Enclaves, Exclaves and Trans-Continental Exclaves of the world


The world is full of odd little bits of land that are, in political terms, separated geographically from the rest of the country they are a part of. Some of these divisions cross continents, and where they do they become trans-continental exclaves.

A quick diversion here to cover the other oddity of political geology, the ‘enclaved counrty.’ Enclaves, not to be confused with exclaves, are countries whose boundaries lie entirely within the boundaries of another country.  Italy, for example, has two enclaved states within its borders;  The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world and is enclaved in the Italian capital Rome.  Italy’s second enclave San Marino, the home of the Ferrari, lies 314 kilometres to the north of Rome.

Other enclaved countries are: Lesotho (which sits within South Africa) and, depending on your view of indigenous peoples, there are the tribal nation lands, or Indian reservations in the United States and Canada.

The country of San Marino an enclave with Italy
The country of San Marino, an enclave with Italy


The country of Vatican City an enclave with in Italy
The Vatican City: the smallest country in the world, and an enclave within Italy and the city of Rome


A map showing the Country of Lesotho, the largest country with in a country in the world and an enclave of South Africa
The country of Lesotho, an enclave of South Africa

So then, to exclaves. These pieces of land offer some interesting quirks of international dispacement, and ways of leaving whole continents with a single journey between two places of the same country!

map of Melilla an exclave of Spain on the North African coastline of Morocco
Map of Melilla, an exclave belonging to Spain (Europe) but located in North Africa

Take, for instance, the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera.  Take a pleasant boat trip across the Mediterranean sea from the mainland of Spain on the Iiberan peninsula and you will find yourself in Africa!  Spain has 3 nice little bits of Africa that it maintains sovereignty over, plus the islands of Isla del Perejil, Isla de Tierra, Isla de Mar, Penon de Alhucemas, Isla de las Nubes, Isla de Alboran, Isla Isabel ll, Isla del Ray, Isla Congreso, all if which are situated just of the coast of North Africa.

Photograph of Penon de Velez de la Gomera
Penon de Velez de la Gomera, an exclave of Spain in North Africa

One of Spain’s exclaves has the distinction of having the world’s shortest land border – some 85 metres no less!  The exclave of Penon de Velez de la Gomera is really just a rock fortress on the cost of north Africa, that formed when a storm in 1934 caused a small island to be connected to the mainland by a permanent bridge of sand, or isthmus. It is this sand isthmus that form the international border!

Video of the Spanish exclaves in North Africa

Leave a Reply