For the 50+ Traveler

These countries may not be big, but they are still mighty! Each location has something that makes it worth visiting and definitely worth learning about. These micro nations all have interesting stories. Maybe one of them will inspire your next getaway.

1. Vatican City

You may or may not be surprised, but the smallest country in the world is actually Vatican City. And, yes, it is an official country. It covers only .17 square miles. That makes it about one-eighth the size of Central Park in New York City. The Vatican is, of course, located in the middle of Italy's capital city of Rome.

According to World Population Review, the current population of Vatican City is 801. This is up from the recorded population in 2017, which was 792. Of the 800 people who currently live here, around 450 of them are official citizens. You can only be granted an official citizenship if you are a Swiss Guard, a Cardinal who resides in Vatican City or in Rome, a diplomat of the Holy See, or someone who lives in Vatican City because of their service.

Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy with Pope Francis at its head. And despite being the smallest country on Earth, it is home to the biggest church in the world -- the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica.

Vatican City
Vatican City. Unsplash / Nils

2. Monaco

Monaco has earned itself the title of second smallest country in the world, coming in at .78 square miles. It is located on the French Riviera, surrounded on three sides by France and on the fourth side by the Mediterranean Sea. It is home to the largest number of millionaires and billionaires in the world per capita. Because of that fact, it is known as essentially a giant (or not so giant) playground for the rich and famous. The population comes in at just over 38,000 people, which actually makes it the most densely populated country in the world. If you're big on gambling, this is the place to do it because it's home to the legendary Monte Carlo Casino. One of the most popular events that happens annually in Monaco is the Formula One race, also known as the Monaco Grand Prix. The course is laid out through the streets of Monaco, which makes it more exciting in comparison to other races.

3. Nauru

The third smallest country in the world is Nauru, formerly known as Pleasant Island. It is indeed an island nation, located east of Australia, with a total area is 8.1 square miles. That makes it the smallest island country in the world. Its population currently sits at around 13,000 people. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nauru had one of the highest per-capita incomes for any sovereign state in the world. But in the 1980s, its phosphate resources were depleted by an intense increase in strip mining operations. The country lost its economic value when the mining exhausted its resources and destroyed its environment. Consequently, Nauru had to start relying more heavily on Australia. Now, it is mainly a quiet and peaceful place that stays off the radar of most tourists.

Nauru sunset

4. Tuvalu

The fourth smallest country in the world is another island in Polynesia. Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellis Islands, can be found in the Pacific Ocean, northeast of Australia. Its total area is 10 square miles and its population of approximately 11,000 people. The country was once a British territory, but gained its independence and became an independent country in 1978. Tuvalu has its own Tuvaluan language which is related to other Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian and Tahitian. Because of its far-off location, Tuvalu is not a common destination for vacationers. In 2010, it was recorded that less than 2,000 visitors came to the country and a majority of them came for business. This would make Tuvalu the perfect place to go if you're looking for a super secluded island getaway.

5. San Marino

San Marino makes the list at number five. It covers 24 square miles and its population is a little bit over 33,000 people. It is surrounded entirely by Italy, which makes it an enclaved micro state, but it's still technically its own country. San Marino is located on the northeastern side of the Apennine Mountains on the Italian peninsula. Its economy, which relies mainly on finance, industry, services, and tourism helps make it one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita. It is also known for having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world and holds the title of being the oldest sovereign state still in existence. The land is covered with picturesque cliff-top castles that make it look like something right out of a historical movie or fairytale.

San Marino castle hilltop

6. Liechtenstein

A tiny country with a long name is a bit like a large man in a tiny birthday hat.

If you've never heard of Liechtenstein, that's unsurprising. This beautiful landlocked principality is both small (61 square miles give or take) and tough to reach. Not only does it not have its own international airport, it's also wholly located in the Alps, sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria. It's no wonder Liechtenstein is one of the least-visited countries in Europe, charm and beauty notwithstanding.

Its 37,000 inhabitants get to enjoy spectacular medieval architecture (Liechtenstein is the last surviving principality of the Holy Roman Empire), and secluded alpine vistas beyond compare. Plus Liechtenstein is one of the wealthiest countries in the world per capita. The country is famous (or, rather, infamous) for its ask-no-questions approach to banking, a fact which has attracted plenty of business.

7. The Marshall Islands

Clocking in at 70 square miles, the Marshall Islands take small and remote to whole new levels. This country is both small and spread out; since their homeland is comprised of more than 1,100 separate islands, the 53,000 residents have plenty of room to breathe. Being in the middle of the Pacific helps too, as the Marshall Islands are approximately halfway between Hawaii and Southeast Asia.

The Marshall Islands have an interesting relationship with the United States. Although technically independent, they have an agreement of "free association", meaning the U.S. sees to the islands' defence, and Marshallese are able to work in the U.S. if they wish.

One person on beach in the Marshall Islands, palm trees in the background.
A beach day in the Marshall Islands.

8. Saint Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis is the smallest country in the western hemisphere, and the least populous. Located in the southeastern Caribbean, the country is made up of two main islands: Saint Kitts and -- you guessed it! -- Nevis. The 54,000+ Kittitians and Nevisians have been independent of the UK since 1983, but they remain in the Commonwealth.

The islands are noted for their exceptional bird-watching since they're home to several rare and unusual species. Perhaps even more famous are the wild vervet monkeys, which some say were first brought to the island by pirates. A sighting is quite likely if you visit, but keep an eye on your drink: some of these monkeys are quite partial to cocktails.

9. The Maldives

The Maldives may be one of the smallest nations on earth, but it's also one of the most beautiful. Even if you've never heard of the Maldives or couldn't find it on a map, you've surely seen pictures of its thatched huts connected by wooden boardwalks, all suspended above surreally turquoise waters. As if the place weren't already beautiful enough, one of the islands also features bioluminescent plankton that washes up on the beach, creating a spectacular glow-in-the-dark effect.

It's little wonder more than 400,000 people live in a space covering only 115 square miles worth of the Indian Ocean.

The Maldives is truly something to see, but if you're planning to go, sooner is probably better than later. This archipelago is only about 2 meters above sea level on average, so global warming may well wipe it off the face of the earth in the coming decades as ice caps melt and water levels begin to rise.

Woman on the beach at night, surrounded by bioluminescent plankton
The Maldives' glow-in-the-dark plankton. Unsplash / Kevin Wolf

10. Malta

We have another famous one to round out the top ten. Malta is 122 square miles of history, architecture, and culture, smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean between Sicily and Libya. With a population of around 475,000, its three inhabited islands are quite densely populated -- at least on average.

Malta is home to some of the world's oldest ruins. Its rather mysterious, ancient temples -- some of which predate the pyramids -- bear witness to the fact that humans have been living on these islands for at least 5,600 years. The island is rife with more recent history too, including old crusade-era forts, and the beautiful 16th century city of Valetta which was largely built by the Knights Hospitaller. Pains have been taken to preserve this fascinating legacy of multi-national influence.

There you have it: the ten smallest countries in the world. While they may be short on space, they're not short on charm, hospitality, or history. Happy trails!