Landlocked Countries

Explained by Kids for Kids

There are 44 landlocked countries in the world. But what does 'landlocked' mean? Which countries are landlocked and where are they located? What makes a country 'landlocked'? 

Landlocked Country Facts

When is a country called 'landlocked'?

  • Independent countries are called landlocked if they are surrounded by another country or several countries and do not have access to an ocean
  • Some landlocked countries are surrounded only by one country, others share borders with two, three or more countries. Countries that are surrounded by only one country are called an 'enclave'. 

Where can we find landlocked countries?

  • Landlocked countries are only located on the African, Asian, European and South American continents. There are no landlocked countries in Australia/Oceania, North America and Antarctica.
  • South America has only two landlocked countries: Bolivia and Paraguay

Landlocked Countries
Superlatives

  • Africa is the continent with the most landlocked countries. These 16 countries are landlocked in Africa: Lesotho, Eswatini, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Botswana, Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, South Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Chad is the largest landlocked country on the African continent.
  • The largest landlocked country in the world is Kazakhstan in Asia. The country is roughly four times as big as Texas/USA or slightly smaller than Argentina.
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world
  • The smallest landlocked country is Vatican City which is the smallest country in the world.
  • The five smallest landlocked countries in the world are located in Europe: Vatican City, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Andorra and Luxembourg.

Then there are other fascinating geo superlatives for landlocked countries that should be noted:

La Paz in Bolivia is the highest capital city in the worldLa Paz is the highest capital city in the world
  • Bolivia is the country with the highest capital city in the world. La Paz is the highest capital city in the world and located 3,650 m/ 11,975 ft. above sea level. Bolivia shares lake Titicaca, which is the world's highest navigable lake at 3,805 m/ 12,483 ft. with Peru.
  • Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world - with 111 million people living in the African country.
  • Nepal, the largest country in the Himalayas, is home to the highest mountain in the world. Mount Everest is the world's highest peak, with 8,848 m or 29,028 ft. 
  • Zambia is said to be home to one of the largest waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls. The curtain of water is larger than any other waterfall if including the flow rate and other data. The waterfalls are also referred to as Mosi-oa-Tunya by the locals which means "the smoke that thunders." And the Victoria Falls are twice as high as the Niagara Falls!
  • Lesotho is the highest country in the world as the entire country is situated on an elevation above 1,400 m/ 3,280 ft. The highest peak of Lesotho “only” reaches 3,482 m/ 11,423 ft, but 80% of the county lie above 1,800 m/ 5,906 ft.
  • Vatican City, the world’s smallest independent country also has the world’s smallest population in a country with less than 1000 people living in this enclave in the Italian city of Rome.

Landlocked Countries | Enclaves

There are only three countries that are enclaves, which means they are landlocked by one country:

  • San Marino is completely surrounded by Italy
  • Vatican City is completely surrounded by Italy
  • Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa

Two countries are even double landlocked. This means the landlocked country is surrounded by another landlocked country:

  • Liechtenstein, which is a enclosed by the two landlocked countries Austria and Switzerland. These two countries are also landlocked and surrounded by other countries and do not have an ocean border.
  • Uzbekistan is surrounded by several landlocked countries: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Landlocked with 8 Borders

There are three landlocked countries which share borders with eight countries:

  • Austria in central Europe shares borders with Czech RepublicGermanyHungaryItalyLiechtensteinSlovakiaSlovenia, and Switzerland
  • Serbia in eastern Europe shares borders with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Romania
  • Zambia in southeastern Africa shares borders with Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe

Landlocked Countries and Economy

Landlocked countries have the disadvantage that they do not have access to the ocean and thus don’t participate in the marine economy. This means no fishing and no ports for the landlocked country and this means it is more difficult to trade due to higher transport costs for exports and imports. 

For this free ports and international river waterways have been created to allow transport links to ports in other countries. This is the case for example with Mekong River transport route for Laos or the Danube transport route for Austria and Hungary.

Cargo Ship on the Danube RiverCargo ship on the Danube River

Also there is an agreement that transport tax for transiting other countries for landlocked countries are exempted.

The UN recognises that 32 of the 44 landlocked countries are amongst the developing countries. Of these, 17 countries that are landlocked are even amongst the world’s least developed countries. These countries include also Afghanistan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zambia.

Landlocked Country Quiz
Test Your Knowledge

Now test your knowledge about the landlocked countries with these five easy questions:

  1. Which is the smallest landlocked country in the world? 
  2. Which is the largest landlocked country in the world? 
  3. Which three countries are surrounded by only one country? 
  4. Which continents do not have any landlocked countries? 
  5. Which continent has only two landlocked countries? 
  6. Which continent has the most landlocked countries?

Landlocked Countries | Answers

Answers to the landlocked country quiz above:

1. Vatican City, 2. Kazakhstan, 3. San Marino, Vatican City and Lesotho, 4. Australia and North America, 5. South America; 6. Africa

Landlocked Countries | Resources

United Nations. "Map of the least developed countries." UNCTAD. Last accessed 29 March 2020

United Nations. "List of Landlocked Developing Countries." UNCTAD. Last accessed 29 March 2020

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