The sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar on the west and to the Sea of Marmara and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and the Bosporus on the east. The Sea of Marmara is often considered a part of the Mediterranean Sea, whereas the Black Sea is not. The Suez Canal in the southeast connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea.
Its major islands are:
- Cyprus, Crete, and Rhodes in the east
- Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, and Malta in the center
- Majorca and Minorca in the west
- Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Greece and Turkey on the north shore
- Lebanon, Syria, Israel and the Gaza Strip (part of the Palestinian territories), on the east
- Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco on the south shore
- The island states of Cyprus and Malta. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has a Mediterranean coastline but is recognised only by Turkey.
Parts of the Mediterranean are given their own names.
The commonly named seas are (from west to east): the Ligurian Sea north of Corsica, the Tyrrhenian Sea enclosed by Sardinia, Italy and Sicily, the Adriatic Sea between Italy and the Dalmatian coast, the Ionian Sea between Italy and Greece, the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey, with the Thracian Sea in its north, the Mirtoon Sea between the Cyclades and the Peleponnesus, and the Sea of Crete north of Crete, and the Sea of Marmara between the Aegean and Black Seas.
There are a larger number of gulfs and straits as well.