Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic and known since ancient times as Hellas , is a country in Southern Europe. According to the 2011 census, Greece’s population is around 11 million. Athensis the nation’s capital and largest city. Greece is strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Western Asia, and Africa and shares land borders with Albania to the northwest, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the northeast. The country consists of nine geographic regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, the Aegean Islands (including the Dodecanese and Cyclades), Thrace, Crete, and theIonian Islands. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the 11th longest coastline in the world at 13,676 km (8,498 mi) in length, featuring a vast number of islands (approximately 1,400, of which 227 are inhabited). Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains, of which Mount Olympus is the highest, at 2,917 m (9,570 ft).
Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of Ancient Greece, which is considered the cradle of all Western civilization. As such, it is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including bothtragedy and comedy. The cultural and technological achievements of Greece greatly influenced the world, with many aspects of Greek civilization being imparted to the Eastthrough Alexander the Great’s campaigns, and to the West through the Roman Empire. Greece is a democratic, developed country with an advanced, high-income economy, a high standard of living and a very high Human Development Index.
3rd century BC
The earliest evidence of human presence in the Balkans, dated to 270,000 BC, is to be found in the Petralona cave, in the northern Greek province of Macedonia. Neolithic settlements in Greece, dating from the 7th millennium BC, are the oldest in Europe by several centuries, as Greece lies on the route via which farming spread from the Near East to Europe. The end of the Dark Ages is traditionally dated to 776 BC, the year of the first Olympic Games. The Iliad and the Odyssey, the foundational texts of Western literature, are believed to have been composed by Homer in the 8th or 7th centuries BC. With the end of the Dark Ages, there emerged various kingdoms and city-states across the Greek peninsula, which spread to the shores of the Black Sea, Southern Italy (Latin: Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece) and Asia Minor. Following the assassination of Phillip II, his son Alexander III (“The Great”) assumed the leadership of the League of Corinth and launched an invasion of the Persian Empire with the combined forces of all Greek states in 334 BC.
Hellenistic and Roman periods
After a period of confusion following Alexander’s death, the Antigonid dynasty, descended from one of Alexander’s generals, established its control over Macedon by 276 BC, as well as hegemony over most of the Greek city-states. Greek-speaking communities of the Hellenized East were instrumental in the spread of early Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and Christianity’s early leaders and writers (notably St Paul) were generally Greek-speaking, though none were from Greece. Greece itself had a tendency to cling on to paganism and was not one of the influential centers of early Christianity: in fact, some ancient Greek religious practices remained in vogue until the end of the 4th century, with some areas such as the southeastern Peloponnese remaining pagan until well into the 10th century AD.
The Roman Empire in the east, following the fall of the Empire in the west in the 5th century, is conventionally known as the Byzantine Empire (but was simply called “Roman Empire” in its own time) and lasted until 1453. With its capital in Constantinople, its language and literary culture was Greek and its religion was predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christian. From the 4th century, the Empire’s Balkan territories, including Greece, suffered from the dislocation of the Barbarian Invasions. The Byzantine recovery of lost provinces began toward the end of the 8th century and most of the Greek peninsula came under imperial control again, in stages, during the 9th century. During the 11th and 12th centuries the return of stability resulted in the Greek peninsula benefiting from strong economic growth – much stronger than that of the Anatolian territories of the Empire.
While most of mainland Greece and the Aegean islands was under Ottoman control by the end of the 15th century, Cyprus and Crete remained Venetian territory and did not fall to the Ottomans until 1571 and 1670 respectively. While Greeks in the Ionian Islands and Constantinople lived in prosperity, the latter achieving positions of power within the Ottoman administration, much of the population of mainland Greece suffered the economic consequences of the Ottoman conquest. Heavy taxes were enforced, Although the Ottoman state did not force non-Muslims to convert to Islam, Christians faced several types of discrimination intended to highlight their inferior status in the Ottoman Empire.
Greek War (1821-1832)
In 1814, a secret organization called the Filiki Eteria was founded with the aim of liberating Greece. The Filiki Eteria planned to launch revolution in the Peloponnese, the Danubian Principalities andConstantinople. The first of these revolts began on 6 March 1821 in the Danubian Principalities under the leadership of Alexandros Ypsilantis, but it was soon put down by the Ottomans. By the end of the month, the Peloponnese was in open revolt against the Ottomans and by October 1821 the Greeks under Theodoros Kolokotronis had captured Tripolitsa. Tensions soon developed among different Greek factions, leading to two consecutive civil wars. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Sultan negotiated with Mehmet Ali of Egypt, who agreed to send his son Ibrahim Pasha to Greece with an army to suppress the revolt in return for territorial gain.
The 19th century
In 1827 Ioannis Kapodistrias, from Corfu, was chosen as the first governor of the new Republic. However, following his assassination in 1831, the Great Powers installed amonarchy under Otto, of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. In 1843 an uprising forced the king to grant a constitution and a representative assembly. Corruption and Trikoupis’ increased spending to create necessary infrastructure like theCorinth Canal overtaxed the weak Greek economy, forcing the declaration of public insolvency in 1893 and to accept the imposition of an International Financial Control authority to pay off the country’s debtors. All Greeks were united, however, in their determination to liberate the Greek-speaking provinces of the Ottoman Empire.
The 20th century and beyond
At the end of the Balkan Wars, the extent of Greece’s territory and population had increased. In the aftermath of the First World War, Greece attempted further expansion into Asia Minor, a region with a large Greek population at the time. On 28 October 1940 Fascist Italy demanded the surrender of Greece, but the Greek administration refused and in the following Greco-Italian War, Greece repelled Italian forces into Albania, giving theAllies their first victory over Axis forces on land. After liberation, Greece experienced a polarising civil war between communist and anticommunistforces, which led to economic devastation and severe social tensions between rightists and largely communist leftists for the next thirty years. Greece rejoined NATO in 1980. Greece became the tenth member of the European Communities (subsequently subsumed by theEuropean Union) on 1 January 1981, ushering in a period of sustained growth.
Traditional Greek dishes are still made from recipes handed down from generation to generation. One of the best known is moussaka, the classic dish of spiced lamb mine with layers of eggplant, potato and bechamel sauce. Souvlaki is the ubiquitous Greek fast food, with lamb or chicken cooked on a rotisserie, sliced and served in pita bread with salad and tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber dip). Spanokopita are available everywhere, and the filo pastry parcels filled with spinach and feta are a very tasty treat. The famous Greek version of chicken soup for the weary is avgolemono, made from chicken, rice and lemon. Greece’s favourite alcoholic drink is ouzo, a spirit not for the faint hearted. It’s made from a combination of pressed grape skins, herbs and berries. Usually served as an aperitif, it can also be the basis of a mixed drink or cocktail. It’s ideally drunk straight and sipped slowly, with friends, over plates of meze. Every table in the summer would include a communal plate of Greek salad. You meals most likely include a plate too (“horiatiki salata” = village salad, is best). Since the country is a major exporter of fruits and vegetables chances are good that your salad would be made with fresh, and very tasty ingredients. With so much sea shore surrounding the land and the islands, fresh fish of any kind.
Most of the artifact unearthed at the Acropolis of Athens are now exhibited at the Acropolis Museum, including the most extensive group of Korai statues, and the sculptures that once adorned the Parthenon.
Athens National Archaeological Museum
The largest museum of Greece hosts the most important artifacts from the entire country under one roof. All eras of Ancient Greek history are represented from the stone age to the Roman Era.
The Delphi Museum houses artifacts unearthed from the ancient oracle of Delphi. It houses some very important sculptures from Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Greece, including the Charioteer of Delphi, and the two Kouros statues known as Kleovis and Biton.
The archaeological Museum of Eleusis (Elefsina) is located on the hill above the Telesterion and houses artifacts from the excavations at the Eleusis sanctuary. Artifacts in its collection date from Stone Age to Byzantine times
The Eretria Archaeological museum houses a small, but very important collection of artifacts found in excavations around Evia. Highlights of the museum include the unique terracotta centaur and other finds from Lefkandi, and the sculptures from the archaic temple of Apollo Daphnophoros that depict an amazonomachy. The finds from the Lefkandi heroon have shed new light in a previously little-understood period of ancient Greece: the Dark Ages.
One of the most important museums of Greece, the Heraklion museum displays artifacts from the numerous archaeological sites of Crete. The exhibitions span several millennia, beginning with finds from paleolithic Crete, and ending with the Roman occupation of the island.
The highlights of the museum include several ceremonial rythons, numerous Kamares pottery, several sculptures, and gold jewelry.
The Archaeological Museum of Marathon exhibits art and artifacts unearthed in the surrounding area. Marathon was inhabited since the stone age, so items on display date between the Middle Helladic to the Roman eras.
The archaeological museum of Sitia in is home to the major archaeological finds from the sites excavated in Eastern Crete. Its small size packs a large number of paleolithic, Minoan, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman artifacts.
The highlights of the museum of Sitia include several tablets of Linear A script, a large number of pottery, and the statuette pictured here.
Thera Prehistoric Museum
The Prehistoric Museum of Thera houses a large collection of artifacts from Akrotiri.
Highlights of the museum include several large wall frescoes such as the “Wall Paintings of Monkeys” and the “Wall Paintings of the House of the Ladies” (ca. 17 c. BCE), many cycladic statuettes, a multitude pottery, and every day artifacts that were buried in Akrotiri by the eruption of the Thera volcano.
Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is the main Greek archaeological site. It is also called the Sacred Rock, stands on the highest point of Ahens. It is considered as the most important heritage of the Classical period and also as Europe’s most important ancient monument. The Parthenon Temple is the main building on the Acropolis and constitutes an architectural splendour of the ancient times. The Acropolis stands proudly over the modern and busy city of Athens and it keeps reminding us that Athens was the cradle of a great civilization. Although temples were constructed there since the Archaic times, the Acropolis as we know it today was an idea of Pericles, the famous statesman of the Classical Era. Made of fine Pentelian marble, the Acropolis and its buildings were constructed in the 5th century BC and it costed a huge amount of money for that times. The most famous buildings of the Acropolis are the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea
Site of Delphi
The site of Delphi was discovered in 1893 by the French School of Archaeology. This was the most important oracle of ancient Greece. During the Mycenaean Period, the female deity of Earth was worshipped in the small settlement of Delphi. The development of the sanctuary and oracle started in the beginning of the 8th century B.C with the establishment of the cult of Apollo. Gradually, the sanctuary continued to work autonomously and enlarge its influence on religious and political orders. The sanctuary was enlarged and decorated with beautiful buildings, statues and other kind of offerings. People from all over the Mediterranean would come to the oracle of Delphi to ask for advice from the priestess Pythia. Although many other oracles developed in Greece, this was considered the most accurate of all. The most important monuments excavated in Delphi are: the Temple of Apollo, the Treasury of the Athenians, the Altar, the Stoa of the Athenians, the Theatre, the Stadium, the Tholos and the Gymnasium. Next to the sanctuary, there is an interesting museum.
Ancient Olympia is situated in an area of great natural beauty in Peloponnese. It is considered as one of the most important sanctuaries of the antiquity and it was dedicated to the father of all gods, Zeus. In fact, two great temples of Zeus and Hera were constructed there in the ancient times. Olympia was also the place were the ancient Olympic Games were first held n the 7th century B.C. The Games were organised to honour Zeus and, according to the myth, they were founded either by Pelops, king of Peloponnese, or by Hercules. These were the most important sports competitions in the ancient times and even wars stopped at their duration. The winners were awarded a branch of olive oil tree and they were welcomed as heroes in their homelands. The site was excavated by French archaeologists in 1829 and some of the findings were transferred to the Louvre Museum in Paris. The most important monuments of the site are: the temples of Zeus and Hera, the Stadium, the workshop of sculptor Phedias, the Palaestra and the Gymnasium. Next to the site, there is an impressive museum with findings from the area.
The Sacred Island of Delos
Delos, included in the World Heritage Monuments protected by the UNESCO, is a small islet situated a few miles from the famous island of Mykonos, in the centre of the Cyclades. Delos is considered as one of the most important Pan-Hellenic sanctuaries of Greece. According to the Greek mythology, Delos was the birth place of Apollo, the god of light and maybe of Artemis, the twin-sister of Apollo, goddess of hunting. Delos was a sacred place in the ancient times. It worked both as a religious and trade centre. The excavations on Delos started in 1873 by the French School of Archaeology. The most important monuments of the site are: the Agora, the Temple of Apollo, the Terrace of the Lions and the ancient theatre, which is being renovated currently to host theatre performances. On Delos, there is a small museum with findings from the island. To go to Delos, you take the tour boat from Mykonos. The island is not inhabited but it is an open archaeological place.
The Minoan Palace of Knossos
Knossos is the most important and best preserved palace of the Minoan Civilization, that flourished in Greece from 2,700 to 1,450 BC. Knossos, located near modern Heraklion in Crete island, was the seat of the legendary King Minos and it is also a place connected to many legends such as the Labyrinth with the Minotaur and the story of Daedalus and Icarus. At about 2,000 BC, the Minoans were characterised by a flourishing commercial, political, social and cultural system, as well as by the construction of impressive palaces, such as Knossos, Lato, Zakros, Phaestos and many others. The Minoans also developed for the first time a trade network with the rest of the Aegean and even established colonies, like Akrotiri in Santorini. From the lack of defensive walls, we can assume that the Minoans had peaceful relations with their neighbours. Also, their facilities and urban planning were surprisingly developed for that era. The Minoan Palace of Knossos was discovered in 1878 by archaeologist Minos Kalokairinos and its restoration started in 1900. The most important monuments of the site are: the palace of Knossos, the little palace, the Royal Villa and the house of the frescoes.
Located on the eastern side of Peloponnese, Epidaurus developed as a religious center and more particularly as a sanctuary of Asclepius, the healing god. In fact, according to the myth, Epidaurus was the birth place of god Asclepius and this is why an important healing center was established there, famous all over the Mediterranean Sea. It was believed that the treatment was coming directly from the god. The patients would sleep in a large room and at the night the god would come to their dream and indicate the necessary therapy. In order to honor god Asclepius, large festivities would take place in the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus as well as athletic competitions in the Ancient Stadium. The ancient theatre that survives today was constructed in the 4th century BC. It is large, made of marble and stone and famous for its amazing acoustics. In summer, performances of ancient Greek drama are presented there as part of the Greek Festival.
The site of Mycenae is considered as one of the oldest sites in Greece and witnesses the development of the Mycenaean civilisation. Mycenae was the legendary home of Agamemnon, ruler of the Greeks during the Trojan War. The Mycenaean civilization took its name after the discovery of the site of Mycenae. The Mycenaean civilization followed the Minoans. Their society, as proved by the excavations, was formed by an elite group. Their citadels were fortified with what we call the Massive Cyclopean walls. They were named like this because people thought that only Cyclopes could have lifted such huge stones to compose them. The society of the Mycenaeans was based on military force. Generally, this era doesn’t have much to show in cultural issues, but it stressed mostly on urban planning and military invasions. The most characteristic spot of the site is the Lion Gate. Particularly interesting is also the museum.
Mount Aenos or is the tallest mountain in the Ioanian island ofCephallonia, Greece, with an elevation of 1,628 metres (5,341 ft).
Most of the mountain range is designated as a park area and is covered with Greek fir(Abies Cephalonica) and black pine (Pinus nigra). Pine forests are found between the elevations of 700 to 1200 m. On clear days, the view includes the NW Peloponnese and Aetolia along with theislands of Zakynthos, Lefkada, and Ithaca.
No ski resorts are found on this mountain range, but there are beautiful caves to be seen in the north. A highway passes over the mountain range connecting traffic from southwestern to the eastern part of the island is one of the few roads going into the mountain range. Approximately 3,000 to 4,000 people live on the slopes of Ainos. Multiple television and cell phone relay towers occupy the summit.
The National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades was founded by Presidential Decree on May 16, 1992. It was the first of its kind in Greece, and is currently the largest marine protected area in Europe (approximately 2.260 km2). Besides the sea area, the park includes the island of Alonnisos, six smaller islands (Peristera, Kyra Panagia, Gioura, Psathoura, Piperi and Skantzoura), as well as 22 uninhabited islets and rocky outcrops. It is located in the region of the Northern Sporades Islands, in the northern Aegean Sea.
Mount Oeta older name: Katavothra is a mountain in southern Phthiotis and northern Phocis,Greece. A southeastern offshoot of the Pindus range, it forms the boundary between the valleys of the rivers Spercheios to the north, the Boeotian Cephissus to the southeast and the Mornos to the southwest. It is 2,152 m (7,060 ft) high. To its east is the mountain Kallidromo, which comes close to the sea, leaving only a narrow passage known as the famous pass of Thermopylae. There was also a high pass to the west of Kallidromo leading over into the upper Cephissus valley. The Oeta is southwest ofLamia, the nearest large town.
The national park, the lake, and the Mavrovo region are named after the village of Mavrovo.
Mount Olympus also transliterated as Olympos, and on Greek maps, Oros Olympos is the highest mountain in Greece, located in the Olympus Range on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, about 80 km (50 mi) southwest from Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. Mount Olympus has 52 peaks. The highest peak Mytikas, meaning “nose”, rises to 2,917 metres (9,570 ft). It is one of the highest peaks in Europe in terms of topographic prominence.
Mount Olympus is noted for its very rich flora with several species. It is a National Parkof Greece and a World’s Biosphere Reserve.
Mount Parnassus , is a mountain oflimestone in central Greece that towers above Delphi, north of the Gulf of Corinth, and offers scenic views of the surrounding olive groves and countryside. According to Greek mythology, this mountain was sacred to Apollo and the Corycian nymphs, and the home of the Muses. The mountain was also favored by the Dorians. There is a theory that Parna- derived from the same root as the word in Luwian meaning House.
Mount Parnitha is a densely forested mountain range north of Athens, the highest on the peninsula of Attica, with an elevation of 1,413 m, and a summit known as Karavola . Much of the mountain is designated a national park, and is a protected habitat for wildfowl, first created in 1961. The summit is located 18 km N of Acharnae and about 30 km N of Athens, while the mountain covers approximately 250 km² of land. Other peaks include Mavrovouni Ornio (1,350 m), Area (1,160 m), Avgo or Avgho (1,150 m), and Xerovouni meaning dry mountain – 1,120 m).It also has two shelters Mpafi and Flampouri.
Pindus National Park also known as Valia-Kalda, is a national park in mainland Greece, situated in an isolated mountainous area at the periphery of West Macedonia and Epirus, in the northeastern part of the Pindus mountain range. It was established in 1966 and covers an area of 6,927 hectares (17,120 acres). The park’s core zone, 3,360 hectares (8,300 acres), covers the greatest part of the Valia Kalda valley and the slopes of the surrounding peaks.
The National Park has an elevation range from 1,076 to 2,177 metres (3,530 to 7,142 ft) and is characterized by dense forests of European black pine and common beech, rocky ridges, several peaks over 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), rapid streams and mountain lakes. The area belong to the wider Pindus Mountains mixed forestsecoregion and is a representative part of Pindus mountain range. Moreover, it belongs to the Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas and is one of the three places in Greece that hosts a population of bears.
Prespa is the name of two freshwater lakes in southeast Europe, shared by Albania, Greece, and the Republic of Macedonia. Of the total surface area, 176.3 km2 (68.07 sq mi) belongs to the Republic of Macedonia, 46.3 km2 (17.88 sq mi) to Albania and 36.4 km2 (14.05 sq mi) to Greece. They are the highest tectonic lakes in the Balkans, standing at an altitude of 853 m (2,798 ft).
The Great Prespa Lake is divided between Albania, Greece and Macedonia. The Small Prespa Lake is shared only between Greece (138 km2 (53.28 sq mi) drainage area; 42.5 km2 (16.41 sq mi) surface area) and Albania (51 km2 (19.69 sq mi) drainage area; 4.3 km2 (1.66 sq mi) surface area).
The Samariá Gorge is a National Park of Greece on the island of Crete – a major tourist attraction of the island – and a World’s Biosphere Reserve.
The gorge is in southwest Crete in the regional unit of Chania. It was created by a small river running between the White Mountains (Lefká Óri) and Mt. Volakias. There are a number of other gorges in the White Mountains. While some say that the gorge is 18 km long, this distance refers to the distance between the settlement of Omalos on the northern side of the plateau and the village of Agia Roumeli. In fact, the gorge is 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1,250 m at the northern entrance, and ending at the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli. The walk through Samaria National Park is 13 km long, but one has to walk another three kilometers to Agia Roumeli from the park exit, making the hike 16 km long. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates (or, albeit incorrectly, as “Iron Gates”), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (1,000 feet). The gorge became a national park in 1962, particularly as a refuge for the rare kri-kri (Cretan goat), which is largely restricted to the park and an island just off the shore of Agia Marina. There are several other endemic species in the gorge and surrounding area, as well as many other species of flowers and birds.
The village of Samariá lies just inside the gorge. It was finally abandoned by the last remaining inhabitants in 1962 to make way for the park. The village and the gorge take their names from the village’s ancient church, Óssia María.
A must for visitors to Crete is to complete the walk down the gorge from the Omalos plateau to Agia Roumeli on the Libyan Sea, at which point tourists sail to the nearby village of Hora Sfakion and catch a coach back to Chania. The walk takes five to seven hours and can be strenuous, especially at the peak of summer.
Local tourist operators provide organized tours to the Gorge. These include bus transportation from one’s hotel to the entrance (near Omalos village), and a bus connection that will be waiting for hikers after they disembark the ferry in Sfakia (Chora Sfakion). If you are on your own, you can make a one-day round trip from Chania (see below) or from Sougia or Paleochora. Note that the morning buses from Sougia and Paleochora do not operate on Sunday. The ferries leave Agia Roumeli to Chora Sfakion (eastbound) and to Sougia/Paleochora (westbound) at 17:00.
Cape Sounion is a promontory located 69 kilometres (43 mi) SSE of Athens, at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula in Greece. Cape Sounion is noted as the site of ruins of an ancient Greek temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea in classical mythology. The remains are perched on the headland, surrounded on three sides by the sea. The ruins bear the deeply engraved name of English Romantic poet Lord Byron(1788–1824).
The site is a popular day-excursion for tourists from Athens, with sunset over the Aegean Sea, as viewed from the ruins, a sought-after spectacle.
The Vikos–Aoös National Park is a national park in the region of Epirus in northwestern Greece. The park, founded in 1973, is one of ten national parks in mainland Greece and is located 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of the city of Ioannina in the northern part of the Pindus mountain range. It is named after the two major gorges of the area and encompasses 12,600 hectares (31,135 acres) of mountainous terrain, with numerous rivers, lakes, caves, deep canyons, dense coniferous anddeciduous forest. The park is part of the Natura 2000 ecological network and one of UNESCO Geoparks and spans an elevation range from 550 to 2,497 meters (1,800 to 8,192 ft). Over 100,000 people visit the park each year and take part in activities including rafting, canoe-kayaking, hiking and mountain biking.
The core of the park, an area of 3,400 hectares (8,402 acres), comprises the spectacular Vikos Gorge, carved by the Voidomatis river. The gorge’s main part is 12 km (7 mi) long and attains a depth of 1,000 meters (3,300 ft). The Aoös gorge, mount Tymfi (2,497 meters (8,192 ft) at Gamila peak), and a number of traditionally preserved settlements form the park’s peripheral zone. The park’s remoteness and relatively small human population, combined with the great variation of biotopesand microclimatic conditions favors the existence of a rich variety of flora (1,800 species) in the area. Vikos–Aoös National Park supports a wide diversity of fauna, with a plethora of large mammals such as the brown bear, for which the park is one of the last European strongholds, and a variety of natural habitats and ecosystems that rank it among the most valuable parks for nature conservation in Greece.
The first evidence of human presence in the area is dated between 17,000 and 10,000 years ago. The area of the park has been sparsely populated throughout historical times, however from the 17th to the 19th century the local communities of Zagori acquired an autonomous status, flourished economically due to increased trade, and became a major center of folk medicine. In recent decades,ecotourism is seen as a remedy to the economic decline of heavily depopulated local settlements, while preserving the natural environment and local architecture.
The National Marine Park of Zakynthos founded in 1999, is a national park located in Laganas bay, in Zakynthosisland, Greece. The park, part of the Natura 2000 ecological network, covers an area of 135 square kilometres (52 sq mi) and is the habitat of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta). It is the first national park established for the protection of sea turtles in the Mediterranean.