11 Highest Mountains in Spain
Written by Nadia
A snowy mountain range may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Spain. However, did you know the sunny country, known for its delicious food and beautiful beaches, actually boasts five major mountain ranges?
You have most likely heard of the Pyrenees Mountains. This range spans 270 miles (430 km) between Spain and France – but were you aware that many of the highest mountains in Spain are actually in the Sierra Nevada range?
Here is everything you should know about the 11 highest mountains in Spain, from famous ranges to some lesser-known peaks that are off the beaten track – no pun intended!
- The tallest mountains in Spain are Teide 12,198 ft (3718 m), Mulhacén, Pico Aneto, and Pico Veleta.
Four of the Tallest
Teide is the tallest mountain in Spain, the second tallest in Europe, and the third tallest in the world. It is actually an active volcano in the Canary Islands!
Mulhacén is the second tallest mountain in Spain, but the tallest on the mainland, and is part of the Sierra Nevada range.
Pico Aneto is the third tallest mountain in Spain, but it holds special status as the highest peak in the Pyrenees range.
In fourth place in terms of height is Veleta, and this mountain is hugely popular with tourists and climbers.
Read also: Traveling to Montserrat mountain, 4,055 ft (1236 m) on a day trip from Barcelona
Off the Beaten Track
Pico Posets, Alcazaba, Monte Perdido, Pico Maldito, Espadas Peak, Cilindro de Marboré, Cerro de los Machos. Still breathtakingly beautiful, these Spanish mountains come with a warning due to their climbing difficulties.
The Tallest Mountains in Spain
1. El Teide 12,198 ft (3718 m)
It is the highest mountain in Spanish territory at 12,198 ft (3718 m) above sea level (and the third tallest volcanic structure in the world). The actual height of this mountain, as measured from the seafloor, is an astounding 24,600 ft (7500 m)!
Known as “El Teide,” this majestic mountain is not on the Spanish mainland but in the Teide National Park on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The area has World Heritage Status and is a major tourist attraction with millions of visitors annually. You will need to apply for a permit to climb the mountain.
Despite Teide’s incredible height and the restrictions on visitor numbers, it is quite an accessible peak. You can ascend the first 11,663 ft (3,555 m) by cable car. After that, take one of three trails to the top!
It takes about five and half hours to ascend to the peak on foot and another four and a half to descend it.
Keen climbers can stay at the Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide hotel located part way up the mountain, or the Casa Altavista, which is situated about 1,640 ft (500 m) from the top.
Teide is an active volcano, and you can see evidence of this in the mountain’s craters and rivers of petrified lava.
You can also combine your mountain trip with several other guided excursions, such as a trip to the Teide Observatory, which is the largest of its kind in the world! It offers a breathtaking, unparalleled night viewing of the stars.
2. Mulhacén 11,424 ft (3482 m)
Mulhacén is the highest mountain on the Spanish mainland (the Iberian Peninsula). It towers over the others in the Sierra Nevada Range, offering magnificent views of the Mediterranean. You can also see as far as Morocco if the weather is right.
Because of its altitude, the terrain is rocky. You might see alpine mountain goats if you are lucky enough! The other significant feature is the little chapel built into the rock at the summit.
You can travel two-thirds of the way up the mountain by bus. Experienced climbers tend to scale the rock face to the north to reach the top, while those seeking a more moderate climb take the southern route.
Mulhacén is a day trip from Capileira or Trevélez villages. However, stopping at the Poqueira mountain refuge, about 3 hours from the top, is much more atmospheric.
You do not need a permit to access or climb Mulhacen, but you do need one to set up a tent or use one of the huts on the mountain.
3. Pico Aneto 11,186 ft (3408 m)
Aneto is significant as the highest mountain in the Pyrenees and the third tallest mountain in Spain.
You can climb this mountain without a permit, but there are some vehicle restrictions as certain roads and trails have been closed off to protect the area.
Pico Aneto is famous for the narrow, rocky granite ridge near the summit.
The ridge is called Paso de Mahoma (“Entrance to Paradise”) after the Muslim tradition that access to heaven requires passing through an area the width of a scimitar. That is precisely how it feels on Paso de Mahoma, as the pass is a virtually single file.
However, on crossing the ridge, you are rewarded with magnificent views and a large metal crucifix set into the peak at the summit.
4. Pico Veleta 11,135 ft (3394 m)
Veleta is the second-highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada range.
It is easily recognizable from afar by its pointy peak and distinctive dipped shape (like a ski jump), just under the summit.
Despite its height, this mountain has easy access as the road goes almost to the summit. Veleta is famous for the massive radio telescope located at 9580 ft (2920 m) from the top.
People often combine a trip to Veleta with the nearby Pradollano ski resort, complete with chair lifts to 8,202 ft (2500 m). There is an even higher lift up to 10,498 ft (3200 m).
5. Pico Posets 11,053 ft (3375 m)
It is the second-highest mountain in the Pyrenees, offering spectacular views of the other ranges.
It is off the beaten track because it is a less popular tourist destination than the Veleta. It has both an easy and a more challenging route, with a two-hour difference in climbing distance between them.
The easier route, which sets off from the Angel Hut partway up the mountain, crosses a stream and then follows a valley. You still need to travel a field covered in snow for much of the year, so it is only partially without risk.
6. Alcazaba 11,059 ft (3371 m)
You can see this mountain from Granada, towering over others in the Sierra Nevada range.
Climbers usually stay overnight at the Refugio de Poqueira shelter on the mountain before ascending the rest of the way to the top. The peak of the Alcazaba is quite lonely, so you want to make your descent on the same day.
Almost all travel guides list this mountain as one of the most isolated places in the ranges. The northern route is impressive but is recommended for experienced climbers only, while the southern route is more accessible.
Helpful tip This is another mountain where you might see mountain goats up high!
7. Monte Perdido 11,007 ft (3355 m)
Monte Perdido translates to “Lost Mountain,” which refers to an illusion when the mountain becomes less visible the further south you go, despite it bordering France and Spain.
In the summer, you can access it by bus, which drops you at the start of the walking trail. Towards the top, the trail gets tricky in winter.
As well as its visual beauty – not least because this mountain has more plant life than many of the other mountains in the Pyrenees – the Monte Perdido is remarkable as having one of the few remaining glaciers in the range. It is a north-facing glacier looking like a gigantic wall of steep rock. However, this decreases over time, so I advise you to visit quickly!
8. Pico Maldito 11,990 ft (3350 m)
This mountain peak in the Pyrenees is quite a challenging climb. There is a particularly steep and hazardous ridge on the left side.
When I checked blogs of mountaineers who have climbed various peaks in the Pyrenees, the numbers were way down for this mountain.
You may want to view this mountain from afar, which is not a bad idea – it has a beautiful, sharp summit.
9. Espadas Peak 10,931 ft (3332 m)
Espadas has a prominent peak that stands above a rocky ridge. The narrowness of this ridge and the fact it involves rock climbing make this trek treacherous. It is one of the most visually-stunning climbs in the Pyrenees. Sadly, it is only for a few highly-trained mountaineers.
10. Cilindro de Marboré 10,918 ft (3328 m)
This mountain is the less traveled one, located on the border between France and Spain. Its path needs to be better signposted, so this mountain is less famous than (and overlooked in favor of) Monte Perdido.
The easier of the two routes to the peak has a long walk to the nearest hut (about 6 hours). The access from the French side is also long.
Not only is this climb exclusively for experienced mountaineers, but for ones who know the area and seek new challenges.
11. Cerro de los Machos 10,915 ft (3327 m)
This mountain has some almost vertical slopes! The prettiest view is on the east side, the most dangerous one. Due to its lack of sunlight, the climber’s route is fraught with abysses and extra challenges because it is one of the coldest places in the Sierra Nevada range.
Map of highest Spanish mountains
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there mountains in Spain?
Most definitely, yes! Spain is a mountainous country around a central plateau of flatter land. As well as the mountainous terrain, the whole country has a high elevation above sea level.
Where are most of the tallest mountains in Spain located?
On the map, you will see that many of the tallest mountains in Spain are in the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada ranges. The tallest peak, however, is off-shore in Tenerife.
Which Spanish mountains are the most accessible?
Interestingly, one of the most accessible mountains is the tallest one – Teide (The Canary Islands). The cable car can take you most of the way up. After that, Mulhacén, Pico Aneto, and Veleta are pretty accessible to tourists and climbers.
Has climate change affected any of these mountain ranges?
Sadly, many glaciers have almost disappeared due to climate change – the ice is melting. The local biome has suffered significant changes too.
How to get a permit to climb El Teide mountain?
You must apply for permit at the official website. Remember to ask the permit far in advance and prepare for unpleasant user experience – the website is slow.
To make your life easier, I have manually downloaded some of the PDFs:
There you have it: Everything you should know about the 11 highest mountains in Spain! They each have something special and unique about them. A few are accessible to the unseasoned traveler, while others require a mountaineering experience.