Natural Environment

Coastline - Islands

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 8,500 miles of shore. No point on the mainland is farther than 62 miles from the water, and Greece includes more than 2,500 islands, each one different from the next, some arid, coloured only by the blue of the sea and the white of the houses, others verdurous, with forests that reach the tip of the sea.Of the islands, about 170 are inhabited. Crete (Kriti), the largest of the islands, is the southernmost point of the nation with significant population.

The second major physical feature, 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.


The Greek mainland occupies the southern most tip of the Balkan peninsula. The terrain of the mainland of Greece is mostly mountainous and rugged and, as the ancient Greek geographer Strabo wrote "the sea presses in upon the country with a thousand arms". 

Although a small country, Greece has a very diverse topography. The most important physiographic divisions of the country are the central mountains; the damp, mountainous region in eastern Thessaly, Macedonia and Trace; Central Greece, the south-eastern finger of the mainland that cradled the city-states of Greece; the mountainous region of the Peloponnese Peninsula; and the islands, most of which are in the Aegean.

The south-eastern extremity of Central Greece, known as Attica, is broken into many isolated valleys and plains by mountain ridges. The most famous part of Greece, the Athenian plain, is in Attica. The largest plain of the eastern coastal area, however, is in the area of ancient Boeotia, to the north of Attica.

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