Spain has been described by some historians and explorers as one big mountain range, with 24% of the country being above 1,000 meters above sea level, and the other 76% situated between 500 and 1,000 meters. The country has an average elevation of 660 meters above mean sea level, the second highest in Europe after Switzerland. Some of the mountain ranges in Spain include the Pyrenees, the Sierra Nevada, the Cordillera Cantabria, the Sistema Iberico, the Cordillera Betica, the Sierra de Cuenca, and the Montes de Toledo. The mountains in Spain play a significant role in promoting tourism and nature conservation. Most of the mountains in the country are within the protected areas. The highest mountains in Spain are detailed below.
Mount Teide is a 12,195-feet-tall volcano located in the Canary Islands of Spain. It measures 24,600 feet from its base on the ocean floor making it the world’s thirds highest volcano on a volcanic ocean island after Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, two volcanoes in the U.S. state of Hawaii. Mount Teide is an active volcano with the recent eruption taking place in 1909 while the summit has smaller but active fumaroles emitting hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide. The mountain and its surrounding form part of the Teide National Park which was listed UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. According to the tourism statistics, Mount Teide is the most visited natural site in Spain while the national park is the most visited in Europe. The Gauche believed that the mountain was sacred and that it held up the sky. The lava flow from the flanks of Teide forms nutrient-rich soil which supports over 168 species of plants.
Mulhacen is the highest mountain of the Iberian Peninsula and on the Spanish mainland at a height of 11,411 feet. The mountain forms part of the Sierra Nevada Range, and it was named after Muley Hacen, the Muslim King of Granada in the 15th Century. Mount Mulhacen is the world’s 64th most prominent mountain, Europe’s highest peak outside the Alps and Caucasian Mountains, and the third most topographically prominent peak in Western Europe. Mulhacen is a beautiful mountain and very easy to climb even for average climbers. The mountain can be climbed in a day if one uses the route through the Capileira or Trevelez villages. The mountain refuge at Poqueira and the shelters at Caldera can offer accommodation for the climbers who are staying overnight.
Aneto is the third highest mountain in Spain and the highest in both Aragon and the Pyrenees with a height of 11,165 feet. The mountain is located in the Spanish Province of Huesca, and it also forms part of the Maladeta Massif. Mount Aneto forms part if the Posets-Maladeta National Park. It is characterized by the Paleozoic terrain of Mesozoic material with the northern side holding the largest glacier in the Pyrenees. Due to global warming, the amount of glacier has been significantly reduced. The mountain is also estimated to have lost more than half of its surface in the last 100 year, and that it may disappear by 20150.
Veleta is translated to mean "weather vane", and it is the second highest peak in the Sierra Nevada Range at an elevation of 11,145 feet. It is visible from the city of Granada. The final stretch of its summit projects towards the south, appearing akin to a ship’s bow with rock drops in all directions. The northern slopes house the Sierra Nevada Ski Station. The mountain has an access road which is also the highest paved road in Europe but is no longer used by the public.