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4 Large Countries With Surprisingly Few Residents
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December 5, 2019
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Travel Trivia Editorial
europe

It's often the populated countries that get the most attention. There's always something newsworthy happening in India, China, the United States, and Brazil because, well, there are a lot of people there doing a lot of things. Those are large countries, both in terms of land and population. However, not every large-in-land country is home to a lot of people. In fact, some of the countries with the most acreage have surprisingly few residents. Here are four of them.

Argentina

Organic vineyards near Mendoza in Argentina
Source: aaabbbccc/ Shutterstock

Argentina has a total area of 2,780,400 square kilometers and a population of 44,694,198 for a population density of 16 people per square kilometer.

Argentina ranks ninth in terms of area. It does have a higher population density than any other country on this list, however. But about a third of those residents live in the capital, Buenos Aires, where 13,680 people are packed into every square kilometer. That leaves a whole lot of gorgeous countryside where you might not see another person for a good part of your travels. You will probably see cows, though.

More than half of the country is used for agricultural purposes, which is how Argentina earned its reputation as a producer of fine steak and, of course, fine wine. Among Argentina's wine regions, Mendoza is the largest and probably the most well-known. The area, with its rich Andean soil and ideal grape-growing climate, accounts for about 70 percent of the country's wine production. You'll notice labels like Trapiche and Pampas del Sur in your local liquor store. Touring this wine region will keep you busy — and tipsy — for days.

Australia

The ground and hills of the West Macdonnell Ranges, Australia
Credit:TonyFeder/ iStock

Australia has a total area of 7,741,220 square kilometers and a population of 23,470,145. In terms of the whole country, that's a population density of 3.3 people per square kilometer.

It's not uncommon to meet an Australian when you travel to other destinations, so it's easy to think the country must be ready to burst at the seams. But that's not the case in the slightest.

Although it's home to large, well-known cities like Sydney (with a population of 5,230,330), Melbourne (4,963,349), and Brisbane (2,462,637), Australia is actually one of the least densely populated countries on the planet. Compare its more than 23 million people to the lower 48 United States, which is similar in size but is home to more than 300 million people.

If you take a look at the population grid offered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, you'll notice there's a whole lot of gray area. Gray stands for "no population" on this particular grid, and that's because snakes and kangaroos don't count. Otherwise, we're guessing the whole map would probably be red.

Australia's population increases around the coasts, especially the east coast, and it's no wonder. It's home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches and best surf. Large, multi-cultural cities like Sydney offer major transportation hubs, fantastic cultural activities, and a wide range of world-class hotels and culinary choices. The Outback, complete with its arid climate and wide selection of venomous wildlife, is more suited to adventure than daily living. Incredible hiking opportunities and scenic views are available for those who are willing to step around the snakes.

Mongolia

A road in the middle of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia
Credit: jaume/ Shutterstock

Mongolia has a total area of 1,564,116 square kilometers and a population of 3,103,428. That gives the country a population density of 2 people per square kilometer.

Mongolia ranks in the top 20 countries in the world by area — it's just a little smaller than Alaska — but it ranks 135 by population. With only two people per square kilometer, you can get even more privacy here than you can in Australia. It is a little more crowded in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, but the rest of the population is spread pretty evenly throughout the country. You also have to factor in the relatively uninhabited Gobi Desert, which Mongolia shares with China.

All of that space means you've got great opportunities for trekking and horseback riding. The country is actually home to more horses than people, and the Mongolian horse is a large part of the culture, heritage, and national pride. Breeding horses (as well as cattle, camels, sheep, and goats) is how many of the country's semi-nomadic people make a living. Also, horse racing is a favorite pastime. These animals, well-suited to the often harsh Mongolian climate, are used for traveling and hunting, as well.

Greenland

Colorful houses on the coast
Credit: Olga Gavrilova/ Shutterstock

Greenland has a total area of 2,166,086 square kilometers and a population of 57,691. The country averages a population density of .03 people per square kilometer.

We would make a list of towns in Connecticut that each have more people than the entire country of Greenland, but we'd be here all day. Greenland's vast landmass (the 13th largest in the world) is more white than green: more than three-fourths of it is covered in ice. This is the least densely populated country in the world, and its people are spread along the coastline while the ice-covered interior remains completely uninhabited.

Most people don't think to put Greenland in their travel plans, but you could. You can fly there from Copenhagen on, you guessed it, Air Greenland. There are also flights from Reykjavík, Iceland. It's a unique destination, and perfect if you love the cold outdoors. Hiking, kayaking, cross country skiing, fishing, diving, and more outdoor adventures await you in Greenland.