Smallest Countries in the World — And Why They're Worth Visiting
What do you think of when you hear the word “country"? Most people imagine large masses of land filled with huge cities and millions of people, but did you know that some countries measure a single square mile or less?
Fortunately, what our planet’s micro-nations lack in size they more than make up for in stature. The world’s tiniest countries in land area, per WorldAtlas, include medieval castles plucked straight out of a fairytale, a remote atoll infamous for its radioactive waters and one of the best-preserved forts in the Americas.
Whether you’re looking for a remote getaway or a day trip from a big city, these places offer a variety of enriching experiences — and the best part is, you won’t have to rush to see and do everything!
15. The Seychelles
Country Location: The Indian Ocean, over 900 miles east of mainland North Africa
Small Size: 176 square miles
How many Seychelles could fit inside the U.S.: 21,574
Visiting the Seychelles
On the world’s most picturesque and romantic destinations (just ask Prince William and Kate Middleton, who honeymooned here), the Seychelles is comprised of 115 islands sprinkled throughout the Indian Ocean.
Its heavenly beaches are world-renowned, boasting miles of pristine, crowd-free coastline. Anse Lazio, named one of the world’s best beaches on TripAdvisor, is particularly stellar.
In addition, you’ll find enormous tortoises, green jungles, exotic seabirds and towering boulders. If you want a break from the beach, the capital city of Victoria (on the island of Mahé) features interesting architecture, open-air markets and pulsating nightlife.
14. Antigua and Barbuda
Country Location: The West Indies in the Americas, between the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean
Small Size: 171 square miles
How many Antiguas and Barbudas could fit inside the U.S.: 22,204
Visiting Antigua and Barbuda
The people of Antigua and Barbuda like to boast of their 365 beaches — one for every day of the year.
Other attractions include climbing Mount Obama, Antigua’s highest point, and Nelson's Dockyard National Park, the only Georgian-era dockyard in the world. In Barbuda, birdwatchers can find rare species such as ospreys, whistling ducks and the yellow Barbuda warbler, known locally as “the Christmas bird.”
Thrill seekers won’t want to miss the chance to dive in one of Barbuda’s famed limestone caves.
Country Location: The West Indies, just over 100 miles from Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Martinique
Small Size: 166 square miles
How many Barbados could fit inside the U.S.: 22,873
Barbados offers Caribbean charm and luxury in spades. For a taste of local culture, enjoy one of many festivals hosted on the island each year; the week-long Holetown Festival in February, featuring vibrant parades, folk music, games and superb food, is particularly beloved.
More in the mood for R&R? Sprawl out on a beach that looks like it was plucked straight out of a vacation ad. And, of course, don't leave without trying the island's famous native drink, rum, best enjoyed in cocktails like Rum Punch and the Barbados Painkiller.
12. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Country Location: The British West Indies, near the meeting point of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean
Small Size: 150 square miles
How many Saint Vincent and the Grenadines could fit inside the U.S.: 25,313
Visiting Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Just as stunning as other Caribbean countries, but less overrun with tourists, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is comprised of 32 remote islands with turquoise waters and coral cays.
While celebrities like Mick Jagger stash their yachts on secluded shores, those in the know make a beeline for Bequia, a rustic hideaway devoid of chain hotels and tourist traps. Even the busiest traveler will find themselves napping on the beach at this uber-relaxed destination.
Other highlights include stopping to smell the flowers at the St Vincent Botanic Gardens, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, and swimming with sea turtles at the Tobago Cays wildlife preserve.
Country Location: The West Indies, about 65 miles southwest of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Small Size: 133 square miles
How many Grenadas could fit inside the U.S.: 28,556
Often overlooked by American tourists, Grenada is a Caribbean sweet spot — even though it’s actually called the Spice Island.
It’s hard not to be charmed by St. George Harbor, where colorful boats reflect in deep blue waters and 150-proof rum is available to sample.
Though more laidback than its neighbors, Grenada’s beaches are just as postcard-perfect. Anse La Roche, considered the most scenic, has fantastic coral reefs, while Dusquene Bay is a great spot for chatting with the locals and exploring petroglyphs.
Country Location: The Mediterranean Sea, 50 miles south of Italy
Small Size: 122 square miles
How many Maltas could fit inside the U.S.: 31,122
Temperate weather, enchanting beaches and rich history make Malta a Mediterranean jewel.
Valletta, the capital city, is a UNESCO world heritage site brimming with interesting sites, including Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, an underground prehistoric burial site that once housed 7,000 bodies; The Grand Master’s Palace, where you’ll find loads of armor and lavish staterooms; Fort St. Elmo, offering picturesque harbor views and the National War Museum; and St John’s Co-Cathedral, showcasing an over-the-top display of gold and marble, knights’ tombs and Caravaggio’s famous painting, “The Beheading of St. John.”
After a busy day, it’s time to relax on one of Malta’s stunning beaches and enjoy some of the cleanest water in Europe. Or, take a “Games of Thrones”-themed tour in Mdina (season 1 was filmed here).
Just don’t expect to have all the sites to yourself — in Malta, tourists outnumber residents almost five to one!
9. The Maldives
Country Location: The Arabian Sea, about 610 miles southwest of Sri Lanka
Small Size: 115 square miles
How many Maldives could fit inside the U.S.: 33,017
Visiting The Maldives
One of the best things to do in Asia’s smallest country (which is actually comprised of almost 1,200 coral islands) is to relax and enjoy the scenery. The beaches are often hailed as among the world’s best, thanks to pristine white sand and striking blue water. Many resorts are located on their own islands, so you won’t have to fight crowds for a lounge chair and umbrella. Some even offer butler service and your own private pool.
The Maldives is also known for world-class snorkeling and dive sites. Maaya Thila is an extraordinary place to swim with grey reef sharks and explore mysterious caves. You may also see manta rays, whale sharks and millions of other fish in the water, which is so warm, many people don’t even wear a wetsuit.
For land exploring, Male' (one of the world’s smallest capital cities) offers plenty to do in just 2.2 square miles. Top sights include Republic Square, filled with swaying palm trees and locals chit-chatting, and The National Museum, a former Sultan’s palace that displays jewelry, coins, thrones and other royal artifacts.
8. Saint Kitts and Nevis
Country Location: The West Indies (home to many of the tiniest countries!)
Small Size: 101 square miles
How many Saint Kitts and Nevises could fit inside the U.S.: 37,594
Visiting Saint Kitts and Nevis
It’s easy to want to spend an eternity island-hopping between Saint Kitts and Nevis. Located in the Carribean, these islands are known for their black-sand beaches, fantastic diving spots, golf courses and sugar plantations.
A must-do on any visit is the famous Brimstone Hill Fortress in Saint Kitts, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved 17th-century forts in the Americas. If you climb to the top, you’ll be rewarded with Instagram-worthy views of the Caribbean Sea and surrounding islands.
After all that walking, you’ll have earned some time at the beach. A popular choice is Frigate Bay, which combines spectacular sand and surf with the island’s best hotels, shopping and nightlife.
If you prefer something a little more relaxed, Pinney’s Beach in Nevis makes for a good choice. The 4-mile public beach (the island’s longest) features saffron-colored sand and clear water. It’s the perfect spot for an afternoon swim or sprawling out with a good book.
7. The Marshall Islands
Country Location: The Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and Papa New Guinea
Small Size: 70 square miles
How many Marshall Islands could fit inside the U.S.: 54,243
Visiting The Marshall Islands
These remote islands are famous for their spectacular biodiversity, including over 800 species of fish and 160 types of coral, and infamous for serving as a nuclear-testing site in the 1940s and ‘50s. But not to worry: Since the days of nuclear testing, radiation levels have fallen to safe levels.
One of the most popular spots in the islands is Bikini Atoll, where adventure divers enjoy swimming among wrecked World World II naval ships at depths of nearly 100 feet. (In case you were wondering, yes, this Bikini Atoll inspired the place of the same name in "SpongeBob SquarePants.")
Looking for a truly unique experience? The Waan Aelõñ in Majel (WAM) Program allows you to talk to teenagers learning how to build and sail their own canoes.
At night, check out the open-air food market near the Marshall Islands Resort. The fare here is always fresh, and includes dishes like sticky rice, fresh pandanus, mashed taro and fire-roasted breadfruit.
Country Location: The Alps, between Switzerland and Austria
Small Size: 52 square miles
How many Liechtensteins could fit inside the U.S.: 73,019
Liechtenstein is a living fairy tale, complete with snow-capped mountains, breathtaking castles and even a prince.
The only nation in the world to be completely located in the Alps, Liechtenstein is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering an astounding number of hiking and skiing trails. One of the best places to enjoy both is Malbun, a 5,200-foot-high village. In August, it’s home to the Malbun Donkey Festival. Yes, that’s an actual thing.
The capital city, Vaduz, is surprisingly modern. The Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum is housed in a former tavern and features exhibits that examine the country’s history and folklore. There’s also the Postmuseum, which is dedicated to, you guessed it, postage stamps.
Interested in channeling your inner prince or princess? Make the climb to Schloss Vaduz, a striking castle set high on a hill with towers and turrets galore and sweeping views over the Rhine Valley. Though not open to the public (it’s currently the home of Prince Alois, who enjoys his privacy), a visit here is worth it for the grounds alone.
5. San Marino
Country Location: Southern Europe, completely surrounded by Italy
Small Size: 24 square miles
How many San Marinos could fit inside the U.S.: 158,208
Visiting San Marino
The world’s oldest republic, San Marino is a small country with a big full name — Most Serene Republic of San Marino.
Like Italy, which surrounds it, San Marino is rife with medieval charm. Getting lost in a maze of cobblestoned streets is half the fun, but watch out for the tourist shops selling crossbows and firearms (San Marino sells many items that are illegal mostly everywhere else) if that’s not your thing.
In the capital city, also called San Marino, the political and cultural heart is Palazzo Pubblico (“public palace”), an imposing building decorated with coat-of-arms, gothic arches and, of course, a bell tower. Inside, you’ll find trophies, busts of famous San Marinoans and the impressive Council Hall.
Also in the city, the Three Towers is a collection of architecturally astounding castles perched on a cliff. Getting here involves a walk that will last most of the day, but it’s very scenic and not overly taxing. From the 14th-century Montale tower, enjoy astounding views of the Romagna flatlands and the Adriatic Sea.
Country Location: The Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia
Small Size: 10 square miles
How many Tuvalus could fit inside the U.S.: 379,700
A true off-the-beaten-path destination, Tuvalu is one of the least-visited places on earth, receiving only about 2,000 people every year. This lack of tourism makes for a peaceful, non-commercialized environment where it's easy to explore magnificent lagoons and coral reefs, and to meet super-friendly locals eager to share their distinctive Polynesian culture.
The fun begins as you land at Tuvalu’s main island, Fongafale Islet, whose airport code is literally FUN. The landing strip doubles as a place for locals to hang out. On hot summer months, you can join families camping out on the tarmac, the best place to catch a breeze. Near the airport is Filamona Lodge, a lively watering hole popular with expats.
With nine atolls and tons of ocean life, diving and snorkeling are other main draws. Funafuti lagoon, with its stunning turquoise waters, is a great place to give either, or both, a try. Here, you might also catch an impromptu game of Australian football. (The country has a close relationship with Australia, and even uses the Australian dollar.)
For a truly local experience, head to the nearest Maneapa (town hall), where dance and other cultural ceremonies are performed. And be sure to visit the Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau at the southern end of Funafuti to buy some stamps. Because of their scarcity and difficulty to access, these are highly coveted by stamp collectors around the world!
Country Location: Micronesia in the Western Pacific Ocean, about 2,800 miles northeast of Australia
Small Size: 8.1 square miles
How many Naurus could fit inside the U.S.: 468,765
Nauru, the smallest island-country in the world, was once famously home to an abundance of phosphate deposits. But over the years, those resources were strip-mined by foreign colonial powers until almost nothing was left. Today, most of Nauru’s residents are unemployed, and 80 percent of the land is barren.
There’s not a ton of tourism infrastructure here, but if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience, that’s part of the appeal. Plus the nation, despite its past woes, offers an enticing mix of beautiful coral reefs, fascinating historical sites, a pretty lagoon and incredibly friendly locals.
Anibare Bay is an idyllic white-sand beach ideal for R&R (and only R&R; strong undercurrents make it too dangerous to go in the water). To cool off, there’s nearby Anibare Harbour, the most popular swimming spot on the island.
Other highlights await in the district of Yaren, where you can view remnants of Japanese bunkers, guns and pillboxes that were used here during WWII and explore the Moqua Caves, a series of tunnels in a freshwater lake.
Farther inland, the island’s depleted quarries form a giant maze whose landscape draws comparisons to the surface of the moon.
Country Location: The French Riviera, bordering France and the Mediterranean Sea
Small Size: .78 square miles
How many Monacos could fit inside the U.S.: 4.9 million
Measuring less than a single square mile, Monaco contains the largest number of millionaires and billionaires in the world per capita. This French Riverian country, which is home to the Monaco Grand Prix (one of the most prestigious Formula 1 races), has long been a playground for the rich and famous, but a trip here doesn’t have to break the bank. One of Monaco's most popular beaches, Larvotto, is free and open to the public. Its calm water is great for swimming and sunbathing topless is perfectly acceptable. This is France, after all!
After a day in the sun, try your luck at the world-famous Monte Carlo Casino, which has been featured in several James Bond films and was the inspiration for “Casino Royale.” Even if gambling isn’t your thing, it’s worth visiting to check out the country’s impressive beaux-arts buildings, catch an opera or ballet performance or simply people-watch, enjoying the posh style on display.
The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco is also a must-see attraction. With over 90 tanks, a whale skeleton and a shark lagoon, this aquarium is often hailed as being among Europe’s best.
1. Vatican City
Country Location: Rome, Italy (it's entirely contained within the city!)
Small Size: .17 square miles
How many Vatican Cities could fit inside the U.S.: 22.3 million
Visiting Vatican City, the Smallest Country in the World
Though it’s about 1/10 the size of New York’s Central Park, this independent city-state located within Rome is one of the world’s most historically and culturally significant destinations, punching well above its weight class. Its primary claim to global renown? Serving as the home of the Catholic Church and the Pope (also known as the Holy See).
There are many must-see attractions here, certainly enough to fill a day or two, including the larger-than-life Saint Peter’s Basilica. The world’s largest church, which is built over the tomb of St. Peter, is one of the most astounding architectural feats of the Renaissance. Its dome tops 435 feet and measures 138 feet across its base. The basilica houses work from Michelangelo, Donatello, Giotto, Bernini and many other famous Italian artists. Plus, the top balcony offers a sweeping panorama of Rome.
Of course, you can’t miss the Sistine Chapel, either. Part of the Vatican Museums, Michelangelo’s masterpiece painting is considered to be the greatest work of the Renaissance. Grab a seat on a bench and stare at the ceiling, which includes the famous image of God touching the fingertip of Adam. It took Michelangelo almost five years to paint the ceiling’s nine panels, and you may want to stay here and admire his work for just as long.
(Pro tip: To avoid long lines, aim to arrive in the late afternoon.)