From Algeria and Tunisia to Greece and Turkey, there are 21 countries in the Mediterranean; here’s everything you need to know.

The fabled ancient poet Homer (if the Greek writer truly existed, that is) famously described the ‘Wine Dark Sea’ of the Mediterranean in epic poetry like the Illiad and the Odyssey. Stand on any Mediterranean shores and you’ll see how countless writers and travellers have been inspired by the fiery sunsets and dark blue waters of one of the world’s most historic regions.

But while the modern nation of Greece still laps at the same wine-dark sea described by Homer, the world of the Ancient Greeks is now far removed from the current political makeup of the Mediterranean. Stretching from the rocky shores of North Africa to the azure waters of the Levant, the contemporary Mediterranean world is home to nations as diverse as Algeria, Tunisia, Italy and Croatia.

In this article, I’ll explore the political and geographical boundaries of this important, transcontinental region, as I answer the question, ‘How many countries are in the Mediterranean?’.

Countries in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean region is the geographical area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing countries like Algeria and Greece that have coastlines along its shores as well as the islands and island nations (like Malta) within it. This region is characterised by a mild climate, ancient history and significant geopolitical importance.

Geographically, the Mediterranean region includes Southern Europe, North Africa and parts of Western Asia and the Middle East. It is bounded by Europe to the north, North Africa to the south, and Western Asia to the east. The Mediterranean Sea serves as the focal point, connecting these regions both physically and culturally.

Historically, the Mediterranean has been a crossroads of civilizations, facilitating trade, cultural exchange, and the spread of ideas. It has been home to ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, and Egyptians, whose legacies continue to influence the region today. Geopolitically, the Mediterranean region is of strategic importance due to its position as a gateway between Europe, Africa and Asia.

So, how many countries are in the Mediterranean? As with many regions, the count can vary. There are at least 21 UN-recognised nations with a Mediterranean coastline, but this definition doesn’t include any territories (like Gibraltar) or partially recognised countries (like the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus).

The 21 Mediterranean countries are as follows:

  1. Albania
  2. Algeria
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  4. Croatia
  5. Cyprus
  6. Egypt
  7. France
  8. Greece
  9. Israel
  10. Italy
  11. Lebanon
  12. Libya
  13. Monaco
  14. Montenegro
  15. Morocco
  16. Palestine
  17. Spain
  18. Slovenia
  19. Syria
  20. Tunisia
  21. Turkey

A quick Google search will reveal several differing counts from mine, but only if you include partially recognised countries and territories that don’t have full independence. These include the following destinations:

  1. Gibraltar: A British Overseas Territory located on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, bordered by Spain.
  2. Akrotiri and Dhekelia: British Overseas Territories on the island of Cyprus, administered as military bases.
  3. Northern Cyprus: The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) occupies the northern part of the island of Cyprus. It is recognised only by Turkey.
  4. Sovereign Military Order of Malta: While not a recognised state, it holds observer status at the United Nations and issues its own passports. It governs no territory, but it has historic ties to the Mediterranean region.

Including all of these territories and unrecognised nations would give a maximum count of 25 countries in the Mediterranean.

Map of the Mediterranean Sea.

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

Where is the Mediterranean Sea, exactly?

The Mediterranean region is defined by the Mediterranean Sea, a large body of water located between Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. Geographically, the Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar to the west and to the Red Sea through the Suez Canal to the southeast. It covers an area of approximately 2.5 million square kilometres and has an average depth of about 1,500 meters.

The Mediterranean region is known for its mild climate and ancient history. It has been a crossroads of civilizations for thousands of years, facilitating trade, cultural exchange, and the spread of ideas. The Mediterranean Sea itself has served as a vital route for maritime trade and transportation throughout history, connecting Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea is approximately 46,000 kilometres (28,600 miles) long. This figure includes the coastlines of all the countries that border the Mediterranean, including mainland Europe, North Africa, and parts of Western Asia.

Within the Mediterranean Sea, there are several smaller seas, bays, and gulfs that are considered distinct geographical features. Some of these include:

  • Adriatic Sea: Located to the northeast of the Mediterranean, between the Italian Peninsula and the Balkan Peninsula. It is bounded by Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Albania.
  • Ionian Sea: Situated to the southwest of the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and Greece. It is bordered by southern Italy, Albania, Greece and the island of Sicily.
  • Tyrrhenian Sea: To the west of Italy, between the Italian Peninsula and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. It is connected to the Ligurian Sea by the Strait of Bonifacio and to the Mediterranean Sea proper by the Strait of Messina.
  • Ligurian Sea: Located to the northwest of Italy, between the Italian Riviera and the island of Corsica. It is bordered by Italy, France, and Monaco.
  • Balearic Sea: Surrounding the Balearic Islands of Spain, including Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. It is located to the east of mainland Spain and is part of the western Mediterranean.
  • Alboran Sea: Positioned between the Iberian Peninsula and the north coast of Africa, specifically between Spain and Morocco. It is the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Gulf of Gabès: Located on the eastern coast of Tunisia, between Tunisia and Libya.
The Mediterranean meets the Sea of Marmara in Turkey.

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

A brief history of the Mediterranean

The history of the Mediterranean region is one that’s intrigued me since childhood when I first stood on the shores of southern Spain and looked out across the Strait of Gibraltar towards North Africa. Countless civilizations have left their mark on the landscape, culture and geopolitics of the area, making this a fascinating part of the world to explore.

Here’s a brief history of the Mediterranean:

Ancient Civilizations

The Mediterranean basin is often referred to as the cradle of civilization, with ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans flourishing along its shores. These civilizations made significant contributions to the development of art, architecture, philosophy, science, and governance, laying the foundations for Western civilization.

Classical Era

The Mediterranean was the stage for the rise and fall of powerful empires, including the Greek city-states, the Roman Empire, and later the Byzantine Empire. These empires exerted influence over vast territories, shaping the cultural, political, and economic landscape of the region.

Medieval Period

With the decline of the Western Roman Empire, the Mediterranean became a battleground for competing empires, kingdoms, and city-states. Islamic Caliphates, such as the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, expanded into North Africa and Southern Europe, establishing a diverse Islamic civilization in the region.

Medieval Maritime Trade

The Mediterranean Sea served as a vital trade route connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and cultures. Mediterranean ports such as Venice, Genoa, and Constantinople became centres of commerce, wealth, and innovation, fostering a dynamic network of trade and diplomacy.

Renaissance and Exploration

The Renaissance saw a resurgence of interest in classical learning and exploration, leading to a period of maritime exploration and discovery. European powers such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy ventured beyond the Mediterranean, seeking new trade routes and territories in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

Imperial Rivalries

The modern era witnessed the rise of European imperialism and colonialism, with Mediterranean territories becoming battlegrounds for imperial rivalries. The decline of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of new nation-states in the Balkans and North Africa reshaped the geopolitical landscape of the region.

Modern Times

The Mediterranean region has continued to be a focal point of global affairs, with conflicts, migrations, and diplomatic tensions shaping its trajectory in the 20th and 21st centuries. Issues such as regional conflicts, economic development, environmental conservation, and migration have remained prominent challenges for countries bordering the Mediterranean.

Lebanon’s Mediterranean coastline is lined by ruins, like this crusader castle in Saida.

Read more: How Many Countries in North Africa? Everything You Need to Know.

What’s the population of the Mediterranean?

The population of the Mediterranean region is difficult to pinpoint precisely due to its expansive nature, spanning multiple countries with diverse demographics. However, according to estimates, the population of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea collectively totals over 500 million people.

This population figure includes countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and many others. It encompasses a wide range of ethnicities, languages, religions, and cultures, contributing to the region’s rich diversity.

The population density varies significantly across the Mediterranean region, with coastal areas and major cities typically experiencing higher population densities compared to rural inland areas. Additionally, factors such as immigration, urbanization, and economic development influence population distribution and growth patterns within the region.

The author standing by the Mediterranean Sea in Byblos, Lebanon.

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So, how many countries are in the Mediterranean

The question of how many countries are in the Mediterranean is not as straightforward as it may initially seem. While there are 21 countries with coastlines along the Mediterranean Sea, the concept of the Mediterranean region also includes territories and dependencies which aren’t recognised by the United Nations.

FAQ: How many countries are in the Mediterranean?

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

Q1. How many countries border the Mediterranean Sea?

There are 21 countries with coastlines along the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and others.

Q2. What defines a country as part of the Mediterranean region?

While coastal proximity to the Mediterranean Sea is a primary factor, the concept of the Mediterranean region extends beyond mere geography. It encompasses a shared history, culture, and geopolitical context that transcend national boundaries.

Q3. Are there different definitions of the Mediterranean region?

Yes, there can be competing definitions or interpretations of which countries should be considered part of the Mediterranean region. Factors such as geographical proximity, cultural ties, and geopolitical considerations may influence these definitions.

Q4. What are some of the smaller seas within the Mediterranean?

The Mediterranean Sea is home to several smaller seas, including the Adriatic Sea, Ionian Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, Ligurian Sea, Balearic Sea, Alboran Sea, and Gulf of Gabès, each with its own unique characteristics and significance.

Q5. What is the population of the Mediterranean region?

The population of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea collectively totals over 500 million people, encompassing a diverse range of ethnicities, languages, and cultures.

Q6. How long is the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea?

The coastline of the Mediterranean Sea is approximately 46,000 kilometres (28,600 miles) long, stretching across mainland Europe, North Africa, and parts of Western Asia.

Q7. What role does the Mediterranean region play in global affairs?

The Mediterranean region serves as a vital crossroads of trade, culture, and geopolitics, connecting Europe, Africa, and Asia. Its strategic location and historical significance continue to shape global affairs in the modern era.