Greece – Hellas: Geography and Key Facts

Greece is called Hellas (Ελλάς, Ελλάδα in Greek) and is officially known as the Hellenic Republic or (Elliniki Dimokratia, Ελληνική Δημοκρατία).

Known for its rich history, unparalleled architecture, and exquisite landscapes, Greece is a jewel in southeastern Europe. Often referred to as the “Cradle of Western Civilization,” this nation boasts an intricate tapestry of history, geography, and cultural significance.

Greece is located in southeastern Europe occupying the southern most part of the Balkan Peninsula. It borders Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east and south of mainland Greece, while the Ionian Sea lies to the west.

map with the location of greece in europe

Geography of Greece

Greece is situated at the most southeastern part of Europe, located between the 34° and 42° parallel N., with a meridional extent from 19° to 28° E.

Greece extends over 131,940 square kilometers (51,146 sq. miles). Greece consists of a mainland area of 106,778 square kilometers and thousands of islands large and small, covering a further 25,179 square kilometers.

There are 3,053 islands in Greece of which some 200 are inhabited. These islands, with their own unique histories and landscapes, cascade southward from Europe into several seas: Aegean, Cretan, Ionian, Mediterranean, and Thracian.

Greece is mainly bordered by sea, to the west with the Ionian Sea, to the east with the Aegean Sea, and to the south with the Mediterranean Sea.

Greece has also land borders to the east with Turkey (206 km) and to the north with Albania (246,70 km.), Bulgaria (494 km) and Yugoslavia – FYROM (256,31 km)

Greece’s Topographical Wonders

a man sitting on a rock

A unique aspect of Greece’s terrain is its mountainous nature. In fact, it stands out as one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. Hills, rugged mountains and valleys punctuate the vast stretches of its land.

  • The Pindus Mountains: These mountains, which dominate the western half of the country, are an extension of the Dinaric Alps. They roll down from Albania and Macedonia with elevations typically exceeding 2,500 meters. These mountains are home to numerous bodies of water, from serene lakes to rushing rivers and tranquil wetlands.
  • Mount Olympus: Towering above other peaks, Mount Olympus stands majestically at 2,918 meters. It holds the title of the highest mountain in Greece. In Greek mythology, it’s revered as the abode of the gods.
  • Meteora Rock Formations: Southwest of Mount Olympus, you’ll find the stunning Meteora Rock Formations. These are huge stone pillars that have been sculpted by the forces of nature over thousands of years.

To the north, on the border with Bulgaria, lies the verdant Southern Rhodopes, with its dense forests and captivating landscapes.

The Volcanic Legacy

Greece’s geographical identity is further accentuated by its ancient volcanoes. Some notable ones can be found on islands such as Kos, Methana, Milos, Nisyros, Poros, and the world-famous Santorini. While these volcanoes are currently dormant, they’ve marked their presence with significant eruptions in the past.

crater of volcano in nisyros island, greece
Nisyros, Photo by Dim Hou / Unsplash

Water Landscapes of Greece

Greece is a country where water plays a central role. From the azure seas that surround its myriad islands to the flowing rivers and tranquil lakes that dot its terrain, Greece’s waterscapes are as diverse as they are beautiful.

The seas of Greece: Greece’s seas, including the Aegean, Ionian, and parts of the Mediterranean, are an integral part of the country’s identity. Not only are these waters vital to maritime trade and tourism, but they also hold a special place in Greek mythology and history. The seas are home to numerous islands, each with its own unique charm, and are a hub for maritime activities, from sailing to fishing. Read more: Seas of Greece

Rivers of Greece: Despite the country’s predominantly arid climate, Greece has several significant rivers. The Acheloos, the largest river in Greece, is known for its role in agriculture and hydroelectric power generation. The Haliacmon, Evros, and Pinios rivers are other notable waterways, each contributing to the region’s ecology and serving as vital water sources for local communities. These rivers, which flow through diverse landscapes, support a variety of ecosystems and are an integral part of the country’s natural heritage. Read more: Rivers of Greece

Lakes of Greece: Greece’s lakes, such as Trichonis, Vegoritis and Volvi, add to the country’s picturesque scenery. Lake Trichonis, the largest in Greece, is celebrated for its unique biodiversity and natural beauty. Vegoritis, known for its fish populations, and Volvi, surrounded by myth and legend, are also significant for both their ecological value and cultural importance. Read more: Lakes of Greece

The Corinth Canal: Acting as a demarcation between the Peloponnese peninsula and the mainland, this 4-mile man-made wonder aids in shipping and navigation.

Administrative divisions of Greece

The Hellenic Republic, as Greece is officially known, is meticulously divided for administrative ease. There are 13 regions and the unique autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos. Read more: Administrative Regions of Greece

Facts for Greek Population

Population of Greece in 2021 was 10,482,487 million. Ten percent (10%) of the population are immigrants.

Growth rate: 0.7%.

Languages: Greek 99% (official); Turkish, others. Albanian is spoken by approximately 700,000 Albanian immigrants. English is the predominant second language.

Religions: Greek Orthodox (approximately 90% of citizens), with Muslim (2%), Jewish, Catholic and Protestant (3%), and other religious communities.

Education: Years compulsory: 11. Literacy: 91%. All levels are free.

Health: Infant mortality rate: 5.43/1,000. Life expectancy: male 76.72 years, female 81.91 years.

Work force: 4.72 million.

Read more about the People of Greece

Cities in Greece

Athens, the Capital of Greece

Athens is the capital of Greece. The population of Athens is 3,090,508. Located in the Attica region, Athens is not only the largest city in Greece, but also one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Historically significant, it’s the epicenter of Greek administrative, cultural, industrial and economic activity.

Athens is also home to the Port of Piraeus, recognized as the largest passenger port in Europe and the second largest in the world.

Major cities in Greece

  • Thessaloniki (pop. 1,093,000)
  • Piraeus (443,196)
  • Patras (173,600)
  • Heraklion (156,842)
  • Larissa (148,562)
  • Volos (85,803)
  • Ioannina (65,574)
  • Trikala (61,653)
  • Chalkida (59,125)

You’ll discover something different in whichever Greek city you choose to visit. Greek cities are the living cells of Greek society, each with its own local color, the result of its unique history. The seasonal transformations from summer to winter make every visit a different, unique experience.

Each of the cities of Greece, scattered throughout the country, has its own character, its own particular reflection of many centuries of Greek history.

The country’s urban centres are dynamic culture-spots, combining a rich tradition with the modern way of life and vibrant all year round.

Weather and Climate in Greece

The climate in Greece is typical Mediterranean climate: mild and rainy winters, relatively warm and dry summers and, generally, extended periods of sunshine throughout most of the year.

Economy of Greece

Greece is a developed country, a member of the European Union since 1981, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATO since 1952 and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) since 1961.

Shipping and tourism are the dominant industries of Greece. The country’s merchant ship fleet is one of the largest in the world.

Read more: Economy of Greece

From Greek Drachma to Euro

Greek banknotes have a history of 180 years, starting from 1822 and finishing in 2002 when drachma was replaced by the common European currency, Euro. During these years about 300 different banknotes were issued or circulated in Greece and if you count the varieties, the total number reaches 400.

Greek language

Greeks speak the Greek language, which forms a distinct branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It has a written tradition going back 3,500 years, and has been written using the Greek alphabet since the 9th century BC. Greek is the official language of Greece and Cyprus, and one of the official languages of the European Union.

Read more about the History of Greek Language

Greek National Symbols

Greek Flag

The national flag of Greece consists of nine horizontal stripes of equal width, five blue and four white alternately, the first and last stripes being blue. In the upper left corner is a blue square containing a white cross, which occupies the first five stripes. The Greek flag is hoisted on a white flagstaff at the top of which there is a white cross. Read more about the Greek Flag

greek flag in oia, santorini

National Anthem of Greece – Hymn to Liberty

The National Anthem of Greece consists of the first two verses of the “Hymn to Freedom”. The “Hymn to Freedom” was written by the poet Dionysios Solomos in a single month, May 1823, in Zakynthos (Zante) on the hill of his bosom friend Loudovikos Stranis. The Greek National Anthem is the only national anthem to extol freedom.

Read more about the Greek National Anthem

National Emblem

The National Emblem of the Republic of Greece consists of a blue escutcheon with a white cross in the center, completely surrounded by two laurel branches. The emblem is painted or woven, mainly on the hats, uniforms and buttons of the military, the security forces etc.

The Greek National Emblem was provided for by the Temporary Constitution of Greece (Constitution of Epidaurus of 1 January 1822) and established by decree on 15 March of the same year.

Greek Evzones

The Evzones have purely ceremonial duties. The best-known is the symbolic guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square, next to the Greek Parliament. There are also guards at the Presidential Mansion and at the gate of the barracks of the Presidential Guard.

Political System of Greece

The political system of Greece, as defined by the Constitution of Greece, is that of a parliamentary democracy.

The Prime Minister and the cabinet are at the top of the executive power and the government presupposes the majority in the Greek Parliament.

The Constitution of Greece provides for the separation of the political powers as follows:

  • The President of Greece
  • The Legislative power of Greece
  • The Executive power of Greece
  • The Judiciary power of Greece
  • The Local Government of Greece

Under the current electoral system, Greek political parties need to surpass a 3% threshold in the popular vote in order to enter parliament.

History of Greece

The whole of modern European civilization – and, to a certain extent, non-European civilization too – is based on ancient Greek culture. Without a knowledge of ancient Greek history we cannot understand many of the institutions of later times – art history, architectural styles, the theatre, modern political, scientific and other terms. The ancient world, in all its multiformity, emerges at every step of social and private life.

The Greek and Roman civilization form some of the most glorious pages of world history. Greek culture is astoundingly wide-ranging and varied. The basic features of the monuments of Greek civilization are innovation, depth of feeling, simplicity and harmony of form and content. Ancient Greek thinkers, artists and scientists, with their works which “still afford us artistic pleasure and in a certain respect count as a norm and as an unattainable model” (Karl Marx), set their seal on the struggle of the ideas, emotions and ideals of their time. This is why Classical Greek works, the monuments of ancient art and artistic creativity, are still vital to our age, the age of financial globalization and the crisis of capitalism.

In Philosophy, as in as in so many other spheres, we are compelled to return again and again “to the achievements of that small people whose universal talents and activity assured it a place in the history of human development that no other people can ever claim… the manifold forms of Greek philosophy contain in embryo, in the nascent state, almost all later modes of outlook on the world” (Engels).

Religion in Greece

The Greek population is composed of 97% Christian Orthodox. The rest of the population is Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Jewish.

Greece Orthodox Church is considered the protector of Hellenism or of the so-called “Greek Orthodox Civilization.”

Tourism in Greece

Credit Cards – Atm – Travel Checks

All major credit cards (VISA, DINERS, MASTERCARD, AMERICAN EXPRESS, EUROCARD, JCB) are accepted in Greece. ATMs are available in most Greek cities and towns. Most shops and central restaurants in Greece accept payments by credit cards. Traveller’s cheques and Εurocheques issued by recognised authorities can be cashed at all Greek and foreign banks and large hotels.

Read more: ATMs and Currency Exchange


The electricity supply in Greece is alternating current, 220 volts, 50 cycles. Appliances for 110 or 120 volts may be operated by using step-down transformers of 220/110 volts connected to each outlet, provided that these transformers have two separate windings which will eliminate any danger of electric shock.

The color television transmission system SECAM, used since the late 1970s, eventually switched over to the PAL color system, which was widely used in the rest of Europe. TV sets with the American system (NTSC) only, will not operate in Greece.


The international access code for Greece is +30. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the USA or Canada, 0044 for the United Kingdom).

Calls can be made from your hotel or from OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation) office. Public phone card boths are available all over the Greek Region and cards can be bought from kiosks, mini markets and OTE.

In 2021, Greece had a total of 16.41 million connections, including 11.49 million mobile phones, which corresponds to an average of 1.1 per person. The quality of mobile data can vary depending on your exact location, and some carriers may work better than others in certain areas. In terms of internet speed, Greece ranks 42nd globally for mobile internet with a download speed of 53.28 Mbit/second.

Broadband Internet

As of 2021, the broadband internet penetration in Greece was 84.98%. Greece ranked 34th in the world for mobile speeds and 101st for fixed broadband speeds during September 2023. The Greek Ministry of Digital Governance introduced the Digital Transformation Bible 2020-2025, outlining the strategy, objectives, strategic axes, and actions that will lead the digital transformation in Greece.

The enhancement of mobile and fixed broadband and the achievement of ultra-high-speed internet access are expected to lead to further development of the Greek digital economy. Fibre optic and 5G networks are the main challenges of the next decade.

Read more: Social Media in Greece 2023

Emergency Phone Numbers

The quick dial number for emergencies in Greece is 199 for Police, Fire or Accident. If you need emergency services and are a non-Greek-speaking visitor, it will be easier for you to dial 199 and speak to someone in your own language to explain the emergency.

Pharmacies in Greece are able to provide first aid for simple matters and give competent advice.

Greece Tourism Police

Greece Tourism Police is a Service of the Greek Police Force staffed with specially trained, foreign-language-speaking personnel. You can recognize them by the distinctive insignia “Tourism Police” worn on the front of the shirt.

Within the framework of its duties and functions, it provides the following services:

  • Provides tourist Information to Greek and foreign visitors
  • Cooperates with local Directorates of Tourism and local authorities in order to deal with tourism issues
  • Ensures that the tourist legislation in force is applied in all tourist areas

Greece Tourism Police operates an emergency telephone line with the number 171 on a 24-hour basis. With this number, you can contact Tourism Police any time, any day, from all over Greece.

Greece Index