The Countries of the World
Independent Nation States in the U.N. (193)
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome and Principe
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
Independent Nation States not in the U.N. (1)
American Samoa (US)
Bouvet Island (NO)
British Indian Ocean Territory (GB)
British Virgin Islands (GB)
Cayman Islands (GB)
Christmas Island (AU)
Cocos Islands (AU)
Cook Islands (NZ)
Coral Sea Islands Territory (AU)
Falkland Islands (GB)
Faroe Islands (DK)
French Guiana (FR)
French Polynesia (FR)
French Southern Lands (FR)
Heard and McDonald Islands (AU)
Hong Kong (CN)
Isle of Man (GB)
Jan Mayen (NO)
New Caledonia (FR)
Norfolk Island (AU)
Northern Mariana Islands (US)
Pitcairn Island (GB)
Puerto Rico (US)
Saint Barthelemy (FR)
Saint Helena (GB)
Saint Martin (FR)
Saint Pierre and Miquelon (FR)
Sint Eustatius (NL)
Sint Maarten (NL)
South Georgia (GB)
Turks and Caicos Islands (GB)
U.S. Minor Pacific Islands (US)
U.S. Virgin Islands (US)
Wallis and Futuna (FR)
Other Areas (3)
While working on the Peakbagger.com web site, a common need was a definitive
list of the countries in the world. While it may seem like a straightforward
task to come up with a list like this, the complexity of the modern political
world is very difficult to unravel in a consistent manner. In the end, I came
up with a list of 253 countries (and country equivalents) that together contain
every square inch of the earth's land surface in a complete and non-overlapping
coverage. This list was used to assign peaks to countries, come up with country
high point lists, and so on. Since this list is used quite a bit, I thought it
important to explain and justify how it came about and where the magic number
253 comes from.
To cover the entire earth, four different flavors of "country" are needed, as
Independent Nation-States: Real, recognized, and undisputed
countries that (except for one) are all members of the United Nations.
Dependencies: Territories, colonies, possessions, or other separate
areas administered or controlled by an independent nation-state as a separate
Antarctica: A special territory not part of or controlled by any
Other Areas: Any other tract of land that politically cannot be
classified as an independent nation-state or a dependency. This category is
used for countries that fall into a gray area or have special status.
Most independent nation-states are members of the United Nations, whose
membership stands at 193 since the admission of South Sudan in 2011. The only independent nation-state that is not a
U.N. member is the Vatican City. Therefore, there is little argument that there
are 194 independent nation-states in the world.
Figuring the number of dependencies is a much more difficult task. While the old
colonial empires have been greatly reduced, there are still a large number of
dependencies scattered about the globe, many of them small islands or island
groups. Most of these are formally organized into official dependent
territories, but there are many small islands offshore from an independent
nation-state whose status is unclear.
Any enumeration of dependencies must include some judgment calls. The political
status of a place is the most important factor--if the administration of a
political entity is special in some significant way, such as limited
self-government, then that is a clear sign that it is a dependency. The other
important factor is how far offshore from the controlling country the
dependency is--any place that is a whole ocean away from the home country or
more is usually a dependency and not part of the home country.
A list of the world's dependencies could have anywhere from 40 to 70 members,
depending on how you decide to classify places. I went through and made a bunch
of judgment calls and came up with a list of 55 dependencies that I am pretty
happy with. Below is a list of the nine "controlling countries" that
politically control dependencies, with the number of dependencies controlled
and a list of them.
Total Dependencies, by Country:
||Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands,
||Hong Kong, Macau
||Faroe Islands, Greenland
||French Guiana, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands,
Guadaeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy,
Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and
Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna
||Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten
||Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau
||Bouvet Island, Jan Mayen Island, Svalbard
||Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands,
Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man,
Monteseratt, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia, Turks and Caicos
||American Samoa, Guam, Navassa Island, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, U.S.
Minor Pacific Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands
To see a list of all the individual judgment calls I made in coming up with this
list, you can look at my List of Dependencies with Commentary.
Another issue is Antarctica. Seven nations (Argentina, Australia, Chile, France,
New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom) have pie-shaped territorial claims
in the continent, but by general international agreement Antarctica is
considered international territory and not part of any country. The claims are
not recognized by most other countries, and in my list I am including Antarctica
as its own entity, neither an independent nation-state nor a dependency.
The British and French Antarctic Territories include peri-Antarctic islands
(north of 60° S) in addition to their pie-shaped continental claims. For the
purposes of this classification, the British and French territories are deemed
to exist, but only include these northern islands (South Georgia and the South
Sandwiches for the British dependency, the Kerguelen group and others for the
French). All land south of 60° S, including the South Shetlands, South Orkneys,
Balleny Islands, Scott Island, and Peter I Island, is considered part of
Antarctica. The Antarctic territories of the other five Antarctic claimants
are considered non-existent.
There are several areas that fall into the gray area between an independent
nation-state and dependency. Again, the number of such places could be as large
as 15 or 20 depending on the judgments made. I have decided to minimize the
number of these areas and have come up with a list of only four:
- Kosovo: This area has declared independence and many nations have recognized it as a new
nation-state. However, Serbia still considers it an integral part of their territory, and
they, too, have the support of many nations. Until the situation is resolved one way or the
other, Kosovo will be classified as an "Other Area".
- Palestinian Authority territory in the West Bank and Gaza: These territories do not yet
constitute an independent
nation-state, nor is it correct to call them a dependency, despite effective
Israeli control over some of the land. Without making any political statement,
the West Bank and Gaza together are simply classed as an "Other Area" of
- Taiwan: Not a U.N. Member and not generally acknowledged as independent by the international community, but still not part of
de-facto mainland China.
In addition, there are many areas that are in dispute between two or more
nations, including some that no one nation really controls. Most of this
disputed land is under the de-facto control of one country or another despite
the disputed status. For example, Morocco controls the Western Sahara, Russia
the southern Kuril Islands, and India and Pakistan have a line of control in
Kashmir. No political statement is intended by these statements, and the
borders are simply drawn by what the reality is on the ground.
The few small areas that are not under the control of any nation, mostly tiny
islands such as the Paracel and Spratly Islands, are simply ignored. They are
too tiny to merit separate entries in a list of countries. The same goes for
slivers of disputed no-man's land that may exist between countries.
By this methodology, there are therefore 253 "countries" in the world: 194
independent nation-states, 55 dependencies, Antarctica, and 3 other areas.
Appendix: Dependencies or Not?
The following list shows all independent nation-states that have dependencies,
plus those with offshore territories where there might be some question as to
whether or not those territories are dependencies or not. All the dependencies
and quasi-dependencies are classified as "Included" as politically part of the
home country, or as distinct "Dependencies". The basic call is between
including the area as part of the main country or calling it a separate
dependency. Where there is some question as to the status of an area, or where
a judgment call was made, commentary has been provided.
My approach to dependencies could be called somewhat conservative--when in
doubt, I tend to lump offshore islands with the home country, which has the
effect of reducing the total. A more liberal approach might, for example, treat
the five small French islands near Madagascar as separate from Reunion, or
treat every minor islet owned by the U.S. in the Pacific as separate. The
number of dependencies could thus easily increase up to perhaps 70, if one were
to use a different approach from mine.
Includes: Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Torres Strait Islands,
Lord Howe Island, Ball's Pyramid, and Macquarie Island. All of these islands
are pretty much uninhabited, administered by individual Australian states, and
920 miles or closer to the Australian mainland. Although some sources consider
some of them to be separate dependencies, I feel best including them as part of
Dependencies: These territories are all either more politically
distinct than the included ones listed above, or more offshore.
Christmas Island: 950 miles away, and ethnically and politically distinct.
Cocos Islands: 1310 miles away and politically similar to Christmas Island.
Coral Sea Islands: Offshore and uninhabited, but a separate and distinct
territory administered from Norfolk Island.
Heard and McDonald Islands: Although uninhabited and "offshore" to some degree,
they are 2370 miles from the mainland, further away than any other island group
in the world discussed here that is considered offshore, and administered
directly from Canberra instead of as part of a state.
Norfolk Island: Has limited home rule, so it is definitely its own dependency.
Includes: Fernando de Noronha, Atol das Rocas, Martin Vaz,
Trindade, and the Saint Peter and Paul Rocks. All are very small mid-Atlantic
islands relatively close to Brazilian shores.
Includes: Easter Island, Sala y Gomez, Juan Fernandez, San
Ambrosio, and San Felix. Although some of these islands are a long way offshore
(up to 2180 miles), Chile's long coastline, the lack of any other islands or
neighboring countries, and the low population of the groups all argue against
calling these areas separate dependencies.
Hong Kong: Although now part of China and contiguous to it, the cultural,
political, and economic distinctness of this recently acquired territory force
me to call it a distinct dependency for now, rather than included as part of
Macau: Similar to Hong Kong, and the same arguments for separate dependency
Includes: Malpelo in the Pacific, plus San Andres, Providencia,
and small cays offshore in the Caribbean.
Includes: Coco Island, 305 miles offshore.
Faeroe Islands: Might be considered offshore, but are largely self-governing.
Greenland: Clearly a separate dependency.
Includes: The Galapagos (Archipelago de Colón), 575 miles
Includes: The Aland Islands. The ISO gives the Alands its own country codes,
and this province enjoys more autonomy than other parts of Finland. However, the islands are geographically
right offshore, and still send representatives to the Finnish parliament. The status of the Alands falls
into the gray area between separate dependent and integrated province, and it is really a judgment call. For the
purposes of this web site, they are treated as part of Finland.
Dependencies: All of the following areas are overseas
territories, overseas departments, or territorial collectivities, and they cannot be considered "offshore" from France in any real way. Some of these dependencies are
politically part of mainland France and send deputies to the French legislature, but their
extreme geographic remoteness argues strongly for listing them separate from the mother country.
French Polynesia: Includes Clipperton Island, sometimes considered a separate
French Southern and Antarctic Lands: Includes Kergeulen, Crozet, Saint Paul,
and Amsterdam, but not the unrecognized Antarctic claim.
Guadaloupe: Includes Saint-Barts and Saint-Martin (northern half).
Reunion: Includes 5 small islands near Madagascar: Bassas de India, Europa,
Glorieuses, Juan de Nova, and Tromelin. Sometimes these islands are treated as
separate dependencies, but they are all uninhabited and administered from
Saint Barthelemy (separated from Guadaloupe in 2007)
Saint Martin (separated from Guadaloupe in 2007--includes only northern half of
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
Wallis and Futuna
Includes: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 605 miles away,
south of Myanmar.
Includes: The Izu-Shoto, Volcano, Bonin, and Ryuku Islands.
Although extending quite a ways out from the home islands, these island groups
form nearly continuous arcs stretching away from the mainland, with no large
water gaps between individual islands. Politically they are an integral
part of Japan; the Volcano and Bonin islands are even part of Tokyo.
Includes: Revillagegedo, Alijos, Clarion and Gualalupe Islands
in the Pacific.
Western Sahara. This is a tough judgment call--Morocco is firmly in control of
the productive part of the territory, and considers it an integral part of the
country. However, the OAU, UN, and other international organizations give some
form of recognition to Polisario, fighting for independence for the Western
Sahara. For now, the area seems best to be treated as part of Morocco and not a
Dependencies: The former Netherlands Antilles has now been entirely broken up into
its six separate island groups--Arbua was granted separate dependency status in 1986, and the remaining five islands
of the Netherlands Antilles became separate in 2010. Although Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius are politically part of the
Netherlands mainland, their geographic separation is why they are treated as separate dependencies, similar to French overseas
Sint Maarten (southern half)
Includes: Chatham Islands, Auckland Islands, the Snares,
Campbell Island, Antipodes Islands, Bounty Islands, and the Kermandec Islands.
All of these small archipelagos are within 500 miles of the main islands of New
Zealand, and only the Chatham Islands are populated.
Dependency: These three island groups are politically distinct
from New Zealand, and much further afield than the small nearby groups.
Bouvet Island: This tiny, uninhabited South Atlantic island is not offshore
Norway, so I consider it a separate country.
Jan Mayen: Uninhabited and 545 miles offshore, but usually considered
Svalbard: Includes Bear Island.
Includes: The Azores, 850 miles offshore, and Madeira, 495
miles away. Both are almost always considered an integral part of Portugal.
Includes: East Prussia (Kaliningrad Oblast), 225 miles away
through Belarus, Lithuania, or Latvia, and offshore via the Baltic, is
politically indistinguishable from the rest of Russia.
Includes: The tiny Prince Edward Islands, 1065 miles offshore
to the southeast in the Indian Ocean.
Includes: The Canary Islands, the Balearics, and Spanish North
Africa (Ceuta and Melilla). All are integral parts of the metropolitan Spain.
Includes: Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, the Hebrides, and
Rockall, a tiny islet quite a ways off in the North Atlantic.
Dependencies: There are tiny remnants of the once-mighty
British Empire scattered about the globe. All of the following territories are
well offshore and administered as separate entities, except for Guernsey,
Jersey, and Man, which are distinct politically but are quite close offshore of
South Georgia (British Antarctic Territory): Includes the South Sandwich
Islands, but not any parts of Antarctica (see section on Antarctica).
British Indian Ocean Territory: Includes the Chagos Archipelago, including
British Virgin Islands
Guernsey: Includes Alderney and Sark. Separate politically from the U.K.
despite being offshore.
Jersey: Separate politically from the U.K. despite being offshore.
Isle of Man: Although just offshore the U.K., it has clear and distinct
separate political status.
Pitcairn Islands: Includes Ducie, Henderson, and Oeno Islands.
Saint Helena: Includes Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, and Gough Islands.
Turks and Cacios Islands
The 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, plus the District of Columbia.
Dependencies: The United States still controls several areas as
Navassa Island: An uninhabited island between Cuba and Haiti, administered by
the Coast Guard.
U.S. Minor Pacific Islands: The United States controls several tiny islands in
the mid-Pacific area. Often treated as separate dependencies by many sources,
it makes sense to combine them into one dependency rather than to clog up the
list with all these minor islands. Included are Baker Island, Howland Island,
Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Palmyra Atoll, and
U.S. Virgin Islands
Includes: Margarita and other offshore Caribbean Islands, plus
Aves, way off to the north.