The Carpathians begin on the Góra Świętego Marcina 384 m. in Tarnów - northern edge of Pogórze Ciężkowickie. 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 meridian of the Tatra 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.
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. No area of the Carpathian range is covered in snow all year round and there are no glaciers. 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.
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