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 Liechtenstein, with a land area of 61 square kilometers or 24 square miles. 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 181 square kilometers or 70 square miles. 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 261, 298, and 316 square kilometers or 101, 115, and 122 square miles.

The Smallest Countries In The World By Total Area (land and water surface)

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

More in World Facts