Which Country Has the Most Islands? (And Runners-Up!)

The world is home to thousands of islands. Some are huge countries like Greenland. Meanwhile, others are tiny and unpopulated. Many of us picture islands as tropical paradises, but there are plenty of isles that are rocky and cold outpoints. But which country has the most islands? That is the travel trivia question! Take a guess and then read on to learn the answer and discover why you should plan an island vacation in these intriguing destinations.

Which country has the most islands?
Which country has the most islands? (Photo credit: shalamov, Depositphotos.com)

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1. Sweden

Sweden holds the record as the country with the most islands. In fact, there are over 270,000 islands in the country according to Statistics Sweden. Most of these, while beautiful, are uninhabited islands. Many of these join together to form archipelagos (collections of islands).

Among the most popular spots for island lovers in Sweden are the Gothenburg Archipelago and Stockholm Archipelago. Along the southeast coast of the country, holidaymakers love Öland for its white sandy beaches, shallow waters, and abundance of windmills. Personally, for a getaway not far from Stockholm, I recommend a few days of fresh air and delicious cuisine in lakefront Sigtuna with a view of tiny Tree Island in its center.

Islet  in Sigtuna, Sweden
Tree Island in Sigtuna, Sweden (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Norway

Because Norway does not count rocky islets as neighboring Sweden does, this country comes in second place with just over 239,000 islands. According to some sources, however, Norway actually holds more islands than Sweden. For both countries, most of these islands are located in the Arctic Circle.

The most famous isles in Norway are the Lofoten Islands in the Land of the Midnight Sun in summer and very chilly weather in winter months. Travelers flock to this region of Norway for outdoor adventures like biking, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and even Arctic surfing. The primary draw, though, is the stunning Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights can be viewed typically from late-August to mid-April each year.

Aurora Borealis over the Lofoten Islands in Norway
Aurora Borealis over the Lofoten Islands in Norway (Photo credit: DmitryRukhlenko, Depositphotos.com)

3. Finland

Finland’s Ministry of Employment and the Economy states that Finland is home to nearly 180,000 islands. (As someone who is primarily Finnish in heritage, I would brag about Finland’s islands if Finns ever bragged about anything.) This large number of islands includes over 98,000 freshwater islands and nearly 81,000 sea islands.

When I traveled solo through my grandparents’ homeland years ago, I struck up a conversation with a Finnish man during a train journey and he convinced me to spend a few days in Finland’s Lake District. I’m so glad I took his advice! The bountiful green islands scattered among the cobalt-blue lakes were a sight to behold and reminded me of my childhood home, Minnesota.

Islands in Finland
Islands in Finland (Photo credit: nblxer, Depositphotos.com)

4. Canada

It makes sense that a country with a large landmass and expansive coastline would be home to a lot of islands. In fact, Canada is the second largest country by total area and boasts the longest coastline in the world. It should come as no surprise, then, that there are nearly 52,500 islands in Canada.

It is estimated there are over 30,000 islands just along the eastern shore of Georgian Bay (a.k.a. The Thirty Thousand Islands).

Vancouver Island along the Pacific Coast in British Columbia makes an enticing holiday choice for families. It’s home to attractions like the renowned rock-quarry-turned-botanic garden named Butchart Gardens as well as pretty beaches, a famous afternoon tea, and spectacular whale watching. Discover the best things to do in Vancouver Island with kids.

Three killer whales off the shores of Vancouver Island
Three killer whales off the shores of Vancouver Island (Photo credit: JuRitt, Depositphotos.com)

5. United States of America

Coming in fifth place, the United States contains over 18,500 islands. In fact, Alaska alone has 2,600+ islands.

In addition to a multitude of smaller inland lake islands and coastal islands along both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the USA is home to numerous large islands in its territories and states. These include the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Hawaiian Islands, among others.

Hawaii’s volcanic islands are what many of us have in mind when we dream of an idyllic island vacation. These popular islands possess beautiful beaches, plentiful tourist attractions, and lots of outdoor adventures like horse riding and snorkeling.

The largest island in the U.S. is the Big Island of Hawaii. It encompasses over 4,000 square miles and is home to the amazing Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Oceanview from the Big Island of Hawaii
Oceanview from the Big Island of Hawaii in the U.S. (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Island Number Debate

There is some debate about which country has the most islands. Part of the cause for confusion is that there is no international standard of size to differentiate an island from an islet. Typically, very small islands that cover less than one acre are considered islets, not notable islands.

Additionally, it is difficult to count all islands for countries with vast coastlines. Plus, sadly with climate change and rising sea levels, this list of countries with the most islands may change over time.

Most western state in USA
Most western state in USA

More Travel Trivia Questions

If you liked learning about the country with the most islands, then challenge yourself with these additional travel trivia questions!

Learn which U.S. state is the farthest west. (The answer might surprise you!)

Discover where apple pie was invented and take a bite of some delicious international pie recipes.

Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys
Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys (Photo credit: Hawks Cay)

Explore Island Vacation Ideas

Find out fun things to do at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys.

Get tips for visiting Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

Read about the best beach resorts for families all around the world.

Enjoy exciting island activities like snorkeling with sea lions and blue whale watching in the Loreto National Marine Park. Learn more with this list of things to do in Loreto, Mexico.

Which country has the most islands?

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Were you surprised to learn that Sweden is the country with the most islands? What was your guess? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. its clearly antarctica guys. with the continent splitting apart, there are approximately 525,125 islands

  2. In Norway we have differen`t names of what`s pops up from the ocen. Is it an iceland if its submerged under the ocean during tide?
    How about a rock thats sticks upp from a river? And when it stops raining? Small Iceland`s in Norway is called holme or skjær dipending on its shape.

  3. what is an island? surrounded by water with at least one tree. Canada has many surrounded by water land, but the country is so cold that most of its lands are covered with ice and have no tree. So technically, they are not islands.

  4. Indonesia has 17508 “proper” islands of which around 6000 are inhabited and 922 are permanently inhabited. If Indonesia where to count every rock jutting out of the ocean as an island they would outnumber those of all the other countries mentioned above. Perhaps when judging which country has the most islands, the true measure should be on “permanently inhabited” islands.

  5. Sweden has 221,800 islands according to a study in 2001. The count was conducted by their official statistics agency. Google it. 🙂

    1. Hi Jeppe – Thank you for weighing in. According to my Google search, everything says the count could be as high as 221,800 and as low as 24,000. In any case…a lot of islands!

  6. its canada. they have at least 300,000 islands, and several thousand that are not accounted for. the canadian arctic archipelago is considered the largest archipelago in the world, with over 36,000 islands stretched over 1,424,500 km2 . just one relatively small bay in one lake in southern canada has 30,000 islands. its coastline is four times longer than any other country and is completely littered with islands. the problem is that canada is a huge, hulking country, the second largest in the world, but its population is among the lowest in the world. much of the country is uninhabited wilderness, and no one has ever bothered to calculate the enormous number of canadas islands, or lakes, waterfalls, mountains or bays for that matter.