Physical geography

Greece is a land of many contrasts: ancient ruins, modern cities, wild, snowy mountains and hot, sandy beaches and islands with different characters and customs. It lies at the southeastern tip of Europe, bordering the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and Turkey. Total area: 132,000 sq km. Coastline: 13,676km. Greece has nine major provinces, and the mainland is surrounded by water on three sides. About 20 per cent is made up of around 2,000 islands. Terrain: mostly mountains with ranges extending into sea as peninsulas or chains of islands. Natural resources: bauxite, lignite, magnesite, petroleum, marble.


Mediterranean, temperate; mild, wet winters; hot, dry summers. Temperatures range from a mild ten degrees in winter to around 32 in summer.

Economic geography

Greece has a mixed capitalist economy with the basic entrepreneurial system overlaid in 1981-89 by a socialist system that enlarged the public sector from 55 per cent of GDP in 1981 to about 70 per cent in 1989. Since then, the public sector has been reduced to about 60 per cent of GDP. Tourism continues as a major source of foreign exchange, and agriculture is self-sufficient except for meat, dairy products and animal feedstuffs.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $93.7 billion (1994 est.).

Industries: tourism, food and tobacco processing, textiles, chemicals, metal products, mining, petroleum.

Agriculture: including fishing and forestry, accounts for 12 per cent of GDP; principal products - wheat, corn, barley, sugar beets, olives, tomatoes, wine, tobacco, potatoes; self-sufficient in food except meat, dairy products, and animal feedstuffs.


The population of the country is 10,250,000. Athens: approximately four million, Thessaloniki 750,000, Patras 172,000, Volos, 140,000, Larissa 130,000, Heraklion 127,600, Ioanina 90,000.

A brief history

The first great civilisation of the Aegean was developed on the island of Crete, with inhabitants settling about 6000 BC, but the most important period was the Minoan between 2,200 and 1450 BC. This was followed by the bronze Age at Mycenae in the Peloponnese.

By the Classical period (fifth century BC) Greece was made up of city-states rules by kings or tyrants. In some city states these were replaced by other forms of government. Athens became the world's first democracy and in the fifth century witnessed a Golden Age of cultural, philosophical and scientific development. Theatre was developed in the Classical period, and the Olympic Games were initiated.

Philip II ruled the northern Greek state of Macedonia until his assassination in 337 BC when his son Alexander (the Great) became King and united all the Greeks and conquering Persia and Asia Minor.

Theatre came into being, as did the Olympics.

The Romans conquered Greece, but were strongly influenced by Greek culture. In 385 AD the Roman Empire was split into two parts. The Eastern Roman Empire (often referred to as the Byzantine Empire) became culturally and linguistically Greek and its capital was established in the Greek city of Byzantium which was renamed Constantinople. The eastern half of the Roman Empire outlived the western by about 1,000 years, until 1453 when the Ottoman Turks attacked and conquered Constantinople.

The Ottoman Empire occupied Greece for around 400 years. The year 1821 saw the Greek war of independence and in 1828 the country had become an independent state, setting up a monarchy in 1832. A civil war occurred in 1946-49, followed by a military dictatorship, but the country has been a republic since 1974.


Greek Orthodox 98 per cent, Muslim 1.3 per cent, other 0.7 per cent.


Greek (official), English, French.


Greek currency is the drachma. A 10,000 drachmes note is the highest denomination in circulation at present.

What one should not fail to see

Athens: archaeological sites - The Acropolis, the Parthenon built by Pericles in the fifth century BC; The Choregic Monument of Lysicrates or 'Diogenes Lamp'; The Areopagus; The Hill of Philopappus or Hill of The Muses; The Pnyx Hill (Pnika); The Ancient agora; The Roman agora; The Kerameikos Cemetery; The Clock of Andronikos Kyrrhos; Hadrian's Library; Hadrian's Arc; The Temple of The Olympian Zeus. Other: national archaeological museum, Byzantine museum and many others.

Further afield: Delphi, source of the famous Oracle; Sounion; Cornith, including canal and ancient Cornith; ancient Olympia; the clasical theatre at Epidavros; Bronze Age Mikines (Mycenae); the rock pinnacles topped by monasteries at Meteora; the lush Pelion peninsula; the picturesque northern towns of Ionanina, Edessa, Kasteria; Thessaloniki - the 'second' city of Greece; the stone built villages of Zagaria in the Vilos National Park. The pretty whitewashed towns of the Cycladic islands; the verdant Sporades and Ionian islands. The diverse islands of the Dodecanese and Northeastern Aegean groups, including the Venetian old towns of Rhodes and Kos, and the mediaeval villages of Chios; the wild nature and Minoan sites of Crete (especially the palace at Knossos).

Main holiday sports

All water sports - windsurfing, sailing, diving, snorkelling, jetskiing, parasailing, etc. Golf in Athens, Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and Halkidiki, skiing, hiking, climbing, caving.

What to eat and drink

Fish is popular in Greece. Come to a taverna to relax and eat moussaka made with aubergines, tzatziki, kebabs (souvlakia), taramasalata, olives, feta cheese and yogurt, pitta bread, dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), ouzo (aniseed spirit), retsina wine.

What to buy

Gold jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, museum reproduction pieces; shoes and fashion (especially Athens and Thessaloniki); dried mountain herbs, honey. Each region has its local specialities, eg, hand weavings, embroideries, woodwork, etc.

Representatives abroad

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND: 51 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000. Tel: 61 2 241 1663-4-4, 2521441, Fax: 61 2 235 2174.

AUSTRIA: Griechische Zentrale Für Fremdenverkehr, 1015 Wien, Opernring 8, Tel: 43 1 512 5317-9. Fax: 43 1 513 189.

BELGIUM: Office National Hellenique du Tourisme, 172 Ave Louise, Louzalaan, 1050 Bruxelles, Tel: 32 2 647 5770 and 647 5944.

CANADA: Greek National Tourist Organisation (I), 1300 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario, MSR 348. Tel: 1 416 968 2220. Fax: 1 416 965 6533.
Greek National Tourist Organisation (II), 1233, De la Montagne, Suite 101, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1Z3, Tel: 1 514 871 1535.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Sarovane nam 24, 116 4 Praha 1, Tel: 42 2 241 02316, Fax: 42 2 2410 2425.

DENMARK: (Information Ofifcer), Det Graeske Turistbureau, Vester Farim gsgade 1, 606 Kobenhavn. Tel: 54 33 325 332 and 325 368, Fax: 54 33 157 376.

FINLAND: (Information Ofifcer), Kreikan Valtion Matkailutoimisto, Iso Rooberlinkatou 10, A3 00120 Helsinki 12, Tel: 358 607 113 and 607 552, Fax: 358 601 313.

FRANCE: Office National Hellenique du Tourisme, 3 Ave de l'Opera, Paris 75001, Tel: 33 1 4 260 6575, 4 29 64955, 4 260 8129, Fax: 33 1 4 260 1028.

GERMANY: Griechische Zentrale Für Fremdenverkehr, Neue Minzerstr 22, 6000 Frankfurt-Main, Tel: 49 69 237 735, 236 561-2-3, Fax: 49 69 236 576.
Griechische Zentrale Für Fremdenverkehr (II), Buro München Pacelistr 5, W 8000 Munchen 2, Tel: 49 89 220 35/6, Fax: 49 89 297 058. ITALY: Ente Nazionale Ellenico Per Il Turismo, Via T Bissolati 78-80, Roma, 00187, Tel: 39 6 474 4249 and 474 4301, Fax: 39 6 438 3905.
Ente Nazionale Ellenico Per Il Turismo (II), Piazza Diaz 1, (Angolo Via Rastelli), 20123 Milano, Tel: 39 2 860 470, 860 477, 860157, Fax: 72022589.

JAPAN: Fukuda BLDG 5F 2-11-3, Akasaka Minato-Ku, Tokyo 107, Tel: 813 350 5911, 35055948, Fax: 813 358 90467.

NETHERLANDS: Griekse Nationale Organizatie Voor Toerisme, Leidestraat 13, NS 1017 Amsterdam, Tel: 31 20 625 4212, 3-4, 6249786, Fax: 6207031.

NORWAY: Den Greske Stats Turistbyra, Ovre Slotsgate 15B, 0157 Oslo 1, Tel: 47 2 426 501-2.

SPAIN: Oficina Nacional Helenica de Turismo, C/Alberto Aquilera 17-1, Madrid 28015, Tel: 34 1 548 4889-90, Fax: 34 1 548 8138.

SWEDEN: Grekiska Statens Turisbyra (I), Birger Jarlsgatan 8, Box 5298, S 10245 Stockholm, Tel: 46 8 679 480, 611 8802, Fax: 46 8 6118802.
Grekiska Statens Turisbyra (II), Grev Turegatan 2, Box 5298, S 10246 Stockholm, Tel: 46 8 679 6580.

SWITZERLAND: Griechische Zentrale Für Fremdenverkehr, Lowenstrasse 25, CH 8001 Zurich, Tel: 41 1 2210 0105, Fax: 212 0516.

UK and IRELAND: Greek National Tourist Organisation, 4 Conduit Street, London, W1R 0DJ, Tel: 44 171 499 9758, 499 4694, Fax: 44 171 287 1369.

USA: Greek National Tourist Organisation (I), 645 Fifth Ave, Olympic Tower, New York, NY 10022, Tel: 1 212 421 5777. Fax: 1 212 826 6940.
Greek National Tourist Organisation (II), 168, North Michigan Ave, Suite 600, Chicago Illinois 60601, Tel: 1 312 782 1084, Fax: 1 312 782 1091.
Greek National Tourist Organisation (III), 611 West Sixth Street, Suite 2198, Los Angeles, California 92668, Tel: 1 213 626 6636/9.

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on Greece thanks to the co-operation of the Greek Tourist Board.