Landlocked Countries in South America You Should Know About

South America predominantly contains coastal nations. There are only two landlocked countries in South America i-e Bolivia and Paraguay. Despite being surrounded by the land, both countries have diverse geography including natural resources and cultural heritage. Both play important roles in the regional dynamics by engaging in trade agreements, diplomatic efforts, and regional organizations to foster integration and cooperation with the transit or the coastal states. These landlocked countries actively contribute to South American progress and diversity.

What Is a Landlocked Country?

A landlocked country is an independent sovereign state without direct access to water bodies such as oceans like the Atlantic Ocean or the sea which is not landlocked like the Mediterranean Sea.  Countries such as Kazakhstan have access to landlocked seas like the Caspian Sea are also considered landlocked. Such water bodies are considered inland waters or large lakes. There are 44 landlocked countries in the world. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world by area and lies in Central Asia. Vatican City is the smallest landlocked country in the world surrounded by Rome, the capital of Italy. Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and lies on the African continent. 

Types of Landlocked Countries

There are two types of landlocked countries; landlocked by a single country, landlocked by two countries, and doubly landlocked.

Landlocked by a Single Country

A country that is landlocked by the territory of only a single country. There are three landlocked countries by a single country. They are;

  • San Marino: a state surrounded by Italy
  • The Vatican City: a state surrounded by Italy specifically by Rome
  • Lesotho: a country surrounded by South Africa

Landlocked by Two Countries

A country which is landlocked by the territory of two countries. They are;

  • Bhutan (landlocked between India and China)
  • Andorra (landlocked between Spain and France)
  • Liechtenstein (landlocked between Austria and Switzerland)
  • Nepal (landlocked between China and India)
  • Mongolia (landlocked between Russia and China)
  • Moldova (landlocked between Ukraine and Romania)
  • Eswatini (landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique)

Doubly Landlocked Country

A country that is landlocked by another landlocked country, requires crossing of two national borders to reach water bodies. There are 2 doubly landlocked countries. They are;

  • Liechtenstein; surrounded by Switzerland and Austria
  • Uzbekistan; surrounded by Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan

Read About: 11 Landlocked Countries In Asia

List of Landlocked Countries in the World

Here is the list of landlocked countries in the world;

Central Africa
Burkina Faso
South Sudan
Czech Republic
North Macedonia
San Marino
Vatican City
South AmericaBolivia 

Read About: Landlocked Countries In Europe

Landlocked Countries in South America

The following are the two landlocked countries in South America. 

  • Bolivia
  • Paraguay

1) Bolivia

Bolivia, officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia, lies in western-central South America and is a landlocked country. It borders Paraguay to the southeast, Brazil to the east and north, Peru to the west, Chile to the northwest, and Argentina to the south. The area of Bolivia is 1.099 million square kilometers with a population of 12.08 million square kilometers. Bolivia is the fifth-largest country in South America with the capital city, Sucre. The geography of the country consists of a variety of climates and terrains. It has one of the greatest biodiversity in the world such as Altiplano, Amazon rainforest, and dry valleys. 

Read About: 8 Most Populous Countries in South America

2) Paraguay

Paraguay, Officially the Republic of Paraguay lies in South America and is landlocked. It borders Argentina to the Southwest and South, Bolivia to the northwest, and Brazil to the northeast and east. Asunción is the capital and largest city of Paraguay. The area of Paraguay is 406.76K square kilometers with a population of 6.78 million. Paraguay is divided into two geographical regions The eastern region and the western region which is also called Western Paraguay. The eastern region consists of the terrains with wooded hills and grassy lands. The western region contains low and marshy plains. However, there are many lakeside beaches in Paraguay. Guarani Aquifer is a significant exorheic basin in the region.

Read About: South America’s 7 Most Populous Cities

How Bolivia Became a Landlocked Country?

On March 23, 1879, Bolivia lost its access to the Pacific Ocean in the war against Chile. Before the war, Bolivia had a coastline with the Pacific Ocean which provided access to international waters, valuable ports, and trade routes. Following its defeat against Chile, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed between Bolivia and Chile in 1904 where Bolivia surrendered its coastline territories along with the region of Antofagasta to Chile and became completely landlocked. 

The loss of the coastline territories has negatively impacted the economy of Bolivia. Since then, every year on 23 March, El Dia del Mar (The Day of the Sea) is an occasion to commemorate the loss of the coastline and the desire to get back control of its coastline. 

The Disadvantages of  Landlocked Countries

Being landlocked, the transport cost for Bolivia is increased as the transport cost is higher on land than on the sea. In addition, landlocked countries are economically disadvantaged as the cost of land transport is subjected to monopoly pricing in the neighboring states. The development rate of the landlocked countries is 3.5 percent lower compared to other countries. Chile has provided Bolivia with tariff-free access to the Antofagasta and the Arica port. Despite this Bolivia’s trade position has not significantly improved. 

Similarly, for Paraguay, 95% of the trade passes through the ports of Argentina and Brazil. Any cold relationship or dispute between these two countries has a direct impact on the economy of Paraguay. According to the World Bank, this geographical constraint incurs an average trade cost equal to 5 percent of the GDP of a landlocked country. This puts a substantial economic burden that a landlocked country must go through to maintain its competitiveness and economic growth in the international market as well as hinders its export market. 

Read About: 16 Landlocked Countries in Africa That You Should Know

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In conclusion, there are only two landlocked countries in South America out of 44 landlocked countries. Africa has the largest number of landlocked countries followed by Europe while North America has no landlocked country. Despite being landlocked and the geographical constraints, both Bolivia and Paraguay are developing economies in South America. Their economic growth is better as compared to the landlocked countries in other continents. They have diverse progress rates and diversity. Paraguay has many lakes, grassy lands, and terrains with wooded hills while Bolivia as the fifth-largest country in South America predominantly consists of the Amazon forest, dry valleys, and Altiplano. Both countries are playing a significant role in geopolitics and regional dynamics. 


What continents have no landlocked countries?

North America has no landlocked country. Australia is also not landlocked. 

Are there any disputed regions that are landlocked?

Yes, there are four regions, not recognized as independent territories that are landlocked. They are; Kosovo, South Ossetia,  Nagorno-Karabakh,  and Transnistria.

Which country is the most recently added landlocked country?

South Sudan is the most recent addition to the list of landlocked countries after it gained independence in 2011. Serbia joined the list after losing ocean access when Montenegro became an independent country in 2006. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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