Europe, one of the world’s seven continents, is home to an unparalleled selection of cultures, history, and scenic beauty. Europe, which is Earth’s second smallest continent in geographic terms, has a population of approximately seven hundred and thirty three million residents. Europe saw the birth of Western culture, and was the center of many colonial empires during the Imperial Age. Europe’s human history dates back more than one and a half million years ago, when early hominids arrived on the continent. Modern humans arrived approximately forty thousand years ago, and rapidly supplanted the Neanderthals who had previously dominated European territory. Over the next several millennia, Europe experienced the copper, bronze, and iron ages, and constructed such monuments as Stonehenge and the Megalithic Temples of Malta. About three thousand years ago, ancient Greek civilization began to arise on the mainland and offshore islands of the Aegean Sea. The next great civilization to arise on the European continent was the Roman Empire, which dominated much of Europe’s land for several centuries. Eventually, Europe passed through the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, when the continent’s political power was much more fragmented than in previous eras. Modern day Europe began to take shape during the Renaissance and the Industrial Ages, until the continent took its approximate modern day form during the middle of the twentieth century.

Europe and its islands have a generally temperate climate, although northern archipelagos tend to have lower temperatures than southern areas. Geographically speaking, Europe is an extremely diverse continent. European islands range from relatively flat to highly mountainous. Europe’s physical shape has changed substantially over the history of the earth, taking its current form approximately five million years ago. Europe and its islands have a spectacular range of biodiversity, ranging from cork oak forests and conifers to coniferous and beech trees. Europe’s animal life includes creatures ranging from polar bears, brown bears, and wolves to roe deer, bison, and marmots. Europe is one of the most politically integrated and economically advanced continents. Europe has a powerful economy, encompassing nearly forty trillion dollars in GDP. Despite this economic strength, Europe has faced some difficulty maintaining current population levels. In recent years, Europe’s more developed countries have faced negative growth rates, although the number of immigrants has increased substantially.

Europe has an extremely diverse religious and cultural heritage, manifesting itself in different types of architecture, festivities, and historical sites. Nearly every European nation with a coastline has a few offshore islands, and some, such as Greece and Italy, count archipelagos as a substantial portion of their landmass and significant contributors to their population. For the most part, European islands derive their cultural heritage and economic status from their mother countries, although they also develop unique characters over the years. Many European islands are vacation destinations for the continent and the rest of the world. Europe’s islands have great beaches and stunning views in addition to hidden gems and historic sites. Some European islands, such as Crete and Malta, were instrumental to the history of western culture, while others have become a fusion of different influences over the years. Others are a persistent reminder of authentic European culture, tucked away from the urbanization and modernization of the continent and dedicated to the preservation of the simple life.