Have you ever wondered what the smallest country in the world is? Although you may think you know, you’ll be surprised to see what’s number one on the list!
Although the Republic of Maldives has a territory of 35,000 sq miles (90,000 km2), 99% of it is ocean. The actual land mass is composed of only 115 sq miles (300 km2) and consists of approximately 200 islands and a population of 345,000. Known for its unstable government and religious intolerance, the natives also believe in white and black magic. In September of 2013, a coconut (an ingredient commonly used in spells) was detained by authorities during an election for “acting suspiciously” outside of a polling station.
Two separate islands in the Caribbean make up this sovereign nation and have a combined area of 104 sq miles (269 km2). The population of 48,000 is significantly smaller than the Maldives, and this small nation only gained its independence from Britain as recently as 1983. Both of the islands are part of a volcanic chain, with Nevis being almost all mountain. Saint Kitts and Nevis have the honor of being the first colonized islands in the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus discovered and named them in 1493, and the country’s full title is the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis.
With an average island height of only seven feet, the Marshall Islands are one of the world’s flattest countries. This island chain in the Pacific takes up 70 sq miles (181 km2) and has a population of 68,000. Although evidence of settled islands originates from as far back as 2000 BC, the Marshall Islands gained their independence from the United States in 1986, making it one of the world’s youngest nations. Although it’s comprised of five islands and several atolls , the island count used to be six. Unfortunately, the US blew up the sixth island, Elugelab, when testing a hydrogen bomb in 1952. All that remains is a hole over a mile wide and 15 stories deep.
Tucked in between Austria and Sweden is the small but notable country of Liechtenstein . Covering only 62 sq miles (160 km2) and with a primarily German population of 36,000, this beautiful and culture-rich country solidifies its spot as #7 on our list. Liechtenstein is the world’s largest producer of sausage casings, false teeth and potassium storage units. Liechtenstein is one of three countries in the world without an army, and the one time they did have one was during the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. Their army consisted of 80 soldiers and saw no fighting.
San Marino is a mere third of the size of Liechtenstein with a population of over 31,000 and an area of 23 sq miles (60 km2). This small European country has walls similar to the Great Wall of China and is crowned with three towers on Mount Titano, which most of the main city rests on. San Marino is said to be the oldest surviving republic, founded in 301 AD, and President Abraham Lincoln had the honor of being made an honorary citizen there because of his love of republican principles.
Tuvalu is a group of nine islands. It was known as the Ellice Islands before gaining independence from Britain in 1978 and is located in the South Pacific. Though Tuvalu spans five hundred thousand square miles (1.3M km2) of ocean, the actual area of land is only 10 sq miles (26 km2) and is ever-shrinking due to rising sea levels. The population is shrinking as well, with 2012 citing over 11,000 residents and 2013 dwindling to just under 10,000. Having already experience significant coastal erosion, climate scientists expect Tuvalu could be completely underwater by the year 2100.
Also found in the South Pacific is the slightly smaller nation of Nauru at only 8 sq miles (21 km2). Nauru was once named “Pleasant Island” and achieved its independence in 1968. The country is the world’s smallest island nation and is the only independent republic without a capital city. Nauru’s most notable feature is its phosphate deposits, which made it a valuable commodity in the early 20th century. It is widely believed that the island’s phosphate deposits originated from droppings by seabirds, and since the island is made up of mostly phosphate rock, it’s surprising that more people aren’t squeamish about walking barefoot there.
Monaco is the world’s second smallest country, but it’s got a lot of character. Racing fans will recognize it as the national capital of the Grand Prix, formula one racing’s most prestigious race. With only ¾ of a sq mile (2 km2) of land and a population of 37,000 (as of 2013), most of Monaco is taken up by race tracks and narrow streets. It’s also home to James Bond’s favorite casino, the Monte-Carlo. Ironically, citizens of Monaco are forbidden to gamble in the casinos or even step foot in the doors of one, although they do enjoy a tax-free lifestyle.
Vatican City is both a city and the smallest recognized country in the world. It’s most famous for being the capital of Catholicism and the seat of the Pope in the Vatican. With a population of 842 people as of 2014, and a land space of only 0.17 sq miles (0.44 km2), it’s an incredibly significant country that’s barely there. This city-state is completely surrounded by Rome, Italy. Vatican City stamps its own coins, issues its own passports, and even has its own post office which is used by many Italians, as it’s quicker than Italian post offices.
Have you ever heard of Sealand? Probably not. That’s because this principality is not only extremely tiny, it’s only 0.001 sq miles (0.025 km2), but it’s never been recognized as an independent nation. Sealand was originally created as a British naval sea fort to keep an eye on the Germans, but it soon became the world’s most interesting and least known unofficial country. During the pirate radio revolution, DJ Roy Bates claimed the abandoned fort after being caught illegally playing rock and roll on the airwaves. He never used it for a radio station, but he did declare it a sovereign state. Though legally free from British rule, the “country” faced an intense battle led by Bates and his son, Michael, that involved rebel armies, a hostage situation, and several shots fired. Sealand is currently unable to gain official status as a sovereign nation due to an interpretation of British law that says artificial islands can’t have legal status as such. You can, however, buy the title of “Lord” or “Lady” of Sealand for a mere $45 (£30).