The Carpathian Mountains are an arc-shaped mountain range system that stretches for 932 miles across Central and Eastern Europe. Sometimes referred to simply as the Carpathians, it is the third longest mountain range in Europe. In terms of flora and fauna, the mountain range contains one-third of all European plant species and is inhabited by brown bears, chamois, lynxes, and wolves. The Carpathians and its foothills provide mineral and thermal water, one-third of which is in Romania. Additionally, a segment referred to as the Romanian Carpathians also accounts for the second largest virgin forest in Europe, after Russia. Politically, about half of the Carpathian Mountains are fall within the borders of Romania, while small proportions fall within numerous other countries: Slovakia (17%); Poland (10%); Ukraine (10%); Serbia (5%); Hungary (4%); and the Czech Republic (3%). The highest range in the Carpathians is the Tatra Mountains, which is situated on the border between Poland and Slovakia, while the second highest is located in the Southern Carpathians, which are in Romania. The mountain range is divided into three main sections: the Western Carpathians, the Eastern Carpathians, and the Southern Carpathians.
The Western Carpathians occupy the westernmost edge of the Carpathian Mountains. The range rises from the Low Beskids, along the border between Slovakia and Poland, and stretches towards the Czech Republic and Austria, while the North Hungarian Mountains extend over the southern flank. The Braunsberg Hills and the Vienna Basin separate the Western Carpathians from the Eastern Alps. The range lowers towards the Sandomierz and East Slovak Basins before rising again as the Eastern Carpathians.
The Eastern Carpathians stretch across southeastern Poland, northeastern Slovakia, Ukraine, and Romania. The mountains form the East Carpathians Protected Landscape Area in the Prešov Region of northeast Slovakia. This section of the range system is dominated by ancient and primeval beech forests and is inhabited by animal species such as the gray wolf, bear, otter, and lynx.
The Southern Carpathians stretch across Serbia and Romania, and are sandwiched between the Cerna and Timis Rivers in the west, the Prahova River in the east, and the Balkan Mountains range to the south. The Southern Carpathians contain the second-highest peaks in the Carpathian Mountains, after the Tetras, with an average elevation of 8,200 feet. Although the peaks are significantly smaller compared to the Alps, they are classified as alpine landscapes. The three highest peaks in the Southern Carpathians are the Moldoveanu Peak (8,346 feet), Negoiu Peak, (8,316 feet) and Parângu Mare (8,265 feet).