Unlike many of the countries described in this site, Greece as a tourist destination needs little introduction. Its ancient heritage has assured it of a place on Grand Tours of Europe for centuries. In more recent decades the azure skies and sparkling seas of the Greek islands have attracted northern Europeans in their millions.
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, of which 227 are inhabited. Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, with Mount Olympus being the highest peak at 2,918 metres (9,573 ft).
Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama. From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were organised into various independent city-states, known as polis, which spanned the entire Mediterranean region and the Black Sea. Philip of Macedon united most of the Greek mainland in the fourth century BC, with his son Alexander the Great rapidly conquering much of the ancient world, spreading Greek culture and science from the eastern Mediterranean to the Indus River. Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire, wherein the Greek language and culture were dominant. The establishment of the Greek Orthodox Church in the first century AD shaped modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox World. Falling under Ottoman dominion in the mid-15th century, the modern nation state of Greece emerged in 1830 following a war of independence. Greece's rich historical legacy is reflected by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the most in Europe and the world.