The World’s Smallest National Border is Only 85 Meters Long

Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, a small rock in northern Africa conquered by Spain in 1564, holds the title for the world’s smallest national border, measuring just 85 meters in length.

Spain has almost 2000 kilometers of land borders with Portugal and France, but it also has much smaller borders with countries like Andorra, the United Kingdom (Gibraltar), and Morocco. It is with the latter, the African nation of Morocco, that Spain shares the smallest land border in the world, an 85-meter-long stretch of land linking a rock about 19,000 square meters in size to the Moroccan coast. Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera has been Spanish territory since 1564 when it was conquered by Admiral Pedro de Estopiñán, and although Morocco has repeatedly laid claim to it, Spain has never agreed to return the land and actually has troops stationed there to enforce Spanish rule.

Photo: Ignacio Gavira

Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera is one of the so-called “places of sovereignty” that Spain has in North Africa, along with Ceuta, Melilla, the Peñón de Alhucemas, the Chafarinas Islands and the Isla de Perejil. Its legal status is that of non-autonomous territories under Spanish administration. Interestingly, this barren rock was an island until 1934 when an earthquake created a small isthmus and turned the island into a peninsula. This land border was officially recognized as the smallest in the world.

Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera is currently only inhabited by Spanish troops in charge of surveillance and defense. Soldiers are rotated every month and live in modest facilities, without running water or electricity. They rely solely on Spanish Navy ships that deliver supplies on a regular basis.


Fun fact, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera is the last Spanish territory to suffer an invasion by agents of a foreign power. In 2012, a group of seven people belonging to an organization known as the Coordination Committee for the Liberation of Ceuta and Melilla snuck onto the rock and replaced the Spanish flag with the Moroccan one. The invasion only lasted a few minutes, as Spanish troops quickly took down the foreign flag and arrested the perpetrators, but it technically counted as an actual invasion.