The Largest Landlocked Countries in the World

November 14, 2023

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Map of the world showing the largest landlocked countries

A landlocked country is a country without direct access to an ocean or sea. The main disadvantage that landlocked countries have is that international trade is difficult and more expensive, as they have to pay higher transportation costs and customs duties to send and receive goods, and they are forced to maintain good relationships with countries they may not agree with. A lack of coastline also means that coastal fishing is not a viable industry. Because of these disadvantages, many landlocked states are defined by the UN as Landlocked Developing Countries.

In total, there are 44 landlocked countries in the world.

Landlocked countries by area

RankCountryArea (km²)ContinentNumber of bordersNeighboring Countries
1Kazakhstan2,724,900Asia
2Mongolia1,566,500Asia
3Chad1,284,000Africa
4Niger1,267,000Africa
5Mali1,240,192Africa
6Ethiopia1,104,300Africa
7Bolivia1,098,581South America
8Zambia752,612Africa
9Afghanistan652,230Asia
10South Sudan644,329Africa
11Central African Republic622,984Africa
12Botswana582,000Africa
13Turkmenistan488,100Asia
14Uzbekistan449,100Asia
15Paraguay406,752South America
16Zimbabwe390,757Africa
17Burkina Faso274,222Africa
18Uganda241,038Africa
19Laos236,800Asia
20Belarus207,600Europe
21Kyrgyzstan199,951Asia
22Nepal147,181Asia
23Tajikistan143,100Asia
24Malawi118,484Africa
25Hungary93,028Europe
26Serbia88,361Europe
27Azerbaijan86,600Asia
28Austria83,871Europe
29Czechia78,867Europe
30Slovakia49,035Europe
31Switzerland41,284Europe
32Bhutan38,394Asia
33Moldova33,846Europe
34Lesotho30,355Africa
35Armenia29,743Asia
36Burundi27,834Africa
37Rwanda26,338Africa
38North Macedonia25,713Europe
39Eswatini17,364Africa
40Luxembourg2,586Europe
41Andorra468Europe
42Liechtenstein160Europe
43San Marino61Europe
44Holy See (Vatican City)0.49Europe

Let’s jump in to a more detailed look at the countries that make up the top 10.

1. Kazakhstan

Area: 2,724,900 km²
Continent: Asia
Neighboring Countries: China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

The largest landlocked country in the world is Kazakhstan, with an area of just over 2.7 million square kilometers. Equivalent in size to Western Europe, it is also the world’s ninth-largest country overall.

While it is mainly located in Central Asia, a small part of Kazakhstan lies in Eastern Europe, west of the Ural Mountains. Along with Azerbaijan, it is one of only two landlocked countries with territory on two continents.

Kazakhstan is bordered by China to the east, Kyrgyzstan to the southeast, Uzbekistan to the south, Turkmenistan to the southwest, and Russia to the north and west. Although Kazakhstan also has a coastline along the Caspian Sea, the country is still considered to be landlocked. This is because the sea itself is landlocked, and so technically, it is classified as a large lake.

With a population of 19.6 million, Kazakhstan has one of the world’s lowest population densities, at fewer than six people per square kilometer.

The country’s landscape is diverse, ranging from rivers and lakes to arid deserts and grasslands to canyons and mountains. Some of the country’s major cities include its capital of Astana, Almaty, and Karagandy.

2. Mongolia

Area: 1,566,500 km²
Continent: Asia
Neighboring Countries: China, Russia

With an area of more than 1.5 million square kilometers, Mongolia is the world’s second-largest landlocked country and the 18th-largest country overall.

Located in Eastern Asia, Mongolia is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. 

Its population of more than 3.2 million makes it the most sparsely populated sovereign state in the world. Half of Mongolia’s population lives in Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital city.

While Mongolia may only come second on this list, it comes first for being the largest landlocked country that doesn’t border a closed sea. Much of the country is covered in grassland, but it still has a varying landscape, with cold mountainous regions to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. It also has forested areas, which account for just over 11 percent of the country’s total land area, and the basin of Uvs Lake — which it shares with Russia — is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Chad

Area: 1,284,000 km²
Continent: Africa
Neighboring Countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan

Third on the list of landlocked countries with the largest areas is Chad, the 20th-largest country in the world.

Covering almost 1.3 million square kilometers, it is located in Central Africa, bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, and Cameroon, Nigeria, and Niger to the west.

Chad has a population of almost 18 million, 1.5 million of whom live in N’Djamena, the country’s capital city.

N’Djamena’s 1,060 kilometers distance from its nearest seaport in Cameroon, coupled with the country’s largely arid climate, are why Chad is sometimes nicknamed the “Dead Heart of Africa”. As well as a desert region in the north, Chad has an arid belt in the center. The south, however, is much more fertile and is home to Lake Chad, the second-largest wetland in Africa after the Sudd in South Sudan.

4. Niger

Area: 1,267,000 km²
Continent: Africa
Neighboring Countries: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Nigeria

The world’s fourth-largest landlocked country is Niger, which covers an area of just over 1.2 million square kilometers. It is the world’s 21st-largest country and the largest landlocked country in West Africa. 

Niger is bordered by seven other countries: Algeria and Libya to the north, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the south, and Burkina Faso and Mali to the west. Its longest border is with Nigeria, and its shortest is with Libya.

The country has a population of almost 24.5 million, with most of its inhabitants living in the south and west of the country. This is because the north is covered by deserts. Interestingly, more than 80 percent of Niger’s land area lies in the Sahara Desert. The southern parts of the country are dominated by savannas, and there are also mountains in the center and north.

5. Mali

Area: 1,240,192 km²
Continent: Africa
Neighboring Countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal

Covering more than 1.2 million square kilometers, Mali is the fifth-largest landlocked country in the world. It is also the world’s 24th-largest country and the eighth-largest country in Africa.

Situated in West Africa, it is bordered by Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire to the south, Guinea and Senegal to the west, and Mauritania to the west.  

Mali has a largely young population, with two-thirds of its 21.5 million residents estimated to be under the age of 25.

Like Niger, most of Mali’s inhabitants live in the south. This is because the north stretches deep into the center of the Sahara Desert. Both the Niger River and the Senegal River pass through the south of the country, where the Sudanian savanna lies. Mali’s terrain is mostly flat, apart from rolling plains in the north and the Adrar des Ifoghas massif in the northeast.

6. Ethiopia

Area: 1,104,300 km²
Continent: Africa
Neighboring Countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan

Taking the sixth spot on the ‘Largest Landlocked Countries in the World List’ is Ethiopia due to its land area of just over 1.1 million square kilometers. Ethiopia is also the 28th largest country in the world.

Most of Ethiopia lies in the Horn of Africa region in Eastern Africa. The Horn of Africa is the easternmost part of the continent. It shares borders with the countries of Eritrea and Djibouti to the north, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and South Sudan and Sudan to the west.

With a population of nearly 113.7 million, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world. It is also the second-most populous country in Africa after Nigeria and the 13th-most populous country in the world.

Like many of the countries on this list, Ethiopia’s landscape is extremely diverse. It’s got deserts in the east, tropical forests in the south, and mountains in the northeast. Ethiopia also has the largest cave and the largest continuous mountain range in Africa, and it is home to Lake Tana — the source of the Blue Nile. 

7. Bolivia

Area: 1,098,581 km²
Continent: South America
Neighboring Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru

Bolivia covers just over 1 million square kilometers, making it the world’s seventh-largest landlocked country. It is the 28th-largest country in the world overall and the largest landlocked country in the Southern Hemisphere.

Bolivia is located in western-central South America, and along with Paraguay, it is one of only two landlocked countries in the Americas.

The countries that border landlocked Bolivia are Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile to the south, and Peru to the west.

Despite its large size, Bolivia has a relatively small population, estimated at just over 12 million. It is the third-least populous country on this list after Mongolia and South Sudan.

Extending from the Amazon Rainforest in the east to the Andes Mountains in the west, Bolivia has a wide range of terrain and climates and boasts one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world.

8. Zambia

Area: 752,612 km²
Continent: Africa
Neighboring Countries: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe

The eighth-largest landlocked country in the world is Zambia, which has a land area of more than 750,000 square kilometers. This also puts it 39th on the list of the largest countries in the world.

Located in Eastern Africa, it is surrounded in a clockwise direction by the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the north, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. 

The population of Zambia is estimated at about 19.6 million and is concentrated around the capital city, Lusaka in the south and the mineral-rich Copperbelt Province in the north. The reason for this is that these are the country’s core economic hubs. The UN may define Zambia as a Landlocked Developing Country, but it has managed to achieve a positive balance of trade due to its mining industry.

Zambia’s landscape is largely made up of tableland, interspersed with hills and mountains that line river valleys. The most notable of Zambia’s rivers are Africa’s fourth-longest river, the Zambezi, and the Kalambo River, which forms part of Zambia’s border with Tanzania. The Kalambo also has Kalambo Falls, Africa’s second-highest uninterrupted waterfall after Tugela Falls.

9. Afghanistan

Area: 652,230 km²
Continent: Asia
Neighboring Countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

Afghanistan is the ninth-largest landlocked country in the world, covering just over 650,000 square kilometers. Roughly the size of Texas, it is the 41st-largest of all the world’s countries.

Nicknamed the “Heart of Asia”, Afghanistan is located in Southern Asia, surrounded by the countries of  Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, China to the east, Pakistan to the south, and Iran to the west.

Afghanistan’s population is estimated at just over 33.3 million, with around 26 percent of people living in the country’s towns and cities and 74 percent living in rural areas.

Again, Afghanistan’s geography is varied. It mainly consists of mountains and tablelands but also has grasslands, forests, deserts, and tundras. While there are multiple rivers and reservoirs, the country is mostly dry. Earthquakes occur almost annually in the Hindu Kush mountain range, causing landslides and — during the winter — avalanches.

10. South Sudan

Area: 644,329 km²
Continent: Africa
Neighboring Countries: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda

The tenth spot on this list goes to South Sudan for its land area, which spans more than 644,000 square kilometers.

South Sudan is situated in Eastern Africa, sharing borders with Sudan to the north, Ethiopia to the east, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south, and the Central African Republic to the west. 

The country’s population of just over 11.5 million consists of around 60 indigenous ethnic groups who speak around 80 different languages.

South Sudan is covered in grassy savannas, wetlands, floodplains, tropical forests, and high-altitude plateaus. The White Nile River flows through the country, passing by Juba, South Sudan’s capital. Bandingilo National Park hosts one of the world’s largest wildlife migrations in the world, with Boma National Park, Southern National Park, and the Sudd wetland providing habitats for large populations of lions, giraffes, buffalo, and elephants.

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