Greece, officially known as the Hellenic Republic, lies at the southeastern tip of Europe. To the north, it borders with Albania, the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Bulgaria and to the east with Turkey. The area of the country is 131,957 sq. km and it consists of a peninsula and over 2000 islands.
Though a relatively small country, Greece boasts an astonishing variety of landscapes —from the legendary mountains of Olympus, Pindos and Parnassos to miles of pristine coastline. Indeed, due to the large number of islands, Greece has a particularly long coastline (15,021 km.), which is the most extensive among all the Mediterranean countries.
The climate is mostly dry and temperate, though it snows on the mountains and in the north. The climate of Northern Macedonia and northern Epiros is similar to the one of the Balkans, with freezing winters and very hot, humid summers, while the Attica region, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete and the Central and Eastern Peloponnese have a rather typical Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters.
Greece is divided into the following geographical regions:
• The Attica region (Athens)
The plain of Attica supports a big part of the Greek population (3,756,607, according to the census of 2001). In the Attica region lies Athens, which is the capital of the country and its main administrative centre. Ministries, all the higher courts, the head offices of most banks, insurance companies and other businesses as well as a large part of the Greek industry are concentrated in the capital area. Athens attracts visitors from many parts of the world who come to visit the Acropolis, the city and country's trademark, other archaeological sites as well as the National Archaeological Museum.
• Sterea Hellas (excluding the capital area)
In this region, at the heart of Greece, lies Delphi, which was the oracle of Antiquity. Running through central Greece is the rugged Pindos mountain range, with a peak of 2,637 m (Mt Smolikas).
• The Peloponnese
The Peloponnese is the southernmost part of continental Greece. In this region, many great cities of the ancient world, such as Mycenae, Sparta and Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, are found. This fertile region enjoys a temperate climate, and is, therefore, ideal for cultivating olives and vineyards.
Epirus constitutes the northwestern part of continental Greece and is bordered by Albania to the north and by Central Greece to the south. The region is almost entirely mountainous and the Pindos Mountains form the region's eastern boundary separating it from Macedonia and Thessaly. The main pole of attraction is in the northern part of the region, the so-called Vikos National Park, where one can find waterfalls, gorges, rivers, picturesque villages and dense forests.
Thessaly lies in the middle of continental Greece. The area also includes the island complex of the Northern Sporades and its main geographical feature is the plain of Thessaly, surrounded by several mountains, the most famous of which is Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece (2,917 m.).
Macedonia is the largest of the ten geographic regions of Greece. The region is bordered by the Aegean Sea and by Thessaly to the south, by western Thrace to the east, by Epirus to the west and by Bulgaria, Albania and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to the north. It contains the self-governing, monastic republic of Mount Athos and Thessaloniki, the northern capital of Greece. The landscape varies a lot, since Western and Eastern Macedonia are, in general, mountainous with the exception of certain sizeable, fertile valleys, whereas Central Macedonia contains the plain of Thessaloniki, the second largest one in Greece.
This region constitutes the northeastern part of continental Greece. It is distinguished from Macedonia to the west by the river Nestos, from Turkey (Eastern Thrace) to the east and northwest by the river Evros, from Bulgaria to the north by the mountain range Rodopi and to the south by the sea. The climate can be characterized as intermediate type, between the Mediterranean and Mid-European. The Evros delta, where many rare species find refuge due to the favourable ecologic conditions, is the main pole of attraction in the area.
• The Aegean islands
The Archipelago of the Aegean is made up by hundreds of islands and islets. All the islands are mountainous or semi-mountainous and they enjoy a warm climate. As far as rainfall is concerned, the climate of the region is the driest in Greece, with the islands of the eastern Aegean and the Dodecanese being the most humid.
Crete is the largest Greek island. As for the landscape, the island lacks any noteworthy plains, as it is essentially mountainous. It is worth noting that the southern shoreline of Crete is the warmest area in Greece.
• The Ionian Islands
This region forms the smallest geographical area in Greece and consists of seven main islands strung along the west coast of Greece. The islands have a mild and relatively humid climate and receive a great amount of rain. As a result, the vegetation is abundant with forests reminiscent of North Europe. The islands differ from other island groups not only on account of the climate, but also because they retain certain influences from Mediterranean Europe.