Vatican City

Top 10 of the Smallest Countries You Have Probably Never Heard of

by Iva Rizova

There are more than 200 countries in the world. It’s hard to remember all of them, especially if geography isn’t your strongest point. And knowing something about each country seems to be just a mirage of a teacher at school. If we exclude the giant states (Russia, the United States, Brazil, China…) and those that are more recognizable (France, Spain, Germany…), we will find that most of the countries are small. Some of them are so small that they are called microstates and we bet that you have probably never heard of them. So we at the Dope Lists gathered the Top 10 of the smallest countries in the world.


Total Area: 316 km2

Capital: Valletta

Location: Europe

Malta is located on the Maltese archipelago in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, consisting of 3 inhabited (Malta, Gozo and Comino) and many uninhabited. Due to its crossroads, it is subject to constant colonial operations. The Phoenicians were the first to take advantage of the strategic location. After them the Maltese archipelago is under the control of the Roman Empire, Byzantium, the Arab Caliphate, Aragon, the Order of Malta, France and Great Britain.


Malta is the smallest country in terms of area and population in the EU and the only European state to have an official language from the Semitic language family. Nevertheless, it is one of the countries forced to desalinate seawater to meet the needs of the population. 

During World War II Malta was under siege for more than two years and gained independence from the United Kingdom twenty years later – in 1964. The variety of historical monuments and beautiful beaches attract about one million tourists each year.


Total Area: 300 km2

Capital: Malé

Location: Asia

We admit that you have certainly heard about the Maldives. Because of its exoticism, the Maldives is one of the most popular tourist destinations and has become a dream of every woman. However, this paradise is one of the seven places in the world where atheism is banned and punishable by death. Who would believe that these islands radiating serenity would maintain such an inhumane practice in the XXI century?!


The Maldives archipelago consists of 1,190 coral islands that are spread over an area of 90,000 square kilometers. This makes the Maldives one of the most fragmented countries in the world. Only 203 islands are inhabited. On the largest of them – Malé – is the only city (the eponymous capital) and the only port.

The Maldives is the lowest country in the world – the highest point reaches just over 2 meters above sea level. Therefore, it is in serious danger of sinking in the next hundred years due to rising sea levels caused by global warming.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Total Area: 261 km2

Capitals: Basseterre, Charlestown

Location: North America

The island nation is part of the British community, governed by a governor-general representing the queen. Saint Christopher and Nevis are located in the Caribbean and were discovered by Christopher Columbus. The federation is composed of only these two islands. For centuries Saint Christopher has been called Gibraltar of the Caribbean. The reason is that its western part is in the Caribbean Sea and its eastern part is in the Atlantic Ocean.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

The volcanic origin of the islands and the presence of rainforests predispose the cultivation of sugar cane, cotton, coconut palms and pineapples. Their production occupies the largest share of the country’s economy as well as tourism.

Although they were discovered by the Spaniards, the English played a decisive role in the development of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Moreover, the islands are the first English colony in the Caribbean. Interesting fact is that it is forbidden to build buildings that are taller than palm trees so the maximum height is two floors.

Marshall Islands

Total Area: 181,3 km2

Capital: Majuro

Location: Oceania

Marshall Islands are part of Micronesia – a region in Oceania, characterized by many small islands, hence its name. They are composed of two parallel island chains – Ratak and Ralik, uniting over 1150 coral islands of which only 23 are inhabited. The Marshall Islands are characterized by dense mangrove forests as well as frequent typhoons typical of the Pacific Ocean.

Marshall Islands

In 1990, the independence of the Marshall Islands was officially recognized by the United Nations. A few years earlier, the United States recognized their sovereignty and committed to defending the country in exchange for maintaining military bases on the island group’s territory.

Researchers from Columbia University claim that radiation levels on some islands are 10 to 1,000 times higher than in the radioactive areas around Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). This is due to nuclear tests conducted by the United States between 1946 and 1958. According to an unproven theory, they may also have been used to dispose of radioactive waste.


Total Area: 160 km2

Capital: Vaduz

Location: Europe

Perhaps you have seen at least one of those movies with the handsome prince from a little remote mountain kingdom. We are hardly the only ones in whose minds the kingdom is in Europe. Liechtenstein, named after the ruling dynasty, would fit perfectly into the plot of such a film.


For centuries, Liechtenstein was part of the many counties, duchies and principalities later united by the Holy Roman Empire. There is no airport or coastline and it is one of the two states in the world whose neighboring countries also have no access to the sea. In addition, it is the only one located entirely in the Alpine region.

Despite its small territory, Liechtenstein is one of the richest commonwealths in the world with over $ 165,000 gross domestic product per capita. During the Second World War it remained completely neutral, this gave a very big boost to the economy and Liechtenstein has long been considered a tax haven.

San Marino

Total Area: 61,2 km2

Capital: San Marino 

Location: Europe

As an enclave of Italy, San Marino is one of three countries (besides Vatican and Lesotho) that are completely surrounded by the territory of another. The name of the microstate comes from St. Marini. During Diocletian’s persecution of Christians, because of his sermons, St. Marini was forced to flee to Mount Titano. He built a small church there and on September 3, 301, the state of San Marino was founded. Today it is the oldest constitutional republic in the world.


The greatest value in San Marino is freedom and therefore the country maintained neutrality during the two world wars and refuses to join the EU.  It is one of the richest countries in the world whose main source of income is the production of stamps and coins.

San Marino has its own calendar, which begins with the founding of the republic and that’s why two calendars with different years and dates can be seen on the streets. The Constitution was accepted in 1600 and it is considered to be the oldest governing document in force.


Total Area: 26 km2

Capital: Funafuti

Location: Oceania

It is an island nation in Polynesia, a subregion of Oceania. Like most island groups in the Pacific, Tuvalu is a volcanic archipelago with 3 reef islands and 6 atolls. On the order of the Maldives, Tuvalu’s islands are slowly sinking due to rising sea level, caused by global warming. 


The opportunities provided to the permanent population are extremely limited and that is why most residents work abroad. Tuvalu does not have its own television or daily press and there is only one radio station. The printed editions are published once every two months. 

Despite the exotic nature, tourism is very underdeveloped – the country is visited by about 1000 people a year. The economy relies on fishing, the cultivation of coconut palms, bananas and pineapples, as well as foreign aid. It is a curious fact that Tuvalu sold its national Internet identification code (.tv) and the rights to use it to a Canadian media company in 2000.


Total Area: 21 km2

Capital: Yaren (de facto)

Location: Oceania

The Republic of Nauru consists of only one island and is the smallest non-European country in the world. Nauru has no supplies of drinking water and relies entirely on imports to meet its needs. The most famous fact about the pacific island is that there is no officially declared capital and this is a precedent. 


There is no party structure and the candidates are independent. All Nauruans have rights to the land on the island owned by individuals. The government and private organizations have no property and must enter into a lease agreement. People who are not part of the indigenous population have no right to property. In recent years Australia has funded the construction and maintenance of refugee centers in Nauru.

In 1977 it ranked first in gross domestic product per capita. However, this has clearly had a negative impact on the population – the Nauruans are among the fattest people in the world – over 90% of adults are overweight.


Total Area: 2,02 km2

Capital: Monaco 

Location: Europe

Monaco certainly sounds familiar to you. Not only because of the highly developed tourism but also because of the American actress who became a princess – Grace Kelly. The richest country in the world and the most densely populated. One in three people living there is a millionaire. Monaco has the right to mint euro coins with Monegasque designs on one side.


Government revenues are provided by banking, finance, real estate, gambling and tourism. However, locals do not pay taxes on their income. This is one of the safest places in the world as every corner has 24 hour surveillance. Monaco has neither a navy nor an air force and relies on France for its defense.

New York’s Central Park occupies almost twice as much territory as Monaco. It is surrounded by the French Alps and its shores bathe in the waters of the Cote d’Azur. The most expensive apartment in the world is valued at $335 million and is located in Monaco.

Vatican City

Total Area: 0,44 km2

Capital: Vatican City

Location: Europe

The smallest country in the world is the seat of the pope. Its territory is less than one square kilometer and its inhabitants are less than 1,000 people, about a third of whom are cardinals. But in this tiny country this is far from the most remarkable. 

Vatican City

The Vatican is a theocracy. This means that religious and state power are united and the pope performs the functions of head of state. The economy relies on the sale of postage stamps, souvenirs and museum fees. Like some of the other countries included in the ranking, the Vatican does not have its own armed forces and its security is taken care of by the Swiss Guard.

Although the papal state has existed since 756, in the movement for the unification of Italy in the second half of the XIX century, the papacy lost its power and remained without territory. 59 years later, Benito Mussolini decided to end the crisis between a united Italy and the Vatican, and the Lateran Treaty established the city-state under the leadership of the Pope.

As we see, quantity does not determine quality, or in the case of this article, the size of the state is not a sign of its uniqueness and these microstates are just as remarkable as the other countries.

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