An island can officially be defined as a piece of land, area, or sub-continent that is surrounded by water. The Earth’s surface is consists of countless islands, which vary dramatically in size, shape, geography, and climate.
The smallest islands are called “islets.” These islands are composed of less than an acre of landmass above sea level. Meanwhile, some islands are so massive that they are easily visible from outer space.
So what are the world’s largest islands? Read on to find out.
The World’s Five Largest Islands
1. Greenland: 839,999 Square Miles
Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and with a population of only 56,438, this autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark is also the least densely populated territory on the planet.
The capital city is Nuuk and the island-country even has its own official language, Greenlandic. This language, otherwise known as Kalaallisut, is similar to the Inuit languages spoken in the North American Arctic.
Contrary to what its name implies, Greenland is not at all green. Rather, this massive northern landmass is known for its frigid sub-arctic temperatures, largely due to the fact that it is sandwiched between two frigid seas. It is home to a proliferation of glaciers and an immense stretch of tundra landscape. Eighty percent of Greenland is covered by an ice cap known as the Greenland Ice Sheet.
2. New Guinea: 303,381 Square Miles
New Guinea can be found in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. This massive island is divided between two different countries, Indonesia on the western side and Papua New Guinea on the eastern side.
Worldwide, New Guinea is known for its coral reefs and world-class diving. The landmass of New Guinea is largely composed of stunning mountain ranges, including Puncak Jaya, the highest peak in Oceania. It’s pleasant tropical climate hosts a wide array of biodiversity, including a host of reptiles, birds, and even a tree kangaroo. New Guinea is also home to vast mangroves.
3. Borneo: 288,869 Square Miles
Borneo is an island in the west mid-Pacific Ocean, and the land is split between three countries: Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia. However, a large bulk of the territory belongs to Indonesia.
Borneo is known worldwide for being home to the oldest rainforest on the planet, creating an ideal habitat for a range of rare and endangered species. Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Southeast Asia and is a popular destination among mountain climbers and adventurers because of its spectacular rainforest views.
The island is home to approximately 21 million people who belong to an impressive array of about 200 different cultures.
4. Madagascar: 226,917 Square Miles
This island-country, situated in the Indian Ocean, is known for its biodiversity and unique culture. Up to 90% of Madagascar’s exotic plant life cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. As such, it is a world-class destination for wildlife adventures.
There are 26.2 million human residents of Madagascar, known culturally as Malagasies.
5. Baffin Island: 194,595 Square Miles
This huge landmass can be found way up in the Canadian North Atlantic Ocean, straddling the Arctic Circle. It’s home to the city of Iqaluit, the capital of the Nunavut Territory of Northern Canada.
The island is so far north that its 11,000 or so residents get no break from extreme weather at any point during the year. For those who are willing to brave the cold, Baffin Island is home to stunning geography including numerous glaciers, tundra, and mountains. Between late June and early July, the island has almost 24 hours of sunlight a day, a phenomenon unique to polar geophysical regions known as the “midnight sun”.
An Honorable Mention …
Australia: 2,969,907 Square Miles
Anybody who looks at a map might be inclined to argue that Australia looks a lot like an island. It is, after all, a mass of land that is completely surrounded by water.
That said, there is a notable exception to the standard definition of what constitutes an island, and that is continents themselves. Since Australia is considered a continental landmass, it can’t officially be defined as an island.
However, Australia bears mentioning since if it were an island, it would easily be the world’s biggest island, being more than three times the size of Greenland. Incidentally, Australia is the world’s smallest continent.
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