Greece is known as the cradle of Western Civilisation and the birthplace of democracy, theatre, the Olympic Games, and much more. The country is famed for its ancient history and ruins, incredible culture and food, and gorgeous island landscapes… But there are a few things about Greece you might not yet know. We’ve dug up 14 fun facts about Greece to fascinate your friends and help you learn more about this amazing country.
1. Greece is made up of thousands of islands
You’ve probably heard of Santorini, Mykonos and Crete… But did you know that Greece is made up of thousands more beautiful islands? It is estimated that Greece is home to up to 6,000 islands and islets, with only around 200 of them being inhabited.
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2. Greece has 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
If you love visiting heritage sites you’re in for a treat in Greece. The country is home to 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including world-famous sites like the Acropolis of Athens, the Temple of Apollo, Meteora, and the Old Town of Corfu.
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3. 80% of Greece is made up of mountains
When you think of Greece, you probably picture sandy shores, blue ocean, whitewashed buildings and blue domes. But one of the most surprising facts about Greece reveals that the majority of the country is actually mountains. It’s one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, with 80% of the country covered in mountains. Don’t forget to pack a good pair of walking shoes!
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4. No part of Greece is more than 137 kilometres away from the ocean
Greece may be 80% mountains… But if you associate a beautiful Mediterranean coastline with Greece, you’re also right! Greece has an impressive coastline of 16,000 kilometres (9,942 miles), making it the 10th longest coastline in the world. Plus, no part of the country is more than 137 kilometres (85 miles) away from the ocean. That’s a lot of water!
5. Greece has a diverse array of wildlife
With all those incredible coastal and mountainous landscapes, it’s no wonder that Greece is home to some of the world’s most unique animals. Some animals are even found only on specific Greek Islands, including seals, turtles, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, butterflies, mice, and even the Kri-kri (the Cretan Wild Goat). Some fun facts about Greece for birdwatchers – there are 240 bird species in the country. Consider planning your trip for winter as this is when over 100,000 birds and hundreds of birds migrate to the wetlands of Greece each year.
6. More tourists visit Greece every year than the entire Greek population
It’s no secret that Greece is one of the world’s most popular countries to visit. But did you know that over 17 million tourists visit Greece each year? That is almost double the total population of Greece. It’s one of the only countries in the world with tourist numbers that double its population (along with Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg). Tourism makes up around 20% of Greece’s GDP, which is also one of the highest percentages of any industrialised country.
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7. The capital of Greece is named after the goddess Athena
Athena is the Goddess of wisdom and warfare – and the Patron of Athens. According to Greek Mythology, Athena and Poseidon fought over the right to name the city, and the Greeks chose Athena to be the Patron of Athens. Both gods offered the people a gift, with Athena gifting an olive tree and Poseidon offering water, but the people chose the olive tree as it was of a higher value since it could provide oil, food and wood.
8. Greece is the third largest producer of olives
The olive tree continues to be a big part of Greek culture to this day… The country has over 120 million olive trees and produces 2.2 million metric tons of olives every year. That makes it the third-largest producer of olives in the world, after Spain and Italy. Greece also produces more varieties of olives than any other country. One of the most interesting facts about Greece and olives is that some of the country’s olive trees that were planted in the 13th century are still bearing fruit today.
9. Athens has more theatres than any other city in the world
They say the world’s a stage – and that’s certainly true in Athens! With 148 theatrical stages, the city has the most theatrical stages in the world, even beating out London’s West End and New York’s Broadway. It’s fitting for Athens to hold this title since it’s the place where the art of acting and theatre was born.
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10. There are more than 4,000 traditional dances in Greece
With all those theatrical stages, there’s bound to be some dancing in Greece. In fact, the Greeks love dancing so much, there are over 4,000 official traditional dances in Greece. They originate from all over the country and you’re sure to find a place where you can kick up your heels on your trip to Greece.
11. Greece is one of the sunniest places in the world
One of our favourite facts about Greece is that it’s one of the world’s sunniest countries, basking in more than 250 sunny days – or 3,000 hours of sunshine – each year. Some islands even see around 300 days of sunshine a year. Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen!
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12. Greece has more archaeological museums than any country in the world
With more than 110 archaeological museums, Greece takes out the top spot for the most in the world. From the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens to the archaeological sites of Delphi and Olympia, you’ll find some of the world’s most important and remarkable collections of Greek antiquities here.
13. Greece has another name
A fun fact about Greece is that the country’s official name is the Hellenic Republic. Greeks are known as Hellenes and they call their country Hellas, an ancient Greek word. These original terms were used until the Byzantine period when Roman rulers named the Hellenes ‘Graecus’ from ‘Graecia’. Today, Greece is once again officially known as the Hellenic Republic.
14. Greek is one of the oldest languages still in use
The Greek language is considered to be one of the oldest written languages still in use today. Based on archaeological findings, it’s believed to have been used continuously for over 5,000 years. Greek has also had a huge influence on English and other Latin-based languages. Before you head off to Greece, try learning a few Greek phrases – it will be appreciated by the locals and is sure to enrich your travel experience in this amazing country.
Do you know any interesting facts about Greece? Let us know in the comments below!