What’s the Biggest Island in the World?

Greenland from space

Before we wonder what could be the largest island in the world, it is perhaps good to recall the definition provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: “An island is a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.” Consequently, islands can manifest within modest rivers or lakes, as well as expansive seas and oceans. Hence, our quest for the planet’s most massive island is likely to lead us in this direction.

A cursory glance at a global cartographic representation is likely to lead one to classify Australia as the foremost island across the globe. With an expanse of approximately 7,692,024 km2 (2,969,907 sq mi), such a classification doesn’t seem far-fetched. Nonetheless, this topic remains open to deliberation. Can Australia genuinely be designated as an island?

Initial scrutiny reveals the fact that the geopolitical entity denoted as Australia is essentially comprised of dual landmasses: a principal landmass commonly recognized as Australia and a secondary landmass named Tasmania. Moreover, Australia is just one of the sovereign states encompassed by the Oceania continent. Consequently, it is plausible to contend that Australia, or at the very least, its primary landmass, indeed claims the distinction of being the most extensive island globally.

Australia or Greenland?

However, there is contention that an island should possess a predefined upper limit to its size, with a suggested threshold akin to that of Australia. This proposal entails excluding the landmass from the roster of islands, affording it the designation of a continent. This provokes the inquiry: in such a scenario, who would ascend to the preeminent position on this compilation?

With an area of over 2,000,000 square kilometers (836,330 sq mi), Greenland (Denmark) claims the title. Unless, of course, its ice-covered surface conceals several smaller islands within. Following closely in the ranking is Papua New Guinea, with an expanse of approximately 785,753 km2 (303,381 sq mi). Despite Greenland’s status as one of the least densely populated countries globally, Papua New Guinea (shared by Indonesia and Papua New Guinea) is home to an incredible number of isolated tribes and largely remains unexplored.

Trailing closely, the island of Borneo (shared by Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia) emerges, followed by Madagascar, Baffin Island (located within Canada), Sumatra (part of Indonesia), Honshu (a constituent of Japan), Victoria Island (situated in Canada), and culminating with Great Britain—an accolade it shares as the most expansive island within the bounds of Europe.

The Largest Islands in the World

RankIslandArea (km²)Area (sq mi)Country
1Greenland2,166,086836,297Denmark
2New Guinea785,753303,381Indonesia
3Borneo748,168288,869Indonesia, Malaysia
4Madagascar587,713226,917Madagascar
5Baffin Island507,451195,928Canada
6Sumatra473,481182,812Indonesia
7Honshu227,96088,017Japan
8Victoria Island217,29183,897Canada
9Great Britain209,33180,823United Kingdom
10Ellesmere Island196,23675,767Canada
The Largest Islands in the World.