Smallest Multiple Time Zone Countries

Sometimes I come up with a simple question and I think I’ll get, and even want, a simple answer. Writing these Twelve Mile Circle articles is a lot easier when I’m able to come to a conclusion quickly. Then I can move on with my weekend. Other times the story gets a lot more complicated, like today. I wanted to know the smallest country with more than one time zone. Simple, right? Not so fast. Things turned convoluted very quickly.

Federated States of Micronesia

Sunset on Chuuk
Sunset on Chuuk. Photo by Matt Kieffer on Flickr (cc)

I supposed, technically, that honor should go to the Federated States of Micronesia. Its land area covered only 702 square kilometres (271 square miles) split into two time zones. For purposes of my little quest I considered land area only. Who really cared about water? Nobody lived on the water except for a few passing boats and they could follow whatever time they wanted to observe. So I looked at land area. Micronesia had the least land of any multiple time zone country.

However, this nation didn’t include any time zones crossing over land as one would observe in larger countries. FSM stretched 2,700 km (1,678 mi) across the Pacific Ocean along the Caroline Islands archipelago. Two of its states, Yap and Chuuk observed Coordinated Universal Time +10:00 (UTC+10:00). The other two, Kosrae and Pohnpei, observed UTC+11:00. Half of its hundred thousand citizens lived on Chuuk (map).

FSM seemed like a bit of an artificial creation, controlled by Portugal and then Spain until Spain’s defeat in the Spanish–American War. Spain then sold the Caroline Islands to Germany who lost them to Japan as a result of the First World War. Japan held onto the islands until its defeat in the Second World War. Then it became a United Nations Trust Territory administered by the United States. Finally the Federated State of Micronesia gained its independence in 1986 in a Compact of Free Association with the U.S.

In spite of its arbitrary origin and its crazy geographic spread, I supposed it still met the definition of the smallest nation with more than one time zone. That didn’t really leave me satisfied, though.


Cyprus. Photo by Dan Nevill on Flickr (cc)

Cyprus also seemed problematic. The nation consisted of a single land mass, an island in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Two time zones definitely existed there in a manner of speaking. However that occurred only because of Northern Cyprus.

Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. The island included significant Greek and Turkish settlements so establishing sovereignty required skillful negotiations. This resulted in a tripartite treaty between the UK, Greece and Turkey called the Zürich and London Agreement. Then, in 1974, a military junta staged a coup intending to unite Cyprus with Greece. Turkey responded with force, invading the island and seizing about a third of it. Turkey established Northern Cyprus and evicted about two hundred thousand Greek Cypriots. The international community, with the exception of Turkey, did not and still does not recognize the sovereignty of Northern Cyprus.

Nonetheless, the Turkish army stationed in Northern Cyprus, created a de facto situation that split the island. Both sides established their capital in Nicosia (map), on separate sides of a U.N. buffer zone.

Every other nation may claim that a single government covers the entirety of Cyprus and the Cypriot flag may show a unified nation, however Turkish troops enforced a different reality. Cyprus observed time zone UTC+02:00. Northern Cyprus followed UTC+03:00, the same as Turkey. Half of the year, during the summer, they followed the same time because Cyprus observed Daylight Saving Time and Northern Cyprus did not.

Bottom line, if only a single sovereign Cyprus existed without a de facto Northern Cyprus, only one time zone would exist there.


Punta Arenas Chile. View across the city.
Punta Arenas Chile. View across the city. Photo by denisbin on Flickr (cc)

Alright, so I still wanted to find the smallest contiguous nation with more than one time zone. I didn’t want something with a bunch of far-flung islands and I didn’t want something arising out of an international dispute. Chilé seemed to be the next best solution.

I wouldn’t actually call Chilé a "small" nation. It ranked 37th in size with a land area of 743,812 square km (287,187 sq miles). Even so, one would expect something fairly large geographically to justify more than one contiguous time zone. Chilé,by the way, also had a third time zone for Easter Island although I ignored it for this purpose.

Most of Chilé, both by land and people, fell within UTC-04:00. Its southern portion, the Region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica observed UTC-03:00. This included the provinces of Última Esperanza, Magallanes, Tierra del Fuego, and Antártica Chilena. Looking at the map, that made sense.

Much of Chilé followed a narrow north-south alignment along the western cost of South America. However it curved distinctly east at its southern end. There it hugged the bottom of Argentina, with a small portion even bordering the South Atlantic Ocean. Most of the people of this region lived near Punta Arenas (map), deep within that southeastern curve. It meant that a large portion of people of the Magallanes Region would be inconvenienced if they followed the same time zone as the rest of Chilé.

This actually happened fairly recently, with the Magallanes Region making the time zone switch on May 14, 2017.

Revisiting Street View Extremes

Time moves forward, an unstoppable force. We all must face that awful truth as we age. On a happier thought, that allowed me to revisit a Twelve Mile Circle article from nearly five years ago and see if it remained true. I concluded in Streetview Beats a Deadhorse from February 2010 that the northernmost Google Street View image correlated to a spot at 70.242777 degrees north latitude in the North Slope Borough of Alaska. The Dalton Highway went no farther, terminating at a restricted checkpoint of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

Forward to today, the final day of meteorological summer for the northern hemisphere 2014. Had the honorific shifted? I established simple rules and expanded the search to all four cardinal directions. The site must have been visited by the Street View car, not by someone aboard a ship or carrying a camera backpack. That eliminated Antarctica, Svalbard and various isolated South Pacific islands.

Nordkapp, Norway

North Cape
North Cape by Tor Even Mathisen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The northernmost crown had been stolen! It now shifted to 71.169475 degrees north, where the Street View car reached Nordkapp, Norway. All end-of-the–line Street View images were rather boring so I posted photos from Flickr instead. I still included a link for each entry for curious 12MC audience members though (for example, Street View).

Apparently many people were drawn to Nordkapp as a tourist attraction especially in recent decades because it was considered the northernmost point in Europe. I wouldn’t have the heart to tell them they were all wrong. I think it would be legitimate to say, in their defense, that it was as far north in Europe as anyone could conveniently drive a car. European route E69 provided a well-maintained road right up to the the Nordkapp doorstep where tourists could disembark at a newly refurbished visitors center and snap lots of photos memorializing their accomplishment.

Interestingly, "Nordkapp is a Norwegianized form of the English language name North Cape." A 16th century English explorer searching for a safe route through the Northeast Passage named it, and the designation stuck.

Cochrane, Chile

Casa mate
Casa mate by Claudio Jofré Larenas, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Cochrane, Chile, extended to -47.258816 degrees south and claimed the southernmost image title (Street View). I fully expect that position to change someday. It’s only a matter of time before Street View arrives in Ushuaia, Argentina or Cabo de Hornos, Chile along the Beagle Channel of Tierra del Fuego (map). For today at least, Cochrane held the title.

Cochrane also seemed an odd choice for a place named in a Spanish-speaking area, and like Nordkapp demonstrated that British ship captains sailed far and wide across the planet. Cochrane referred to Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, from Scotland. He sailed relentlessly during the first part of the 19th century, experiencing one adventure after another, and getting into and out of trouble repeatedly. He was an archetype of the swashbuckler. Numerous authors drew upon Cochrane as inspiration for their fictional characters thereafter. Cochrane, the town, honored its namesake’s role as Admiral of the Chilean Navy, a position he also filled later for Brazil and Greece in addition to his years of service in the British Navy. The guy got around.

We should be thankful that the Street View car made it down to Cochrane. The Chilean southern highway (Carretera Austral) didn’t connect Cochrane and other southern towns to the larger road network until 1988, and even today "the trip involves gravel, winding curves and unpredictable weather."

The biggest tourist attraction — other than the abundant natural scenery of various large parks in the area — seemed to be the oddly-shaped Casa Mate.

East Cape, New Zealand

east cape lighthouse
east cape lighthouse by Christopher
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Easternmost and westernmost didn’t have the same appeal during my review because of the arbitrary nature of a prime meridian. I won’t spend as much time discussing them. A prime meridian could exist anywhere. Once again British sea power influenced events and Greenwich became a worldwide standard. Nonetheless I examined the situation for the sake of completeness.

East Cape, the easternmost point of New Zealand’s primary islands, had Street View coverage up to the farthest point an automobile could travel (Street View). It would be difficult to ever improve upon 178.544347 degrees east. Images extended all the way to a car park where visitors could then hike to the actual point.

A 22km, mostly unsealed, no-exit road from Te Araroa takes you to the most Easterly point on mainland New Zealand. The historic East Cape lighthouse stands 154 metres above sea level and is accessed by a walking track of some 700 steps – worth it for the views at the top.

Mana Point, Kauai, Hawaii, USA

201401_Kauai-PMRF-Barking-Sands_401 by Thad Westhusing, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Street View provided extensive coverage of the Hawaiian islands so it was only a matter of finding the westernmost image on the westernmost major island, Kauai. I noticed images from minor outlying islands along the archipelago, however, those didn’t involve automobiles or road networks so I discarded them. I settled on Mana Point on Kauai at 159.779397 degrees west (Street View).

The area was known for two things: surfing and missiles. It was the site of Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands:

…the world’s largest instrumented multi-environmental range capable of supported surface, subsurface, air, and space operations simultaneously. There are over 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace.

The updated Street View extremes delivered viewers to some interesting places. I wonder where they will lead another five years from now?

Three Letter Oddities

I mentioned OGG as the three-letter airport code for Kahului Airport on the Hawaiian island of Maui in the Middling article for no greater significance than I found it amusing and it sounded like something a caveman might say. A little Intertubes sleuthing led me to an easy explanation at Airport ABCs, an article reprinted from the December 1994 edition of Air Line Pilot. Why OGG? The designation was created "in honor of aviation legend, and Lihue native, Capt. Bertram J. Hogg (pronounced Hoag)."

The International Air Transport Association a trade group of "240 members comprise 84% of the total air traffic" and known more commonly by its acronym IATA, assigned these codes. Most visible to the average airline traveler, those are the sometimes cryptic three-letter combinations one sees printed on baggage tags that route them to their proper destinations. Usually. Unique codes identify hundreds of distinct airports everywhere around the world, large and small, served by commercial airlines.

Codes ranged from AAA (Anaa Airport, French Polynesia) to ZZV (Zanesville Airport, Ohio, USA), and offered a dizzying array of entertaining combinations. It would border on negligence if I failed to mention the best of the lot even though it’s already well known. I just couldn’t help myself. You knew what was coming — Sioux Gateway Airport serving Sioux City, Iowa.

This Airport SUX

The SUX designation had been applied in an earlier time before "sucks" became so closely synonymous with lousy situations and things. Sioux City politicians began lobbying for a new code in the 1990’s. They abandoned their effort a few years later and decided to stick with SUX after being offered nothing better. They later came to embrace SUX as a marketing tool. Now the airport website proudly proclaims and sells merchandise.

Twelve Mile Circle reviewed every three-letter code to gather the best of the rest. I got about halfway through my task and discovered I’d collected primarily a list of obscenities. Being a family-friendly site, or at least a family-tolerant site, I felt an obligation to start anew and shift my focus away from the profane and tack back towards odd. Sorry Fukuoka Airport and your ilk, I discarded you. Actually a couple of codes were even more explicit — enough to make 12MC blush — and I won’t even hint at those.

I gathered some of the vast array of remaining options and placed them in a few logical groupings. Readers can play this game at home with other groupings. Options are practically endless.

Bumpy Landings

D’OH!: Doha, Qatar

Several codes might be completely harmless in their home languages while failing to instill a level of confidence through a prism of English language and popular culture. To wit, Doha, Qatar’s DOH came perilously close to Homer Simpson’s D’OH!

Other difficult transits might be inferred by,

  • BAD – Barksdale Air Force Base, Bossier City, Louisiana, United States
  • BOO – Bodø Airport, Bodø, Norway
  • EEK – Eek Airport, Eek, Alaska, United States
  • LIE – Libenge Airport, Libenge, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • MUD – Mueda Airport, Mueda, Mozambique
  • SAD – Safford Regional Airport, Safford, Arizona, United States
  • WAA – Wales Airport (FAA: IWK), Wales, Alaska, United States

Airport Confidence

FLY to Finley, NSW, Australia

Other airports seemed to imply vastly superior experiences. I don’t know how tiny Finley, NSW, Australia managed to snag FLY, though. I would have thought airports around the world would have fought hard for that one. Any city in Florida or Finland might have also put that code to good use.

A few other attractive options,

  • ACE – Lanzarote Airport, Arrecife, Canary Islands, Spain
  • EZE – Ministro Pistarini International Airport Ezeiza, Argentina
  • SKY – Griffing Sandusky Airport, Sandusky, Ohio, United States
  • TLC – Lic. Adolfo López Mateos International Airport, Toluca, Estado de México, México
  • WOW – Willow Airport, Willow, Alaska, United States

Barnyard Theme

Have a COW; Coquimbo, Chile

I needed to come up with something innocuous and family-appropriate after my earlier thematic failure. An "Old MacDonald" farmyard motif arose from the lengthy list, although admittedly UDR for udder might have been stretching things a bit too far (no pun intended).

  • ARF – Acaricuara Airport, Acaricuara, Colombia
  • BAA – Bialla Airport, Bialla, Papua New Guinea
  • CAT – New Bight Airport, Cat Island, Bahamas
  • COW – Coquimbo Airport, Coquimbo, Coquimbo Region, Chile
  • DOG – Dongola Airport, Dongola, Sudan
  • MOO – Moomba Airport, Moomba, South Australia, Australia
  • PIG – Pitinga Airport, Pitinga, Brazil
  • RAT – Raduzhny Airport, Raduzhny, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Russia
  • UDR – Udaipur Airport, Udaipur, India

My Airport

Airport in Timbuktu by James Joel on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license

Then I got selfish. Which airports, I wondered, had three-letter codes that mattered to me personally. Obviously TOM would rank high on that list, although Timbuktu, Mali might not be the best place to visit at the moment due to civil unrest and rebellion. The code TOM derived from it French language spelling, Aéroport International de Tombouctou, a remnant of French colonial rule that lasted into the 1960’s.

TOM in Timbuktu, Mali

In recognition of my given name, my immense EGO, my fondness for food and fermented beverage, and my geo-oddity proclivities, I selected,

  • EGO – Belgorod Airport, Belgorod, Russia
  • TOM – Timbuktu Airport, Timbuktu, Mali
  • BBQ – Codrington Airport, Codrington, Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda
  • HAM – Hamburg Airport, Hamburg / Fuhlsbüttel, Germany
  • PIE – St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Pinellas Co., Florida, United States
  • ALE – Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport, Alpine, Texas, United States
  • IPA – Ipota Airport, Ipota, Erromango, Vanuatu
  • RUM – Rumjatar Airport, Rumjatar, Nepal
  • GEO – Cheddi Jagan International Airport (Timehri Int’l), Georgetown, Guyana
  • LOL – Derby Field, Lovelock, Nevada, United States
  • USA – Concord Regional Airport, Concord, North Carolina, United States

That would be an interesting world tour.