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Variety is, in fact, the hallmark of the Greek geographical landscape generally. On the one hand, there are high mountains and entire mountain ranges such as the Pindus range (also known as Greece's backbone) or Mount Olympus (with its summit the Pantheon, the highest peak in Greece at an altitude of 2,917 metres) and the mountains of Macedonia and Thrace intersected here and there by a few valleys through which relatively small rivers flow. On the other hand, the endless lace- work of the coastline produces a series of scenic surprises. It is these heavily indented shores which give Greece such rare beauty quite unique in the Mediterranean.
The marked variety of the terrain above water continues under the surface, along a seabed which, millions of years ago, was dry land. Close to Cape Tainaron (Tenaro) off the south tip of the Peloponnese, the so-called Oinoussai (Inousses) Pit is 4,850 metres deep which is the deepest point in the Mediterranean. The Greek peninsula, Europe's south-eastern tip, has an area of 131,944 square kilometres, and consists of mainland Greece (Attica, the Peloponnese, Sterea Ellada, Thessaly, Epirus, Mace donia, Thrace) and the islands of the Aegean and Ionian seas. Geographically it belongs to Europe since it forms the most southerly extremity of the Balkan peninsula but it also has a special link with Europe through the small entity of the Ionian Islands which form a chain off Greece's western shores in the Ionian sea.
In contrast, there are the numerous islands of the Aegean sea, some isolated like Crete in the south, and some in groups like the islands of the Northeast Aegean, the Sporades, the Cyclades, and the Dodecanese.
The Cyclades consist of 39 islands of which only 24 are
The Sporades lie off the eastern shores of mainland Greece and Euboea (Evia) and retain their genuine island characteristics and unchanged local traditions.
The Dodecanese group consists of twelve major islands and a number of smaller islands, each with its own distinctive features and peculiarities.
Finally, the Saronic Gulf which is the stretch of sea linking the shores of Attica to those of the Peloponnese, contains a further group of small islands which adds its variety to the general surroundings.
Vegetation and climate conform with the variations in the geographical area. The multiplicity of plants is exceptional, some 6,000 indigenous species having so far been recorded, 250 of which flourish on Crete alone. It is an impressive figure that is due to Greece's geographical position between Europe and Africa. Plants associated with the joys of life are the country's countless vineyards. Major vegetation is likewise peculiar and above all made to human measures. The trees are of medium height and vary from pine, oak, fir, olive and mulberry trees to fruit and palm trees. Another result of the country's geographical location is also seen in its climatic range with mild winters and subtropical warm summers cooled by a system of seasonal breezes popularly called "meltemia". Lastly, an outstanding feature of the Greek climate is its ample sunshine. It is exaggeration to state that the sun shines in Greece for 3,000 hours per year.
Other sources of general information about Greece: