Mapped: Visualizing the World’s 100 Smallest Countries
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Visualized: The World’s 100 Smallest Countries

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Visualized: The World’s 100 Smallest Countries

The World’s 100 Smallest Countries

National borders may be mere human constructs, but they are powerful ones.

Russia, Canada, the U.S., and so on—it’s easy to focus on the countries with the largest landmasses and seemingly endless borders. Their sheer size makes them hard to ignore, and their natural resources are often vast.

But with the above graphic from TitleMax, we can focus on the power of small.

From economic might to religious influence, many of the smallest countries in the world are surprisingly powerful. Let’s take a closer look at the world’s 100 smallest countries and their spheres of influence.

RankCountrySize (mi²)
1Vatican City0.19
2Monaco0.78
3Nauru8.1
4Tuvalu10
5San Marino24
6Liechtenstein62
7Marshall Islands70
8Saint Kitts and Nevis101
9Maldives120
10Malta122
11Grenada133
12Saint Vincent and the Grenadines150
13Barbados170
14Antigua and Barbuda171
15Seychelles175
16Palau177
17Andorra181
18Saint Lucia238
19Federated States of Micronesia271
20Singapore280
21Tonga288
22Dominica290
23Bahrain300
24Kiribati313
25São Tomé and Príncipe372
26Comoros719
27Mauritius790
28Luxembourg998
29Samoa1,097
30Cape Verde1,557
31Trinidad and Tobago1,980
32Brunei2,226
33Cyprus3,572
34Lebanon4,036
35Jamaica4,244
36The Gambia4,361
37Qatar4,473
38Vanuatu4,706
39Montenegro5,333
40The Bahamas5,383
41imor-Leste5,760
42Eswatini6,704
43Kuwait6,880
44Fiji7,055
45Slovenia7,827
46Israel8,020
47El Salvador8,124
48Belize8,867
49Djibouti9,000
50North Macedonia9,928
51Rwanda10,169
52Haiti10,710
53Burundi10,747
54Equatorial Guinea10,831
55Albania11,100
56Solomon Islands11,157
57Armenia11,484
58Lesotho11,720
59Belgium11,787
60Moldova13,068
61Guinea-Bissau13,948
62Bhutan14,824
63Switzerland15,940
64Netherlands16,160
65Denmark16,639
66Estonia17,462
67Dominican Republic18,792
68Slovakia18,933
69Costa Rica19,700
70Bosnia and Herzegovina19,772
71Croatia21,851
72Togo21,925
73Latvia24,926
74Lithuania25,200
75Sri Lanka25,330
76Georgia26,900
77Ireland27,133
78Sierra Leone27,700
79Panama29,119
80Czech Republic30,450
81United Arab Emirates32,300
82Austria32,383
83Azerbaijan33,400
84Serbia34,116
85Jordan34,495
86Portugal35,560
87Hungary35,918
88South Korea38,690
89Iceland40,000
90Guatemala42,042
91Cuba42,426
92Bulgaria42,858
93Liberia43,000
94Honduras43,433
95Benin44,310
96Eritrea45,400
97Malawi45,747
98North Korea46,540
99Nicaragua50,337
100Greece50,949

Although several of the national borders shown above may be contested, the graphic gives us a clear overview of the globe’s smallest nations.

The Power of Small

Small size doesn’t mean less power. In many cases, it’s the contrary.

The Vatican—the smallest country on Earth at 0.19 square miles—is renowned for its leader and main inhabitant, the Pope. As leader of the Catholic Church, the pontiff and his papal staff make up a sizable part of the country’s tiny population of 825. Most of the Church’s 219 Cardinals, its leading dignitaries, live in their respective dioceses.

With more than 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, the Vatican’s sphere of influence is of course far larger than its small physical size. Although the walls of the Vatican are situated inside the city of Rome, Italy, its centuries-old influence spans continents.

Nearly 40% of Roman Catholics live in the Americas, while the fastest-growing Catholic population can be found in Africa—home to more than 17% of the world’s Catholics.

Purchasing Power

Where the Vatican’s power lies in religion, plenty of spending power is held by the tiny country of Monaco, the second smallest country on Earth.

Situated along the French Riviera, Monaco is surrounded entirely by France—but it also sits fewer than 10 miles from the Italian border.

At 0.78 square miles, Monaco could be compared to the size of a large farm in the U.S. Midwest. Despite its small size, Monaco has a GDP of nearly US$7.2 billion, and boasts over 12,000 millionaires living within one square mile.

Along with Luxembourg and Liechtenstein—both of which are included in the smallest countries list—Monaco is one of the only countries globally with a GDP per capita higher than $100,000.

Switzerland and the Netherlands, both found in this graphic at ranks 63 and 64, also hold large shares of the global economy given their size. These two nations rank 20th and 17th in the world in economic output, respectively.

Similarly, Singapore is the 20th smallest country on the planet, but it ranks in the top 10 in terms of GDP per capita ($65,233) and sits in 34th place globally in terms of nominal GDP.

Perspective is Everything

To give us a better idea of just how small the tiniest countries are, let’s take a look at some simple size comparisons:

  • Monaco could fit inside New York City’s Central Park, with room to spare
  • Brunei is roughly the same size as Delaware
  • Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America, is similar in size to the state of Mississippi
  • Nauru is the smallest island nation, and smaller than Rhode Island
  • North Korea is roughly the size of Pennsylvania

“Small,” of course, is a qualitative factor. It depends on your vantage point.

As of September 2020, there are 195 countries on Earth. Although this graphic shows the smallest countries in the world, it is worth noting that a list of the world’s 100 largest countries would also include some of the same countries on this list, including North Korea, Nicaragua, and Greece.

Is It A Small World Afterall?

Viewed from space, there are no borders on our tiny blue dot. But from ground level, we know how much power national borders hold.

Although globalization may make our world feel smaller, our nations significantly impact our lives, societally and economically.

And, as this chart shows, power comes in all sizes.

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Misc

Iconic Infographic Map Compares the World’s Mountains and Rivers

This iconic infographic map is an early and ambitious attempt to compare the world’s tallest mountains and longest rivers.

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Today, highly detailed maps of our planet’s surface are just a click away.

In times past, however, access to information was much more limited. It wasn’t until the 1800s that comparison diagrams and maps became widely accessible, and people found new ways to learn about the world around them.

The image above, published by J.H. Colton in 1849, is believed to be the first edition of the iconic mountains and rivers infographic map. This comparison chart concept would see a number of iterations over the years as it appeared in Colton’s world atlases.

Inspiring a Classic Infographic Map

A seminal example of this style of infographic was produced by Alexander von Humboldt in 1805. The diagram below is packed with information and shows geographical features in a way that was extremely novel at the time.

Alexander von Humboldt mountain diagram

In 1817, the brothers William and Daniel Lizars produced the first comparative chart of the world’s mountains and rivers. Breaking up individual natural features into components for comparison was a very innovative approach at that time, and it was this early French language prototype that lead to the Colton’s versions we’re familiar with today.

Digging into the Details

As is obvious, even at first glance, there is a ton of detail packed into this infographic map.

Firstly, rivers are artificially straightened and neatly arranged in rows for easy comparison. Lakes, mountain ranges, and cities are all labeled along the way. This unique comparison brings cities like New Orleans and Cairo side by side.

detailed view of longest rivers visualization

Of course, this visualization was based on the best available data at the time. Today, the Nile is widely considered to be the world’s longest river, followed by the Amazon and Yangtze.

Over on the mountain side, there are more details to take in. The visualization includes volcanic activity, notes on vegetation, and even the altitude of selected cities and towns.

detailed view of tallest mountains visualization

Above are a few of South America’s high-altitude population centers, including La Paz, which is the highest-elevation capital city in the world.

In the legend, many of the mountains are simply named “peak”. While this generic labeling might seem like a throwback to a time when the world was still being explored, it’s worth noting that today’s second tallest mountain is still simply referred to as K2.

What details do you notice while exploring this iconic infographic map?

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Demographics

Mapped: A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties

This map shows which counties in the U.S. have seen the most growth, and which places have seen their populations dwindle in the last 10 years.

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A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties

There are a number of factors that determine how much a region’s population changes.

If an area sees a high number of migrants, along with a strong birth rate and low death rate, then its population is bound to increase over time. On the flip side, if more people are leaving the area than coming in, and the region’s birth rate is low, then its population will likely decline.

Which areas in the United States are seeing the most growth, and which places are seeing their populations dwindle?

This map, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows a decade of population movement across U.S. counties, painting a detailed picture of U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020.

Counties With The Biggest Population Growth from 2010-2020

To calculate population estimates for each county, the U.S. Census Bureau does the following calculations:

A county’s base population → plus births → minus deaths → plus migration = new population estimate

 
From 2010 to 2020, Maricopa County in Arizona saw the highest increase in its population estimate. Over a decade, the county gained 753,898 residents. Below are the counties that saw the biggest increases in population:

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2010–2020)
#1Maricopa CountyPhoenix, ScottsdaleArizona+753,898
#2Harris CountyHoustonTexas+630,711
#3Clark CountyLas VegasNevada+363,323
#4King CountySeattleWashington+335,884
#5Tarrant CountyFort Worth, ArlingtonTexas+305,180
#6Bexar CountySan AntonioTexas+303,982
#7Riverside CountyRiverside, Palm SpringsCalifornia+287,626
#8Collin CountyPlanoTexas+284,967
#9Travis CountyAustinTexas+270,111
#10Hillsborough CountyTampaFlorida+264,446

Phoenix and surrounding areas grew faster than any other major city in the country. The region’s sunny climate and amenities are popular with retirees, but another draw is housing affordability. Families from more expensive markets—California in particular—are moving to the city in droves. This is a trend that spilled over into the pandemic era as more people moved into remote and hybrid work situations.

Texas counties saw a lot of growth as well, with five of the top 10 gainers located in the state of Texas. A big draw for Texas is its relatively affordable housing market. In 2021, average home prices in the state stood at $172,500$53,310 below the national average.

Counties With The Biggest Population Drops from 2010-2020

On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a look at the top 10 counties that saw the biggest declines in their populations over the decade:

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2010–2020)
#1Cook CountyChicagoIllinois-90,693
#2Wayne CountyDetroitMichigan-74,224
#3Cuyahoga CountyClevelandOhio-50,220
#4Genesee CountyFlintMichigan-20,165
#5Suffolk CountyLong IslandNew York-20,064
#6Caddo ParishShreveportLouisiana-18,173
#7Westmoreland CountyMurrysvillePennsylvania-17,942
#8Hinds CountyJacksonMississippi-17,751
#9Kanawha CountyCharlestonWest Virginia-16,672
#10Cambria CountyJohnstownPennsylvania-14,786

The largest drops happened in counties along the Great Lakes, including Cook County (which includes the city of Chicago) and Wayne County (which includes the city of Detroit).

For many of these counties, particularly those in America’s “Rust Belt”, population drops over this period were a continuation of decades-long trends. Wayne County is an extreme example of this trend. From 1970 to 2020, the area lost one-third of its population.

U.S. Population Growth in Percentage Terms (2010-2020)

While the map above is great at showing where the greatest number of Americans migrated, it downplays big changes in counties with smaller populations.

For example, McKenzie County in North Dakota, with a 2020 population of just 15,242, was the fastest-growing U.S. county over the past decade. The county’s 138% increase was driven primarily by the Bakken oil boom in the area. High-growth counties in Texas also grew as new sources of energy were extracted in rural areas.

The nation’s counties are evenly divided between population increase and decline, and clear patterns emerge.

population changes in u.s. counties (%)

Pandemic Population Changes

More recent population changes reflect longer-term trends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the counties that saw the strongest population increases were located in high-growth states like Florida and Texas.

Below are the 20 counties that grew the most from 2020 to 2021.

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2020–2021)
#1Maricopa CountyPhoenixArizona+58,246
#2Collin CountyPlanoTexas+36,313
#3Riverside CountyRiverside, Palm SpringsCalifornia+35,631
#4Fort Bend CountySugar LandTexas+29,895
#5Williamson CountyGeorgetownTexas+27,760
#6Denton CountyDentonTexas+27,747
#7Polk CountyLakelandFlorida+24,287
#8Montgomery CountyThe WoodlandsTexas+23,948
#9Lee CountyFort MyersFlorida+23,297
#10Utah CountyProvoUtah+21,843
#11Pinal CountySan Tan ValleyArizona+19,974
#12Clark CountyLas VegasNevada+19,090
#13Pasco CountyNew Port RicheyFlorida+18,322
#14Wake CountyRaleighNorth Carolina+16,651
#15St. Johns CountySt. AugustineFlorida+15,550
#16Hillsborough CountyTampaFlorida+14,814
#17Bexar CountySan AntonioTexas+14,184
#18Ada CountyBoiseIdaho+13,947
#19Osceola CountyKissimmeeFlorida+12,427
#20St. Lucie CountyFort PierceFlorida+12,304

Many of these counties are located next to large cities, reflecting a shift to the suburbs and larger living spaces. However, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and the pandemic housing boom tapers off due to rising interest rates, it remains to be seen whether the suburban shift will continue, or if people begin to migrate back to city centers.

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