Greek flora


Greece, is located on the southern side of the Balkan peninsula, the Ionian and Aegean archipelagos, the Dodecanese, and the island of Crete. Off the long and much indented coastline (about 15,000 kilometers) lie a great number of islands that constitute one of the most common and significant geographical features of this country. Just think that the stretch of sea between Thassos and Crete, at the northern and southern ends of Greece respectively and separated by 600 kilometers, is punctuated by 427 islands, Many of which are uninhabited until today.

activities on Naxos island in Greece
activities on Naxos island in Greece

The diversified and complex topography of today’s Greece evolved only in recent geological eras, toward the end of the Tertiary and the start of the Quaternary period. The major organic phenomena that occurred during that era caused the sinking of that part of the earth’s crust that today is the bottom of the Aegean Sea and the consequent up folding of mountain masses and formed coastal depressions and scattered heights over a complex system of fractures and faults. The resulting tectonic structure, harsh and tormented, is expressed in a changing landscape in which highlands and valleys alternate irregularly down to the fragmented coastal profile. The Greek islands, which represent about 19% of the total surface area of the country, are the main the highest peaks of the ancient, now submerged, Paleozoic plate.

Most of the territory of Greece is prevalently mountainous (more than 40% of the land lies at elevations exceeding 500 meters), and can be roughly divided into a northeastern sector, bordering on Turkey and Bulgaria, and a western sector that extends from the southern territories of Macedonia to the Albanian border.
In the eastern areas, the major mountain chains are made up of a primary substrate of crystalline metamorphic rock alternating with calcareous sediments. They are represented by the southern spurs of the Rodopi massif, with many peaks higher than 1000 meters, by Mount Athos (2033 m) in the Chalcidice peninsula, and by the highlands that embrace the Thessalian plain and contain Mount Olympus, Greece’s highest peak at 2917 meters.

To the west extends a vast mountainous region–of which the Pindos is the highest range, with Mount Smolikas at 2637 meters–that runs from the Ionian Sea to the Aegean in a belt about 120 kilometers wide, made up prevalently of calcareous formations that originate many karsts phenomena, with grottoes, caves, and gorges. All in all, the local landscape has an ungentle and desolate look, with little arable land but many areas of great natural beauty. Further south, the highland breaks up again into an irregular succession of mountains, among which the highest peaks are Mount Parnassus (2475 m) in central Greece, Erimanthos (2224 m), Taygetos (2407 m), and Parnon (1935 m) in the Peloponnese, and Mount Ida (2456 m) and the Lefki Ori range (White Mountains, 2452 m) on the island of Crete.

The extremely unconformable nature of the territory of Greece did not permit the formation of wide river valleys or even long rivers. The major rivers (Vardar, Struma, Mesta, Evros) descend from the Dinaric Alps and from Bulgaria, and touch Greece only near the ends of their courses as they flow into the sea. The majority of the other watercourses are irregular and seasonal, with winter floods and completely dry beds in summer, in the calcareous areas, the karst phenomena have developed a vast underground hydrographic network, with permanent lakes and pools (katavothres). The most important lakes are at Lake loannina in Epiros, and Lake Volvi and Lake Koroneia at the top of the Chalcidice peninsula.

Greece’s largest lake is the artificial basin at Kremasta, under whose waters lie two entire villages. The climate of Greece is generally Mediterranean–no one point is very far from the sea and from its beneficent