So, for this story I'm drafting, I want to use this type of landscape for the main region where the plot develops.

Basically, instead of a sea of water proper, the islands are low valleys amidst steep mountains.

My question is, is this a possible structure in the real world? And what would be the consequences on the climate of the areas?

Edit: It was two part but I decided only to ask about part of the problem. Correcting it now. The Isles, the name of the place, is supposed to an archipelago. The terrain of these Islands are fertile valleys surrounded by steep mountain.

Basically, the Islands are made of a series of low mountains surrounded by higher ones, themselves surronded by smaller ones lower than sea level. All forming a single are called the Maw.

  • $\begingroup$ Is there no water at all? $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2021 at 10:38
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    $\begingroup$ I don't get it. How is this supposedly fictional world different from, for example, Switzerland? You know, a small country in Western Europe, consisting of many fertile valleys separated by steep mountains, basically impossible for an army to conquer, sufficiently isolated between them that four different languages are spoken... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 4, 2021 at 11:05
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Believe it or not, I was thinking of Autria... My father from Italy lives there with his second wife.:) Its an inverse island world, so to speak. I wouldnt say Zwitserland is impossible to conquer though. Four different languages? You mean retro roman as fourth language? $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2021 at 11:53
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP you could answer with that. $\endgroup$ Aug 4, 2021 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with having fertile valleys below sea level is that unless the valley is in a desert (e.g. Death Valley in the US, the Dead Sea valley in the Middle East), rainfall will soon fill it with water, and you will have a lake. But in general the terrain is possible, but you need either some desert (so you can have endorheic basins: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endorheic_basin ), or some rivers flowing out of the area. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Aug 4, 2021 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


Tibet (in the picture), Austria, Switzerland, Nepal, are just some examples of countries with this very morphology.

Mountains, mountains everywhere, as long as the eye can see, with valleys used for human settlement.

enter image description here

As you can imagine the climate will be pretty cold, with short summers and usually regular precipitations, in form of snow or rain, according to the season.

  • $\begingroup$ At least in Switzerland, most of the population lives in the Central Plateau, a land of rolling hills and mild weather. $\endgroup$ Aug 5, 2021 at 14:49

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