Europe – World Geography For UPSC IAS (Notes)

In this Article of World Geography, I want to walk you through the European continent – World Geography For UPSC.


Europe is the second smallest continent, the smallest being Australia. Its area, including the islands around the coast, is about 10 million square kilometers.

It is roughly three times the size of India and smaller than China.

Europe physical map

Location of Europe

  • A large part lies in the temperate zone as it stretches from 35°N to 80°N latitude.
  • Longitudinally, it stretches from 10°W to 60°E
  • The Prime Meridian passes through London.
  • In the north, though it stretches into the Arctic Circle, the Warm Gulf Stream keeps the ports ice-free.
  • The broad continent shelf on its west provides good fishing grounds and there are sheltered harbors along the indented coastline.
  • It has the longest coastline in proportion to size.
List of countries in Europe

Boundaries of Europe

  • To the east, it is separated from Asia by the Ural Mountain, Caspian Sea, Caucasus Mountain, and the Black Sea.
  • To the south is the Mediterranean Sea. The Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea are two of its branches.
  • To the west is the Strait of Gibraltar separating Europe from Africa and joining the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. The Bay of Biscay, the English Channel, and the North Sea are pars of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Baltic Sea with two branches – Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland is an inlet in the north. The Arctic Ocean to the north has a bay called the White Sea.
  • The peninsula of Greece, known as the Balkan Peninsula and Italy extends into the Mediterranean Sea.
  • In the south-west is the Iberian Peninsula which is made up of Spain and Portugal.
  • In the north-west is the Scandinavian, Peninsula consisting of Norway and Sweden.
Europe political map

Physical Divisions of Europe

  • Western Upland
  • North European Plain
  • Central Uplands or Plateau
  • Alpine Mountain Systems
  • Islands of Europe
  • Drainage Pattern
  • Gulfs and Bays
Physical Divisions of Europe

Western Upland

It is also known as the Northern Highlands, delineate the western edge of Europe and define the physical landscape of Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark), Finland, Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, the Brittany region of France, Spain, and Portugal.

These landforms are result of glaciations of hard rock in the ancient times. Distinct physical features such as marshlands, lakes, and fjords have been emerged with the recession of glaciers form the highland areas.

The famous Norwegian Fjords which are Lyse fjord, the Geiranger fjord.

North European Plain

It is the extensive low land spread along the bank of various mighty rivers such as Rhine, Weser, Elbe, Oder, and Vistula. These river valleys are favorable for growing seasonal crops.

It covers all most half of Europe. Bordered by Baltican White sea from north and Black and Azov from the south the plain is gradually narrowed down towards the west.

The northern part of the land is characterized by diversified glacial landforms such as Pipet Marshland, Valdai hills of western Russia, glacial lakes, etc.

Central Uplands or Plateau

These are the collection of distinctive landscapes of summits, steep slopes, valleys and depression which stretches across central Europe.

It extends from Belgium in the East to France in the West and from the Czech Republic and south Germany in south to Switzerland and Austria in the North.

Except for some river valleys such as the Rhine, Rhone, Elbe, and Danube river valleys all other areas of this division is sparsely populated.

Alpine Mountain Systems

These are located in south-central Europe, immediately north of the Mediterranean Sea.

They extend for almost 700 miles in a crescent shape from the coastline of southern France (near Monaco) into Switzerland, then through northern Italy and into Austria, and down through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro – then ending in Albania on the rugged coastline of the Adriatic Sea.

The highest point is Mont Blanc at 15,771 ft. (4,807m).


The Ural Mountains:

  • These mountains separate Asia from Europe in the east
  • From north to south, these are 2,200 km long and 80-120 km broad with many parallel valleys.
  • Though their average height is 300 m yet their highest peak is about 1,638 m high.

The Scandinavian Mountains:

  • Scandinavia consists of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
  • In fact, Scandinavia exists or Fenno-Scandia which continues into the east through Finland to the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

The Old Mountain Blocks

  • These are Hercynian and Caledonian mountain chains.
  • In the west, the Meseta of Spain, the Central Plateau of France, the Britanny Peninsula, the Rhine Upland, the Block Forest, Vosges, Bohemian Plateau, and Rhodope Mt, etc, are examples of these old mountains.

The Alpine Mountain Ranges:

  • The highest peak is (Mount Blanc 5,000 m).
  • The mountain range runs in many branches.
  • The main ones are the Alps, the Carpathians, the Balkans, the Caucasus, etc.
  • Another branch is the Apennines (Italy, the Atlas (Africa and the Sierra Nevada Spain).
  • Still another branch is the Dinaric and the Pindus mountain (Yugoslavia and Greece) and enters through the Crete island into Asia.

The Pyrenees:

  • The Pyrenees are half as Long and broad as the Alps and separate broadly France from Spain.
  • The highest peak is Pice de Aneto (3,404 m).

Islands of Europe

As surrounded by a number of seas from all sides, Europe is an island rich continent. The British Isles is the largest and the most important group of islands consisting of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

British Isles
islands of europe map

Drainage Pattern

  • The rivers of Europe are perennial being fed by melting snow or by the rain brought by the Westerlies.
  • Many of them have their origin in the Alps.
  • Rivers that flow into the Mediterranean Sea are Rhone (France) and Ebro (Spain).
  • River Po of Italy flows into the Adriatic Sea.
  • The Danube, Dnieper, and Don flow into the Black Sea.
  • Rivers that flow into the Atlantic Ocean are – Guadalquivir (Spain), Tagus and Douro (Portugal), Loire and Seine (France), The Rhine Weser and Elbe (Germany)
  • Many rivers flow into the Baltic Sea.
  • The Thames, the chief river of England, flows into the English Channel.
  • Rhine and Danube are international rivers because they pass through many countries.
rivers of Europe

The Rhine starts from the Alps in Switzerland and flows northwards through Germany and enters the sea through Holland. It passes through heavily industrialized regions and is used for transporting
heavy goods. It is the busiest waterway in Europe. Rotterdam, the largest part of Europe, is on its delta.

Rhine river

The Danube is also an international river. It rises from the Alps in Germany and flows through Australia, Hungary, Serbia, and enters the Black Sea in Romania. It is not as important as the Rhine for international trade because of the Black Sea in the interior.

Danube river
Major rivers of europe

Gulfs and Bays

These are the parts of large water bodies which are adjacent to a massive land may it be continents or countries which are of economic importance for any human civilization, As Europe is surrounded by
number of large water bodies such as the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, The North Sea etc. there are a lot of Gulfs, Bay, and straits.

water bodies of Europe map

The Gulf of Finland is situated in the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea and extends between Finland (to the north) and Estonia (to the south) all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn. The eastern parts of the Gulf
of Finland belong to Russia, and some of Russia’s most important oil harbors are located farthest in, near Saint Petersburg.

The Gulf of Bothnia situated in the northernmost part of the Baltic Sea and bordered by Sweden at its western side and Finland at the eastern side.

gulf of riga

The Gulf of Riga is a brackish water body which is considered as a sub-basin of the Baltic Sea. The areal extent of the Gulf of Riga is approximately 16,300 km². It is also called the Bay of Riga which is a very shallow water sea with a maximum depth of 67metres.

The Gulf of Lions extends from the easternmost spurs of Pyrenees and covers various lagoons, the Rhone River delta, limestone hills of Marseille. It’s an embayment of the Mediterranean coastline of Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence in France.

gulf of lion

Terminology of the British Isles


What are Scandinavian and Nordic countries?

Scandinavia‘ is commonly used for Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, the term “Nordic countries” is vaguely used for Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, including their associated territories of Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands.

French islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans

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