The Oldest Countries in the World

The oldest countries in the world are not quite as many as the youngest or the barely youngest countries, although some other countries can be counted among given the tenacity or the guts which hold against the challenges of time. Several factors contribute to why we consider most of these countries oldest among others.

The first step in determining the oldest countries in the world is defining exactly what qualifies as a country. Early city-states such as Ur, Uruk, Athens, Rome, and Chichen Itza were incredibly powerful and influential in their time, but they were not countries as we would consider them today.

Similarly, the sprawling empires that often conquered and connected these city-states, such as the Roman Empire in Europe and the Han Dynasty in Asia, would not be considered countries. However, countries can be born from the shattered remains of a collapsed empire.

Although few empires exist in the modern era, new countries are still emerging. This typically happens when a territory secedes from an existing country, such as when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) broke into 25 smaller territories (15 of which became countries) from 1988-92 and ceased to exist.

The Oldest Countries in the World

Despite these challenges, some of the world’s nearly 200 nations have stood the test of time. Although national boundaries, ruling governments, and capital cities have changed, these nations have survived throughout the years, making them the world’s oldest countries. How many then are these surviving countries? Below is the list of the oldest countries in the world:

  • Egypt – 3100 BCE

Whilst today’s Egypt is in many ways far-removed from its ancient counterpart and not considered a part of the same timeline, Ancient Egypt has shaped many of the sights you’ll see on a holiday to this awe-inspiring African country. Pre-dating all of the countries on this list, the Ancient Egyptian civilisation is worth a mention for its pyramids, sphinxes and religious monuments.

Of all Egypt’s ancient attractions, the Pyramids of Giza are definitely the most famous. This site includes the world’s largest pyramid – the Pyramid of Khufu – which stands at a staggering 145 meters. Aside from sightseeing, another great way to tap into local culture is to head into the desert and witness Bedouin traditions first hand. The first of these nomadic tribes migrated to Sinai during the early 7th century CE and many of their customs are still preserved today.

Read Also: The Richest African Countries

  • China – 2070 BCE

China officially celebrates its founding year as 221 BCE, but many dynasties have come and gone since the country’s establishment, each bringing its own fascinating stories and landmarks. Among its oldest buildings are the Nanchan Temple and the country’s oldest preserved timber building, the Great Buddha Hall, which you’ll find in Shanxi Province.

Also home to one of the world’s oldest cuisines, there’s plenty for food fanatics as well as the history enthusiasts on this trip. To visit the oldest restaurant in China, make a beeline to Kaifeng, Henan, where you’ll find Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House. This eatery was originally established during the Jin dynasty (approximately 1115) and rebranded in 1855 to specialize in serving delicious chicken dishes.

  • Greece – 3000 BC

Antiquated temples and ruins still connect modern Greece to Ancient Greece, although the country as we know it was not founded until 1832. With the Acropolis, Parthenon and the Epidaurus Theatre all still standing in some form, as well as countless other monuments, we thought Ancient Greece was a welcome addition to our list as an ancient civilisation. Just don’t forget your camera!

Whether you opt for an escape to Athens or a Greek Island, you’ll be spoiled for choice in terms of ancient wonders and attractions. Head to Crete for the Minoan Palace of Knossos, to Santorini for the Akrotiri Ruins, or Corfu for the Achilleion.

  • Japan – 660 BCE

Although often disputed, 660 BCE is said to be the year when Japan came into existence. A unique and dizzying blend of old-meets-new now characterises Japan, making for an awesome holiday destination that celebrates contrast. To delve into the country’s rich past, be sure your travel itinerary features everything from traditional temples to ancient onsens.

If you’re exploring in and around Kyoto, stop for a cuppa at Tsuen Tea, Japan’s oldest teahouse, which was founded in 1160. Or make a day trip to Nara to see Japan’s oldest building, the Hōryū-ji temple, which dates all the way back to 597CE. Even in the cosmopolitan capital that is Tokyo, you’ll find high-tech high-rises rubbing shoulders with long-standing shrines, castles, and museums holding old artefacts.

  • San Marino – 301 CE

Small-yet-perfectly-formed, San Marino is a tiny republic situated atop Titano Mountain in the heart of Italy between the Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions. This independent state is said to have been founded in 301 CE by a stone cutter escaping Christian persecution. It’s hilltop location and citadels mean that San Marino has successfully avoided various invasions, meaning there is plenty of history still to discover.

San Marino’s picturesque historical monuments have withstood the test of time, perhaps the most notable being the outstanding rock-hewn Fortress of Guaita, which is well worth exploring. It’s assumed that construction began in the 10th century and this tower is the first and highest of the three in the complex to be completed. Whilst Guaita served as a prison and watchtower, you can now just visit and soak up the views.

  • France – 843

Another historical heavyweight hailing from the European continent, France consistently ranks as the most popular holiday destination in the entire world. Part of that clear touristic appeal is the country’s rich past. Founded in 1958, the French Kingdom arguably dates back to 843 CE, when many consider France as we know it to have come into existence.

Old France can be explored by heading to the Luxor Obelisk in Paris. This 3,000 year old gift from Egypt to France in 1829 was significant at the time of the Verdun Treaty. Further historical gems in France’s capital include the Notre Dame Cathedral, the construction of which began almost 1,000 years ago in 1163! Venturing outside Paris, you’ll find treasures galore from prehistoric caves to Roman ruins and charming chateaux.

  • Hungary – 1001

Hungary is an excellent choice for history hunting holidaymakers. The Kingdom of Hungary saw in the millennial year of 1000 CE, its age meaning there is a tonne of opportunity to delve into this country’s rich and diverse past while you visit. On a walking tour of the capital, Budapest, you can discover all sorts – from St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament Buildings to the Fisherman’s Bastion.

Museums are also a great place to start if you’d like an introduction to Hungarian history. The Hungarian National Gallery is housed within Buda Castle and contains a wide selection of artefacts, as well as the Habsburg Palatinal Crypt, established in 1838. Whilst you’re on holiday in Hungary, we also recommend adding the Hungarian National Museum and Natural History Museum to your list.

Others are:

  • Portugal – 1143

  • India – 2000 BCE

  • Georgia – 1300 BCE

  • Israel – 1300 BCE

  • Sudan – 1070 BCE

  • Iran – 3200 BCE

  • Afghanistan – 678 BCE

  • Vietnam – 2879 BCE

  • Armenia – 2492 BCE

  • North Korea – 2333 BCE

  • Mongolia – 1206

  • Thailand – 1238

  • Austria – 976

  • Denmark – 10th century

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