The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a mountain range system across Central and Eastern Europe.
The total length of the Carpathians is over 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) and the mountain chain’s width varies between 12 and 500 kilometers (7 and 311 miles).
The Carpathians cover an area of 190,000 square kilometers (73,359 square miles), and after the Alps, form the next-most extensive mountain system in Europe.
The highest range within the Carpathians is the Tatras, on the border of Slovakia and Poland, where the highest peaks exceed 2,600 meters (8,530 feet).
The second-highest range is the Southern Carpathians in Romania, where the highest peaks exceed 2,500 meters (8,202 feet).
The highest peak is Gerlachovský štít in Slovakia at 2,655 meters (8,711 feet) above sea level.
The Carpathians were formed some 50 million years ago, during the same geological upheavals that produced the Alps.
The last volcanic activity occurred at Ciomadul about 30,000 years ago.
Without having the fame of the Alps or the Himalayas, the Carpathian Mountains mesmerize with their sometimes terrifying wilderness.
There are also over one third of all European plant species. The flora of the Carpathians includes 1350 species, among which 116 are endemic. The Carpathian floral year begins at the end of February – the beginning of March, with the colsfoot, the snowdrop, the hollow wort and the pheasant’s eye.
Different vegetation stages may also be distinguished for the various altitudinal zones of the Carpathians. The alpine stage is characterized by high mountain pastures, the subalpine stage by dwarf pine growth, the upper forest stage by spruce, and the lower forest stage by beech. (Ten primeval beech forests in the Carpathians were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007.) The foreland stage is noted for oaks and elms.
In the Carpathian Mountains, you’ll find naturally-sculpted statues with strange shapes reminding you of the Sphinx or pagan temples, old cave paintings, and thousands of caves in which were discovered fossils of big carnivorous animals that disappeared during the last ice age.
The Carpathians are a popular tourist and recreation venue, especially for the people of Poland, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Tourist travel from other countries is less developed, although a number of areas attract visitors from abroad. Most important among these is Zakopane [photo below], a center of sports activities, tourism, and recreation, situated in Poland north of the Tatras.
The name “Carpates” is highly associated with the old Dacian tribes called “Carpes” or “Carpi” who lived in a large area from the east, north-east of the Black Sea to Transylvanian plains on the present day Romania and Moldova.
In official Hungarian documents of the 13th and 14th centuries the Carpathians are named Thorchal or Tarczal, and also Montes Nivium.
Iron, gold and silver were found in great quantities in the Carpathians. After the Roman emperor Trajan’s conquest of Dacia, he brought back to Rome over 165 tons of gold and 330 tons of silver.