Carpathian Mountains

For other uses, see Carpathian (disambiguation).

Highest point
Peak Gerlachovský štít
Elevation 2,655 m (8,711 ft)
Length 1,700 km (1,100 mi)

Satellite image of the Carpathians

Range coordinates 47°00′N 25°30′E / 47°N 25.5°E / 47; 25.5Coordinates: 47°00′N 25°30′E / 47°N 25.5°E / 47; 25.5
Borders on Alps

The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a mountain range system forming an arc roughly 1,500 km (932 mi) long across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe (after the Scandinavian Mountains, 1,700 km (1,056 mi)).

They provide the habitat for the largest European populations of brown bears, wolves, chamois and lynxes, with the highest concentration in Romania,[4][5][6] as well as over one third of all European plant species.[7] The Carpathians and their foothills also have many thermal and mineral waters, with Romania having one-third of the European total.[8][9] Romania is likewise home to the second largest surface of virgin forests in Europe after Russia, totaling 250,000 hectares (65%), most of them in the Carpathians,[10] with the Southern Carpathians constituting Europe's largest unfragmented forested area.[11]

The Carpathians consist of a chain of mountain ranges that stretch in an arc from the Czech Republic (3%) in the northwest through Slovakia (17%), Poland (10%), Hungary (4%) and Ukraine (11%) to Romania (51%) and Serbia (2%).[1][2][3][12] The highest range within the Carpathians is the Tatras, on the border of Slovakia and Poland, where the highest peaks exceed 2,600 m (8,530 ft). The second-highest range is the Southern Carpathians in Romania, where the highest peaks exceed 2,500 m (8,202 ft).

The divisions of the Carpathians are usually in three major sections:[13]

The term Outer Carpathians is frequently used to describe the northern rim of the Western and Eastern Carpathians.

The most important cities in or near the Carpathians are: Bratislava and Košice in Slovakia; Kraków in Poland; Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu and Braşov in Romania; and Uzhhorod in Ukraine.


In modern times, the range is called Karpaty in Czech, Polish, Slovak and Карпати (Karpaty) in Ukrainian, Carpați [karˈpat͡sʲ] in Romanian, Karpaten in German, Kárpátok in Hungarian and Karpati or Карпати in Serbian.[14][15] Although the toponym was recorded already by Ptolemy in the 2nd century CE, [16] the modern form of the name is a neologism in most languages.[14] For instance, Havasok ("Snowy Mountains") was its medieval Hungarian name; Rus' and Romanian chronicles referred to it as "Hungarian Mountains". [15][14] Later sources, such as Dimitrie Cantemir and the Italian chronicler Giovanandrea Gromo, referred to the range as "Transylvania's Mountains", while the 17th-century historian Constantin Cantacuzino translated the name of the mountains in an Italian-Romanian glossary to "Rumanian Mountains". [14]

Relief map of the Carpathian Mountains.

The name Carpates may ultimately be from the Proto Indo-European root *sker-/*ker-, from which comes the Albanian word kar (rock), and the Slavic word skála (rock, cliff), perhaps via a Dacian cognate which meant mountain, rock, or rugged (cf. Germanic root *skerp-, Old Norse harfr "harrow", Gothic skarpo, Middle Low German scharf "potsherd" and Modern High German Scherbe "shard", Old English scearp and English sharp, Lithuanian kar~pas "cut, hack, notch", Latvian cìrpt "to shear, clip"). The archaic Polish word karpa meant "rugged irregularities, underwater obstacles/rocks, rugged roots or trunks". The more common word skarpa means a sharp cliff or other vertical terrain. The name may instead come from Indo-European *kwerp "to turn", akin to Old English hweorfan "to turn, change" (English warp) and Greek καρπός karpós "wrist", perhaps referring to the way the mountain range bends or veers in an L-shape.[17]

In late Roman documents, the Eastern Carpathian Mountains were referred to as Montes Sarmatici (meaning Sarmatian Mountains).[18] The Western Carpathians were called Carpates, a name that is first recorded in Ptolemy's Geographia (2nd century AD).

In the Scandinavian Hervarar saga, which relates ancient Germanic legends about battles between Goths and Huns, the name Karpates appears in the predictable Germanic form as Harvaða fjöllum (see Grimm's law).

"Inter Alpes Huniae et Oceanum est Polonia" by Gervase of Tilbury, has described in his Otia Imperialia ("Recreation for an Emperor") in 1211.[19] Thirteenth- to fifteenth-century Hungarian documents named the mountains Thorchal, Tarczal or less frequently Montes Nivium.[19]


Maramureș Mountains in north of Romania

The northwestern Carpathians begin in southern Poland. They surround Transcarpathia and Transylvania in a large semicircle, sweeping towards the southeast, and end on the Danube near Orşova in Romania. The total length of the Carpathians is over 1,500 km (932 mi) and the mountain chain's width varies between 12 and 500 km (7 and 311 mi). The highest altitudes of the Carpathians occur where they are widest. The system attains its greatest breadth in the Transylvanian plateau and in the southern Tatra Mountains group the highest range, in which Gerlachovský štít in Slovakia is the highest peak at 2,655 m (8,711 ft) above sea level. The Carpathians cover an area of 190,000 km2 (73,359 sq mi) and, after the Alps, form the next most extensive mountain system in Europe.

Kežmarok in Slovakia
Zakopane in Poland
Hutsul people, living in the Carpathian mountains, c 1872

Although commonly referred to as a mountain chain, the Carpathians do not actually form an uninterrupted chain of mountains. Rather, they consist of several orographically and geologically distinctive groups, presenting as great a structural variety as the Alps. The Carpathians, which attain an altitude of over 2,500 m (8,202 ft) in only a few places, lack the bold peaks, extensive snowfields, large glaciers, high waterfalls, and numerous large lakes that are common in the Alps. It was believed that no area of the Carpathian range was covered in snow all year round and there were no glaciers, but recent research by Polish scientists discovered one permafrost and glacial area in the Tatra Mountains.[20] The Carpathians at their highest altitude are only as high as the middle region of the Alps, with which they share a common appearance, climate, and flora. The Carpathians are separated from the Alps by the Danube. The two ranges meet at only one point: the Leitha Mountains at Bratislava. The river also separates them from the Balkan Mountains at Orşova in Romania. The valley of the March and Oder separates the Carpathians from the Silesian and Moravian chains, which belong to the middle wing of the great Central Mountain System of Europe. Unlike the other wings of the system, the Carpathians, which form the watershed between the northern seas and the Black Sea, are surrounded on all sides by plains, namely the Pannonian plain to the southwest, the plain of the Lower Danube (Romania) to the south, and the Galician plain to the northeast.

Cities and towns

Important cities and towns in or near the Carpathians are, in approximate descending order of population:

Highest peaks

This is an (incomplete) list of the peaks of the Carpathians having summits over 2,500 metres (8,200 ft), with their heights, geologic divisions, and locations.

Peak Geologic divisions Nation (Nations) County (Counties) Height (m)
Gerlachovský štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,655
Gerlachovská veža High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,642
Lomnický štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,633
Ľadový štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,627
Pyšný štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,623
Zadný Gerlach High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,616
Lavínový štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,606
Malý Ľadový štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,602
Kotlový štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,601
Lavínová veža High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,600
Malý Pyšný štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,591
Veľká Litvorová veža High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,581
Strapatá veža High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,565
Kežmarský štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,556
Vysoká High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,547
Moldoveanu Făgăraş Mountains Romania Argeș 2,544
Negoiu Făgăraș Mountains Romania Argeș 2,535
Viştea Mare Făgăraş Mountains Romania Brașov 2,527
Parângu Mare Parâng Mountains Romania Alba, Gorj, Hunedoara 2,519
Lespezi Făgăraș Mountains Romania Sibiu 2,517
Peleaga Retezat Mountains Romania Hunedoara 2,509
Păpușa Retezat Mountains Romania Hunedoara 2,508
Vânătoarea lui Buteanu Făgăraș Mountains Romania Argeș 2,507
Omu (mountain) Bucegi Mountains Romania Prahova, Brașov, Dâmbovița 2,505
Cornul Călțunului Făgăraș Mountains Romania Sibiu 2,505
Ocolit (Bucura) Bucegi Mountains Romania Prahova, Brașov, Dâmbovița 2,503
Rysy High Tatras Poland, Slovakia Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Prešov Region 2,503
Dara Făgăraș Mountains Romania Sibiu 2,500

Highest peaks by country

This is a list of the highest national peaks of the Carpathians, their heights, geologic divisions, and locations.

Peak Geologic divisions Nation (Nations) County (Counties) Height (m)
Gerlachovský štít High Tatras Slovakia Prešov Region 2,655
Moldoveanu Făgăraş Mountains Romania Argeş 2,544
Rysy Fatra-Tatra Area Poland Lesser Poland Voivodeship 2,499
Hoverla Beskides Ukraine Chornohora 2,061
Beljanica Homolje mountains Serbia Braničevo District 1,344
Lysá hora Moravian-Silesian Beskids Czech Republic Moravian-Silesian Region 1,323
Kékes North Hungarian Mountains Hungary Heves 1,014

Mountain passes

In the Romanian part of the main chain of the Carpathians, the most important mountain passes are (starting from the Ukrainian border): the Prislop Pass, Rodna Pass, Tihuța Pass (also known as Borgo Pass), Tulgheș Pass, Bicaz Canyon, Ghimeș Pass, Uz Pass and Oituz Pass, Buzău Pass, Predeal Pass (crossed by the railway from Braşov to Bucharest), Turnu Roșu Pass (1,115 ft., running through the narrow gorge of the Olt River and crossed by the railway from Sibiu to Bucharest), Vulcan Pass, Teregova Pass and the Iron Gate (both crossed by the railway from Timișoara to Craiova).


Vrátna dolina, Slovakia

The area now occupied by the Carpathians was once occupied by smaller ocean basins. The Carpathian mountains were formed during the Alpine orogeny in the Mesozoic[21] and Tertiary by moving the ALCAPA, Tisza and Dacia plates over subducting oceanic crust (see maps).[22] The mountains take the form of a fold and thrust belt with generally north vergence in the western segment, northeast to east vergence in the eastern portion and southeast vergence in the southern portion.

The external, generally northern, portion of the orogenic belt is a Tertiary accretionary prism of a so-called Flysch belt (the Carpathian Flysch Belt) created by rocks scraped off the sea bottom and thrust over the North-European plate. The Carpathian accretionary wedge is made of several thin skinned nappes composed of Cretaceous to Paleogene turbidites. Thrusting of the Flysch nappes over the Carpathian foreland caused the formation of the Carpathian foreland basin.[23] The boundary between the Flysch belt and internal zones of the orogenic belt in the western segment of the mountain range is marked by the Pieniny Klippen Belt, a narrow complicated zone of polyphase compressional deformation, later involved in a supposed strike-slip zone.[24] Internal zones in western and eastern segments contain older Variscan igneous massifs reworked in Mesozoic thick and thin-skinned nappes. During the Middle Miocene this zone was affected by intensive calc-alkaline[25] arc volcanism that developed over the subduction zone of the flysch basins. At the same time, the internal zones of the orogenic belt were affected by large extensional structure[26] of the back-arc Pannonian Basin.[27]

Iron, gold and silver were found in great quantities in the Western 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.[28]

Divisions of the Carpathians

The largest range is the Tatras in Poland and Slovakia. A major part of the western and northeastern Outer Carpathians in Poland, Ukraine, and Slovakia is traditionally called the Beskids.

The geological border between the Western and Eastern Carpathians runs approximately along the line (south to north) between the towns of Michalovce, Bardejov, Nowy Sącz and Tarnów. In older systems the border runs more in the east, along the line (north to south) along the rivers San and Osława (Poland), the town of Snina (Slovakia) and river Tur'ia (Ukraine). Biologists, however, shift the border even further to the east.

The border between the eastern and southern Carpathians is formed by the Predeal Pass, south of Braşov and the Prahova Valley.

Ukrainians sometimes denote as "Eastern Carpathians" only the Ukrainian Carpathians (or Wooded Carpathians), meaning the part situated largely on their territory (i.e., to the north of the Prislop Pass), while Romanians sometimes denote as "Eastern (Oriental) Carpathians" only the Romanian Carpathians part which lies on their territory (i.e., from the Ukrainian border or from the Prislop Pass to the south), which they subdivide into three simplified geographical groups (north, center, south), instead of Outer and Inner Eastern Carpathians. These are:

Notable people

Nesamovyte Lake, Eastern Carpathians, Ukraine
Beljanica waterfalls, Serbia
Gąsienicowa Valley in Tatra Mountains, Poland
View of Spiš Castle in Slovakia, from the Branisko Pass
Heroes' Cross on Caraiman Peak, Romania
Iron Gates at the Romanian-Serbian border

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "The Carpathians" European Travel Commission, in The Official Travel Portal of Europe, Retrieved 15 November 2016
  2. 1 2 3 The Carpathian Project: Carpathian Mountains in Serbia, Institute for Spatial Planning, Faculty of Geography, University of Belgrade (2008), Retrieved: 15 November 2016
  3. 1 2 Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, pg. 54, Valuing the geological heritage of Serbia (UDC: 502.171:55(497.11), Aleksandra Maran (2010), Retrieved 15 November 2016
  4. Peter Christoph Sürth. "Braunbären (Ursus arctos) in Europa". Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  5. Peter Christoph Sürth. "Wolf (Canis lupus) in Europa". Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  6. Peter Christoph Sürth. "Eurasischer Luchs (Lynx lynx) in Europa". Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  7. "Carpathian montane conifer forests - Encyclopedia of Earth". Retrieved 4 August 2010.
  8. Bucureşti, staţiune balneară – o glumă bună? in Capital, 19 January 2009. Retrieved: 26 April 2011
  9. Ruinele de la Baile Herculane si Borsec nu mai au nimic de oferit in Ziarul Financiar, 5 May 2010. Retrieved: 26 April 2011
  10. Salvaţi pădurile virgine! in Jurnalul Național, 26 October 2011. Retrieved: 31 October 2011
  11. Europe: New Move to Protect Virgin Forests in Global Issues, 30 May 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  12. 1 2 "Sacred Language of the Vlach Bread", Paun es Durlic, Balkankult (2011), Retrieved 15 November 2016
  13. About the Carpathians - Carpathian Heritage Society
  14. 1 2 3 4 Moldovanu 2010, p. 18.
  15. 1 2 Blazovich 1994, p. 332.
  16. Buza 2011, p. 24.
  17. Room, Adrian. Placenames of the World. London: MacFarland and Co., Inc., 1997.
  18. E.g. in work Tractatus de duabus Sarmatiis, Asiana et Europiana, et de contentis in eis by Mathias de Miechow, first edition from 1517. Second book, chapter 1.
  19. 1 2  "Gervase of Tilbury". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  20. Gądek, Gradiecz, Bogdan, Mariusz. "Glacial Ice and Permafrost Distribution in the Medena Kotlina (Slovak Tatras): Mapped with Application of GPR and GST Measurements" (PDF). Landform Evolution in Mountain Areas. Studia Geomorphologica Carpatho-Balcanica. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  21. Plašienka, D., 2002, Origin and growth of the Western Carpathian orogenetic wedge during the mesozoic. (PDF) in Geologica Carpathica Special Issues 53 Proceedings of XVII. Congress of Carpathian-Balkan Geological Association Bratislava, 1–4 September 2002
  22. Mantovani, E., Viti, M., Babbucci, D., Tamburelli, C., Albarello, D., 2006, Geodynamic connection between the indentation of Arabia and the Neogene tectonics of the central–eastern Mediterranean region. GSA Special Papers, v. 409, p. 15-41
  23. Nehyba, S., Šikula, J., 2007, Depositional architecture, sequence stratigraphy and geodynamic development of the Carpathian Foredeep (Czech Republic). Geologica Carpathica, 58, 1, pp. 53-69
  24. Mišík, M., 1997, The Slovak Part of the Pieniny Klippen Belt After the Pioneering Works of D. Andrusov. Geologica Carpathica, 48, 4, pp. 209-220
  25. Pácskay, Z., Lexa, J., Szákacs, A., 2006, Geochronology of Neogene magmatism in the Carpathian arc and intra-Carpathian area. Geologica Carpathica, 57, 6, pp. 511 - 530
  26. Dolton, G.L., 2006, Pannonian Basin Province, Central Europe (Province 4808)—Petroleum geology, total petroleum systems, and petroleum resource assessment. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2204–B, 47 p.
  27. Royden, L.H., Horváth, F., Rumpler, J., 1983, Evolution of the Pannonian basin system. 1. Tectionics. Tectonics, 2, pp. 61-90
  28. "Dacia-Province of the Roman Empire". United Nations of Roma Victor. Retrieved 2010-11-14.


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