Cite

Largest Countries in the World by Area

Updated June 15, 2021 | Logan Chamberlain

The top ten largest countries, in square kilometers.

The countries of the world are diverse in terms of language, in terms of wealth, in terms of culture--they're also very diverse in terms of size. The smallest countries measure just a couple square miles. The biggest are absolutely massive. Here are the world's largest countries, listed in order of total area. You might also be interested in our list of the most populous countries (which is another metric people often mean by "largest countries").

RankCountryArea in sq. km
1.Russia17,098,242
2.Canada9,984,670
3.United States9,826,675
4.China9,596,961
5.Brazil8,514,877
6.Australia7,741,220
7.India3,287,263
8.Argentina2,780,400
9.Kazakhstan2,724,900
10.Algeria2,381,741
Country Size Comparisons

The largest by continent

This is a bit of a tricky category, since the absolute largest country, Russia, straddles two continents (or not, depending on which model of the continents you follow). "Asian" Russia would still be the largest country in Asia. Greenland is also questionable, since it's technically governed by Iceland. Using the Seven Continents model popular in the U.S., the largest countries entirely within each continent are listed here below:

Africa: Algeria, the Republic of Congo, Sudan, Libya, Chad, Niger, Angola, Mali, South Africa, and Ethiopia.

Asia: China, India, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

Europe: Turkey, France, Ukraine, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Norway, Poland, and Italy.

North America: Canada, the United States, Greenland*, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, Guatemala, Panama, and Costa Rica.

Oceania: Australia, , Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand,

South America: Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile, Paraguay, Guyana and Uruguay.

(And then Antarctica has no countries. Were it a country, it would be the second largest after Russia)

How we measure size

A country's total area includes its landmass and a region of sea extending out to (or beyond) its continental shelf. Different countries measure their oceanic area differently, which can lead to some flexibility in the rankings. We've gone with the official areas listed in the CIA World Factbook, but some might argue that we should only measure a country's land area. In that case, the rankings would change slightly. China would be the second largest country, then the U.S. then Canada.

How we display size

Many people remember the episode of the West Wing where they discuss map projections. It is true that the commonly used Mercator projection gives a false impression of how big different countries are; to fit a 3D globe onto a flat plane, areas near the poles are stretched out and made bigger. That said, Russia, Canada, and the United States are all very big in reality. These three have held the top three spots, in that order, since the United States incorporated Alaska in the 1900s.

Recent changes

In a surprising change from the norm, as national borders have been fairly fixed for the past decades, Russia has arguably gained area (if one includes Crimea in the count). Crimea would add another 27,000 square kilometers to Russia's already boggling size.

NOTE: Country rankings aren't definitive; instead they provide an approximate comparison. Country data vary enormously depending on the sources, and there is an absence of reliable data on some countries.

Source: The World Factbook and the U.S. Census Bureau, International Database.

See also: