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The Carpathiens


Placed in a circle, they surround a high plateau 400 – 600 m in height with a hilly look, and are guarded by a depressions chain. The Carpathians have altitudes sometimes higher than 2.,000 m, and the main peaks go over 2,500 m.

Three large Carpathic units are to be found on the Romania's territory: the Oriental Carpathians (the Eastern), the Meridional Carpathians, the Occidental Carpathians

The Oriental Carpathians
The Oriental Carpathians – are stretched from the northern border to Prahova Valley, and include three parallel lines of mountains, oriented to the north and south, and some well inhabited depressions as those from Maramures.
Volcanic mountains are located in the west (Oas, Gutai 1,443 m, Tibles 1,835 m), lower and with many conical peaks, Calimani – Pietrosu Peak 2,100 m, Gurghiu 1,776 m, Harghita 1,800 m, higher and with well-preserved craters. It is the longest volcanic chain in Europe.
In the central area, the mountain ridges are made from crystalline rocks, conglomerates, sand stones and lime-stones, and have the highest altitudes in Rodna Mountains (Pietrosu Peak 2,303 m). The eastern side of the Oriental Carpathians is made from the flisch formation (plied sedimentary rocks), and has lower altitudes – Obcinele Bucovinei 1,208 m, Vrancei 1,785 m. In the curving area from Vrancea, Ciucas Mountains (conglomerate, the highest in the area) reach 1,955 m.
The largest intra-mountainous depression is located in the Oriental Carpathians. It is called Brasov Depression.
The most spectacular gorge in Romania are also located here – Bicazului Gorge.

The Meridional Carpathians
The Meridional Carpathians are the highest and more massive in the entire Romanian Carpathian chain. Due to the relief, they are also called Transylvania's Alpes, and they are stretched from Prahova Valley to the east up to Timis – Cerna corridor, in the west. The total length of this chain is around 300 km, while the width varies from 22 to 25 km. They are formed from crystalline schists and volcanic rocks. The Meridional Carpathians are less fragmented by valleys and depressions, being more massive. On the edges and on the southern border, the Meridional Carpathians are dominated by limestone and conglomerates which generated spectacular reliefs. In Bran – Moeciu corridor, in Fundata, the maximum inhabited altitude is noticed, at 1,200 – 1,250 m.
The glacial traces are the largest and the most obvious in Romania's Mountains (glacial circuses, glacial valleys 10 km in length, the largest and deepest lakes).
In the same time, a series of high passes (Giuvala – 1,240 m, between Piatra Craiului and Leaota), Tartarau and Urdele (in Parang Mountains) encouraged the traffic from a Carpathians side to another. The Transfagarasan highway crosses Fagaras Mountains through Balea tunnel located at 2,200 m.
Bucegi have the highest altitude at 2,505 m (Omu Peak) and abrupt of more than 1,000 m in the east, north and west and a large high plateau at 2,000 m altitude, well-know due to the erosion shapes (old ladies, sphynx, mushrooms).
Piatra Craiului is Romania's most spectacular limestone massif, being impressing due to the main ridge and a lot of roads placed under the ridge, and called belts (braie).
Fagaras Mountains include the highest peaks in Romania, Moldoveanu 2,544 m, and Negoiu 2,535 m.

The Occidental Carpathians
The Occidental Carpathians consist of two distinctive groups: Banat Mountains, and Apuseni Mountains. The main difference is the look of those two areas, induced by the maximum altitude of 1,447 m (Piatra Goznei in Semenic Mountains) in Banat, and 1,849 m (Curcubata Mare in Bihor Mountains) in Apuseni. In Banat, the most spectacular area is Anina Mountains, where the karst is extremely developed: Carasului Gorge, Nerei Gorge, Popovat Cave, Buhui Cave, Comarnic Cave.
Apuseni are surrounded by two rivers which encourage the rafting under good circumstances: Somes in the north, and Mures to the south.
Due to the petrography, they look like a complex mosaic, and are impressive, first of all, due to the large number of Karst phenomena and their development degree: gorge, defiles, springs, caves, canyons. The most famous are – Radeasa Gorge and Ponorului fortress, Izbucul Galbenei, Meziad Cave, Ursilor Cave, Intregalde Gorge, Turda Gorge etc.