Any avid climber will want to visit and climb the mountainous terrain of the Alps! The picturesque location and the rugged trails make the Alps one of the greatest mountain ranges in Europe, and it’s no wonder people visit the location all year round! Planning on visiting soon? Well, before you pack your bags, make sure you go through all these 50 facts about the Alps.
Fact 1: The mountains, making up the Alps, make up the highest and most extensive mountain range systems in Europe.
- Its highest point, Mont Blanc, which is 4,808 meters above sea level.
Fact 2: The Alps lie entirely in Europe.
- The mountain range serves as a border that separates Southern, Central, and Western Europe.
Fact 3: The Alps stretches approximately 1,200 kilometres across.
- The range was formed over millions of years ago by the collision of the Eurasian and African tectonic plates, resulting in the formation of mountains including Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
Fact 4: The Alps spans across 8 Alpine countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
- It’s not uncommon for mountain ranges to span across a few countries, the Himalayas, for example, span across India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and China.
Fact 5: The Alps are the youngest populated mountain range in Europe.
- Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa is thought to have originated nearly 3.5 billion years ago, making it the oldest mountain range in the world.
Fact 6: Consequently, the Alps is also the most densely populated mountain range in Europe.
- There are approximately 14 million people living in the Alps region.
Fact 7: The Alps was formed about 65 million years ago.
- The mountain range forms a crescent-shaped geographic feature of central Europe, that ranges in a 500-mile arc from east to west, and is 120 miles in width.
Fact 8: The Alps is divided into the Western and the Eastern Alps.
- A line between Lake Constance and Lake Como following the Rhine valley marks the boundary between the 2 divisions.
Fact 9: The Peaks on the Western Alps are higher than those in the Eastern Alps.
- The Western Alps lie in France, Italy and Switzerland.
Fact 10: The Eastern Alps span across Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland.
- The mountains in the Eastern Alps are generally broader and less arched.
Fact 11: Mont Blanc stands at a height of 4,810 meters, making it the highest point in the Alps.
- On August 8, 1786, Jacques Balmat and Doctor Michel Paccard became the first people to climb Mont Blanc.
Fact 12: Aside from Mont Blanc, the Alps feature several astonishingly tall peaks including the Dufourspitze, Weisshorn, Finsteraarhorn, and the famous Matterhorn.
- The Matterhorn is amongst the deadliest mountains in the world, roughly 500 people have perished there since 1865.
Fact 13: The Alps is home to about a hundred peaks higher than 4,000 meters known as the “four-thousanders“.
- The official list of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation currently has 128 summits and subsidiary tops in France, Italy and Switzerland making up the “four-thousanders”.
Fact 14: It was only after World War II that tourism in the Alps started picking up pace.
- It is likely that interest was sparked because the Alps was a setting for many a battle during World War II. For example, the Alps was the setting for a military campaign fought between the combined German and Italian Social Republic forces, and the re-established French Republic known as the “Second Battle of the Alps” in 1945.
Fact 15: Lake Geneva stretches up to 73 kilometres in length.
- The lake is located on the north side of the alps and is shared between France and Switzerland.
Fact 16: On the shores of Geneva sits the Big Foot Beach State Park.
- The park is a popular camping ground in Geneva that is used primarily for swimming, and fishing.
Fact 17: All of the peaks at the Alps have a mean height of 2.5 kilometres or 1.6 miles.
- Moreover, the altitude and size of the range affect the climate in Europe.
Fact 18: Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard were the first people to ascend Mont Blanc.
- With that climb, they became known as the two men who initiated the sport of modern mountaineering.
Fact 19: You can see the Mont Blanc massif from outside of the Alps.
- The structure is visible all the way from Geneva to Grenoble, and from Lyon to Dijon.
Fact 20: The broadest point of the Alps lies between Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and Verona, Italy.
- At its widest point, the Alps is more than 200 kilometres wide.
Fact 21: Heida white wine grows in Europe’s highest vineyard at the Alps— in Canton Valais.
- The vineyard sits at a height of 1500 meters high.
Fact 22: Snow blankets are commonly found in the Alps and can be seen all year round.
- However, despite the high altitude, the Alps is not spared from the effects of climate change.
Fact 23: The Alpine region has a strong cultural identity.
- To this very day, the Alps’ traditional culture of farming, cheesemaking, and woodworking still exists.
Fact 24: Adolf Hitler supposedly kept an operations base in the Bavarian Alps, during World War II.
- Moreover, the Berghof was Adolf Hitler’s home in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps, near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany.
Fact 25: During the winter of 1916, heavy snowfall and a sudden thaw in the Alps led to multiple avalanches hitting nearby towns.
- ‘White Friday’ occurred during the Italian Front of World War I, when an avalanche struck Austrian barracks on Mount Marmolada, killing 270 soldiers.
Fact 26: During the expansion of the Roman empire, Caesar and a few Roman leaders often made a journey through the Alps.
- Consequently, Julius Caesar later founded the municipium of Cividale del Friuli at the foot of the mountains.
Fact 27: The Alps is home to numerous glaciers.
- A glacier is a slow-moving chunk of ice that moves across the land.
Fact 28: In 1876, 1,817 square kilometres of the Alps were covered by glaciers.
- However, the numbers shrunk to 1,342 square kilometres by 1973.
Fact 29: Since 1850, 40% of Austria’s glaciers have disappeared.
- Switzerland is also no stranger to disappearing glaciers, with its glaciation having been decreased by 30%.
Fact 30: Celtic tribes used to mine copper in the 8th to 6th centuries BC.
- In a similar fashion, the Romans would later mine gold for coins in the Bad Gastein area.
Fact 31: One famous athlete who has roots in the Alps is the world-famous tennis player, Roger Federer.
- Roger Federer is a Swiss professional tennis player who is currently ranked world No. 3 in men’s singles tennis.
Fact 32: It was around 50,000-60,000 years ago when humans started inhabiting the Alps.
- Today, the Alpine region is home to people from all around the world, with some people moving from around the globe to live in the wondrous beauty.
Fact 33: The Alps covers around 11% of Europe’s total surface area.
- The mountain range covers up to 65% of Switzerland alone.
Fact 34: Approximately 30,000 species of wildlife are found in the Alps.
- Among these are the Brown bear, snow flea and the Ibex.
Fact 35: If you look hard enough, you’ll find that crystals can be seen throughout a lot of the Alpine region.
- Common crystals found in the region include cinnabar, amethyst, and quartz.
Fact 36: The Alps attracts approximately 120 million visitors every year.
- Famous activities to do in the Alpine region include paragliding, mountaineering, caving, rock climbing and skiing.
Fact 37: Grenoble is the biggest city found in the Alpine region.
- There are roughly 500,000 people living here.
Fact 38: In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte, along with his army of 40,000 men, crossed one of the Alps’ mountain passes.
- Napoleon travelled through the Great St. Bernard Pass in May.
Fact 39: Jean-Jacques Rousseau is also from the Alps.
- He was a Genevan philosopher in the 18th century.
Fact 40: The Alps receive a great deal of snow and rain.
- At high altitudes, the snow turns to ice and then flows down to the valleys as glaciers.
Fact 41: In 1991, a mummified man known as ‘Ötzi the Iceman’ was found in the Austrian and Italian border of the Alps.
- Ötzi is said to be 5,000 years old.
Fact 42: In landscapes like the Alps, avalanches are an ever-present danger.
- Avalanches become more frequent during the period from late November to early June.
Fact 43: Aside from glaciers, the Alps is also home to crystal clear Alpine lakes.
- Among the most prominent are Lakes Geneva, Constance, Como, and Zürich.
Fact 44: 90% of water in the lowland Europe comes from the Alps.
- The Alps proves to be an important water reservoir particularly to arid areas and during the summer months.
Fact 45: There’s a transition from trees to no trees as you approach the top of the Alps.
- This is mainly due to the low temperatures, and the lack of pressure and moisture at higher altitudes.
Fact 46: Despite the absence of trees at the top, forests still grow near the base of the mountains.
- The higher forests have mostly spruce, pine, and larch trees. Meanwhile, oak, beech, and chestnut trees grow on the valley floors and lower slopes.
Fact 47: The first-ever Winter Olympics was held at Chamonix.
- This was in the winter of 1924, when the Winter Olympics was officially known as the ‘I Olympic Winter Games’.
Fact 48: Most of the Alps’ winter sports are held in the months of December through to April.
- Popular winter sports in the Alpine region include skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and tobogganing.
Fact 49: To date, approximately 13,000 species of plants have been identified in the Alpine regions.
- This includes the Edelweiss, Mountain Pine, Wormwood, and the Glacier Buttercup.
Fact 50: You’ll also find several unique flowering plants in the Alps.
- Like the Alpine Pasque flower, Cotton Grass, Martagon Lily, and the Cobweb Houseleek.