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Geography - note

This page shows the value of the Geography - note information field for all countries in the Country Guide.

Notes on this field are available at the Information Field Notes page.

Afghanistan

landlocked

Albania

strategic location along Strait of Otranto (links Adriatic Sea to Ionian Sea and Mediterranean Sea)

Algeria

second-largest country in Africa (after Sudan)

American Samoa

Pago Pago has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the South Pacific Ocean, sheltered by shape from rough seas and protected by peripheral mountains from high winds; strategic location in the South Pacific Ocean

Andorra

landlocked

Angola

Cabinda is separated from rest of country by the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Antarctica

the coldest, windiest, highest (on average), and driest continent; during summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface at the South Pole than is received at the Equator in an equivalent period; mostly uninhabitable

Arctic Ocean

major chokepoint is the southern Chukchi Sea (northern access to the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Strait); strategic location between North America and Russia; shortest marine link between the extremes of eastern and western Russia; floating research stations operated by the US and Russia; maximum snow cover in March or April about 20 to 50 centimeters over the frozen ocean; snow cover lasts about 10 months

Argentina

second-largest country in South America (after Brazil); strategic location relative to sea lanes between South Atlantic and South Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage)

Armenia

landlocked

Ashmore and Cartier Islands

Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve established in August 1983

Atlantic Ocean

major chokepoints include the Dardanelles, Strait of Gibraltar, access to the Panama and Suez Canals; strategic straits include the Strait of Dover, Straits of Florida, Mona Passage, The Sound (Oresund), and Windward Passage; the Equator divides the Atlantic Ocean into the North Atlantic Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean

Australia

world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as "the Doctor" occurs along the west coast in the summer

Austria

landlocked; strategic location at the crossroads of central Europe with many easily traversable Alpine passes and valleys; major river is the Danube; population is concentrated on eastern lowlands because of steep slopes, poor soils, and low temperatures elsewhere

Azerbaijan

landlocked

Bahamas, The

strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba; extensive island chain

Bahrain

close to primary Middle Eastern petroleum sources; strategic location in Persian Gulf which much of Western world's petroleum must transit to reach open ocean

Baker Island

treeless, sparse, and scattered vegetation consisting of grasses, prostrate vines, and low growing shrubs; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

Barbados

easternmost Caribbean island

Belarus

landlocked

Belgium

crossroads of Western Europe; majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels which is the seat of both the EU and NATO

Belize

only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

Benin

no natural harbors

Bermuda

consists of about 360 small coral islands with ample rainfall, but no rivers or freshwater lakes; some land, reclaimed and otherwise, was leased by US Government from 1941 to 1995

Bhutan

landlocked; strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes

Bolivia

landlocked; shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m), with Peru

Bosnia and Herzegovina

within Bosnia and Herzegovina's recognized borders, the country is divided into a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation (about 51% of the territory) and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska [RS] (about 49% of the territory); the region called Herzegovina is contiguous to Croatia and traditionally has been settled by an ethnic Croat majority

Botswana

landlocked; population concentrated in eastern part of the country

Bouvet Island

covered by glacial ice; declared a nature reserve

Brazil

largest country in South America; shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador

British Indian Ocean Territory

archipelago of 2,300 islands; Diego Garcia, largest and southernmost island, occupies strategic location in central Indian Ocean; island is site of joint US-UK military facility

British Virgin Islands

strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

Brunei

close to vital sea lanes through South China Sea linking Indian and Pacific Oceans; two parts physically separated by Malaysia; almost an enclave of Malaysia

Bulgaria

strategic location near Turkish Straits; controls key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia

Burkina Faso

landlocked

Burundi

landlocked; straddles crest of the Nile-Congo watershed

Cambodia

a land of paddies and forests dominated by the Mekong River and Tonle Sap

Cameroon

sometimes referred to as the hinge of Africa

Canada

second-largest country in world (after Russia); strategic location between Russia and US via north polar route; nearly 90% of the population is concentrated within 160 km of the US/Canada border

Cape Verde

strategic location 500 km from west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; important sea and air refueling site

Cayman Islands

important location between Cuba and Central America

Central African Republic

landlocked; almost the precise center of Africa

Chad

landlocked; Lake Chad is the most significant water body in the Sahel

Chile

strategic location relative to sea lanes between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage); Atacama Desert is one of world's driest regions

China

world's fourth-largest country (after Russia, Canada, and US)

Christmas Island

located along major sea lanes of Indian Ocean

Clipperton Island

reef about 8 km in circumference

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

two coral atolls thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation

Colombia

only South American country with coastlines on both North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea

Comoros

important location at northern end of Mozambique Channel

Congo, Democratic Republic of the

straddles Equator; very narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo river and is only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean; dense tropical rain forest in central river basin and eastern highlands

Congo, Republic of the

about 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railroad between them

Coral Sea Islands

important nesting area for birds and turtles

Croatia

controls most land routes from Western Europe to Aegean Sea and Turkish Straits

Cuba

largest country in Caribbean

Czech Republic

landlocked; strategically located astride some of oldest and most significant land routes in Europe; Moravian Gate is a traditional military corridor between the North European Plain and the Danube in central Europe

Denmark

controls Danish Straits (Skagerrak and Kattegat) linking Baltic and North Seas; about one-quarter of the population lives in Copenhagen

Djibouti

strategic location near world's busiest shipping lanes and close to Arabian oilfields; terminus of rail traffic into Ethiopia; mostly wasteland

Dominican Republic

shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti (eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic, western one-third is Haiti)

Ecuador

Cotopaxi in Andes is highest active volcano in world

Egypt

controls Sinai Peninsula, only land bridge between Africa and remainder of Eastern Hemisphere; controls Suez Canal, shortest sea link between Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea; size, and juxtaposition to Israel, establish its major role in Middle Eastern geopolitics

El Salvador

smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on Caribbean Sea

Equatorial Guinea

insular and continental regions rather widely separated

Eritrea

strategic geopolitical position along world's busiest shipping lanes; Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon de jure independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993

Ethiopia

landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993

Europa Island

wildlife sanctuary

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)

deeply indented coast provides good natural harbors; short growing season

Faroe Islands

archipelago of 17 inhabited islands and one uninhabited island, and a few uninhabited islets; strategically located along important sea lanes in northeastern Atlantic; precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands

Fiji

includes 332 islands of which approximately 110 are inhabited

Finland

long boundary with Russia; Helsinki is northernmost national capital on European continent; population concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain

France

largest West European nation; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral

French Guiana

mostly an unsettled wilderness

French Polynesia

includes five archipelagoes; Makatea in French Polynesia is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru

French Southern and Antarctic Lands

remote location in the southern Indian Ocean

Gambia, The

almost an enclave of Senegal; smallest country on the continent of Africa

Gaza Strip

there are 24 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Gaza Strip (August 1999 est.)

Germany

strategic location on North European Plain and along the entrance to the Baltic Sea

Ghana

Lake Volta is the world's largest artificial lake; northeasterly harmattan wind (January to March)

Gibraltar

strategic location on Strait of Gibraltar that links the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea

Greece

strategic location dominating the Aegean Sea and southern approach to Turkish Straits; a peninsular country, possessing an archipelago of about 2,000 islands

Greenland

dominates North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe; sparse population confined to small settlements along coast; world's second largest ice cap

Grenada

the administration of the islands of the Grenadines group is divided between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada

Guam

largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands archipelago; strategic location in western North Pacific Ocean

Guatemala

no natural harbors on west coast

Guernsey

large, deepwater harbor at Saint Peter Port

Haiti

shares island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)

Heard Island and McDonald Islands

primarily used for research stations

Holy See (Vatican City)

urban; landlocked; enclave of Rome, Italy; world's smallest state; outside the Vatican City, 13 buildings in Rome and Castel Gandolfo (the pope's summer residence) enjoy extraterritorial rights

Hong Kong

more than 200 islands

Howland Island

almost totally covered with grasses, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs; small area of trees in the center; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

Hungary

landlocked; strategic location astride main land routes between Western Europe and Balkan Peninsula as well as between Ukraine and Mediterranean basin

Iceland

strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

India

dominates South Asian subcontinent; near important Indian Ocean trade routes

Indian Ocean

major chokepoints include Bab el Mandeb, Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca, southern access to the Suez Canal, and the Lombok Strait

Indonesia

archipelago of 17,000 islands (6,000 inhabited); straddles Equator; strategic location astride or along major sea lanes from Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean

Ireland

strategic location on major air and sea routes between North America and northern Europe; over 40% of the population resides within 97 km of Dublin

Israel

there are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 24 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 1999 est.)

Italy

strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe

Jamaica

strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for Panama Canal

Jan Mayen

barren volcanic island with some moss and grass

Japan

strategic location in northeast Asia

Jarvis Island

sparse bunch grass, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

Jersey

largest and southernmost of Channel Islands; about 30% of population concentrated in Saint Helier

Johnston Atoll

strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean; Johnston Island and Sand Island are natural islands, which have been expanded by coral dredging; North Island (Akau) and East Island (Hikina) are manmade islands formed from coral dredging; closed to the public; former US nuclear weapons test site; site of Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS); some low-growing vegetation

Juan de Nova Island

wildlife sanctuary

Kazakhstan

landlocked

Kenya

the Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa; glaciers on Mt. Kenya; unique physiography supports abundant and varied wildlife of scientific and economic value

Kingman Reef

barren coral atoll with deep interior lagoon; closed to the public

Kiribati

20 of the 33 islands are inhabited; Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Makatea in French Polynesia, and Nauru

Korea, North

strategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated

Kuwait

strategic location at head of Persian Gulf

Kyrgyzstan

landlocked

Laos

landlocked

Lebanon

Nahr al Litani only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity

Lesotho

landlocked; surrounded by South Africa

Liechtenstein

along with Uzbekistan, one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world; variety of microclimatic variations based on elevation

Luxembourg

landlocked

Macau

essentially urban; one causeway and two bridges connect the two islands of Coloane and Taipa to the peninsula on mainland

Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of

landlocked; major transportation corridor from Western and Central Europe to Aegean Sea and Southern Europe to Western Europe

Madagascar

world's fourth-largest island; strategic location along Mozambique Channel

Malawi

landlocked

Malaysia

strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea

Maldives

1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); archipelago of strategic location astride and along major sea lanes in Indian Ocean

Mali

landlocked

Malta

the country comprises an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, Ghawdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited; numerous bays provide good harbors

Man, Isle of

one small islet, the Calf of Man, lies to the southwest, and is a bird sanctuary

Marshall Islands

two archipelagic island chains of 30 atolls and 1,152 islands; Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, is now used as a US missile test range

Mauritania

most of the population concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country

Mayotte

part of Comoro Archipelago; 18 islands

Mexico

strategic location on southern border of US

Micronesia, Federated States of

four major island groups totaling 607 islands

Midway Islands

a coral atoll managed as a national wildlife refuge and open to the public for wildlife-related recreation in the form of wildlife observation and photography, sport fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving

Moldova

landlocked

Monaco

second smallest independent state in world (after Holy See); almost entirely urban

Mongolia

landlocked; strategic location between China and Russia

Morocco

strategic location along Strait of Gibraltar

Myanmar

strategic location near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes

Nauru

Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia; only 53 km south of Equator

Navassa Island

strategic location 160 km south of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; mostly exposed rock, but enough grassland to support goat herds; dense stands of fig-like trees, scattered cactus

Nepal

landlocked; strategic location between China and India; contains eight of world's 10 highest peaks

Netherlands

located at mouths of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde)

New Zealand

about 80% of the population lives in cities

Niger

landlocked

Niue

one of world's largest coral islands

Northern Mariana Islands

strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean

Norway

about two-thirds mountains; some 50,000 islands off its much indented coastline; strategic location adjacent to sea lanes and air routes in North Atlantic; one of most rugged and longest coastlines in world; Norway is the only NATO member having a land boundary with Russia

Oman

strategic location on Musandam Peninsula adjacent to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil

Pacific Ocean

the major chokepoints are the Bering Strait, Panama Canal, Luzon Strait, and the Singapore Strait; the Equator divides the Pacific Ocean into the North Pacific Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean; dotted with low coral islands and rugged volcanic islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean

Pakistan

controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent

Palau

includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous rock islands; archipelago of six island groups totaling over 200 islands in the Caroline chain

Palmyra Atoll

about 50 islets covered with dense vegetation, coconut trees, and balsa-like trees up to 30 meters tall

Panama

strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean

Papua New Guinea

shares island of New Guinea with Indonesia; one of world's largest swamps along southwest coast

Paraguay

landlocked; lies between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil

Peru

shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake, with Bolivia

Poland

historically, an area of conflict because of flat terrain and the lack of natural barriers on the North European Plain

Portugal

Azores and Madeira Islands occupy strategic locations along western sea approaches to Strait of Gibraltar

Puerto Rico

important location along the Mona Passage - a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal; San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean; many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north

Qatar

strategic location in central Persian Gulf near major petroleum deposits

Romania

controls most easily traversable land route between the Balkans, Moldova, and Ukraine

Russia

largest country in the world in terms of area but unfavorably located in relation to major sea lanes of the world; despite its size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture

Rwanda

landlocked; predominantly rural population

Saint Helena

harbors at least 40 species of plants unknown anywhere else in the world; Ascension is a breeding ground for sea turtles and sooty terns

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

vegetation scanty

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

the administration of the islands of the Grenadines group is divided between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada

San Marino

landlocked; smallest independent state in Europe after the Holy See and Monaco; dominated by the Apennines

Saudi Arabia

extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal

Senegal

The Gambia is almost an enclave of Senegal

Serbia and Montenegro

controls one of the major land routes from Western Europe to Turkey and the Near East; strategic location along the Adriatic coast

Seychelles

40 granitic and about 50 coralline islands

Singapore

focal point for Southeast Asian sea routes

Slovakia

landlocked

Somalia

strategic location on Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal

South Africa

South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

the north coast of South Georgia has several large bays, which provide good anchorage; reindeer, introduced early in this century, live on South Georgia

Southern Ocean

the major chokepoint is the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica; the Polar Front (Antarctic Convergence) is the best natural definition of the northern extent of the Southern Ocean; it is a distinct region at the middle of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that separates the very cold polar surface waters to the south from the warmer waters to the north; the Front and the Current extend entirely around Antarctica, reaching south of 60 degrees south near New Zealand and near 48 degrees south in the far South Atlantic coinciding with the path of the maximum westerly winds

Spain

strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar

Spratly Islands

strategically located near several primary shipping lanes in the central South China Sea; includes numerous small islands, atolls, shoals, and coral reefs

Sri Lanka

strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes

Sudan

largest country in Africa; dominated by the Nile and its tributaries

Suriname

mostly tropical rain forest; great diversity of flora and fauna that, for the most part, is increasingly threatened by new development; relatively small population, most of which lives along the coast

Svalbard

northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway; consists of nine main islands; glaciers and snowfields cover 60% of the total area

Swaziland

landlocked; almost completely surrounded by South Africa

Sweden

strategic location along Danish Straits linking Baltic and North Seas

Switzerland

landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France and northern Italy, contains the highest elevations in Europe

Syria

there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 1999 est.)

Tajikistan

landlocked

Tanzania

Kilimanjaro is highest point in Africa

Thailand

controls only land route from Asia to Malaysia and Singapore

Tonga

archipelago of 170 islands (36 inhabited)

Tromelin Island

climatologically important location for forecasting cyclones; wildlife sanctuary

Tunisia

strategic location in central Mediterranean

Turkey

strategic location controlling the Turkish Straits (Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles) that link Black and Aegean Seas

Turkmenistan

landlocked

Turks and Caicos Islands

30 islands (eight inhabited)

Uganda

landlocked

Ukraine

strategic position at the crossroads between Europe and Asia; second-largest country in Europe

United Arab Emirates

strategic location along southern approaches to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil

United Kingdom

lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and now linked by tunnel under the English Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters

United States

world's third-largest country (after Russia and Canada)

Uzbekistan

along with Liechtenstein, one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world

Venezuela

on major sea and air routes linking North and South America

Virgin Islands

important location along the Anegada Passage - a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural, deepwater harbors in the Caribbean

Wake Island

strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean; emergency landing location for transpacific flights

Wallis and Futuna

both island groups have fringing reefs

West Bank

landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel's coastal aquifers; there are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 1999 est.)

Yemen

strategic location on Bab el Mandeb, the strait linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, one of world's most active shipping lanes

Zambia

landlocked

Zimbabwe

landlocked
 

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