Some of the most distinctive geographical features are the Mountains of Spain. They are so widespread that Richard Ford, the famous 19th-century English traveler called Spain’s topography “almost one mountain.”
After Switzerland, Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe. Numerous mountain chains cross the landscape like protruding ribs, mostly in an east west direction
Forming a natural barrier between Spain and France, the Pyrenees Mountains glisten with snow-capped peaks, sheer cliffs and deep valleys graced with waterfalls, rivers and lush forest. A section of the Pyrenees has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Aneto mountain, at more than 11,000 feet high, is one of the highest peaks in Spain. Adventure junkies visit the Pyrenees for rock climbing, skiing and white-water rafting.
About 40 miles inland from Barcelona, Montserrat is as much a pilgrimage as it is a mountain. In the Montserrat Mountain Nature Reserve, the “jagged mountain” — as its name literally translates from Catalan — has large rock formations that stretch into the sky. Thousands of climbing routes beckon trekkers and rock climbers, but the 1,000-year-old Montserrat monastery at 4,000 feet gives sacred significance to the mountain. The Benedictine abbey houses the Black Madonna statue, and according to legend, it once possessed the Holy Grail.
The Sierra Nevada in southeast Spain will let you ski near the Mediterranean Sea. This coastal range, set in the UNESCO-honored Sierra Nevada National Park, towers over the country with the 11,500-foot Mulhacen, the highest peak in Spain and one of the highest in Europe. Several mountains exceeding 10,000 feet in height — Cerro del Caballo, Pico del Veleta and Mulhacen — welcome trekkers with hiking trails and accommodations.
“The Peaks of Europe” appear menacing with a tremendous limestone mass whose topography has been dramatically shaped by acidic rainwater. In stark contraction, its valleys kiss the camera lens with lush greenery and lakes. Rock and ice climbers visit the Picos for an adrenaline rush, though its most identifiable peak, Naranjo de Bulnes, is also one of the most challenging to climb. The Picos form part of the Cantabrian Mountains near the surf-friendly coast of northern Spain.
Europeans flood the Balearic Islands to party on Ibiza, but neighboring Majorca gives you a mountain trek with perched views of the Mediterranean Sea and the island’s deep-blue lakes. The Serra de Tramuntana runs along the northwest coast of Majorca with memorable sights like pine trees emerging from red rock formations and sheer limestone cliffs dropping a 1,000 feet into the Sea. The range’s highest peak, Puig Major, is nearly 5,000 feet in elevation.