Water covers over 70% of planet Earth, with the largest body being the Pacific Ocean, covering close to a third of the Earth’s surface. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), 10% of the world’s population relies on the oceans for their livelihood. In addition, the oceans provide more than half of the oxygen needed to sustain life and absorb most of Earth’s carbon dioxide.
Landlocked countries, though, may be at an inherent geographical disadvantage, as nearness to the ocean significantly contributes to a country’s economic well-being. In the U.S., one in six jobs is marine-related and more than a third of the U.S. annual Gross National Product stems from coastal areas.
Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia tops the list as the country farthest from the ocean. Surrounded by Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the majority of Kyrgyzstan’s boundaries are mountain peaks. Bishkek is the capital, and the official language is Russian to some six million residents. If a nomadic lifestyle excites you, here are some other landlocked countries.
Nearest ocean: Arctic (3,304 miles)
Ukraine, formerly part of Russia, is in Eastern Europe and has a population of over 45.6 million people as of 2016. The second largest country in Europe after Russia, it has a land mass of about 231,000 square miles. Ukraine is surrounded by Poland, Russia, Romania, Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova, with a coastline by the Black Sea.
Nearest ocean: Arctic (4,499 miles)
As landlocked countries go, Uzbekistan in Central Asia is a doubly landlocked country bordered by Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. It is the only country bordered entirely by the ‘stan’ countries. The large country holds a population of 31.5 million as of 2016, which was the highest in Central Asia.
Nearest ocean: Arctic (4,119 miles)
Kazakhstan is a transcontinental country mostly located in Central Asia. It is the largest landlocked country in the world and the ninth-largest country in terms of land mass. With a population of 17.9 million people, it is bordered by five countries: Russia, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Nearest ocean: Atlantic (3,347 miles)
The Niger Republic in West Africa is a landlocked country bordered by Libya, Benin Republic, Nigeria, Chad Republic, Burkina Faso, and Mali. The country is named after the River Niger and has a population of 21 million as of 2017.
Nearest ocean: Arctic (4,642 miles)
Mongolia is a landlocked country between Russia and China, with a population of 3 million people as of 2009 and a land mass of 1,565,000 square kilometers. It is the sixth-largest country land mass in Asia and the 19th in the entire world.
Nearest ocean: Atlantic (2,468 miles)
Guyana, a country on South America's North Atlantic Coast, has a population of about 800,000 people as of 2013. Bordered by Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, and the Atlantic Ocean, it is the only English-speaking country in South America.
Proximity to an ocean significantly contributes to a country’s economy. The farther a country is from water, the less it benefits economically from the large water mass. In an attempt to equalize this playing field, leaders created the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for landlocked countries. It provides access right of way to traverse land and from the sea via neighboring states without having to pay tax.