The globe abounds with innumerable land masses, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, which steadfastly rise above the water’s surface and, unlike Australia, are not bestowed with the distinction of continents. Earth’s preeminent island is Greenland. However, there exist nations primarily or entirely composed of archipelagos—collections of islands linked together in chains or groupings. Nations such as Norway and Sweden boast over 200,000 islands within their territorial confines.
What Country Has the Most Islands in the World?
- Greenland stands as the world’s largest island.
- Norway and Sweden claim the most islands globally, predominantly within the Arctic region.
- Canada boasts the planet’s lengthiest coastline, adorned with thousands of islands that grace its borders along three oceans.
Sweden – 267,570 islands
Sweden, positioned as one of the northernmost countries globally, boasts an impressive count of 221,831 islands, a staggering approximately 24,000 of which graciously extend an invitation to the public, thanks to the Public Right of Access policy. This policy grants individuals the privilege to traverse through lush forests and fields, indulging in the consumption of berries or mushrooms, all without the need to beseech the landowner for permission (under the condition of upholding respect for both the natural environment and private property).
In a fascinating distinction, Sweden lays claim to the highest number of islands on Earth; however, only a fraction, fewer than 1,000, are adorned with human habitation.
Among this multitude of islands, the majority finds their picturesque abode along the eastern coastline, spanning from the northernmost extremity to the southernmost tip. A modest residue is perched along Sweden’s western shore. Prominent amongst these natural wonders is the renowned Stockholm Archipelago, an expanse of approximately 30,000 islands, islets, and rocks, elegantly scattered between Öregrund in the north and Landsort in the south. On the western frontiers, one encounters the Gothenburg Archipelago and the Bohuslän Archipelago, with the latter, Bohuslän, laying claim to an astonishing tally of more than 8,000 islands and islets. Notably, Bohuslän achieved the honorable distinction of being ranked as the seventh most exquisitely captivating natural wilderness area globally by CNN Travel.
Norway – 239,057 islands
Norway gains its fame from its multitude of islands, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Among these, the most renowned are the Lofoten Islands, which encircle the Norwegian Sea above the Arctic Circle. These islands have gained certification as a sustainable vacation destination, an accolade bestowed upon locales that bolster social values and economic vitality while mitigating the adverse impacts of tourism. Simultaneously, they endeavor to preserve their natural environment and cultural heritage.
Despite the tumultuous waters stemming from the Gulf Stream, the Lofoten Islands boast a milder climate compared to their Arctic Circle counterparts. Renowned for their expansive fishing opportunities, the midnight sun during summer, and the enchanting northern lights in winter, these islands have sparked inspiration in the hearts of travelers, painters, poets, photographers, and writers alike. This allure has, in turn, transformed them into a captivating haven for both tourists and artists.
Norway’s West Fjords also host numerous islands, forming a myriad of deep valleys, steep hills, rivers, waterfalls, and rugged terrain. In a similar vein, the South Coast of Norway, a vast plain, shelters several diminutive islands.
Finland – 178,947 islands
Similar to Sweden and Norway, Finland boasts 178,947 islands off its coastline. Comprising numerous rocky formations, the country’s Archipelago region spans from the southwestern coast to the Baltic Sea.
Within Finland’s Archipelago lie the Aland Islands, situated at the entrance of the Gulf of Bothnia. Following World War I, a territorial dispute arose between Finland and Sweden concerning the ownership of these islands. Sweden contended that the islands held a Swedish cultural identity rather than a Finnish one. Nevertheless, the League of Nations highlighted the fact that the seawater surrounding Finland’s Aland Islands would freeze during the winter months, creating a physical link to Finland. This frozen seawater would play a crucial role in the country’s defense strategies, leading to the islands being awarded to Finland in 1921.
Canada – 52,455 islands
Canada, spanning an impressive expanse of 10 million square kilometers, ranks as the world’s second-largest country in terms of sheer surface area. Its territory is adorned with a multitude of 52,455 islands scattered across the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans, a distinction that crowns it with the enviable title of possessing the longest coastline worldwide. Notable among these islands are Baffin Island, Ellesmere Island, and Victoria Island, all esteemed members of the list of the ten largest islands on the planet. As a collective ensemble, they form the Arctic Archipelago.
Nestled within the embrace of the Arctic Ocean, to the north of Canada, lies the Arctic Archipelago. This collection of landmasses spans a vast expanse of over 1.4 million square kilometers. These southeastern land masses are an extension of the expansive Canadian Shield, which stands as one of the most substantial continental shields known to humanity. The islands elegantly meld into the Arctic lowlands to the south and the Innuitian Mountains to the north, further enriching the diverse tapestry of Canada’s geographical features.
United States – 18,617 islands
The United States boasts a total of 18,617 islands within its domain, encompassing renowned locales like the Hawaiian Islands. Numerous of these island regions are affiliated with a collective of 50 states, factored into overall population calculations. In this group lie notable names such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Additionally, there are other remarkable ones in the mix, including the Egyptian Islands, Navassa Island, Quita Sueño Bank, Roncador Cay, and Serrana Bank. The list goes on, encompassing Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands, Kanton and Enderbury Islands, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, and Wake Island. It’s noteworthy that Alaska, in and of itself, boasts a staggering count of over 2,600 islands.
The first census of Puerto Rico took place in 1899, and the U.S. Virgin Islands followed suit in 1917. Subsequent economic censuses were carried out in 1963 and 1958, respectively. Meanwhile, Wake Island holds historical significance due to its pivotal role during World War II. Acquired by the U.S. in 1898, it found its place within the 1950 U.S. census and has since served as a vital site for the U.S. Air Force since 1962.
Indonesia – 17,504 islands
Indonesia, ranking as the world’s fourth-most populous country, boasts a staggering count of approximately 17,504 islands within the expanse recognized as the globe’s largest archipelago. The Indonesian Archipelago is comprised of five principal islands and 30 smaller clusters of islands, with settlements gracing around 6,000 of these landmasses. Situated astride the equator, the Indonesian islands form a vital juncture connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Dominating the population charts is Java, an island nearly akin in size to the Black Sea region, harboring a staggering 60% of Indonesia’s populace, a grand total of approximately 130 million individuals. Although Sumatra commands a significantly larger area, it houses only one-third of the nation’s inhabitants. Other notable islands encompass Kalimantan (known as Indonesian Borneo), Sulawesi, and the Indonesian segment of Papua New Guinea, colloquially referred to as Irian Jaya. These islands feature predominantly mountainous terrain, marked by an impressive tally of roughly 400 active volcanoes, with approximately 100 of them maintaining their active status.
Australia – 8,222 islands
Technically not an island itself but rather classified as a continent, Australia finds itself surrounded by an approximate count of 8,222 islands situated in the Pacific Ocean and its nearby vicinity. Australia employs the term “Islands” to denote regions along its coastline. These encompass a spectrum of islands, ranging from small rocky outcrops that remain above water during high tides to those twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra and a few surrounding districts. One such example is Fraser Island, renowned as the largest sand island in the world.
Australia’s domain extends to numerous expansive islands across the Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans, as well as within the Coral and Timor Seas, surpassing its mainland territories. Within this array of oceanic islands stands Christmas Island, positioned in the remote expanses of the Indian Ocean (with its nearest neighbor, Java, Indonesia, residing 350 km away).
Philippines – 7,641 islands
Situated southeast of the Asian mainland, nestled between Taiwan and Borneo, lies the Philippines, a renowned archipelago comprised of 7,641 islands. These islands are categorized into three distinct regions: the northern expanse of Luzon, the central reaches of Visayas, and the southern domain of Mindanao. Taking the spotlight, Luzon stands as the largest landmass, stretching towards the capital city of Manila. Visayas, celebrated for its pristine beaches and secluded coves, has a mesmerizing allure. Meanwhile, Mindanao boasts expansive, emerald-green forests that blanket its landscape. Encompassing an approximate area of 300,000 square kilometers, the Philippines, along with its surrounding waters, has a remarkable presence. Among this expanse, about 2,000 square kilometers are embraced by the sea.
Japan – 6,852 islands
Similar to the Philippines and Indonesia, Japan stands as an archipelagic nation in the expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Comprising a grand total of 6,852 islands, Japan boasts four primary landmasses: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Mountains make up about four-fifths of the islands’ terrain. Flowing from the core of Honshu, the Japanese Alps, inclusive of the iconic, cone-shaped volcano Mount Fuji, revered as sacred by many Japanese, extend their majestic presence.
The Ryukyu Islands, found approximately 970 km to the south of Kyushu, encompass over 200 petite islets, stretching nearly towards Taiwan. Adding to the maritime tapestry are the far-flung southeastern island clusters, notably Iwo Jima and the Bonin Islands (also known as the Ogasawara Islands), which extend almost to Japan’s southeastern reaches.
Chile – 5,000 islands
Chile, boasting a collection of no fewer than 5,000 islands, plays host to the Juan Fernández Archipelago, a cluster inhabited by approximately 700 individuals. A standout in Chile’s geography is Robinson Crusoe Island, the solitary uninhabited gem within this assemblage. These archipelagos, for the most part, are veritable havens of flora and fauna, rather than bustling human settlements, harboring plant species of unparalleled uniqueness that are seldom encountered elsewhere. Notable among Chile’s islands is Chiloé, celebrated for its prosperous fishing and farming industries.
In the year 1520, a series of fires, instigated by the denizens of the island, led Magellan to bestow upon the land the name Tierra del Fuego, a moniker that endures. Comprising an array of thousands of islands, the Islas Desventuradas form a renowned, diminutive oceanic cluster. These islands, positioned some 850 km distant from the Chilean mainland, bear the distinctiveness of a volcanic domain.
Islands tend to birth exotic disparities, both within human societies and the encircling flora and fauna, due to their distinct cultures and biological variety. Each island can differ markedly from its adjacent counterpart, affording opportunities for astonishing revelations as one journeys across this immense and splendid planet.
Country Ranking by Number of Islands
|Rank||Country||Number of islands|
|20||Papua New Guinea||1,400|
|32||United Arab Emirates||700|
|43||Turks and Caicos Islands||307|