Greece Geographical Regions
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
The sea is the most consistent influence on the physical environment of Greece. The elaborately irregular Greek coastline, one of the longest in the world, includes about 15,000 kilometers of shore. No point on the mainland is farther than 100 kilometers from the water, and Greece includes more than 2,000 islands--of which about 170 are inhabited. Crete (Kriti), the largest of the islands, is the southernmost point of the nation with a significant population.
The second major physical feature, mountains, cover more than three-quarters of Greece's surface area. Although their general pattern is from northeast to southwest, the mountains and the basins between them form irregular barriers to movement across the peninsula. In Greece's early history, the isolating effect of the mountains encouraged populations to develop lasting traditions of independence because of their lack of communication with the outside world.
Beginning in ancient times, the sea endowed Greece with a seafaring tradition; the best-known work of classical Greek literature, Homer's Odyssey, describes a long and dangerous voyage assumedly made across the eastern Mediterranean from Asia Minor. Sea travel has promoted contact among populations in Greece and with other peoples, but its exposed peninsula has also made Greece vulnerable to attack from the sea.
Drainage patterns in Greece are affected by the large percentage of land surface covered by rock, by the steepness of the young mountains in the north, which form gorges with narrow, twisting, and fast-moving rivers, and by the deep indentations of the coastline, which shorten the course of rivers across the land mass. The short Greek rivers have irregular seasonal levels that make them unreliable for navigation and irrigation. The three major rivers of Greece--the Vardar (called the Axios by Greeks), the Struma (called the Strimon by Greeks), and the Nestos (called the Mesta by Bulgarians)--primarily drain other countries to the north and northwest.
The topography of both the mainland and most of the Greek islands is dominated by mountains; Greece has more than twenty peaks higher than 2,000 meters. The most important mountain range is the Pindus (Pindos), which extends from north to south in the center of the peninsula at an average elevation of about 2,650 meters (see fig. 7). The highest mountain in the range is Mt. Olympus (Olimbos), legendary home of the gods, which is 2,917 meters high. A southern extension of the Dinaric Alps of the former Yugoslavia and Albania, the Pindus Range consists of several rugged, parallel ridges, the longest of which extends from the Albanian border in the north to the Gulf of Corinth in the south. Geologically, the range extends across the Gulf of Corinth into the Peloponnesian Peninsula and southeastward to form the islands of the southern Aegean Sea. The northern part of the range offers magnificent scenery of jagged peaks and picturesque gorges. The continuous settling and shifting of this comparatively young mountain range makes the entire region, from Epirus on the Albanian border south to Crete, prone to earthquakes. The Pindus is sparsely populated and generally not cultivated, but upland pasturing of sheep and goats is common.
Traditionally, Greece is divided into nine geographic regions that are differentiated by topography and regional tradition but not by political administration. The six mainland regions are Thrace, Macedonia, and Epirus to the north, and Thessaly, Central Greece, and the Peloponnesus farther south. The three island regions are the Ionian Islands off the west coast, the Aegean Islands in the Aegean Sea between the Greek mainland and Turkey, and the island of Crete, which is considered a separate region.
Data as of December 1994
NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece Geographical Regions information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece Geographical Regions should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.