Special Report

The 30 Least Densely Populated Countries in the World

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10. Libya
> Population density: 10 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 6,871,292 (22nd largest)
> Square miles: 679,359 (10th largest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 1.4% (24th slowest)

A country slightly larger than Alaska, Libya’s climate and landscape are Mediterranean along the coast but largely barren desert in the interior. Most of the population lives in coastal cities, as the desert is uninhabitable.

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9. Suriname
> Population density: 10 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 586,632 (11th smallest)
> Square miles: 60,232 (12th smallest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 1.0% (16th slowest)

Suriname is the smallest country in South America. About 90% of the population lives in Paramaribo, the capital city on the Atlantic Coast, or on the coast. Like its neighbor French Guiana, Suriname is largely covered in sparsely populated dense tropical rainforest.

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8. French Guiana
> Population density: 9 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 298,682 (7th smallest)
> Square miles: 31,737 (10th smallest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 2.7% (9th fastest)

A tropical country between Brazil and Suriname on the east coast of South America, French Guiana is the site of a former French penal colony. Its population is mostly clustered in coastal cities, with the dense rainforests of the interior largely uninhabited.

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7. Iceland
> Population density: 9 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 341,243 (9th smallest)
> Square miles: 38,707 (11th smallest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 0.7% (8th slowest)

Iceland, the second-largest island in Europe, is relatively isolated in the Atlantic Ocean, sitting just outside the Arctic Circle between Greenland and Scotland. The interior of the island has a harsh arctic climate, with the coastal areas being milder and more populated. Over 95% of Iceland’s population lives in urban areas along the coast.

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6. Australia
> Population density: 9 people per square mile
> Est. population 2020: 25,499,884 (9th largest)
> Square miles: 2,966,139 (4th largest)
> Population growth 2015-2020: 1.3% (21st slowest)

Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world, encompassing an area nearly the size of the 48 contiguous United States. The population is most dense in coastal regions, as the arid center of the country experiences prolonged periods of drought, deadly heat waves, and wild fires. Rising temperatures, a result of climate change, are worsening these conditions.