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Visualizing 100 of the World’s Biggest Islands

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here.

When you think of an island, the first thing that might come to mind is a small, sunny beach surrounded by warm waters. But did you know that 11% of the world’s population actually calls islands their home?

Today’s data visualization is designed by mapmaker David Garcia, and it ranks the hundred largest islands found around the world by size.

Islands in the Stream

The 100 biggest islands range from the likes of expansive Greenland to independent Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands. But look a little closer, and you’ll see just how much the top contender outshines the rest. Greenland is almost three times the size of the second-biggest island of New Guinea, and you could fit over 408 Guadalcanal islands within it.

In the visualization, the islands are also tinted, depending on the climate they come from. Blue islands are from the polar regions, turquoise islands lie in the temperate zones, and green islands represent the lush tropics. Which of these regions hosts the most islands?

IslandCountriesRegion
Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland)DenmarkEurope
New GuineaPapua New Guinea, IndonesiaOceania
Pulau Borneo (Kalimantan)Indonesia, Malaysia, BruneiAsia
MadagasikaraMadagascarAfrica
Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island, Nunavut)CanadaNorth America
SumatraIndonesiaAsia
HonshuJapanAsia
Kitlineq (Victoria Island)CanadaNorth America
Great BritainUnited KingdomEurope
Ellesmere (Nunavut)CanadaNorth America

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It’s the Island Life for Many

North America dominates with 32 islands out of the top 100, but there’s a catch — twelve of them are uninhabitable, thanks to the frigid Arctic temperatures.

Throw the number of people into the mix and the regional overview gets even more interesting. Compared to the rest of the world, Asian islands are teeming with life.

  • 28 Asian islands
    Total population: 510.4 million
  • 14 European islands
    Total population: 83.8 million
  • 32 North American islands
    Total population: 40.7 million
  • 12 Oceania islands
    Total population: 18.3 million

Taking things a step further, we’ve remixed the visualization based on population density.

Click below to view the full-size version.

Biggest Islands Sorted by Population Density

The most populated island in the world, Java is filled to the brim with 141 million people — that’s over a thousand people per square kilometer. This is in part thanks to the capital city Jakarta being located on the island, but experts warn those days may be short lived. By 2050, scientific models predict that 95% of the city may be underwater, and that Indonesia must scramble to find a new capital.

To finish, here is the 20 most dense islands on the list, in terms of population density.

Rank by DensityIslandCountriesPopulationArea (km²)People per km²
#1JavaIndonesia141,000,000138,7931,015.9
#2BaliIndonesia4,225,0005,780731.0
#3TaiwanTaiwan23,571,00036,193651.3
#4ZealandDenmark3,749,2007,031533.2
#5LuzonPhilippines53,336,134109,965485.0
#6HonshuJapan104,000,000227,960456.2
#7PanayPhilippines4,477,24712,011372.8
#8KyushuJapan12,970,47936,753352.9
#9Puerto RicoUnited States3,195,0009,104350.9
#10NegrosPhilippines4,414,13113,310331.6
#11Sri LankaSri Lanka21,440,00065,610 326.8
#12Great BritainUnited Kingdom66,040,000209,331315.5
#13HispaniolaDominican Republic, Haiti21,396,00076,192 280.8
#14JamaicaCaribbean2,890,00010,992262.9
#15MindanaoPhilippines25,537,69197,530261.8
#16HainanChina8,670,00033,920 255.6
#17ShikokuJapan3,845,53418800204.5
#18SicilyItaly5,057,00025,711196.7
#19FloresIndonesia1,831,00013,540135.2
#20SamarPhilippines1,751,26713,429130.4