Terrain shapes and bedrock
Through the strong disintegration of the coast, Greece is
characterized by its proximity to the sea. Only a small part
of the country's interior has more than 80 km to the coast.
A large number of mountain ranges are prominent elements of
the Greek natural landscape. Movements along young fault
lines (see fault lines) have divided the country into a
large number of smaller streams and valleys. Volcanism is
rare, but earthquakes often occur.
COUNTRYAAH, the core of Greece's six topographical regions is Pindos, a mountain massif in the northwest. It forms a
continuation to the south of the Dinaric Alps in the Western
Balkans. The ridges, which continue on the Peloponnese
Peninsula, are the result of a fold in Senalpine time. The
highest peak is Smolikas, 2,637 m above sea level.
Peloponnese is separated from the rest of Greece
by a long fault grave, which forms the Corinthian Gulf. The
mountains here reach close to 2 400 m above sea level. At
the far south, four peninsulas protrude in the direction of
Crete. On the Arcadian limestone plateau, which is the main
part of the Peloponnese, the surface water disappears into
the soluble limestone, thereby creating different karst
forms (see karst).
The western part of the Greek mainland, together
with the islands of the Ionian Sea, form its own region. The
island of Corfu in the north is fertile and has good
rainfall. The other six major islands have uneven limestone
relief and little rainfall.
The central part of Greece east of Pindos also
has foothills from the highlands, each forming peninsulas
and groups of islands. The streams and plains are trapped
between the ridges. Mountains rise within the Gulf of
Thermaikos as Olympos, Greece's highest peak, 2,917 m above
sea level, and Ossa, 1,978 m above sea level. To the south
of this elevation area is Thessaly, a stream that used to
have a lake. The two following ridges include the Thermopyle
pass and the top Parnassos, 2,457 m above sea level, with a
sweeping view of central Greece.
The northernmost region, ie. Macedonia and
Thrace, form a fun and wooded area with many river basins
and alluvial plains. The border river Evros (Maritsa) and
some other rivers flow south. The Chalkidike peninsula
extends into the Aegean Sea with its three characteristic
The Aegean island world also constitutes an
extension of the Pindos mountain ranges. This includes the
archipelago of the Northern and Southern Sporades and the
Cyclades. The Aegean Sea is confined to the south to
Crete, Greece's largest island, which is a tertiary
period raised by steep mountains, among them Ida (2,456 m
above sea level), deep ravines and caves.
Greece has a Mediterranean climate which is strongly
modified by the varied topography. In the north, the weather
has a continental character, similar to that in northern
Macedonia and Bulgaria, while the maritime element is
pronounced further south. In summer, the climate is dry and
hot and only low rainfall falls during the high summer
months. In July, the average temperature is 27 °C, slightly
lower along the coast and on the islands where the land
breeze is healthy.
Over the Aegean Sea, during the summer, persistent winds
blow from the north, etesia, and bring clear and dry
weather. They can reach bullet strength but moan during the
night. The most pleasant months for those who want to avoid
the summer heat are April-May or October-November; during
the autumn, the sea also retains much of its summer heat.
In winter, low pressure moves in from the Atlantic and
introduces humid, warm air from the west, but it can also
come from cold air from the north, which gives frost in the
northern parts. During winter and spring, numerous and heavy
snow villages can fall in the northern mountain regions. The
January temperature is in Thessaloniki in the north 6 °C,
in Athens in the country's central part 10 °C, while the
Aegean islands are a few degrees warmer.
The winter rains last October-January (in the west
September-February) and result in an annual rainfall of
about 1,300 mm in the western mountain regions and in
western Crete. Eastern Crete and lowland terrain in the
central and northeastern parts of the mainland get below 600
mm. The region around the Gulf of Aegina including Athens is
the driest with an annual rainfall of 400 mm.
Plant-and animal life
Greece is one of Europe's most mountainous countries.
Flora is one of the richest in Europe. The fauna has been
affected by negative changes in recent decades, where
predators in particular have been subjected to widespread
persecution. illegal exposition of poison.
The Greek mainland is dominated by the Pindos Mountains
with the Peloponnese Peninsula, which is an offshoot of the
Dinaric mountain range. In the north-east are the regions of
Macedonia and Thrace with the country's largest agricultural
countryside, as well as the largest lakes, castles and
wetlands. Between Greece and western Turkey lies the Aegean
Sea with a vast archipelago of islands - most mountainous
and with low vegetation. To the south of Peloponnese lies
Greece's largest island, Crete, and to the west lies the
Ionian Sea with its islands.
One of Greece's most valuable and largest (126 km²)
natural areas is Vikos-Aoos National Park in the northwest
of the country, not far from the Albanian border. The park
contains a large variety of different types of nature:
mountains, lakes, rivers, deep ravines, caves and coniferous
and deciduous forests. In addition to the dramatic Vikos
canyon with plunges up to 1,000 m, the park is probably best
known as one of the last mounts in brown bear Greece. Other
mammals in the national park are wolves, otters, wildcats
and a special subspecies of gems, balcony gems (Rupicaria
rupicaria balcanica). Bird life is rich with species
such as king eagle, snake eagle, dirt bait, Griffon, stone
chicken, grouse, boreal, Western Rock Nuthatch, chough,
Alpine Chough, wallcreeper, horned lark, stone thrush,
Alpine accentor and white-winged snowfinch. Among the
herbivores are the mountain water salamander (Triturus
alpestris), meadow worm, and yellow-bellied bell frog.
The large variety of different environments creates the
conditions for a rich and diverse flora with both northern
elements (eg book, forest salmon, nettle bell, horse
chestnut (see horse chestnuts) and bohuslind) and more local
specialties such as no less than four species of single and
five species of oak.
On the border between Greece, Albania and Northern
Macedonia, surrounded by beautiful mountains, lie two of the
most important lakes in the Balkans, Lake Prespas and Lilla
Prespasjön. The lakes have a unique fish fauna where nine of
the eleven species are endemic, for example. Barbus
prespensis, a relative of river barb. The abundance of
fish is the basis for several species of fish living,
including white pelican (see pelicans), large cormorant and
dwarf cormorant. In Lilla prespasjön there is the world's
largest known colony of mug-headed pelicans. Oysters occur
in the lakes and in surrounding mountains live wolf, brown
bear, wild boar and balcony gems. On the botanical side, the
area is known for the plant Centaurea prespana - a
relative of reddish and cornflower that only occurs here.
In the northeastern part of Greece, from Thessaloniki in
the west to Alexandroupolis in the east, where rivers from
the Rhodesian mountains flow into the Aegean Sea, there are
a number of valuable coastal lagoons and wetlands - Axios,
Aliakmon, Strymon, Nestos, Porto Lagos and Evros. Here are
also a number of lakes, including Kerkini and Mitrikou. All
of these places have a rich bird life with nesting species
such as white stork, spoon stork (see spoon stork), silk
heron, dwarf tube room, large cormorant, dwarf cormorant,
spore whip, wad swallow, cutting spot, black-legged beach
popper and black-headed gull. Large amounts of white and
mug-headed pelican utilize good nutritional conditions along
with flamingo, copper duck,white-eyed diving ducks, bronze
sibs and birds of prey as major scream eagles during autumn,
winter and spring. Here is also Europe's most important
wintering area for mountain goose.
In the eastern part of the reserve is Greece Dadia with
large amounts of nesting birds of prey (Egyptian vulture,
Griffon, vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Glacial lake, eagles,
imperial, booted eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk and berguv) and a
rich reptile fauna. The many species of lizards, snakes and
two terrestrial turtles (Greek turtle and Moorish turtle)
form the food base for many of the birds of prey.
The Aegean Sea houses a fantastic archipelago of large
and smaller islands with picturesque villages surrounded by
azure waters, which are the destination for millions of
tourists each year. Despite the tourist flow and thousands
of years of intensive use of land and sea, the natural
values are great. Many plants can be found in just one
eastern Although quite intensive fishing can still
experience the many colorful and interesting fish such as
black scorpionfish (Scorpaena porcus), damselfish (Chromis
chromis), Cretan parrotfish (sparisoma cretense),
moray eels and mullet - the latter also popular food fish.
Among the islands in the Northern Sporades and in the
southern Aegean (Kimolos – Polyegos) are monk seals (see
monk seals) its most important occurrence in Greece.
Crete is an important tourist destination but also
something of a miniature Galapagos. The island has been
isolated and without a mainland connection for thousands of
years, creating many special forms of plants and animals.
Until the last ice age, dwarf species of elephant,
hippopotamus and a deer lived here. Today, there are still
unique forms of wild cat, murder and badger. Among breeding
birds are the mountain hen, black-chested singer, falcon and
lamb lamb. Eleonora falcons, which first breed in late
summer/autumn as they feed on migratory birds, have on
their own isolated islands just north of Crete (eg
Dionisiades and Dia) their largest known colonies in the
The third largest island of the Ionian Sea is Zakynthos.
It is famous, above all, for its negligible bay turtles;
Every year, between 850 and 2,000 females burrow their eggs
on the sandy beaches of the Gulf of Laganas on the east side
of the island.
On the shores of the Gulf of Laganas, the threatened
beach lily (Pancratium maritimum) grows and in the
waters offshore the seawater plant Posidonia oceanica
(see Posidonia) grows in large "meadows" which constitute an
important environment for many fish and other marine
animals. To protect the turtles, coastal dunes and the
marine environment, Greece's first marine reserve has been
set up here.
Greece has (2012) ten national parks (including
Parnassos, Olympos, Pindos and Samaria), two of which are
marine national parks (Zakynthos and Alonissos). About 16%
of the land surface and 3% of the sea surface are nature
protected in some form.