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Greece and its Unique Islands


"If you deconstruct Greece, you will in the end see an olive tree, a grapevine, and a boat remain. That is, with as much, you reconstruct her."
Odysseus Elytis
Poet - Nobel Laureate

The Greek islands... three simple words, but enough for one to conjure memorable images with blue skies, endless sandy beaches, moments of revelry, historical monuments, excellent local products, unique gastronomy and more.1

Those who have visited one of the many Greek islands will testify to the extraordinary natural beauty and admit that there is nowhere else in the world quite like this.

In Greece there are 6,000 islands, islets and rocks. Only 107 are inhabited —according to the latest census of the Greek Statistical Authority-ELSTAT2. Of these, only 79 have a population of more than 100 people, and 51 more than 1,000. This is a particularly unique phenomenon on the European continent.

The Greek islands represent 19% of the entire Greek territory and are home to 14% of the entire Greek population.

The Greek islands are traditionally grouped into the following clusters: The Argo-Saronic Islands in the Saronic gulf near Athens, the Cyclades, a large but dense collection occupying the central part of the Aegean Sea, the North Aegean islands, a loose grouping off the west coast of Turkey, the Dodecanese, another loose collection in the southeast between Crete and Turkey, the Sporades, a small tight group off the coast of Evia, and the Ionian Islands, located to the west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea (one of these islands, Kythira, is off the southern tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula and part of the Attica region, but still considered part of the Ionian Islands historical reasons). There are also many islands, islets and rocks that surround the coast of Crete.3

The climate of Greece —including its islands— is Mediterranean temperate, with mild wet winters and hot dry summers. On the islands, snowfall occurs rarely and highest temperatures are rarely excessive and thus not considered characteristic of the climate.

The Greek Archipelago’s coastline covers 7,500 km of the total 16,000 km of the country, and includes a highly diversified landscape: beaches stretching for kilometers, sheltered bays and coves, sandy beaches with dunes, pebbly shores, coastal caves with steep rocks and with the characteristic dark sand of volcanic soils and coastal wetlands.

It is on these Greek islands that some of the oldest European civilizations (the Cycladic, Minoan etc) developed and they are therefore home to unique incom-parable archaeological sites. The unparalleled architectural heritage and fascinating local traditions and culture are on display. The well established tourist industry, the rich history and culture, combined with the agreeable climate are undeniable draws. The safety of Greek waters and the short distances between ports, airfields and coasts, have made the Greek islands extremely popular among Greek and foreign visitors.4

Trade was fundamental to ancient Greece and —following territorial expansion, an increase in population and migration, combined with innovations in transport— served to make Greece a hub of commercial activity. Goods from one distant part of the Mediterranean could be bought, sold, and exchanged in a completely different region. Food, raw materials, and manufactured goods were not only made available to Greeks for the first time but the export of such classic products such as wine, olives, and pottery helped to spread Greek culture to the wider world.5

It is this same heritage that is being revitalized today. These same islands have nurtured the development, cultivation and creativity of quality products for export. These enterprises, are today, inspired to expand their horizons beyond the limitations of their island shores. Greek islands, despite their shortcomings —due to insularity— provide tremendous opportunity for development and growth of a variety of products, from food & beverages to manufacturing and industry.

The current administrative division of Greece stands by the “Kallikratis” plan effective from 1 January 2011. According to this plan, the country is divided into seven decentralized administrations, thirteen regions and 325 municipalities. Each island is a municipality, save the islands of Crete and Evia. Regions and municipalities are self-governing entities, i.e. the authorities are elected by universal suffrage from registered residents.


1. http://www.aroundgreece.com/greek-islands.php
2. Greek Statistical Authority - ELSTAT
4. http://www.visitgreece.gr/el/greek_islands
5.”Trade in Ancient Greece” by Mark Cartwright - 2012

More in this category: Greek Exports by Enterprise Greece »




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