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Geography of Greece

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A geographical map of Greece and its offshore territories
A geographical map of Greece and its offshore territories

Greece is a country in Southern Europe,[1] bordered to the north by Albania, North Macedonia and Bulgaria; to the east by Turkey, and is surrounded to the east by the Aegean Sea, to the south by the Cretan and the Libyan Seas, and to the west by the Ionian Sea which separates Greece from Italy.

The country consists of a mountainous, peninsular mainland jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea at the southernmost tip of the Balkans, and two smaller peninsulas projecting from it: the Chalkidiki and the Peloponnese, which is joined to the mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth. Greece also has many islands, of various sizes, the largest being Crete, Euboea, Lesvos, Rhodes, Chios, Kefalonia, and Corfu; groups of smaller islands include the Dodecanese and the Cyclades. According to the CIA World Factbook, Greece has 13,676 kilometres (8,498 mi) of coastline, the largest in the Mediterranean Basin.[2]

Greece's latitude ranges from 35°N to 42°N and its longitude from 19°E to 28°E. As a result of this and its physical geography, the country has considerable climatic variation.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Greece's Geography Problem
  • ✪ Geography Now! Greece
  • ✪ Geography and Early Greece
  • ✪ Flag Friday Greece! (Geography Now)
  • ✪ Greece/Greece Country/Greece Geography


This video was made possible by Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Learn more at the link in the description. Centuries ago nations like Portugal, and Iraq, and Syria, Spain, Mongolia, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Greece were the world’s most powerful, most advanced civilizations. Today, though, that’s not the case. While this group does not necessarily represent the losers in the game that is history, they’re also certainly not in first place. Change has relegated them into second tier status despite their earlier prowess. One particularly noticeable case is that of Greece. In a span of a couple thousand years the people living on this peninsula went from shaping the way the western world would work to being boxed in by the very world around them. Greece is one of the most celebrated nations in history. They developed the political system of democracy—the very one used by many of the world’s most powerful nations today. Because of this perhaps a disproportionate amount of attention is placed upon the history of this small nation but nonetheless, ancient Greece overcame the odds to create a number of small yet powerful city-states. However, many of the factors that led to the success of this ancient civilization are the same ones holding back the modern state. On a global scale the country is far from poor but, as a European nation, it’s one of the poorest in a very rich area. Greece is exceptionally mountainous yet the terrain of Greece is different than that of many other countries. Switzerland, for example, has enormous mountains with nice, wide and long valleys in between. The mountains of Greece, though, are not as tall. The average elevation of Greece is 1,600 feet compared to 4,400 in Switzerland but the mountains in Greece are much more irregular. What this means is that there is only so much flat land in any one place. Any settlement needed enough land around it to grow the food that would feed its people and most agriculture can only grow on relatively flat land. While today we can ship food across the world, in the time of ancient Greece transportation technology was not advanced enough so one essentially had to have enough fields to feed the population directly around each settlement. Therefore, the sizes of ancient Greek settlements were essentially determined by the amount of flat land they could find in one place. It was tough for any one political entity to hold power over vast amounts of land because it was just too difficult to get around. For that reason, the peninsula was not one unified nation as it is today, it was divided into hundreds of small city-states unified by a common language and religion. The most powerful city-states, you’ll notice, were the ones that had the most flat land. The area directly surrounding Sparta, one of the historically strongest city-states, is a relatively large, flat valley that would have given them more land than other city-states to grow food and therefore Sparta was one of the largest cities. Athens was also one of the strongest city-states and still today is by far the largest city in Greece thanks to being in one of the largest single flat areas in the country. This geography did, of course, fragment the peninsula into hundreds of political entities but at the time that wasn’t really an issue. The same geography protected the entire area from outside invasion. Mountains acted as a thick shield from western Europe but this also, of course, made it tough to get to these areas, at least by land. This geography forced Greece to the ocean and the city-states became some of the most advanced maritime powers. Because of this, Greece was exposed to civilizations all around the Mediterranean and beyond and was able to learn from other nations such as Egypt and Mesopotamia. This exposure to the outside world helped turn the city-states into highly advanced and cosmopolitan civilizations that produced the era’s greatest philosophers. Nowadays, however, the mountains are less helpful. As the world has become more globalized trade linkages to other countries have become even more important and the mountains that pepper the Greek peninsula continue through the Balkans which means that land transportation infrastructure is limited to get goods and people between Western Europe and Greece. More consequently, though, 78% of the land in Greece is considered mountainous making it tied with Slovenia as the most mountainous country in the European Union. Greece is also one of the poorer countries in the European Union. As it turns out, there’s a link between how mountainous an EU country is and its GDP per capita. The average EU country with 35% of its land mountainous has a GDP per capita of $30,000 while the average EU country with only 25% of its land mountainous has a GDP per capita of $54,000 proving that there is a correlation between flatness and wealth. Now, there are some major exceptions—Sweden is one of the wealthiest EU countries while also being one of the most mountainous while Latvia is one of the poorest while being completely flat—so the correlation is not that strong and the EU also conveniently leaves out Switzerland and Norway—two exceptionally wealthy European countries that are also exceptionally mountainous—but nonetheless, it intuitively makes sense that mountains inhibit development and the statistics back this up to an extent. It’s worth pointing out that this is not just a European phenomenon. The five most mountainous countries in the world are Bhutan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, and Montenegro all of which have GDP per capita’s below the world average. What you’ll notice in Europe is that the wealthy mountainous countries such as Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland are all in cold climates while the less wealthy mountainous countries such as Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece are all in warmer climates. As it turns out, climate too is a predictor of wealth. For every additional tenth of a degree Fahrenheit of average yearly temperature in the EU a country’s GDP per capita is, on average, $1,670 lower. The reasoning behind the link between climate and wealth is massively complex, controversial, and not yet fully understood so we’ll leave that out but Greece is therefore in this double whammy situation of being both hot and mountainous which has proven itself as an inhibitor to development. Of the world’s 30 wealthiest countries none could be considered both hot and predominantly mountainous—many are one or the other but none both. The two factors together just seem to be the perfect cocktail for poor economic health. Greece suffers from strong regionalization. The same geography that cut the peninsula into small city-states today makes it difficult for a central government to govern the entire area effectively. You see this often, countries that were formerly multiple countries or nations often have problems with governance, but part of the difficulty for the Greek government is that their infrastructure is just not good. It’s hard to get around the country. Of course Greece is made up of about 6,000 islands and you cannot, of course, build roads across the Aegean Sea but the country still lacks infrastructure on the mainland. This can likely be attributed to a mix of a lack of funds and high cost to build through mountains and the country is therefore considered to have the third worst infrastructure in the European Union. With a lack of proper infrastructure to overcome the geographical boundaries this makes simple government functions like tax collection difficult. Greece receives about 28% less value added tax than it levies due to how rampant tax evasion is. The same is true for income and other forms of taxation so it’s no wonder why the country ended up in a debt crisis. In fact, this debt crisis that has devastated the country over the past ten years can too be partially linked back to geography. You see, Greece’s main geographic asset is the Aegean Sea. Part of this is economic. Many of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations from Santorini, to Mykonos, to Crete are islands in the Aegean Sea but the more significant asset of the Aegean is strategic. To the Northeast of Greece is the Black Sea which drains out into the Mediterranean through the Turkish Straits and the Aegean. While Turkey holds the most direct level of control over maritime traffic by controlling the Turkish Straits, the density of Greek islands and the strength of the country’s Navy means that it too, if it wanted to, could relatively easily blockade the Black Sea. This means that Greece holds the keys for Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Georgia’s only ocean access. Perhaps more significantly, Greece also controls the maritime routes to and from Russia’s most important ports. Being a very northern country, the majority of Russia’s coastline sees ice in the winter which makes shipping difficult whereas the Black Sea ports do not making them both militarily and economically critical for Russia. 17% of Russia’s shipping containers leave from the Port of Novorossiysk, for example, which is only one of the many Black Sea ports. A good portion of Greece’s little geopolitical clout is as a result of holding the Aegean. Given its importance, Greece therefore puts a lot of effort into asserting its sovereignty over this sea. This sovereignty, however, has for decades been the subject of a dispute with Turkey. The dispute is over not only who owns a number of islands near Turkey but also over the extent of Greek sovereignty over Aegean waters and airspace. Despite both countries officially being NATO allies tensions do occasionally heat up and Greece therefore regularly patrols the Aegean by sea and air. The country has a world class Navy and Air Force that are considered to be some of the strongest especially for such a small country but this, of course, comes at a cost. The country spends a full 2.5% of its GDP on its military. That’s a higher percentage than any NATO member except the US. The high government spending, which high military spending contributed significantly to, along with the country’s seeming inability to collect the taxes it levies forced the government to take on debt which, after the Great Recession hit in 2008, it could not pay off. The country was then plunged into years of economic and social crisis. This affected what is arguably Greece’s most important industry—tourism. A full quarter of jobs in Greece are in or as a result of tourism and the industry represents 20% of the country’s GDP so if tourism disappears, the whole country is affected. During the debt crisis, as violent demonstrations on the streets of Athens were publicized worldwide the number of tourist arrivals immediately declined which further exasperated the crisis. For a number of years the country actually had negative GDP growth and an unemployment rate close to 30% but, after austerity measures and a series of bailouts, unemployment rates are now shrinking and the country’s GDP is once again growing, at least slowly. The truth about Greece is that its geography, with warm weather, disconnected landmasses, sheer ocean cliffs, and soaring mountains, is terrible for most types of economic development but it’s these geographical features, along with a fascinating history and warm hospitality, that make Greece such an attractive travel destination. Tourist numbers in the country are reaching historic levels to the point where there’s starting to be a problem of too much tourism. While the country continues its path towards economic recovery the real test will be whether it can take what it has going for it, most specifically tourism, and use that to fix what’s not. What’s really fascinating about Greece is not that they fell from a position of strength, it’s that they ever had that position of strength. History has proven that the land of this peninsula, despite all its natural beauty, is not quite as hospitable and idyllic as it may seem. In this video I’m sure you noticed the stunning historical footage of Greece. This all came from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey—a brand new game that has essentially recreated the entirety of ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian War. Ubisoft actually brought me out to Greece to try the game and visit the historical sites they recreated so most of the modern footage of Greece in this video is my own and, even as someone who doesn’t really play video games, I really enjoyed playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey for the ability to explore a pretty breath-taking historical world. Of course the gameplay and storylines are great too but, if you’re just in it for the exploration, they’ll be releasing a “discovery tour” mode soon which will essentially be an interactive museum in the game. If you want to learn more and maybe even buy Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey be sure to click the link at the top of the description. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you again in two weeks for another Wendover Productions video.




Greece's climate is divided into three main classes:

Greece's largest island, Crete straddles two climatic zones, due to its geographical position and large size: the Mediterranean and the North African, mainly falling within the former. As such, the climate in Crete is primarily temperate.[citation needed] The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea, while winter is fairly mild. Snowfall is common on the mountains between November and May, but rare in low-lying areas, especially near the coast. During the summer, average temperatures may reach the low 30s °C, with maxima touching the mid 40s. The south coast of the island, including the Mesara Plain and Asterousia Mountains, falls in the North African climatic zone, and thus reaches higher temperatures throughout the year. In southern Crete, date palms bear fruit and swallows remain all year round, without migrating to Africa.

Physical geography

Greece is located in Southern Europe, bordering the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and Turkey. It is a peninsular country, with an archipelago of about 3,000 islands.

It has a total area of 131,957 km2 (50,949 sq mi),[3] of which land area is 130,647 km2 and internal waters (lakes and rivers) account for 1,310 km2. Land boundaries with Albania (212 km), North Macedonia (234 km), Bulgaria (472 km) and Turkey (192 km) measure approximately 1,110 km in total. Of the country's total territory, 83.33% or 110,496 km2 (42,663 sq mi) is mainland territory and the rest 16.67% or 21,461 km2 (8,286 sq mi) is island territory.[4]

Greece's coastline measures 13,676 km (8,498 mi).

80% of Greece is mountainous. The Pindus mountain range lies across the center of the country in a northwest-to-southeast direction, with a maximum elevation of 2,637 m. Extensions of the same mountain range stretch across the Peloponnese and underwater across the Aegean, forming many of the Aegean Islands including Crete, and joining with the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. Central and western Greece contain high and steep peaks intersected by many canyons and other karstic landscapes, including the Meteora and the Vikos Gorges – the latter being the world's deepest canyon in proportion to its width, and the third deepest after the Copper Canyon in Mexico and the Grand Canyon in the United States, plunging vertically for more than 1,100 metres.[5]

Mount Olympus is the highest point in Greece, the 7th highest and the 9th most prominent mountain in mainland Europe (together with Gerlachovský štít and including Großglockner as a separate mountain),[6] rising to 2,917 m above sea level. The Rhodope Mountains form the border between Greece and Bulgaria; that area is covered with vast and thick forests.

Greece's lowest point is sea level.[7]

Plains are found in eastern Thessaly, in central Macedonia and in Thrace.

Extremities of Greece

The extreme points of Greece are [8]

  • North: Ormenio village (41°45′41″ N, 26°13′15″ E)
  • South: Gavdos island (34°48′11″ N, 24°07′25″ E)
  • East: Strongyli island (36°06′17″ N, 29°38′39″ E)
  • West: Othonoi island (39°51′11″ N, 19°22′41″ E)
Greece's cities, main towns, main rivers, islands and selected archaeological sites.
Greece's cities, main towns, main rivers, islands and selected archaeological sites.


Mainland Greece forms the southernmost part of the Balkan peninsula with two additional smaller peninsulas projecting from it: the Chalkidiki and the Peloponnese. The north of the country includes the regions of Macedonia and Thrace. To the south the mainland narrows and includes the regions of Epirus, Thessaly and Central Greece, where the region of Attica and the capital city Athens are located. Further south, the smaller peninsula of Peloponnese is separated from the rest of the Greek mainland by the Corinthian and Saronic Gulfs, but joined by the Isthmus of Corinth.

Mainland Greece covers about 80% of the total territory and is largely mountainous. The largest mountain range of Greece is the Pindus range, the southern extension of the Dinaric Alps, which forms the spine of the Greek mainland, separating Epirus from Thessaly and Macedonia. The country's tallest mountain is Mount Olympus, which also separates Thessaly from Macedonia. Its highest peak rises to 2,918 m above sea level, making it the second highest of the Balkan peninsula after Musala in the Rila Mountain.


Greece has a vast number of islands, with most of them being in the Aegean Sea and the rest in the Ionian Sea. Estimates of the number of islands vary between 1,200 and 6,000.[9] A figure frequently cited in travel guides is 1,425 islands, of which 166 are said to be inhabited.[10] The Greek Tourism Organization reports a figure of 6,000, with 227 of them inhabited.[11] Paris Match, however, raises this number to 9,841 islands, of which only 169 have a recorded continuous human presence. [12]

The Greek islands account for about 20% of the country's total territory,[13] and vary greatly in size as well as in climate. The country's largest island is Crete, with Euboea being second largest. Other large Greek islands include Rhodes and Lesbos in the Aegean Sea, and Corfu and Cephalonia in the Ionian Sea. Many of the smaller Greek islands form groups or chains, often called archipelagos, with notable examples being the Cyclades and the Sporades in the south and central Aegean Sea respectively.


The islands of the Aegean Sea are situated between mainland Greece to the west and north, Anatolia to the east and the island of Crete to the south. Traditionally, the islands are classified into seven groups, from north to south:

Geographical features

Ionian Islands

The Ionian Islands are a group of seven islands. The six northern islands lie off the western coast of Greece, in the Ionian Sea. The other island, Kythira, lies off the southern tip of the Peloponnese. Kythira is part of the modern administrative region of Attica, not the Ionian Islands (Ionioi Nisoi). The Ionian Islands are distinct from the historical region of Ionia, which is today part of western Turkey.


NASA photograph of Crete
NASA photograph of Crete

Crete is the largest island of Greece and the second largest in the Eastern Mediterranean, after Cyprus. The island spans 260 km from east to west and 60 km from north to south at its widest. The island narrows in the region close to Ierapetra, where it is only 12 km wide. Crete covers an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi), with a coastline of 1046 km. It is surrounded to the north by the Sea of Crete; to the south by the Libyan Sea; to the west by the Myrtoan Sea; and to the east by the Karpathion Sea. It lies about 160 km south of the Greek mainland.

Crete is characterized by a mountain range crossing from west to east, formed by three different subranges:

These encompass fertile plateaus, such as Lasithi, Omalos and Nidha; caves such as Diktaion and Idaion; and gorges such as the Samariá Gorge. The protected area of the Samariá Gorge is the home of the Cretan goat, or kri-kri, while the endangered Bearded vulture or lammergeyer lives in the Cretan mountains and gorges.

Crete's rivers include the Ieropotamos River in the southern part of the island.

Land use

  • Arable land: 19.71%
  • Permanent crops: 8.95%
  • Other: 71.37% (2012 est.)

Irrigated land: 15,550 km2 (2007)


Map of earthquakes in Greece and adjacent countries 1900-2017
Map of earthquakes in Greece and adjacent countries 1900-2017

Greece is a mostly mountainous country with a very long coastline, filled with peninsulas and islands.

The climate can range from semi-desert to cold climate mountain forests.

Greece's natural hazards include severe earthquakes, floods, droughts and wildfires. Current environmental issues include air pollution and water pollution.


See also



  1. ^ "UNITED NATIONS GROUP OF EXPERTS ON GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES: Working Paper No. 48" (PDF). UN. 2006. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  2. ^ "The World Fact Book – Field Listing :: Coastline". CIA. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  3. ^ National me="CIA">CIA World Fact Book, [1]
  4. ^ Artificial Structures and Shorelines
  5. ^ Guinness World Records 2005: Special 50th Anniversary Edition
  6. ^ Schmitt A(1983)Nouvelles contributions à l'étude géologique des Pieria, de l'Olympe, et de l'Ossa (Grèce du Nord)[Ph.D. dissert.]. Mons, Belgium, Faculté Polytechnique de Mons
  7. ^ CIA. "Europe::Greece". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Statistical Yearbook of Greece 2009 & 2010" (PDF). Hellenic Statistical Authority. p. 27. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-13.
  9. ^ Marker, Sherry; Kerasiotis, Peter (2010). "Greece in depth". In Nadeau, Mark. Frommer's Greece. Hoboken: Wiley. p. 12.
  10. ^ Poffley, Frewin (2002). Greek Island Hopping. Thomas Cook. p. 15.
  11. ^ Ellinikos Organismos Tourismou (EOT). "Greek islands". Archived from the original on 3 June 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Top 5 : Les plus belles îles grecques". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  13. ^ "The Law of the Sea".

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website

This page was last edited on 14 February 2019, at 17:25
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