Islands by country

When we hear the word 'island,' we think of azure waters and shallow, sandy beaches. But by no means is every island is really inviting for a swim. The northernmost countries, Norway, Sweden, Canada and Finland, captivate with a uniquely rugged landscape and have the most islands worldwide — by far. The dreamy island worlds of Southeast Asia come only in the second line.

Here you will find a ranking of the 50 countries with the most islands in the open sea (without inland islands). Wherever possible, official figures were used. However, please note the explanations below.

Norway239,05725,148 km
Sweden221,8313,218 km
Canada52,455202,080 km
Finland40,0001,250 km
United States18,61719,924 km
Indonesia18,30754,716 km
Australia8,22225,760 km
Philippines7,64136,289 km
Japan6,85229,751 km
Chile5,0006,435 km
China5,00014,500 km
South Korea4,4002,413 km
Cuba4,1953,735 km
Vietnam4,0003,444 km
North Korea3,5792,495 km
Greece3,05413,676 km
Estonia1,5203,794 km
Thailand1,4303,219 km
Denmark1,4197,314 km
Papua New Guinea1,4005,152 km
Saudi Arabia1,2852,640 km
Croatia1,2465,835 km
India1,2007,000 km
Maldives1,196644 km
Marshall Islands1,156370 km
United Kingdom1,00012,429 km
Myanmar1,0001,930 km
Solomon Islands9005,313 km
Malaysia8784,675 km
Greenland *80044,087 km
Falkland Islands *7781,288 km
United Arab Emirates7001,318 km
Bahamas7003,542 km
Micronesia6076,112 km
New Zealand60015,134 km
Turkey5007,200 km
Belize450386 km
Venezuela4182,800 km
Svalbard *400124 km
Eritrea3542,234 km
Palau3401,519 km
Fiji3301,129 km
Turks and Caicos Islands *307389 km
Ireland2701,448 km
Colombia2703,208 km
Hong Kong *263733 km
Yemen2201,906 km
Italy2107,600 km
Bermuda *181103 km
Tonga169419 km

What is an island?

An island is a land mass permanently above sea level either in an inland waterway or in the open sea. It is completely surrounded by water, but must not be a continent. Therefore, Australia is not considered an island, while Greenland is the largest island in the world.

island There is no binding and globally valid definition of the word "island." Many countries interpret the term slightly differently. In general, we speak of an island when it is big enough that it can develop its own vegetation. For example, a tree or a bush. The bare, towering rocks in Scandinavia are also considered islands.

Whether an island is really inhabited or at least habitable is irrelevant for the definition. Nor whether the island was created naturally or by man. The conspicuously high number of islands in the United Arab Emirates is due, for example, to the construction of countless artificial islands. The most famous of these island worlds are "The Palm" and "The World."

Official numbers and counting methods

Where possible, this table is based on official figures from government agencies for geography and tourism. However, in many countries there are only estimates or vague data.

While the Swedish government officially lists 221,831 islands, taking into account all the smaller island forms, the census in neighboring Norway is already slightly different. There, 239,057 islands are named, but without the 81,192 rock islets. Canada goes one step further and does not count any islets or cays. With the Scandinavian counting method, the official number of 52,455 islands would easily be three times higher.

Constant changes

With a worldwide network of satellites, countless shipping routes and radar stations, one would think that the number of islands would not change significantly anymore. If a new volcano erupts, perhaps one or two new islands will emerge. But this is actually the exception. In 2011, Norway increased the number of its own islands by an unbelievable 240,000 because satellite photos have now discovered exactly this number and they did not even know it before. The Philippines, which proudly reported 7,107 islands in every (outdated) travel guide, is also constantly increasing the number. In 2016, this number was officially raised to 7,641 islands.

* The marked countries are not independent and sovereign states, but dependent territories of other states. Cf. also our article What is a country?