Smallest Multiple Time Zone Countries

On September 3, 2017 · 6 Comments

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.

Enclaves within Dhekelia

On December 26, 2009 · 1 Comments

Cyprus. One island split so many different ways. There’s the de facto partitioning between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. There’s the United Nations buffer zone created along the ceasefire line. There’s the British Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia. This isn’t about any of those divisions. Rather I’m drawn to the three, well actually four, tiny exclaves of the Republic of Cyprus contained within Dhekelia.

In fair warning, I am about to compress centuries of history and ignore points of vast geopolitical importance to focus on my very narrow interest in manmade terrestrial oddities. Students of Cypriot history will probably cringe.

The British used Cyprus as a base to protect their colonial trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. They administering the island beginning in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century but did not exercise actual sovereignty over it. That continued to be retained by the Ottoman Empire. Things changed when the Ottoman Empire sided with the Central Powers during the First World War. Now enemies, the United Kingdom annexed Cyprus and it soon became a British Crown Colony.

Cyprus gained its independence in 1960, but in return the United Kingdom claimed dominion over two Sovereign Base Areas. The island continued to remain a strategic location to the interests of Great Britain so the Base Areas were an important part of the deal establishing Cypriot independence. Britain continues to hold sovereignty over these military facilities a half-century later. The United Kingdom classifies a Sovereign Base Area a bit differently than it considers other territories. It is presided over by an Administrator rather than a Governor. This is more than a difference of semantics. The Administrator reports up through the Ministry of Defence and also serves as the military commander of British forces on Cyprus.

Cyprus with British Sovereign Base Areas
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook – Cyprus

That’s an interesting governance model and its probably worthy of greater attention here on the Twelve Mile Circle. Maybe someday I’ll get to that. For the sake of brevity however, let’s explore the little enclaves within Dhekelia, the easternmost of the two Sovereign Base Areas instead. They appear clearly on this map from the CIA World Factbook, with two of them labeled below.

Cyprus with British Sovereign Base Areas
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook – Dhekelia

The enclaves within Dhekelia are all exclaves of the Republic of Cyprus, sovereign territory of the Greek Cypriot government. They include the fully-enveloped villages of Ormideia and Xylotymvou as well as the Dhekelia Power Station along the coast. I’ve created a map to show the approximate boundaries of these enclaves. Please bear in mind that these are not exact boundaries but about the best I could do freehand.

View Enclaves within Dhekelia in a larger map

Ormideia and Xylotymvou

Ormideia, alternately Ormidhia or Ormidheia, take your pick of how you’d prefer to translate it from the Greek spelling, has about 4,000 residents within its confines. Xylotymvou, and again considering the same exercise, alternately Xylotymboy or Xylotymbou, has about 3,500 residents. Both areas are part of the Larnaca District of the Republic of Cyprus under Greek Cypriot control.

The Turkish invasion of Cyprus took place in 1974 and both sides respected the boundaries of the British Sovereign Base Area. Thus, Ormideia and Xylotimbou became safe havens throughout the conflict, little slices cocooned within the British lands that surrounded them. Many Greek-Cypriot refugees fleeing armed conflicts on the northern side of the island sought safety here. Some of them settled within the enclaves permanently.

The towns continue to use their unique status as a selling point. They are surrounded by rural swaths of the Sovereign Base Area that create a park-like setting untouched by the intense development found elsewhere. Crime is negligible in this confined small-town environment fully enveloped within an armed and secured military base. Neither of the towns can ever grow beyond their predefined boundaries. They share a lot in common with exclusive gated communities (reminds me of a similar situation in the United States). Yet, the villages are close to the amenities of Larnaca, the Mediterranean coast and a major airport only a few kilometres away.

Neither town is large enough to have much of a presence on the web, but here are a couple of sites with a few links, some in English and some in Greek. Both have enough photographs to provide a good sense of place.

Dhekelia Power Station

Oftentimes one will find references to the "three" enclaves, but there are four actually: a road belonging to the Sovereign Base Area cuts through the power station property from west to east. Thus the Dhekelia Power Station enclave is really two enclaves separated by the width of a single road.

View Enclaves within Dhekelia in a larger map

The power station is located in the southern division along Larnaca Bay. Workers live in the northern division and a housing development can be seen there in the satellite image. These workers have to cross ever-so-briefly into the Sovereign Base Area to get to their jobs and then to return home over this same strange border each day.

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