From Armenia and Azerbaijan to Timor-Leste and Vietnam, there are a total of 50 countries in Asia. Here’s everything you need to know.

From the frozen tundra of Siberia to the steaming rainforests of Borneo, Asia is the largest and (arguably) the most diverse continent on the planet. Including transcontinental nations like Russia, which stretches from the Baltic Sea eastwards to the Pacific Ocean, and vast sub-continental areas like China and India, there are a total of 50 countries in Asia.

This is the maximum count of countries in Asia, using the broadest possible geographical definition of the continent while also including partially recognised states like Palestine and Taiwan. Asia’s borders are highly politicised, and there are many competing definitions of the continent that I’ll delve into throughout this article.

Given the broad spread of nations and landmasses that are included within Asia, it’s easier to break down the continent into more distinct geopolitical regions. Traditionally, this gives us West Asia (including the Middle East and the Near East), Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and South East Asia.

While I’ve visited almost all of the ‘traditional’ Asian nations, including all of Central Asia, South East Asia and East Asia (excluding Turkmenistan, Japan and Mongolia), I’ve still got some work to do on the Western Asian nations and South Asian countries. This includes many Middle Eastern nations (despite the fact I spent several years during my childhood living in Muscat, Oman) and island nations like the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

If you want to visit every nation on this vast continent or are simply interested in geopolitical travel, keep reading, as I explain how many countries are in Asia.

How many countries are in Asia?

Given its broadest definition, there are 50 countries in Asia. This number is based on the United Nations geoscheme for Asia which is largely accepted for geopolitical discussions.

Keen observers will note that the UN list only numbers 49 nations, and that’s because I’ve also included semi-recognised countries in my count, including Taiwan and Palestine, which you won’t find in every list. This number could be even higher if you also included special economic regions like Hong Kong and Macau, and breakaway states like Northern Cyprus and Abkhazia!

From the get-go, it’s clear that defining Asia is a tricky prospect. There are competing definitions and geographical and geopolitical boundaries to consider. Some counts will stop at 49, others won’t include Russia or Turkey, while many would consider the Middle East or India to be ‘continents’ in their own right. Some countries like Georgia, Armenia or Cyprus typically class themselves as culturally and historically European, even if they technically sit in Asia

The main factors affecting the total number of countries given as being in Asia often depend on the following:

  • Unrecognised or Partially Recognised States: Some territories proclaim themselves as independent nations but lack widespread international recognition. Examples include Taiwan, which is considered by many as a sovereign state, yet is not universally recognised due to political pressure from the People’s Republic of China. Another example is Palestine, which has partial recognition and observer status at the UN but is not universally recognised as a sovereign state.
  • Transcontinental Countries: Some countries have territory that spans more than one continent. Russia and Turkey are prime examples, with significant portions of their land in both Europe and Asia. The method of counting such countries can vary; some definitions may consider the entire country as part of Asia if the larger part of its landmass or population is located there, while others may count them separately for each continent they occupy.
  • Disputed Territories: There are areas with disputed sovereignty, such as Kashmir, a region claimed by both India and Pakistan, or Northern Cyprus, which is only recognised by Turkey. How these territories are counted or associated can vary depending on the perspective taken.
  • Geopolitical and Cultural Definitions: Some regions of Asia have ambiguous boundaries due to cultural, historical, and geopolitical factors. The distinction between Asia and Europe along the Ural Mountains and the Ural River, for example, is a convention rather than a strict geographical demarcation, leading to varying interpretations of which continent certain countries or regions belong to.

Consequently, while the UN’s list of 49 countries is widely used for consistency in international relations and global discussions, I believe that 50 is the more accurate count. Different travellers may list more or fewer countries based on their criteria for recognition, sovereignty and geographical classification.

Hong Kong could also be considered a ‘country’ in Asia. Photo by arnie chou on Unsplash.

Read more: How Many Countries in East Asia? Everything You Need to Know.

List of countries in Asia

Given the large number of countries that can be classified as Asia, it’s helpful to divide the continent into sub-regions. Traditionally, these regions are Western Asia (including the Middle East and the Near East), Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and South East Asia.

Here’s a list of the possible number of countries in each of these sub-regions:

Western Asia (19)

  1. Armenia
  2. Azerbaijan
  3. Bahrain
  4. Cyprus (including the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)
  5. Georgia
  6. Iraq
  7. Israel
  8. Jordan
  9. Kuwait
  10. Lebanon
  11. Qatar
  12. Oman
  13. Russia
  14. Saudi Arabia
  15. State of Palestine*
  16. Syria
  17. Turkey
  18. United Arab Emirates
  19. Yemen

Read more: How Many Countries Are in the Middle East? Everything You Need to Know.

Central Asia (5)

  1. Kazakhstan
  2. Kyrgyzstan
  3. Tajikistan
  4. Turkmenistan
  5. Uzbekistan

South Asia (9)

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Bangladesh
  3. Bhutan
  4. India
  5. Iran
  6. Maldives
  7. Nepal
  8. Pakistan
  9. Sri Lanka

East Asia (6)

  1. China
  2. Japan
  3. Mongolia
  4. North Korea
  5. South Korea
  6. Taiwan**

South East Asia (11)

  1. Brunei
  2. Cambodia
  3. Indonesia
  4. Laos
  5. Malaysia
  6. Myanmar (Burma)
  7. Philippines
  8. Singapore
  9. Thailand
  10. Timor-Leste
  11. Vietnam

*Note: The State of Palestine is recognised by the UN as a non-member observer state.

** Note: Taiwan (or the Republic of China) is only partially recognised by the United Nations.

Kyrygzstan’s steepe is part of the great Central Asian landmass. Photo by Amir Asakeev on Unsplash.

Read more: How Many Countries in Central Asia? Everything You Need to Know.

What’s the geographical definition of Asia?

The geographical definition of Asia, as the Earth’s largest and most populous continent, is defined by both physical and human-made boundaries. It stretches all the way from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south, and from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea in the west.

Here are the key geographical boundaries that define Asia:

  • Northern Boundary: Asia’s northern limit is largely defined by the Arctic Ocean.
  • Eastern Boundary: The eastern edge of Asia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, including the Bering Strait, which separates Asia from North America.
  • Southern Boundary: The southern border is defined by the Indian Ocean, with Asia meeting the oceanic waters along the coasts of countries like India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
  • Western Boundary: The boundary between Asia and Europe is a matter of historical and cultural convention rather than clear physical demarcation. Traditionally, the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Black Sea, along with the Turkish Straits, are considered the dividing lines between the two continents.

Additionally, Asia is connected to Africa by the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt, with the Suez Canal being a key human-made separation that is often considered the boundary between the two continents, placing Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in Asia.

These boundaries are somewhat arbitrary and have evolved over time based on historical, cultural, and political considerations. The vast size of the continent includes a wide array of ecosystems, from the tundra and forests of Siberia to the deserts of the Middle East, the rainforests of Southeast Asia, and the high mountain ranges of the Himalayas.

Istanbul is where Europe and Asia meet. Photo by Anna Berdnik on Unsplash.

Read more: How Many Countries in Southeast Asia? Everything You Need to Know.

Are there territories and dependencies in Asia?

Asia is home to a number of territories and dependencies. These are regions that do not have full political independence or sovereignty as a state but are politically and administratively controlled by other countries.

These territories often have unique legal and political systems that are distinct from their controlling countries. Here are some notable examples:

  • Hong Kong and Macau: Both are Special Administrative Regions (SARs) of China. They maintain separate legal and economic systems from Mainland China under the principle of ‘one country, two systems.’ Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997, and Macau was a Portuguese territory until 1999.
  • British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT): A British Overseas Territory in the Indian Ocean, which includes the Chagos Archipelago. The most notable area within this territory is Diego Garcia, which is used as a military base.
  • French Overseas Departments and Territories in Asia: France maintains control over some territories that are geographically located in or near Asia. Examples include French territories in the Indian Ocean such as Réunion and Mayotte (though these are often considered part of Africa geographically, they have strong connections to Asia through history, geography, and culture).
  • Akrotiri and Dhekelia: These are two British Overseas Territories on the island of Cyprus. They serve primarily as military bases.

These territories and dependencies are characterised by a complex blend of autonomy, local governance, and dependence on a foreign power. Their status can be a subject of international dialogue and, in some cases, contention.

Hong Kong is one of China’s Special Administrative Regions. Photo by Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash.

Read more: How Many Countries Are in Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

Are there any disputed regions in Asia?

Asia, with its vast and diverse geopolitical landscape, is home to several disputed regions where sovereignty is contested between different countries or groups.

These disputes often stem from historical claims, ethnic and cultural affiliations, strategic interests, and colonial legacies.

Here are some of the most prominent disputed regions in Asia:

  • Kashmir: The region of Kashmir is a significant and long-standing point of contention between India, Pakistan, and, to a lesser extent, China. Both India and Pakistan claim the entire territory but control only parts of it, with India administering Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, and Pakistan controlling Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. China also controls a smaller portion known as Aksai Chin.
  • South China Sea: Several countries, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea. The disputes involve territorial claims over islands, reefs, and atolls, along with rights to the natural resources below the sea’s surface. The area is also a crucial maritime route, further elevating its strategic significance.
  • Taiwan: The political status of Taiwan is a complex issue. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) claims Taiwan as its province, while Taiwan (Republic of China, ROC) operates as a separate and self-governing entity. This dispute has significant international implications, with various countries adopting different stances on recognition and support.
  • Palestine: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict revolves around the territorial and political status of Palestine. Israel occupies the West Bank and has annexed East Jerusalem, territories that Palestinians claim for a future independent state. Gaza, controlled by Hamas, is also part of the disputed territories.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh: This region in the South Caucasus is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since a conflict that ended in 1994. A renewed conflict in 2020 led to Azerbaijan regaining parts of the territory, but the status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains a source of tension.
  • Northern Cyprus: The Republic of Cyprus is an internationally recognized state that controls the southern two-thirds of the island. The northern third, however, is administered by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. This division has been a source of conflict between Greece and Turkey and among broader international actors.

These disputes are often deeply entrenched and involve complex historical, nationalistic, and ethnic dimensions. Resolving them poses significant challenges, requiring diplomatic efforts, international mediation, and, in some cases, interventions by international courts and organisations.

Kashmir. Beautiful, yet disputed. Photo by Yasser Mir on Unsplash.

Read more: How Many Countries in the Mediterranean? Everything You Need to Know.

Is Russia in Asia?

Russia is a transcontinental country that spans the continents of Europe and Asia, making it the largest country in the world by area. The Ural Mountains are commonly regarded as the natural geographical boundary dividing European Russia from Asian Russia. This division means that while a significant portion of Russia’s landmass is in Asia (approximately 77% of its territory), a majority of its population lives in the European part.

European Russia includes major cities such as Moscow (the capital), Saint Petersburg, and Volgograd, among others. This area is considered the cultural and political heart of Russia. In contrast, Asian Russia, also known as Siberia, extends east from the Urals to the Pacific Ocean, encompassing vast and sparsely populated territories rich in natural resources.

Despite its vast Asian territory, Russia’s political, cultural, and economic centres are primarily located in its European part, which has historically led to a stronger identification with Europe in terms of foreign policy, culture, and socio-economic development. However, the country’s significant presence in Asia undeniably influences regional dynamics and Russia’s engagement with Asian countries in terms of diplomacy, trade, and security issues.

Kamchatka is in the very far east of Russia, on the Asian continent. Photo by Alex Glebov on Unsplash.

Read more: How Many Countries in South Asia? Everything You Need to Know.

Is Turkey in Asia?

Turkey is another transcontinental country, with its landmass straddling both Europe and Asia. The country is uniquely positioned, bridging the two continents across the Bosporus Strait, which serves as a natural division between European Turkey to the west and Asian Turkey (or Anatolia) to the east.

Approximately 97% of Turkey’s land area is located in Asia, comprising the Anatolian peninsula, while the remaining 3%, situated in the Balkan Peninsula of Southeast Europe, includes notable cities like Istanbul (which itself spans the continents) and Edirne. Despite the smaller portion of its territory being in Europe, this region has significant cultural, historical, and economic importance to the country.

Istanbul, historically known as Byzantium and later Constantinople embodies the country’s transcontinental character and has served as a capital for the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. The European part of Turkey plays a crucial role in its cultural and economic identity, while the vast majority of its land in Asia reflects the country’s geographical magnitude and diversity.

Cappadocia is located in Turkey, on the Asian landmass. Photo by Darren Lee on Unsplash.

Read more: Where are the Balkans? Everything You Need to Know.

Are the Caucasus in Asia?

The Caucasus region, straddling the border between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, embodies a complex interplay of geography, culture and geopolitics. This area, known for its mountainous terrain, notably the Caucasus Mountains, includes both the Greater Caucasus range, which runs roughly from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, and the Lesser Caucasus, extending into the southern parts of the region.

Geographically, the Caucasus Mountains are often considered a natural boundary between Europe and Asia, with the territory to the north of the Greater Caucasus range typically classified as part of Eastern Europe, and the areas south of it regarded as part of Western Asia. However, definitions can vary based on different criteria, such as cultural, historical, and political considerations, leading to some ambiguity.

The classification of these countries is subject to varying perspectives. While geographical considerations place them in Asia, historical, cultural, and political links with Europe are also significant, leading to their inclusion in European political and economic structures, such as the Council of Europe and the European Neighbourhood Policy. This dual identity reflects the complex and intertwined nature of the region’s affiliation with both continents.

Georgia sees itself as culturally European, even if the Caucasus Mountains are considered Asian. Photo by Tomáš Malík on Unsplash.

Is Papua New Guinea in Asia?

Papua New Guinea is not in Asia; it is part of the continent of Oceania. It is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, just north of Australia. The western half of New Guinea is part of Indonesia, a country that is geographically located in Southeast Asia. Papua New Guinea’s position to the east of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border places it within the Pacific region, specifically in Melanesia, a subregion of Oceania that includes several countries and territories in the southwest Pacific Ocean.

Papua New Guinea is distinguished by its diverse cultures and languages, with over 800 languages spoken, reflecting its status as one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. Its varied geography includes highlands, lowlands, and islands, supporting a rich biodiversity. While not part of Asia, Papua New Guinea shares close geographical, historical, and economic ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Papua New Guinea isn’t considered part of Asia, even if Papua (which is part of Indonesia) is. Photo by Asso Myron on Unsplash.

Read more: How Many Countries Are in Oceania? Everything You Need to Know.

Is Timor-Leste in Asia?

Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) is in Asia. It occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor in Southeast Asia, making it one of the continent’s youngest independent countries, having gained sovereignty in 2002 after a long history of Portuguese colonial rule followed by Indonesian occupation. The country is positioned north of Australia and east of the Indonesian archipelago, sharing its only land border with Indonesia.

East Timor’s location places it firmly within the Asian continent, specifically within the geopolitical region known as Maritime Southeast Asia. Despite its small size, East Timor has a rich cultural heritage that reflects a blend of indigenous, Portuguese, and Indonesian influences, alongside its own unique traditions and languages. The nation’s official languages are Tetum and Portuguese, with Indonesian and English also being widely spoken.

Timor-Leste is in Asia, even if it has close ties to Australia. Photo by Tanushree Rao on Unsplash.

Read more: Is East Timor a Country? Everything You Need to Know.

So, how many countries are in Asia?

In conclusion, I insist that there are 50 countries in Asia. As we’ve seen, this number can vary depending on your political persuasions and geographical definitions of Asia. Many countries, including Russia and Turkey, span both Europe and Asia, while many more regions, like Taiwan, are disputed. This geopolitical complexity leads to varying counts, with 49 being the most commonly posited number (as per the UN geoscheme for Asia list, which doesn’t include Taiwan).

FAQ: How many countries are in Asia?

Here’s an FAQ on the topic, ‘How many countries are in Asia?’:

Q1. How many countries are in Asia?

There are 50 countries in Asia. However, this number can vary depending on your political persuasion.

Q2. Are there any territories or dependencies in Asia?

Yes, Asia includes territories and dependencies, such as Hong Kong and Macau (Special Administrative Regions of China), and the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Q3. Why do some lists of Asian countries have different numbers?

Different lists may include or exclude territories with disputed sovereignty or varying levels of international recognition, such as Taiwan. Definitions of geographical boundaries can also affect counts.

Q4. Are there any transcontinental countries in Asia?

Yes, countries like Russia and Turkey are transcontinental, with parts of their territory in both Asia and Europe.

Q5. What is the largest country in Asia?

Russia is the largest country in Asia by area, stretching across the continent and into Europe.

Q6. What is the smallest country in Asia?

The Maldives is the smallest country in Asia by both area and population.

Q7. Are there disputed regions within Asia?

Yes, there are several disputed regions in Asia, including Kashmir (disputed between India, Pakistan, and China), the South China Sea (claimed by multiple countries), and others.

Q8. How is the boundary between Asia and Europe defined?

The Ural Mountains, Ural River, Caspian Sea, Caucasus Mountains, and the watersheds of the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea are commonly considered the boundary between Asia and Europe.

Q9. Can the number of countries in Asia change?

Yes, the number of recognised countries in Asia can change due to geopolitical developments, such as declarations of independence, changes in international recognition, or territorial disputes.