Time zones are tricky and have brought strange quirks to our lives since the 1884 Meridian Conference. There have been interesting events throughout history when it comes to time zones. For instance, Hitler’s 1940s sweep through Europe ended the Amsterdam time. If that wasn’t enough, American Samoa gave the United States the ultimate cold shoulder; by literally moving to a different day to get away from them! No matter the biggest time zone difference on earth, the 21st-century has brought people closer. So, if your colleague is having lunch and you’re having dinner, you can still work together!
Usually, time zones mean local times. Moreover, they’re defined by an offset from the UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), the world’s time standard. What’s more, UTC changes either an hour backward/forward, corresponding to a one-hour time difference in mean solar time. Initially, 24 time zones were created considering the prime meridian’s 15-degree distance, either west or east. Consequently, the world added more time zones as more borders were drawn and maps were aligned.
So, some regions that don’t use the International Date Line time zones might have time differences of +13 or even +14 hours UTC. This holds true for the Baker and Howland Islands and the Line Islands of the Republic of Kiribati, which have a time difference of 26 hours! So, what is the biggest time difference on earth when it comes to the countries of the world? Read on!
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Baker and Howland Islands – Republic of Kiribati’s Line Islands
The uninhabited Howland and Baker Islands, part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands, and the Line Islands of the Republic of Kiribati, Micronesia, have the biggest time zone difference on earth – 26 hours! Interestingly, these islands all lie in the North Pacific Ocean, extremely close to one another. However, they lie on the opposite sides of the International Date Line. For instance, the Line Islands use +14 UTC, and the Howland islands use -12 UTC, making it an actual difference of just 2 hours. But where it becomes interesting is that the bigger time difference is observed in the dates of the two places. That’s because of their positions with regard to the Date Line. So, if it’s Friday, 11 pm in the Howland Islands, it’s Sunday, 1 am in the Line Islands.
Niue – New Zealand
Niue in French Polynesia is not just one of the world’s most remote islands, but it’s also one of the largest coral islands in the world. It lies on the right side of the International Date Line and follows a -11 UTC time zone. New Zealand, on the other hand, lies just on the left side of the International Date Line and follows a +12 UTC time zone. So, the time difference between these two islands is a whopping 23 hours! What makes it interesting is that a direct flight from New Zealand to Niue takes about 3-4 hours. That’s because they’re just around 2,480 km (1,540 mi) apart. But, when it’s Friday, 10 pm in New Zealand, it’s still Thursday, 11 pm in Niue!
The same thing applies to New Zealand and American Samoa too, which have a time difference of 23 hours between them.
Cook Islands – Fiji
The next biggest time zone difference on earth is 22 hours, which exists between the Cook Islands and Fiji. Both island countries, the small, self-governing Cook Islands and the mesmerizing Fiji, lie in the South Pacific Ocean. However, they lie on the opposite sides of the International Date Line. Firstly, the Cook Islands follow the time zone of -10 UTC on the right side of the Date Line. Meanwhile, Fiji is in the +12 UTC time zone, on the left of the Date Lune. So, even though the flying time between the nations is less than 3 hours, Fiji is 22 hours ahead, thanks to the wonder that is time zones.
If you’re a beach bum, you should be visiting the Cook Islands, which is home to one of the earth’s most unique beaches. Fiji, on the other hand, is one of the world’s best luxurious honeymoon destinations. So if romance is what you’re looking for, then head to the latter.
Hawaii, U.S. – Vanuatu
One of the most interesting things about the 1884 Meridian Conference is that at that time, Hawaii was an independent state. Today, this North Pacific Ocean archipelago follows the -10 UTC time zone and is one of the best US spots for winter vacations. Vanuatu, on the other hand, is part of Polynesia and follows the +11 UTC time zone. So, this South Pacific Ocean country is ahead of Hawaii by 21 hours, despite a direct non-stop flight lasting only 7 hours. So, if it’s Friday at 4 pm in Vanuatu, it’s still 7 pm the day before in Hawaii.
Interestingly, the Palmyra Atoll, part of Hawaii, follows a -11 UTC time zone and is one of the world’s most incredible abandoned islands.
Alaska, U.S. – New Caledonia
The next biggest time zone difference on earth is between the United States’ gorgeous westernmost state of Alaska and New Caledonia. Alaska is fast disappearing due to global warming and is amongst the must-visit places before they disappear. Perhaps the fact that it’s one of the best places to see the northern lights might inspire you! New Caledonia, on the other hand, is a French archipelago territory in the South Pacific, just south of Vanuatu.
So, these two places are just over 10,000 km (~6,000 mi) apart, with a non-stop flight being about 13 hours. But, the actual time difference between these two places is 19 hours due to the different time zones of both places. Alaska, for one, lies in the -9 UTC time zone, while New Caledonia lies in the +11 UTC time zone. So, when it’s 5 pm in Alaska on Friday, it’s already 11 am on Saturday in New Caledonia.
Baja California, Mexico – Australia
The gorgeous Baja California, a.k.a. Lower California, is a Mexican state overlooking the North Pacific Ocean. On the other side of the world sits Australia, specifically the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria. These two regions are a whopping 17 hours apart, with the Australian regions being ahead. Baja California, famed for its stunning white-sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and a bunch of Spanish heritage and historical sites, follows the – 8 UTC time zone. Meanwhile, the above-mentioned Australian regions fall in the +10 UTC time zone.
Interestingly, other places that fall in the same time zone as Baja California are the states of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, and California in the United States. Finally, other countries that lie in the same time zone as the Australian territories are Papua New Guinea and Guam.
Japan – Alberta, Canada
The next biggest time zone difference on earth is between the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ Japan and the spectacular state of Alberta, Canada. Japan needs no introduction; it’s home to some of the world’s most beautiful hot springs, tree tunnels, extraordinary temples, and more. In fact, Japan is also home to one of the most colorful places on earth; the sea of flowers fronting Mount Fuji. However, Alberta isn’t far behind, especially when it comes to natural beauty. It’s famously home to Banff National Park, one of the earth’s most amazing national parks and also one of the most beautiful of Canada’s national parks.
If there were a non-stop flight between these two gorgeous regions, it would be just about 10 hours long. But, Japan is almost 15 hours ahead of Alberta. For one, Japan follows the +9 UTC time zone, while Alberta lies in the -7 UTC time zone.
Nicaragua – Timor Leste
Timor-Leste, a.k.a. East Timor, is tucked between the Banda Sea and the Timor Sea in Southeast Asia. On the other end of the world lies Nicaragua, a Central American country with dramatic landscapes. These two countries lie 15 hours apart. So, if it’s 6 am in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, then it’s 9 pm in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. East Timor follows the +9 UTC time zone, while Nicaragua lies in the -6 UTC time zone, hence the time difference.
Other regions and countries that lie in the same time zones are Easter Island, Costa Rica, Galapagos Islands, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras on the Nicaragua side. On the other side lie regions such as South Korea, Palau, and North Korea.
Singapore – Belize
The next biggest time zone difference on earth is 14 hours between the countries of Singapore and Belize. The rich Southeast Asian island country/city of Singapore is one of the world’s most peaceful countries and one of the world’s busiest cities. The Central American country of Belize is famous for being home to the Mayan civilization, gorgeous coral reefs, and stunning lush landscapes. These two countries aren’t just poles apart in character and landscapes but also lie on other ends of the world.
Singapore follows the +8 UTC time zone, just like other Southeastern neighbors of Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Phillippines, and Macau. Belize, on the other hand, falls in the -6 UTC time zone, just like Ontario and the United States regions of Texas, Nebraska, Michigan, and Alabama. So, it puts Singapore 14 hours ahead of Belize.
Peru – Mongolia
Their landscapes might be quite similar, but they lie 14 hours apart in terms of time zones. We’re talking, of course, about South American jewel Peru and Central Asian barren gem Mongolia. Peru is all about famous lost world cities, breathtaking canyons, captivating sand dunes, and incredible world heritage sites. Meanwhile, Mongolia is famous for being home to the Gobi Desert, the famed Black Dragon River, and Erdene Zuu, one of the world’s most incredible Buddhist monasteries.
It’s interesting that Peru lies in the -5 UTC time zone while Mongolia lies in the +7 UTC time zone, putting the latter 14 hours ahead of the former. But that’s not all. Countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand in Mongolia’s time zone and Panama, Jamaica, Ecuador, and Cuba in Peru’s time zone also have the same time difference.
Chile – Myanmar
We finish with the countries that have the (least) biggest time zone difference on earth on this list, Chile and Myanmar. Chile lies in the -4 UTC time zone, while Myanmar sits in the +630 time zone. So, that puts Myanmar 10 hours and 30 minutes ahead of the South American nation. Even then, the time difference is quite huge! So, if it’s 1 pm on a Friday afternoon in Chile, the day’s already ending for Myanmar, where it’s 11:30 pm on Friday.
Chile has a lot for travelers to see, from mysterious geoglyphs and the oldest trees to the biggest swimming pools (yes!) and breathtaking monoliths. However, Myanmar isn’t far behind and is famous for being home to lush landscapes, gorgeous architecture, and one of the biggest Buddhas in the world.