An Island Located Between Spain And France Is The World’s Smallest Jointly Governed Territory

Image of Pheasant Island in the Bidasoa River.

Image of Pheasant Island in the Bidasoa River. Credit: Ignacio Gavira/Creative Commons Attribution 2.5

An island located near the mouth of the Bidasoa River, on the border of Spain and France, is jointly governed by both countries.

Pheasant Island sits in the estuary, with the Spanish municipality of Irún in the Bidasoaldea region in the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Autonomous Community on one side, and Hendaye, a commune in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department and Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France on the other.

This unusual situation came about as a result of the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which was signed in 1659. By signing the document, the two European nations agreed to share the island.

As a result, for six months of each year, the island belongs to one country and for the next six months it becomes part of the other country. Specifically, from February to July, Pheasant Island is ruled by Spain and from August to January, by France.

It is the smallest condominium in the world

Its strategic location in the river caused many conflicts over who actually owned the territory in the past. With a total area of ​​only 6,830 m², the island has the fame of being the smallest condominium – a territory under the joint government of two countries – in the world.

Another curiosity about this place is that although it is called Pheasant Island, no pheasant has ever been known to have lived there. Prior to receiving its new name, it was called Hospital Island, something equally surprising, because it never had any such medical facility either.

During the time of the Roman Empire, the island was used as a means of crossing from one country to the other. There was even a toll that had to be paid at the time.

Pheasant Island is currently he island uninhabited, and due to the security that surrounds the small chunk of land, it is impossible to access.

The only time that the island can be visited is on the two occasions each year when the handover ceremony from country to country takes place. These are on the first day of February and the first day of August annually.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at