The Alps (; French: Alpes [alp]; German: Alpen [ˈalpn̩]; Italian: Alpi [ˈalpi]; Romansh: Alps; Slovene: Alpe [ˈáːlpɛ]) are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe , stretching approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) across eight Alpine countries (from west to east): France , Switzerland , Italy , Monaco , Liechtenstein , Austria , Germany , and Slovenia . The mountains were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided. Extreme shortening caused by the event resulted in marine sedimentary rocks rising by thrusting and folding into high mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn . Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border , and at 4,810 m (15,781 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains about a hundred peaks higher than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft).
The altitude and size of the range affects the climate in Europe ; in the mountains precipitation levels vary greatly and climatic conditions consist of distinct zones. Wildlife such as ibex live in the higher peaks to elevations of 3,400 m (11,155 ft), and plants such as Edelweiss grow in rocky areas in lower elevations as well as in higher elevations. Evidence of human habitation in the Alps goes back to the Palaeolithic era. A mummified man , determined to be 5,000 years old, was discovered on a glacier at the Austrian–Italian border in 1991.
By the 6th century BC, the Celtic La Tène culture was well established.