There are 195 officially recognised countries in the world today. They come in all shapes and sizes… but the big guys tend to get all the attention.
What about the smallest countries, though? You might not know these countries from school geography lessons, but they’re just as fascinating as their larger siblings.
Grab your passports, and let’s take a tour of the world’s smallest countries and micronations.
Size doesn’t matter
The largest country in the world by area is Russia at a whopping 17,098,242 km2. That’s so large that Russia would still be comfortably the largest if 7,000,000 km2 of it were to leave and become a new country. And the new arrival would jump straight into being the seventh largest.
However, there are plenty of countries that are much, much smaller.
If they were smushed together, the top 10 smallest countries in the world would cover a total area of 1491.4 km2. Which is smaller than the area of the city of Houston, Texas (1625.2 km2). Itty-bitty.
The smallest country in the world by area is the famous Vatican City at a minuscule 0.44 km2. Nestled within the Italian capital of Rome, Vatican City is the home of the Pope. It also has some of the most beautiful buildings in the world, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
At 2.02 km2, Monaco is next on our list of tiny countries. Located on the south coast of France, Monaco is known for glitz, glamour, and wealth. In 2014, 30% of Monaco’s population were millionaires. The current head of state is Prince Albert II. As a member of the House of Grimaldi, he comes from a family who’ve ruled Monaco almost uninterrupted since 1297.
Okay, you’ve probably heard of Vatican City and Monaco – but how about Nauru? An island country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Nauru measures 21 km2 and is the third smallest in the world. It is 300 km between Nauru and its nearest neighbour. The national sports are weightlifting and Australian rules football. The country even has an ARF league with 8 teams.
People, people everywhere…
What about places with tiny populations?
The largest two countries by population – China (1,379,302,771 people) and India (1,281,935,911 people) account for approximately 36.41% of the total global population.
If you prefer your populations to be a little cosier, then here are some countries with smaller populations that might take your fancy.
The smallest country in the world by population is one that we’ve already visited. Welcome back to Vatican City, with a population in 2016 of just 792 people. If every Vanticanien went into St. Peter’s Basilica at once, there would still be plenty of room for roughly 59,208 more people.
Onwards, to somewhere we’ve not been before! Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean has a population of 11,192. As you might expect for a country which at its highest is only 4.6 metres (15 ft) above sea level, a lot of Tuvaluan cuisine features seafood. One local delicacy is flying fish.
Staying in the Pacific we come to Palau. This country spreads its population of 21,729 people across approximately 340 islands. The capital city – Ngerulmud – lies on the third largest island – Babeldaob. It is the world’s least populous capital of a sovereign state, totalling just 391 residents.
From the smallest countries to micronations
“What’s a micronation?” you ask.
Micronations are small, self-proclaimed independent sovereign states which are not officially recognised by anyone else. As their name suggests, they tend to be very small, sometimes with populations of as low as a single person. Start looking into them though, and you soon realise there is a weird and wonderful micro world out there.
The Principality of Seborga consists of a single town in Italy which claims that because of errors in paperwork it has never been part of modern Italy. Supporters say instead that Seborga has been a sovereign nation since the year 954.
The Whangamomona Republic was founded by a rural town in New Zealand in 1989 as a tongue-in-cheek way to boost tourism. Its president between 1999 and 2001 was a goat named Billy Gumboot. Sadly, he died in office, having served 18 months as undisputed leader of the Republic.
Sealand is probably the most famous micronation of all. Based in a World War 2 anti-aircraft defensive offshore platform in the North Sea, Sealand was first founded in 1967. By 1997, over 200,000 Sealand passports had been issued. That’s a lot of people to live in a micronation with a total area of 0.004 km2.
It’s a big world out there, but sometimes it pays to zoom in on the smaller corners of the map.