The World's 17 Smallest Countries

Vatican City
Vatican City is the world's smallest state, with an area of only 0.2 square miles. Sylvain Sonnet/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The 17 smallest countries in the world each contain less than 200 square miles in area, and if you were to combine them, their total size would be just a bit larger than the state of Rhode Island. These independent nations range in size from 108 acres (a good-sized shopping mall) to just over 191 square miles.

From Vatican City to Palau, these small countries have maintained their independence and established themselves as contributors to the world's economy, politics, and even human rights initiatives. All but one of these countries are full-fledged members of the United Nations, and the one outlier is a nonmember by choice, not by inability. This list includes the world's smallest countries, from tiniest to largest (but still pretty small).

Vatican City: 0.27 Square Miles

Of these 17 small countries, Vatican City claims the title of the definitive smallest country in the world. It is mighty though, as it is perhaps the most influential in terms of religion: It serves as the spiritual center of the Roman Catholic church and home of the Pope. Vatican City, officially called The Holy See, is located within a walled area of the Italian capital city of Rome.

The small country officially came into existence in 1929 after the Lateran Treaty with Italy. Its government type is ecclesiastical and its chief of state is, actually, the Pope. Vatican City is not a member of the United Nations by its own choice.

It has a population of about 1,000 citizens, none of whom are native permanent residents. Many more commute into the country for work though.

Monaco: 0.77 Square Miles

Monaco, the world's second-smallest country, is located between southeastern France and the Mediterranean Sea. The country has only one official city—Monte Carlo—which is both its capital and a famous resort area for some of the world's richest people. Monaco is also famous due to its location on the French Riviera, its casino (the Monte Carlo Casino), several smaller beaches, and resort communities—all squeezed into less than one square mile. This country has an estimated population of 39,000.

Nauru: 8.5 Square Miles

Nauru is a small island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean in the region of Oceania. Nauru is the world's smallest island country with an area of just 8.5 square miles and a population of about 11,000 people. The country was known for its prosperous phosphate mining operations in the early 20th century. Nauru was formerly called Pleasant Island and became independent from Australia in 1968. This small country has no official capital city.

Tuvalu: 10 Square Miles

Tuvalu is a small country in Oceania comprised of nine islands. Six of these have lagoons open to the ocean, while two have significant non-beach land regions and one has no lagoons.

None of the islands of Tuvalu have any streams or rivers and because they are coral atolls, there is no drinkable groundwater. Therefore, all of the water used by Tuvalu's people is gathered via catchment systems and kept in storage facilities.

Tuvalu has a population of about 11,342, 96% of whom are Polynesian. This small country's capital is Funafuti, which is also Tuvalu's largest city. Its official languages are Tuvaluan and English.

San Marino: 24 Square Miles

San Marino is landlocked, completely surrounded by Italy. It is located on Mt. Titano in north-central Italy and is home to 34,232 residents. The country claims to be the oldest state in Europe, having been founded in the fourth century. San Marino's topography mainly consists of rugged mountains and its highest elevation is Monte Titano at 2,477 feet. The lowest point in San Marino is Torrente Ausa at 180 feet.

Liechtenstein: 62 Square Miles

The European small country of Liechtenstein, doubly landlocked in the Alps between Switzerland and Austria, is merely 62 square miles in area. This microstate of about 39,137 people is located on the Rhine River and became an independent country in 1806. The country abolished its army in 1868 and remained neutral (and undamaged) during World War I and World War II. Liechtenstein is a hereditary constitutional monarchy but the prime minister runs its day-to-day affairs.

Marshall Islands: 70 Square Miles

The Marshall Islands, the world's seventh-smallest country, consists of 29 coral atolls and five main islands spread out over 750,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. The Marshall Islands are located about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. They are also near the equator and the International Date Line.

This small country with a population of 77,917 gained independence in 1986; it was formerly part of the Trust Territory of Pacific Islands, administered by the United States.

Saint Kitts and Nevis: 104 Square Miles

At 104 square miles (slightly smaller than the city of Fresno, California), Saint Kitts and Nevis is a Caribbean island country of 53,821 residents that gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1983. It is located between Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago and is the smallest country in the Americas based on both area and population.

Of the two primary islands that make up Saint Kitts and Nevis, Nevis is the smaller of the two and is guaranteed the right to secede from the union.

Seychelles: 107 Square Miles

Seychelles is 107 square miles (just smaller than Yuma, Arizona). The 95,981 residents of this Indian Ocean island group have been independent of the United Kingdom since 1976. It is located northeast of Madagascar and about 932 miles east of mainland Africa. Seychelles is an archipelago with over 100 tropical islands and is the smallest country that is considered part of Africa. Seychelles' capital and largest city is Victoria.

Maldives: 115 Square Miles

The Maldives is 115 square miles in area, slightly smaller than the city limits of Little Rock, Arkansas. However, only 200 of the 1,190 Indian Ocean islands—grouped into 26 coral atolls—that make up this country are occupied. The Maldives is home to about 391,904 residents. The small country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965.

The country's highest point is only 7.8 feet above sea level, making climate change and rising sea levels a significant concern.

Malta: 122 Square Miles

Malta, officially called the Republic of Malta, is an island nation located in southern Europe. Malta is one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries with a population of over 457,267. The archipelago making up Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea about 58 miles south of Sicily and 55 miles east of Tunisia. Its capital is Valletta and the country's highest point is Ta'Dmerjrek, located on the Dingli Cliffs, which tops out at just 830 feet.

Grenada: 133 Square Miles

The island nation of Grenada features the volcanic Mount St. Catherine. Nearby, underwater and to the north, lie the playfully-named volcanoes Kick 'Em Jenny and Kick 'Em Jack.

After the overthrow and execution of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in 1983, which led to the installation of a pro-communist government, U.S. forces invaded and captured the island. After U.S. forces withdrew in late 1983, elections were held in 1984 and Grenada's constitution was restored. Grenada, with a population of about 113,094, calls Saint George's its capital city.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: 150 Square Miles

The main island of this small country, Saint Vincent, is known for its pristine coastline, which provided an authentic colonial backdrop for the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean. The country itself is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago. Most of the 101,390 residents of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, whose capital is Kingstown, are Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic. The country's currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, which is fixed to the U.S. dollar.

Barbados: 166 Square Miles

Barbados is not a sleepy Carribean island. The island nation's vibrant culture is expressed in its lively Bajan festivals, nightlife, and friendly people. Barbados is located in the easternmost section of the Caribbean islands, north of Venezuela. Its 294,560 residents speak English and are mainly Protestant or Roman Catholic. The capital of Barbados is Bridgetown. The country's official currency is the Barbadian Dollar, but the U.S. dollar is widely accepted.

Antigua and Barbuda: 171 Square Miles

Antigua and Barbuda, a British Commonwealth, is nicknamed the "Land of 365 Beaches" and maintains a​ very low crime rate. The small country is located in the Eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Its capital is St. John's, and its estimated 98,179 residents speak English (the official language) and Antiguan Creole. The residents are mainly Anglican, followed by Roman Catholic and other Protestant denominations. Antigua and Barbuda's currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar.

Andorra: 180 Square Miles

The independent Principality of Andorra is co-governed by the president of France and Spain's Bishop of Urgel. With just over 77,000 people, this mountainous tourist destination tucked in the Pyrenees between France and Spain has been independent since 1278. Andorra serves as a testament to multinationalism celebrated throughout the European Union.

Palau: 191 Square Miles

Palau is known as a mecca for divers who say its waters are some of the planet's best. This republic is made up of 340 islands but only nine are inhabited. Palau has been independent since 1994 and is home to about 21,685 residents, two-thirds of whom live in and around the capital Koror. The country also offers forests, waterfalls, and beautiful beaches. Palau was featured on the 10th season of the television show Survivor.

View Article Sources
  1. "Europe: Holy See (Vatican City)." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  2. "Europe: Monaco." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  3. "Australia - Oceania: Nauru." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  4. "Australia - Oceania: Tuvalu." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 27 Jan. 2020.

  5. "Europe: San Marino." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 24 Jan. 2020.

  6. "Europe: Liechtenstein." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  7. "Australia - Oceania: Marshall Islands." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  8. "Central America: Saint Kitts and Nevis." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 27 Jan. 2020.

  9. "Africa: Seychelles." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 24 Jan. 2020.

  10. "South Asia: Maldives." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 38 Jan. 2020.

  11. "Europe: Malta." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  12. "Central America: Grenada." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  13. "Central America: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 24 Jan. 2020.

  14. "Central America: Barbados." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  15. "Central America: Antigua and Barbuda." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 27 Jan. 2020.

  16. "Europe: Andorra." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 28 Jan. 2020.

  17. "Australia - Oceania: Palau." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 27 Jan. 2020.

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Rosenberg, Matt. "The World's 17 Smallest Countries." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Rosenberg, Matt. (2021, July 30). The World's 17 Smallest Countries. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "The World's 17 Smallest Countries." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).