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Carpathian Mountains

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This is about the terrestrial mountain range. There is also a lunar range called the Montes Carpatus.
Satellite image of the Carpathians
Satellite image of the Carpathians

The Carpathian Mountains (Romanian: Carpaţi; Ukrainian:Карпати, Karpaty; Polish, Czech and Slovak: Karpaty) are the eastern wing of the great central mountain system of Europe curving 1500 km (~900 miles) along the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.


The name is probably derived from the Dacian Carp tribe, attested in Late Roman Empire documents (Zosimus) until 381 as living on the Eastern Carpathian slopes; alternately, the name of the tribe may have been derived from the name of the mountains. The name 'Karpetes' may ultimately be from the Indo-European root *sker/*ker (from which comes the Albanian word 'karpë'=rock) perhaps by way of a Dacian word which meant 'mountain', 'rock', or 'rugged'.

In late Roman documents, the Eastern Carpathian Mountains appeared as Montes Sarmatici, while the Western Carpathian Mountains were called Carpates. The name Carpates (Karpates) is first recorded in Ptolemy's Geography.

In official Hungarian documents of the 13th and 14th centuries the Carpathians are named Thorchal or Tarczal, and also Montes Nivium.


They begin on the Danube near Bratislava, surround Transcarpathia and Transylvania in a large semicircle, the concavity of which is towards the south-west, and end on the Danube near Orşova, Romania. The total length of the Carpathians is over 1500 km and their width varies between 12 and 500 km. The greatest width of the Carpathians corresponds with its highest altitude. Thus the system attains its greatest breadth in the Transylvanian plateau, and in the meridian of the Tatra group (the highest range with Gerlachovský štít - 2655 m (8705 ft.) above sea level in Slovakian territory). It covers an area of 190 000 sq. km, and after the Alps is the most extensive mountain system of Europe.

The Carpathians do not form an uninterrupted chain of mountains, but consist of several orographically and geologically distinctive groups; in fact they present as great a structural variety as the Alps. The Carpathians, which only in a few places attain an altitude of over 2500 m, lack the bold peaks, the extensive snow-fields, the large glaciers, the high waterfalls and the numerous large lakes which are found in the Alps. They are nowhere covered by perpetual snow, and glaciers do not exist, so that the Carpathians, even in their highest altitude, recall the middle region of the Alps, with which, however, they have many points in common as regards appearance, structure and flora.

The Danube separates the Carpathians from the Alps, which they meet only in two points, namely, the Leitha Mountains at Bratislava, and the Bakony Mountains , while the same river separates them from the Stara Planina or Balkan Mountains at Orsova, 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 great central system of Europe, 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 on the south-west, the plain of the Lower Danube (Romania) on the south, and the Galician plain on the north-east.

Mountain ranges

This is an (incomplete and rather wrong) list of the mountain ranges that constitute the Carpathians (counting from the northern edge).

  • Tatra mountains
  • Beskides
    • Western Beskides
    • Central Beskides (Lower Beskides )
    • Eastern Beskides
      • Bieszczady
      • Gorganes
      • Chornohora
      • Moldavian Carpathians
  • Southern Carpathians

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13