With its rugged topography, Spain is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. Its numerous mountain ranges provide not just breathtaking, dramatic scenery, but a superb setting for pursuits such as hiking and mountain biking.
The highest peak in Spain is Mount Teide in Tenerife, which is 3,700 metres high. To climb it, you need to be in good physical condition. You also need a special permit, which can be obtained online.
The highest peak in mainland Spain is the Mulhacén in the Sierra Nevada, which is named after Muley Hacén, one of the last Nasrid sultans of Granada. The south face of the mountain can be climbed on foot, horseback or bike.
Spain's third-highest mountain is the Aneto, which is also the highest peak in the Pyrenees. Located in the Posets-Maladeta Nature Park in Huesca, it holds the largest glacier in the mountain range, though experts have predicted that climate change could cause the glacier to disappear in the next 40 years. The mountain is also home to endangered species such as the Eurasian lynx, the bearded vulture and the Spanish ibex. The brown bear has virtually vanished from the range, but there may be two or three bears living on the north face.
Montserrat Mountain near the city of Barcelona is far more accessible. At the foot of the mountain there is a Benedictine monastery. A visit to the monastery combined with a walk through the mountain’s mysterious peaks makes for a wonderful day trip.
The Picos de Europa, spanning Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León in the north of the country, is another major Spanish mountain range. Its name translating as the Peaks of Europe, it features not just towering summits, but also staggeringly deep caves. The Fuente Dé cable car, on the south-eastern edge of the mountains, is a great way to reach the heart of the range and offers stunning views. Meanwhile, Covadonga, on the north-western side, played a key role in Spain's history as the site of an important battle. Its religious sanctuary and glacial lakes are also popular attractions.
In Spain, all mountains and nature parks are open to the public, but visitors are expected to abide by park rules and regulations and respect the environment.