Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Coordinates: 18 0 N 63 5 W
Area: 17 square miles (44 sq. km)
I’m sure sandy beaches and hilly, volcanic islands blanketed in tropical vegetation don’t immediately spring to mind with mention of the Netherlands, a small low-lying nation in Europe. But they should, sort of. Across the Atlantic between the Venezuelan Basin and the Puerto Rico Trench, this kingdom still protects several territories it first occupied nearly 400 years ago. Among these claims is Sint Maarten, the Dutch part of an island known as Saint Martin to French speakers. Together, these pieces form the smallest landmass on Earth occupied by two countries. In spite of its size however, Sint Maarten does have one superlative to champion: Simpson Bay Lagoon. Arguably the largest lagoon in the Caribbean, this sheltered body of water has long provided commercial and economic benefits, but is under the increasing threat of damaging levels of pollutants.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.