Which Country Has the Most Islands?

Islands are a little slice of paradise. Which country can make claim to having the most?

Estimates show that approximately 700 million people on earth live on islands, most of whom have unique cultures that have significance in their environmental resources. Islands are very popular with people who want to have a good and relaxed time because of the experiences they offer by being hotbeds of biodiversity with rare flora and species. Because of their remoteness, islands are good examples of clean environments that support healthy organisms including acting as rest points for migrating birds. For these and more reasons, countries with islands are actually lucky, and the more, the better. Sweden is the island capital of the world.

10. New Zealand

Piha Beach on North Island, Auckland, New Zealand.

Being an island country itself in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand has an estimated 600 islands. The two major ones and with most inhabitants are the Te Ika-a-Māui (North Island) and the Te Waipounamu (South Island or the “mainland”). Other notable islands in New Zealand include Stewart, Chatham, and Auckland islands. The islands of New Zealand are biodiverse and of different topographies. New Zealanders are famous for their prowess in water activities, a factor that is largely due to the variety of the islands and closeness to the coastline.

9. Thailand

Islands in Phang Nga Bay, Thailand.

Thailand has 1,430 islands located in both the Gulf of Thailand (located mostly near the coast) and in the Andaman Sea. Though most of the islands were uninhabited, most host facilities to attract more tourists. Just like the Greek islands, Thai islands are in clusters such as the Mu Ko Chang National Park that has 52 islands, the Phang Nga Bay that has 67 islands, and the and Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park that has 42 islands among others. In the local language, the word Ko means an island. Most of the islands in Thailand offer a variety of services to tourists including accommodation and travel arrangements.

8. Greece

Myrtos Beach on Cephalonia Island, Greece.

Difference sources put the number of islands in Greece to be between 1,600 and 6,000 depending on the minimum size these sources factor as an island. Of the total number, over 166 have permanent settlements. Crete is the largest Greek island by area followed by Euboea, Lesbos, and Rhodes in that order. All the islands in different clusters namely the North Aegean islands off Turkey’s west coast, the Argo-Saronic Islands near Athens, the Cyclades in the center of Aegean Sea, the Dodecanese near Turkey, the Sporades off the coast of Euboea, and the Ionian Islands in the Ionian Sea. The Ionian Islands have the best sandy beaches, whereas the Delos Islands is the best for history and culture for it is the birthplace of Apollo. Most of the Greek islands offer their own unique experience for tourists.

7. Japan

An olive park at Shodoshima Island, Japan.

Japan is an archipelago stretching for 1,869 miles of 6,853 islands of which over 430 have inhabitants. The four main islands include Honshu (which is the largest and has the capital Tokyo), Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Whereas most are natural, there are a couple of man-made islands as well. Each of the inhabited islands of Japan have unique cultures and biodiversity, whereas the uninhabited ones are homes to thousands of plant and animal species, including endangered ones. Japan’s islands provide rich grounds for research and expedition as well as fishing spots. Annually, there are approximately 1,500 earthquakes in the entire country. Four-fifths of Japan is heavily forest and mountainous with about 200 volcanoes making it hard to expand settlements, farms, or industries. There are an estimated 127 million people in this country and the four main islands make up 97% of Japan’s land area.

6. United Kingdom

Cliffs at the Isle of Purbeck, England.

The UK is an island separated from mainland Europe by the North Sea and the English Channel. Including all overseas territories, there are 6,806 islands in the entire UK, most of which are in Scotland. Tourists list the islands of Skye, Orkney, Fair Isle, Lindisfarne, Mersea, Isle of Wight, Herm, Anglesey, Lundy, and Bryher as some of the best to visit for an unforgettable experience. Together, most of the islands have prehistoric sites like Roman ruins and medieval castles.

5. Australia

Australia's Hamilton Island.

Being a country and a continent, the Indian and Pacific oceans surround the Commonwealth of Australia which has the mainland Australian continent, Tasmania, and many other smaller islands. Officially, Australia has 8,222 islands of which 3,747 islands are in Western Australia, 1,955 in Queensland, 1,000 in Tasmania, 887 in Northern Territory, and 346 in southern Australia. Melvin Island is the largest of the total number of islands. Australia boasts of various wildlife including kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses. Other attractions include the Great Barrier Reef, lakes, forests, and the vast desert.

4. Indonesia

The volcanoes of Java Island, Indonesia.

Just like Japan, the Republic of Indonesia is an archipelago of mostly volcanic islands located in Southeast Asia with some territories in Oceania. Indonesia is the largest island country, the fourteenth largest country in the world by land and the seventh largest globally by both land and sea area. In total, the country has 18,307 islands which host over 261 million people, though this figure fluctuates depending on different sources. Major islands include the Malaku and Sunda groups of islands. The Sunda Islands host the island of Java on which the capital, Jakarta, lies. Indonesian islands are popular for their unique beaches, volcanoes, prehistoric items, limestone cliffs, and rich wildlife including forests, elephants, tigers and many others. The wildlife and culture of Indonesia make it among the top tourist destinations on the planet.

3. Canada

The coast of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Canada has over 30,000 islands, the largest being Baffin Island which covers 195,927.93 square miles. While the exact total number of Canadian islands is unknown, most of the 30,000 islands are within Georgian Bay making them one of the largest archipelago in fresh waters. A total of 1,864 islands are in the Saint Lawrence River. Canada has named 129 island groups and 1,016 islands of which 250 are uninhabited. Of the total, seventeen islands have more than 3861.02 square miles of area. To the north of mainland Canada, there is the Canadian Archipelago within which the Queen Elizabeth Islands and Manitoulin Island lay. Manitoulin Island is the biggest freshwater island in the world and has 17 lakes on it which in turn have smaller islands.

2. Finland

Cottages on a Finnish island.

The Finnish tourism body acknowledges that the country has 179,584 islands, 98,050 of which are within the 188,000 lakes of the country. Only 455 of these islands have permanent settlements and use waterway connections to the mainland as they do not have connective road services. Over 700 are relatively large, with more than 0.39 square miles in area, and have road connections to the mainland. The other tens of thousands serve recreation, expedition, research, or other purposes. Various facilities are available to visitors including horse riding, kayaking, and fishing, among many others.

1. Sweden

Islands in Sweden.

Sweden has a total of 267,570 islands of which more than 1,000 have never had settlements and only 984 arepresently inhabited. This number makes Sweden the record holder of the number of islands per country. The interesting fact is that the total “island Sweden” is larger than the mainland Sweden thus providing Swedes with great summers. Even the capital, Stockholm, is an archipelago of fourteen islands connected with over 50 bridges and also has the medieval town of Gamla Stan, museums, and royal palaces. The island of Öland has well-maintained beaches, a castle, and structures that date 5,000 years back, thus making the island a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other islands offer good sites for swimming, fishing, and other water sports.

More in Environment