10 largest islands in the world

Top 10 Largest Islands in the World

Islands are defined by sub-continental land mass that is entirely surrounded by water. Islands come in different shapes, sizes, and locations. The most common type of islands are the continental islands, which lie on the continental shelf and therefore represent just above water parts of the continent itself. Oceanic islands, on the other hand, do not lie on the continental shelf and are usually volcanic in origin. Lastly, there are also tropical islands, which form from coral reefs.

The following list ranks the ten largest islands in the world by size of the land area. (Note that only islands are included in the ranking, continents such as Australia are not).

The 10 Largest Islands in the World

10 largest islands in the world
Archipelago of Palau
Photo Credit: LuxTonnerre / CC BY 2.0

1. Greenland

greenland - largest island in the world

Island size: 2,130,800 km² / 822,700 sq mi

Location: North America (between the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean)
Population: 57,000
Part of: Denmark

Greenland is the largest island in the world. With a land mass area of 2,130,800 km² / 822,700 square miles, Greenland spans across both the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean. While located in North America and largely autonomous, Greenland officially belongs to the Kingdom of Denmark. Despite its huge size, which makes it larger than the vast majority of countries around the world, only around 57,000 people live on the entire island.

Around 80% of the island is covered with the world’s only permanent ice sheet outside of Antarctica. Why it is called Greenland then? That’s how the Vikings named the island after discovering it in the 10th Century. The settlements began in summer and Greenland used to be a lot greener back then. The name may have also been chosen for propaganda reasons by the Norwegian-born Viking Erik the Red to attract more settlers to the island.


2. New Guinea

new guinea - second largest island in the world

Island size: 785,753 km² / 303,381 sq mi

Location: Oceania (Southwestern Pacific Ocean)
Population: ~ 11 million
Part of: Papua New Guinea / Indonesia

Just north of the country of Australia lies the world’s second-largest island, New Guinea. Part of the Australian continent, New Guinea has a total area size of 785,753 km² / 303,381 square miles. The name of the island was given by the Spanish explorers who arrived on the island in the 16th Century. They saw big similarities between the island’s dark-skinned native population and the people of Guinea in Africa, hence called the island Nueva Guinea a.k.a. New Guinea.

Today, New Guinea is politically divided almost exactly down the middle: The Western half belongs to Indonesia, and the Eastern half belongs to the independent country of Papua New Guinea. More than 11 million people live on the island in total. The island is largely covered and characterized by the New Guinea Rainforest, which is the third-largest forest in the world. The island is also the world’s highest island in terms of peak elevation.


3. Borneo

largest islands in the world - third

Island size: 748,168 km² / 288,869 sq mi

Location: Southeast Asia (Pacific Ocean)
Population: ~ 23 million
Part of: Indonesia / Malaysia / Brunei

Borneo comes third among the largest islands in the world. At the same time, it is the largest island in Asia. The island has an area size of 748,168 km² / 288,869 square miles and lies in the Southeast Asian part of the Pacific Ocean. It is also part of the Greater Sunda archipelago.

The island today is home to over 23 million people. It is politically split between three countries: The biggest part, around 73%, belongs to Indonesia. Malaysia owns 26% and the rest 1% comprises the entire territory of the independent state of Brunei, which the island is named after.


4. Madagascar

madagascar largest island in africa

Island size: 587,041 km² / 226,658 sq mi

Location: East Africa (Indian Ocean)
Population: ~ 25 million
Part of: Madagascar

With an area size of 587,041 km² / 226,658 square miles, Madagascar is the largest island in Africa, the largest island in the Indian Ocean as well as the fourth largest island in the world. It is also the world’s oldest island, having formed around 90 million years ago. Madagascar got its name through a mistake in the 13th Century: Italian explorer Marco Polo mistook the island coast for Mogadishu (the capital of modern-day Somalia on the East African mainland, known as “Magadazo” back then) and wrongly transliterated it as “Madageiscar” which eventually turned into the current official name.

The entire island of Madagascar today belongs to the country of the same name, making Madagascar the second largest island state in the world (after Indonesia, whose territory consists of several islands, however). Around 25 million people live in and on Madagascar today.


5. Baffin Island

Island size: 507,451 km² / 195,928 sq mi

Location: North America (Arctic Ocean)
Population: ~ 13,000
Part of: Canada

In Northern North America, southwest of the coast of Greenland, lies Baffin Island, the world’s fifth-largest island. It has a land area size of 507,451 km² / 195,928 sq miles and is part of the Arctic archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The island is named after British explorer William Baffin, who arrived on the island in the 17th Century (though the island was already inhabited by Inuits and previously explored by the Vikings in the 10th Century).

Today, Baffin Island is part of Canada and as such, the country’s by far largest island. Only a bit more than 13,000 people live within the huge island area, however.


6. Sumatra

Island size: 443,066 km² / 182,812 sq mi

Location: Southeast Asia (Pacific Ocean)
Population: ~ 60 million
Part of: Indonesia

Sumatra comes sixth among the largest islands in the world with a total size of 443,066 km² / 182,812 sq mi. The island is located in the Southeast Asian part of the Pacific Ocean, just southwest off the coast of the Malay Peninsula. It is also part of the Greater Sunda archipelago. The name stems from the Sanskrit word “Suwarnadwīpa”, which translates to “Island of Gold”, referring to the many gold deposits the island possessed in the past.

Today, Sumatra wholly belongs to Indonesia, making it the country’s largest island area by size and second-largest by population. Around 60 million people on Sumatra currently.


7. Honshu

Island size: 225,800 km² / 87,200 sq mi

Location: East Asia (Sea of Japan / Pacific Ocean)
Population: ~ 104 million
Part of: Japan

Honshu has a size of 225,800 km² / 87,200 sq mi, which places the island seventh among the largest islands in the world. The island is located in East Asia, surrounded by the Sea of Japan to its West and the Pacific Ocean to its East. It wholly belongs to Japan and forms the country’s main part, making it the second-most populated island on the planet. The island is also the by far biggest island of the Japanese archipelago to which it belongs.

The name of the island is Japanese and translates to “Main Province”. An apt name for Japan’s by far largest island both in terms of size and population. 104 million people, around 82% of Japan’s total population, live on the island of Honshu, which also includes Greater Tokyo, the most populous metropolitan area in the world.


8. Victoria Island

Island size: 217,291 km² / 83,897 sq mi

Location: North America (Arctic Ocean)
Population: ~ 2,200
Part of: Canada

Victoria Island is the eighth-largest island in the world with an area size of 217,291 km² / 83,897 sq mi. The island lies in Northern North America, surrounded by the Arctic Ocean, and is part of the Arctic archipelago. The island is named in honor of Queen Victoria, the Queen of the United Kingdom in much of the 19th Century, to which Canada also belonged as a colony.

Today, the island wholly belongs to Canada. Only around 2,200 people live on the island. The island also includes the world’s largest island within an island’s island.


9. Great Britain

Island size: 209,331 km² / 80,823 sq mi

Location: Europe (Atlantic Ocean / North Sea)
Population: ~ 66 million
Part of: United Kingdom

Great Britain is the ninth-largest island in the world and the largest island in Europe. It has a size of 209,331 km² / 80,823 sq mi, lying between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, which are connected through the narrow so-called English Channel to the southeast of the island. The name stems from the Latin name for the native inhabitants of the island when the Romans conquered most of it in the 1st Century: The Britons. The ‘Great’ part of the island’s name was to distinguish it from the smaller neighboring island, which is now known as Ireland, but back then was also referred to as (Little) Britain.

Great Britain entirely belongs to the United Kingdom, although it is split into three entities within the UK: England, Scotland, and Wales. Around 66 million people live on the island, making it by far the most populated island outside of Asia.


10. Ellesmere Island

Island size: 196,236 km² / 75,767 sq mi

Location: North America (Arctic Ocean)
Population: ~ 140
Part of: Canada

Ellesmere Island concludes the ranking of the ten largest islands in the world. With an area size of 196,236 km² / 75,767 sq mi, Ellesmere Island is another big island lying in the Arctic archipelago. Not only does the island also lie in Northern North America, but the island’s northernmost point also represents the northernmost point of Canada and one of the northernmost points on Earth. The Arctic island is named in honor of Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere, a British nobleman, politician, writer, and passionate traveler.

The island wholly belongs to Canada. The island is inhabited by around 140 people, making Ellesmere Island the most sparsely populated island among the largest islands in the world.


The 10 Largest Islands In the World

Top 10 Largest Islands in the World:
1. GREENLAND
2,130,800 km² / 822,700 sq mi
2. NEW GUINEA
785,753 km² / 303,381 sq mi
3. BORNEO
748,168 km² / 288,869 sq mi
4. MADAGASCAR
587,041 km² / 226,658 sq mi
5. BAFFIN ISLAND
507,451 km² / 195,928 sq mi
6. SUMATRA
443,066 km² / 182,812 sq mi
7. HONSHU
225,800 km² / 87,200 sq mi
8. VICTORIA ISLAND
217,291 km² / 83,897 sq mi
9. GREAT BRITAIN
209,331 km² / 80,823 sq mi
10. ELLESMERE ISLAND
196,236 km² / 75,767 sq mi
The ten largest islands in the world by size of the land area.
Continents and peninsulas are not counted in the ranking.


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