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 this we explore the largest nations, 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.
Largest Countries By Total Land Area
- Russia - 17,098,246 km2 (6,601,670 mi2)
- Canada - 9,984,670 km2 (3,855,100 mi2)
- United States - 9,833,517 km2 (3,796,742 mi2)
- China 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 mi2)
- Brazil - 8,515,767 km2 (3,287,956 mi2)
- Australia - 7,692,024 km2 (2,969,907 mi2)
- India - 3,287,263 km2 (1,269,219 mi2)
- Argentina - 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 mi2)
- Kazakhstan - 2,724,900 km2 (1,052,100 mi2)
- Algeria -2,381,741 km2 (919,595 mi2)
1. Russia - 17,098,246 km2 (6,601,670 mi2)
- Population: 144,699,673
- Time zones: UTC +2 to +12
Russia is by-far the largest country in the world, covering over 6.6 million square miles (17,098,246 km2). The transcontinental country extends halfway around the northern hemisphere, over much of Europe and whole of North Asia. It boasts 11 time zones, and borders 14 different countries. Russia's runner-up, Canada, barely reaches-over half of Russia's size in land area. The country covers 1/8 out of world's all inhabitable land.
Though it’s less than one-tenth the area of Russia’s other amazing lake, the sprawling Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal actually holds one-fifth of all the world’s liquid freshwater. Baikal’s volume is the result of its depth—it’s the deepest lake on Earth. The bottom of the lake is over a mile down in several places. With over 80 national parks and reserves across the country Russia is home to more than one-fifth of the world’s forest areas (approximately 763.5 million hectares). The Russian landscape is an awe inspiring sight, full of diverse terrain. From the stark beauty of the polar deserts to the lush forests and steppes, Russian nature offers a variety of breathtaking landscapes that can take your breath away.
Siberia became part of Russia through several key events in Russian history, primarily the expansion of the Tsardom of Muscovy and the eventual rise of the Russian Empire. In the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible established his reign over vast territories, stretching from Moscow to the Ural Mountains and beyond. This allowed him to conquer or annex various Siberian tribes, while also claiming control of lands that were owned by other European powers to increase his powerbase even further. Siberia that make-up over three quarters of Russia's territory today.
In the following centuries, Peter the Great would also expand Russia's borders westward into Europe, while Catherine II advanced Russia's southern boundary to the Black Sea. Russia annexed Crimea in 1783 and created the Black Sea fleet. This acquisition was largely thanks to a series of treaties with China in which Russia swapped out its northern territories for Chinese territory in Siberia and Manchuria. Through these acquisitions, much of modern-day Siberia was claimed by Russia and is now considered a part of its massive land mass.
2. Canada - 9,984,670 km2 (3,855,100 mi2)
Canada is the world's second-largest country, sprawling over an area of 9.984 million square kilometers. The country spans five time zones, its longest border – 4,900 miles long –is with the United States to the south, and its 151019 mile (243042 km) coastline gives it more shoreline than any other nation. Its northern portion extends into the Arctic Circle and includes tundra, frozen lands and a variety of wildlife. Canada is made up of 10 provinces and 3 territories spread out among a variety of climates and geographical regions.
The Western half of Canada consists of the Rocky Mountains that straddle the border between the interior of BC and the grasslands and boreal forests of Alberta. The Canadian segment of the Rockies stretch over 1,200 km from the US borders of British Columbia and Alberta to the Liard River Basin. The Canadian Prairies is a region in Western Canada that is comprised of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This region features vast grasslands, plains and lowlands, which are mainly located in the southern parts of these provinces.
While Eastern Canada encompasses everything from the dynamic cityscapes of Quebec and Toronto to the lighthouses and rugged coastline of Nova Scotia. It includes Central Canada which is made up of two of the country's most populous provinces Ontario and Quebec. Atlantic Canada is a region of Eastern Canada that encompasses four provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Canada’s Atlantic coast was the first part of the country to be explored and colonized by Europeans.
Northern Canada is a vast region of sparsely populated territories consisting of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Home to the Canadian Arctic Tundra north of the tree line, this region also boasts beautiful landscapes and geological features like the Innuitian Mountains.
3. United States - 9,833,517 km2 (3,796,742 mi2)
Continental United States covers the area of 9.6-some million square kilometers. The territory comprises 48 contiguous states, the largest Alaska, off-the north westernmost corner of North America, and the state-island of Hawaii in the Pacific. North America was inhabited for around 12,000 years, discovered at the end of the 15th century, and gained independence from Britain in 1776. It was recognized by Great Britain in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which concluded the American Revolutionary War, and doubled the colonies in size with extension past the Proclamation Line to the Mississippi.
The greatest expansion doubling the country's territory occurred in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Annexation of the Republic of Texas in 1845 eventually led directly to obtaining land that is now the state of California. Manifest destiny in the 19th century propelled the westward expansion, while the Guano Islands Act helped the country expand beyond North America in 1856, culminating in annexation of Hawaii in 1898. Alaska was purchased from Russia in 1867. The country also owned the Panama Canal Zone between 1904 and 1979. The last state of the contiguous United States was admitted in 1912, and the fiftieth (Hawaii) in 1959.
It is a magnetic country, from the "new world", to the land of opportunity, to present-day dream-destination for the starry-eyed and developing nations. Canada's neighbour is most-known for the Times Square, coastal beaches, Hollywood and Las Vegas scenes, and much more. It is home to the Big Sur, the grand Canyon, sky-high skyscrapers, and supersized-everything, including gigantic shopping malls. The fascinating country is also home to a long list of secret hotspots yet to uncover.
4. China 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 mi2)
China is the largest country in Asia, boasting massive land where only 1.5% is water. Like Russia, China borders 14 countries, but covers only one time zone. The most-populated country in the world is also the its major economic power. The land of early civilization was inhabited for thousands of years, with many legacies shaping the country into present-day regions and cultures. China is home to ancient high traditions, and known-for cultural shifts, mysticism, and Mao's mastery as a ruler.
The Zhou Dynasty (up-to 256 B.C.) established the capitals of Zongzhou and Chengzhou and expanded south and east. Following years of war, the king of Qin unified six powers in China as its self-proclaimed First Emperor. The Qui Dynasty (up-to 206 B.C.) expended in a military fashion under the Legalism doctrine. The Hun Dynasty (up-to 220 A.D.) expanded the country through migration and military expeditions, along with diplomacy and trade with Southeast Asia.
For over 2000 years, elite of scholar-officials handled routine administrative tasks. The last, Qing Dynasty from 1636, was replaced by the Republic of China in 1912. The mainland turned into the People's Republic of China in 1949, and the Republic of China went to Taiwan. There is an ongoing dispute between PRC and the ROC for sole governance of the country, although the United Nations recognize former as China's representative since 1971. Hong Kong and Macau are administrative entities within since transferring sovereignty to China in 1997 and 1999 from the United Kingdom and Portugal respectively.
There's also a quirky and stubborn side to China, rooted-in traditions and known for doing everything "my way or the highway" for centuries. The luring country is a tourist-magnet for cheap services, intrigue, and endless beauty. There's undeniable charm in the small mountainous villages surrounded by desert plains and rice-fields, with incredibly hard-working population keeping it all together.
5. Brazil - 8,515,767 km2 (3,287,956 mi2)
The largest country in South America occupies over 47% of the continent and borders every other country except Ecuador and Chile. Brazil comprises 26 states and one federal district, with the most-populous city of São Paulo. Within the last century, Brazil gained a wonderful blend of culture from high level of immigration. It is the largest country in the world that uses Portuguese as an official language, and boasts one of the most diverse populations.
Brazil became so big primarily through timely independence movements, separating from Portugal in 1822, and not fragmenting into separate countries. It held onto identity and area over centuries and changing forms of government. The hegemonic country with a universal Portuguese language celebrated their 500th anniversary of contact with Portugal, and latter independence at the turn of the 21st century.
Brazil is known for stunning, white-sanded beaches, the huge statue of Jesus the Redeemer, and the colorfully-loud city of Rio de Janeiro. The deeply-historical country is a destination to behold with over 7,000 km of tropical beaches, vibrant cities, and beautifully-diverse natural landscapes. There is the Amazon River, the famous Iguaçu Falls, as well as the largest wetland in the world, the Pantanaal, spreading through Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Many also come for the samba, football, and the famous carnival, Rio Brazil.
6. Australia - 7,692,024 km2 (2,969,907 mi2)
Oceania's largest country sits entirely within Southern Hemisphere. It is the only "coterminous" country in the world, with no distinction where continent ends and country begins. Australia boasts deep history with first inhabitants dating back to 65,000 years ago when they migrated from Southeast Asia. The colonized country developed hundreds of distinct languages before seeing first European settlers in the early 17th century. Australia gained independence from Britain in 1901. It is one of the most world's most multicultural countries, and home to the longest continuous culture.
The western boundary of the original New South Wales was extended to longitude 129° East in 1825. It is the current boundary of Western Australia, comprising the modern state, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. The colony of Victoria separated from the New South Wales in 1851. In 1890, a colonial politician said, "The crimson thread of kinship runs through us all...we must unite as one great Australian people." Colonial concerns about German and French eyeing the region led to a unified federated Australian defense force and single-gauge railway network for defense. May 1942 uniform tax laws gave all power to the Federal Government and reduced financial autonomy of the states.
There are no two states alike in Australië, and vibrant cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, equally memorable to feel at home. The diverse landscape include the outback and bush wilderness, tons of white-sanded beaches, the Whitsunday Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef. The isolated "land down under" is a popular destination to let go "go wild", like spotting crocodiles and kangaroos, surfing, backpacking, and road-tripping in a rented camper van.
7. India - 3,287,263 km2 (1,269,219 mi2)
The second largest country in Asia is also the second most populous country in the world that is expected to surpass China's population count, while its land-area is almost half the size of 6th-ranked, Australia. India is bordered by more, populous countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Nepal, and Pakistan. The country not for the faint-hearted, is subject to monsoons and hot weather, but with many must-see places and diverse topography.
British India expanded beyond its company borders throughout the north during initial phase of crown rule, although northwest tribal frontier remained turbulent towards the settlers. Russian expansion into Central Asia in the 1860s provided great anxiety and incentive to advance the empire's frontier beyond the Hindu Kush mountain range, up to Afghanistan’s northern border along the Amu Darya. When the British Indian empire approached its outermost limits of expansion by the end of the century, "the institutional seed of the largest of its national successors was sown." India gained independence from Pakistan in 1947.
India is home to about 10% of water, deserts, beaches, and sections of the world's highest range, the beautiful Himalayas in the northern part. The capital of New Delhi is a municipality within the National Capital Territory. There is something magical and untouched about the land of the Mahatma Gandhi, despite grit and noise of the overcrowded, rather poor country. The thought-after destinations exemplifies true unity of faith, tradition, culture, and nature, along with magnificent architecture of ancient temples and golden palaces of Maharajas.
8. Argentina - 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 mi2)
Argentina is the second biggest country in South America. It is a long, protruding stretch of land extending into Patagonia, with Atlantic Ocean on the right and Pacific to the left. Argentina is traversed by the Andes Mountain Range, while sharing majority of the continent’s Southern Cone with Chile. Argentina also claims part of Antarctica's territory of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands.
The Europeans colonized the "vast tract of fertile land and a social and economic backwater" in 1580. Argentina is historically, a composed society with temperate character, and social and economic structures similar to the English colonies. The country lost some power from the institutional breakdown following WWI. Today the world’s eighth largest country is more extensive than Mexico and the U.S. state of Texas combined.
It is a fascinating country with rich culture and nice locals, where over 60% of the population has full or partial Italian ancestry. There is dazzling natural versatility due to the north to south layout, with everything from tundra to dehydrated plateaus, snow-topped peaks, forests, and tropical beaches with thousands of miles of ocean shoreline. The most "westernized" country in South America, is still authentic with clear evidence in atmospheric cities and cuisine.
9. Kazakhstan - 2,724,900 km2 (1,052,100 mi2)
Kazakhstan is the largest, as well as most economically and politically powerful country in Central Asia. The largest country in the world without an ocean coast overspills into Eastern Europe and borders the Caspian Sea, Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The country is known for one of the lowest population densities in the world, with 6 people per square kilometer. The landscape is uniform with a lot of desert in full snow-coverage during very cold winters. There are also seven National Parks, some fishing lakes, and many mountainous areas, with snow-capped peaks for skiing.
The largest and most populous city of Almaty served as the capital until 1997. Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, and last to declare independence from it, in 1991. Kazakhstan is home to the famous comedian Borat, and the Russian space base “Baikonur Cosmodrome." The Kazakhs, translating to "itinerant bums", were first humans who tamed horses to travel through the vast plains. Today, Kazakhstan is unexpectedly cosmopolitan, with cultures ranging from Russians, to Chinese, to the Caspian Sea-origin. Almaty is the cultural heart and hub with many trendy cafes, beautiful fountains, lush parks, and expansive boulevards. The new capital of Astana is the emerging metropolis in more recent years.
There were recent, concerning claims by Russian politicians and journalists that Kazakhstan did not exist before the Russians' arrival and that its territory was a gift from Russia and the USSR. Similar statements that "half of Ukraine is also a gift from Russia" furthered the anxiety, with conflict, annexed Crimea, and now, the war between the two countries.
10. Algeria -2,381,741 km2 (919,595 mi2)
Algeria is the largest country in Africa, located in the north of the continent. It bounds the Mediterranean Sea between Morocco and Tunisia with lands of fruit-bearing trees, like cherries and dates, and immense sands covering 90 percent of the country. Algeria's southern portion is dominated by deserts that transition into the northern part of the Saharan Desert below. The coastal plains in the north under Mediterranean influence, are separated by the Atlas mountains from the southern region.
Algeria was part of the Ottoman Empire, and a département of France during the French rule in the 19th century. French colonists modernized Algeria’s agricultural and commercial economy but lived separate and much better than the Algerian majority. Ethnic resentment spurred nationalists movement in the mid 1900s, turning into the war of independence from 1954 to '62. It ended with negotiations and independence, but French language and culture stuck around. The country spent last half of the 20th century restoring its Arab and Islamic roots while discovering riches in the oil, natural gas, and other mineral deposits-endowed interior of the country. By the early 21st century Algeria was among top thriving economies in Africa.
Most Algerians occupy the fertile, northern coast of the glittering Mediterranean Sea with abundant fishing and year-round recreation galore. The northern portion of the country is Arab-Berber of Islam religion, and the official languages of Algeria are Arabic and Berber. Algerian Arabic is the most spoken language, while French is commonly used in administrative jobs and educational contexts.
These giants are the world's ten largest countries by land area. Sometimes, the size of the country is measured in terms of population where the "largest countries" are the most populous. Countries are also commonly ranked by wealth or Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Rankings are fluid rather than exact or definitive, providing an approximate comparison according to different sources and methods of measuring.
The 50 Largest Countries In the World
|Rank||Country (Including Territories)||Total in km2 (mi2)|
|3||United States||9,833,517 (3,796,742)|
|–||United States (No Territories)||9,525,067 (3,677,649|
|11||DR Congo||2,344,858 (905,355)|
|12||Danish Realm Kingdom of Denmark (includes Greenland)||2,220,093 (857,183)|
|–||Greenland (Denmark)||2,166,086 (836,330)|
|13||Saudi Arabia||2,149,690 (830,000)|
|25||South Africa||1,221,037 (471,445)|
|42||South Sudan||644,329 (248,777)|
|45||Central African Republic||622,984 (240,535)|
|–||France (No Territories)||543,940 (210,020)|
|–||Denmark (No Territories)||43,094 (16,639)|