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The Unbelievable Variety of Greece’s Landscapes

The Agrafa mountainside in Greece. Many people do not associate mountains and forests with the geography of Greece. Credit: Dementia Inc, CC BY-SA 2.0

Greece’s many coastal islands, dense urban centers, and historical architectural sites like the Parthenon have been iconic to foreigners across the world for decades. But the country is also home to an unbelievable variety of landscapes that non-natives would never associate with Greece. Lush forests, waterfalls, mountainsides, and even deserts, all exist throughout Greece’s shockingly diverse geography.

The six most unbelievable landscapes in Greece

The sand dunes of Lemnos resemble the Sahara desert. Credit: Yiannis Chatzitheodorou, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The mini-Sahara Desert: Paches Amoudes of Lemnos

The Paches Amoudes of Lemnos, commonly known as the Lemnos desert, are a group of sand dunes that blanket the island of Lemnos in northern Greece. The dunes resemble deserts more commonly associated with the continent of Africa; they are called the “paches ammoudies” by the locals of Lemnos, which translates to “thick sands.”

The dunes span seventeen acres in size and are much smaller than other deserts and sand dunes around the world but offer a stark contrast to the lush forestry that surrounds the island. The dunes were created by a sea that existed in the area during the Paleolithic era.

The Strofilia Forest resembles the forestry in Kenya. Credit: Myrsini Hamakioti, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Kenya of Greece: Strofilia Forest in Kalogria

The Strofilia Forest is a complex biosphere that exists on the Gulf of Corinth in the Peloponnese peninsula. The forest spans an astounding 20,000 acres of land and is home to numerous bird, turtle, and fish species, as well as cone, pine, myrtle, and oak tree species.

The Strofilia Forest is a testament to the statement that Greece has many hidden gems. Strofilia owes its name to the numerous pine-trees that can be found in the area.

Strofilia extends from the Patraic Gulf to Kyllini viillage. Strofilia forest is the largest littoral forest in Greece. A line of pine-trees occupies a coastal zone of about 22 km in length. In this unique ecosystem, you can find a variety of plants, pines, sand dunes, animals, and sea creatures.

Strofilia Forest and Kotychi Lagoon are protected under the Ramshar Convention and the Natura 2000 network. The forest ecosystem of Strofilia is of great ecological interest because it is the most extensive Pinus pinea forest in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe.

The ethereal Mylopotamos waterfalls recall the tropical rainforests of the Amazon. Credit: Mia Battaglia, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Greece’s Amazon waterfalls: Mylopotamos

The village of Mylopotamos on the island of Cythera in southern Greece is home to  the sunning Fonisa waterfall. The Fonisa (meaning “female killer) waterfall flows into a gorge that leads to the sea. The village is named “Mylopotamos,” which means “river of mills” because they established 22 water mills along the stream for grinding wheat. Of these mills, 21 no longer function.

The waterfall resembles the falls frequently found in the Brazilian rainforest, including the largest waterfall in the world, Iguazu Falls. The Iguazu River that flows from the waterfall flows across all of Brazil, but the falls themselves exist on the border between Brazil and Argentina.

Kaimakchalan Mountain is covered with snow in the winter, and ia a popular ski destination. Credit: Ana Pavlovic/Twitter

“Mount Everest” on the border of Greece and North Macedonia: Kaimakchalan

Kaimakchalan Mountain sits at the border between Greece and North Macedonia, with its highest peak reaching 8,271 feet. The mountain is known for its subarctic climate and extremely cold winters.

In the winter, when its peak is layered in snow and is pure white, the mountain resembles the famous Tibetan mountain, Mount Everest. Like Kaimakchalan and the Greece-North Macedonia border, the China-Nepal border is drawn along the summit of the mountain.

The Drakolimni Dragon Lake looks cut out of a Scandinavian tour guide. Credit: Stavros Charos, CC BY-SA 4.0

Icelandic and Hellenic: Drakolimni, “Dragon Lake”

Greece is also home to what is called “dragon lakes,” or simply put, alpine lakes, which were formed back in the last Ice Age. According to local folklore, these lakes once were the dwelling places of dragons.

Sources of beauty and home to unique ecosystems, these lakes are found at altitude in Greece’s highest mountain ranges, The Dragon Lake of Tymfi, which is located in northwestern Greece in the region of Epirus is one of the most stunningly beautiful of all such lakes.

The enchanting “dragon lake,” which is surrounded by a starkly beautiful landscape, can be reached only after a four-hour hike, after departing from the village of Mikro Papigo in the Zagorochoria region.

Iceland is world famous for its alpine lakes, and the connection between geography and dragons is central to Scandinavian culture, as well. Iceland is also known for its volcanic lakes and their strikingly opaque pale blue color.

Greece landscapes
The Arvi Gorge on the island of Crete recalls the iconic Grand Canyon in southwestern America. Credit: Lemur12, CC BY-SA 3.0

Where Southwestern America meets the Mediterranean: Arvi Gorge in Crete

The Arvi Gorge on the island of Crete slices the Arvi Mountain in half and creates a beautiful, swirling canyon that resembles the iconic geography of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

The Grand Canyon is one of the most recognizable landscapes in all of American geography, but you probably wouldn’t associate its imagery with Greece, especially a Greek island. But Arvi Gorge is loved by experienced canyoners, who visit Crete regularly to traverse its challenging path through the Arvi Mountain. The gorge is made of limestone and ends at the Libyan Sea.

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