Updated: February 14, 2023Published: December 13, 2022
You will never run out of options to hike in Spain. Never. In fact, just like the Norwegians, Spanish people (especially in the Basque Country) enjoy hiking on a regular basis.
Some people visit Spain for its big cities, others for the food, and others (like you, I imagine), travel to discover and have new adventures.
After reading this article, you will have the necessary information to choose one of the nine mountain ranges described below. Well, you don’t have to pick one; maybe you want all of them, but know that some are not even on the peninsula.
Yes! One of the most stunning Spanish mountains is in the Balearic islands, just scroll a bit more, and you will find it!
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1. Sierra de Tramontana
Did you know that Tramonta mountain it’s the central mountain area of the Balearic Islands, explicitly located in the northwest of Mallorca? Its name is due to the strong wind that comes from that direction according to the wind rose.
With a length of 87 kilometers, it has approximately 54 peaks, being the Puig Mayor the highest peak with 1445 meters of height, and that becomes the highest mountain of all the Balearic Islands.
It is a long and narrow mountain range painted with stone houses, terraced crops, cliffs, 3 large reservoirs, and hidden beaches, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011.
Along the mountain range, there are 20 municipalities where very picturesque villages such as Deià, Sóller, Valldemossa, or Banyalbufar can be found.
Are you coming to Tramonta mountain in the summer? You will then be able to enjoy its beaches and coves. If you are thinking of going in winter, hiking trails are very common.
The Tramuntana is rich in fauna (black vulture, Majorcan midwife toad, fishing eagle, and “ferret” or Balearic toad: an amphibian considered the rarest in Europe that lives in specific seasonal watercourses). Its flora is also rich as it is home to 65 of the 97 endemic species of all the Balearic Islands: nine orchids and more than ten species of ferns, oak and pine forests, or rosemary and heather bushes. Some areas have been protected for their high ecological value and are considered natural monuments, such as the Natural Park of Sa Dragonera islet, Torrent de Pareis, and Ses Fonts Ufanes.
With an extension of 50 square kilometers, the Montserrat mountain range is in the province of Barcelona. Its highest peak, Sant Jeroni, is 1236 meters high.
It is a rocky mountain of eroded limestone that forms a unique landscape with numerous needles of various shapes and sizes. For thousands of years, the rain has created holes and cavities through which water circulates, forming a karst landscape. Isn’t this crazy! Inside the caves, there is not only rainwater but also natural sources that emanate large amounts of water from their cracks despite being in the dry season.
The famous Benedictine abbey and Mare de Déu de Montserrat monastery can be located on the mountain’s east face. It was built around 1025 and is dedicated to the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalunya. Neoplateresque in style, it stands out for its works of art and 12-meter-high organ with more than 4200 pipes.
Near the monastery, there are beautiful viewpoints, which I recommend you to go to, such as the Creu de Sant Miquel viewpointor the Santa Cova hermitage, which also acts as an excellent observation point. In the upper part are dozens of sanctuaries, such as Sant Miquel’s hermitage or Sant Joan Baptista’s abbey.
In this area coexist mammals such as wild boar, squirrels, martens, musk cats, and mountain goats with reptiles such as the common salamander, the snub-nosed viper, the slow worm, the lizard colilarga, the ocellated lizard and the bastard snake.
Among its flora, the Mediterranean forest is the predominant vegetation. The holm oak forest covers a large part of the mountain, although there is also white pine, maple, linden, hazel, holly, arbutus, boxwood, oak, and yew.
3. Sierra Blanca
Sierra Blanca, belonging to the Cordillera Penibética, is a mountainous range located in the province of Malaga in Andalusia. Between the municipalities of Istan, Ojén, Marbella, and Ronda, which is named for the whitish color of its limestone rock.
With an approximate extension of 6,500 hectares, its highest peak is the peak of Lastonar (1275 meters high) and the second highest is “The Shell Peak” (1215 meters), so-called because, seen from the west, it resembles this mollusk.
Multiple itineraries allow climbing to the top of La Concha, the most popular leaves from the municipality of Ojén. From the top of the peak, it is possible to enjoy impressive views of the entire coastline, and on clear days Gibraltar, Sierra Nevada, and Africa can be seen.
Its original vegetation was mainly a large oak forest on limestone soil, although it was razed for its use as fuel and the construction of sleepers in the iron mines of Marbella. Currently, there are plantations of chestnut, walnut, cherry, fern, and olive trees, as well as repopulation of pin spares and pinsapos. Forests of Aleppo pines, stone pines, and resin trees are also found. As for the fauna, it is easy to find golden eagles, peregrine falcons, griffon vultures, badgers, mountain goats, roe deer, martens, foxes, and wild boars.
4. Picos de Europa
What can I say about one of my favorite places in the world? It was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2003; it’s a mountain range of limestone formations belonging to the Cantabrian mountain range and located in northern Spain (extending through Asturias, Leon, and Cantabria). With multiple geographical features of great interest (meadows, lakes, gorges, impressive forests…). It’s currently the second most visited national Park in Spain, after the Teide in Tenerife; you can’t miss not going!
If you are a nature lover, you must check this out. Especially if you are looking for a hike with breathtaking lakes:
With an area of 550 square kilometers, it has 40 peaks divided into three massifs: Western, Central, and Eastern. The highest peak is in the Central massif, “Torrecerredo peak” (2650 meters above sea level), the third highest mountain in the whole Iberian Peninsula, after the Sierra Nevada and the Pyrenees. Another mountain part of this massif is the Picu Urriellu or Naranjo de Bulnes, of great historical importance in Spanish mountaineering. It was conquered for the first time on August 5,1904, and its ascent marked the birth of mountaineering in Spain.
The Picos de Europa has an excellent tourist offer: The Basilica and Lakes of Covadonga, the Cares route linking the villages of Poncebos (Asturias) and Cain (Castilla y Leon), the village of Bulnes… Likewise, the area is an exponent of the traditional culture linked to the shepherding and the elaboration of local cheeses (Gamonéu, Cabrales, Tresviso…). You are not going to get bored, I promise you!
As for its flora, more than 1750 species have been cataloged: an abundance of lush Atlantic-type forests full of oak, beech, ash, chestnut, oak, and holly and a fascinating collection of orchids and exotic and endemic plants (matalobos, dwarf digital, alpine lilies, etc.). It’s also home to a varied fauna: chamois, roe deer, wild cats, wolves, otters, martens, and some brown bears, as well as more than 100 species of birds. Its two rivers: the Cares and the Deva, are also the main salmon rivers of the Iberian Peninsula.
5. Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range belonging to the Penibetic system, located between the Andalusian provinces of Granada and Almeria.
It is the highest-altitude mountain range in Western Europe, after the Alps.
With an area of 86,208 hectares, it has more than 20 peaks that exceed 3000 m in altitude and more than 50 high mountain lakes. Its maximum height reaches the Mulhacén peak, 3479 m above sea level.
In 1986 it was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO; in 1989, a large area of this mountain range was declared a natural park; in 1999, a large part of it was considered a national park for its botanical and scenic value.
Sierra Nevada is a botanical paradise with a vascular flora of 2100 cataloged species out of the 8,000 in the Iberian Peninsula. The climate and the difference in altitude have made it possible for many plants to grow in their interior, specially adapted to complex conditions. In the upper part of the mountains, between the natural crevices of the rock, it’s possible to find only species such as the Sierra Nevada violet or the snow star. At medium altitudes, the landscape is dominated by deciduous forests composed of oaks, maples, wild cherry, and chestnut trees. Among its fauna are mountain goats, wild boars, foxes, badgers, vultures, golden eagles, and more than 60 species of birds.
Sierra Nevada is a crucial ski resort with 126 kilometers of slopes; during spring, it’s an ideal place for trekking.
6. The Pyrenees
The Pyrenees are a mountain range located in the north of Spain that serves as a natural border with Europe and runs through Spain, France, and Andorra. In Spain, 430 kilometers from east to west and 150 kilometers from north to south run through Navarra, Aragón, and Catalonia.
Its mountain range stands out for its high mountains - with more than 200 peaks above 3000 meters of altitude, being “El Aneto” (located in the Aragonese Pyrenees) the highest of the Pyrenees and the second highest of the Iberian Peninsula, with a height of 3404 meters above sea level.
The Pyrenees are home to abundant vegetation, rivers, and small villages that enjoy great tradition, beauty, cultural richness, history, and heritage value. Some are Ainsa or Benasque in the Aragonese Pyrenees; Boí, Taüll, or Bellver de Cerdanya in the Catalan Pyrenees or Burgui and Roncal in the Navarrese Pyrenees.
In winter, it is possible to enjoy snow sports, such as skiing, with up to 15 resorts, including Baqueira-Beret, Formigal, or La Molina/Masella. In the rest of the seasons, hiking, climbing, mountaineering, canyoning, or water sports such as rafting can be practiced.
Each area of the Pyrenees has flora, fauna, geology, and climate that characterize it, making it have great natural diversity. Among its more than 4500 plant species, the snow flower stands out at very high altitudes. Its forests are characterized by black pines, although chestnut, elm, and ash trees stand out at lower altitudes. The valleys, at much lower altitudes, give rise to a very lush flora and fruit trees of all kinds, highlighting the fig and cork oak trees and aromatic plants such as thyme or lavender. Thanks to the low capacity of man’s action, the steep slopes offer virgin landscapes with animals and plants of great rarity.
The fauna, being one of the most extensive in Europe, is composed of numerous endangered animals, such as brown bears, many mammals such as deer or wild boars, and a great variety of birds, such as the golden eagle, the kestrel or the bearded vulture.
7. Sierra de Grazalema
The Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park belongs to the Betic Mountain Range, located in the northeast of the province of Cádiz and northwest of Malaga. It was declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1977.
With an area of 53,411 hectares, it is made up of different mountain ranges, among them the Sierra del Pinar (Cádiz), where the highest peak, the Pico Torreón (1654 m), is located.
The relief is very abrupt, formed by limestone mountains and where the highest rainfall of the entire Iberian Peninsula is collected (2200 mm. per year), which makes the Park cross by numerous rivers, springs, and gorges. There are also frequent canyons, caves, and grottos, among which are the “Hundidero-Gato Complex,” the largest cave in Andalusia, or the “Cueva de la Pileta,” known throughout the world for its prehistoric vestiges.
In addition, the towns that integrate it are endowed with great charm. Highlighting the route of the White Villages with whitewashed houses, balconies full of flowers, narrow streets, and delicious gastronomy.
Get to know all the white towns in Spain, I can’t promise you won’t fall in love!
There is also the largest forest of firs pinsapos with an area of 300 ha, which I recommend you go, as well as other species such as gall oak, oak, or cork oak… The main fauna consists of deer, roe deer, rabbits, partridges and mountain goats, and numerous birds, with 136 different species, such as the Bonelli’s eagle and the griffon vulture, the latter having the largest colonies in Europe.
The park has several enclaves of great naturalistic and landscape value, such as the Pinsapar, the Garganta Verde, the Majaceite river gallery forest, and the Sierra del Endrinal, among others.
8. Gredos Mountains
This mountain range of the Sistema Central divides its territory between the provinces of Ávila, Cáceres, Toledo, and Madrid.
Its numerous peaks, with sharp reliefs, can exceed 2000 meters of altitude, being the Pico Almanzor the highest at 2592 meters above sea level and thus becoming the target of numerous mountaineers.
With 120 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide, it occupies an approximate surface of 3600 km², being one of the most visited natural environments of the center of the peninsula for its mountains, lagoons, forests, rivers, and natural pools.
Hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, or rafting are just some of the many tourism activities that can be done in the area.
Did you know that the Musicians in Nature festival is held in Gredos? Sting, Rod Stewart, Pet Shop Boys, Bob Dylan, and Mark Knopfler are some of the international figures that have played on its stage.
On the other hand, in Arenas de San Pedro, one of the main population centers of the Sierra de Gredos, there are some of the most beautiful natural pools in Spain. Also, the route to the Laguna Grande, with 14 kilometers, is a great tourist attraction, as is the visit to the source of the Tormes River.
A paradise for flora, it has numerous endemic species (the Immortelle, the Alquemila, the Narciso de Roca, and the Silene de Bory, to name a few). In the northern part of the Sierra de Gredos, the piornos (scrubland shrubs that in the months of May and June are covered with yellow flowers) cover some 65,000 hectares of forest. The Sierra is also a habitat for more than 230 species of vertebrates, including the mountain goat, which has become a symbol of the Park. It is also a Regional Hunting Reserve and Special Protection Area for Birds (vultures, hawks, kites, eagles, owls, and storks …).
9. The Sierra Madrona
Sierra Madrona is a mountain range located in the south of Castilla-La Mancha, within the province of Ciudad Real and close to the provinces of Córdoba and Jaén.
At approximately 400 km long and 75 km wide is the peak La Bañuela, located on the border with the province of Cordoba, and that, with 1333 meters above sea level, makes it one of the highest peaks in the province of Ciudad Real.
Natural Park has two different landscapes. On the one hand, an enormous expanse of pastures for livestock farming makes up the Alcudia Valley, with its sea of oaks and pastures. On the other hand, the mountain ranges and hills to the south, with their broken relief, ridges, and rocky outcrops, make up Sierra Madrona. The area has a very important number of points of geological interest: gorges, canyons and fluvial clusters, natural waterfalls, wetlands, rocks and ridges, natural cavities, and volcanic forms (Volcanic Monument of La Bienvenida, La Alberquilla or the Alhorín Volcano).
The flora of the Natural Park is a representation of the type of Mediterranean scrub and bush vegetation. With an extensive plant catalog with more than 1,065 species, of which 65 are endangered flora. Its forests, among which there are centenary and millenary trees (mainly holm oaks), the richness of its landscapes, its fauna (Iberian lynx, wolf, and Iberian goat), and the more than 160 species of birds that inhabit it (Iberian imperial eagle, black vulture, and black stork) make this natural Park one of the most beautiful and unknown of Spain.
Have you made up your mind yet? I know it will be hard, but who knows, maybe you will break the record of the first person to hike all Spanish mountains.
If more nature-like plans are what you are looking for, don’t forget to check the articles linked above!
Inigo Navarro is a seasoned travel writer with a deep understanding of Spain's cities, culture, people and language. Born and raised in Spain, he has spent years exploring the country and is currently one of the most-read Travel Bloggers about Spain. Inigo is also an experienced digital marketer, a father to 4 beautiful children and a huge Real Madrid Fan. ¡Hala Madrid!