Pico de Orizaba

orizaba in mexico

El Pico de Orizaba It is found at the top of Mexico and North America. It is a peak that has a volcano that has had numerous confirmed eruptions throughout its history. It has a large number of legends and interesting stories to know.

Therefore, we are going to dedicate this article to tell you everything you need to know about the Orizaba peak, its characteristics, eruptions and much more.

Characteristics of the Orizaba peak

great peak of orizaba

In Nahuatl, the name of Orizaba's peak is Citlaltépetl, which means "mountain of stars" or "hill of stars". According to legend, the Aztec god Quetzalcóatl climbed the volcano one day and began his journey towards eternity. In its history there have been 23 confirmed eruptions and 2 indeterminate ones. Pico de Orizaba is the highest peak and volcano in Mexico and North America. Pico de Orizaba was formed on limestone and slate during the Cretaceous period.

Once in the center, the flames consumed his mortal body, but his soul took the form of a flying quetzal until, seen from below, it looked like a brilliant star. For this reason, the Aztecs called it Citlaltépetlal volcano. Pico de Orizaba is the highest peak and volcano in Mexico and North America. The Global Volcano Program of the Smithsonian Institution estimates its height at 5.564 meters, although the Geological Service of Mexico places it at 5.636 meters above sea level. For his part, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) affirms that the volcano has an altitude of 5.610 meters.

It is geographically located between the states of Veracruz and Puebla in the south-central region of the country. Seen from sea level, its shape is almost symmetrical and consists of a massive summit and an oval crater 500 meters wide and about 300 meters deep. It is part of the Transversal Volcanic Axis, a mountain system on the southern margin of the North American plate. It is one of the three glacial volcanoes in Mexico, mainly in the north and northwest. These ice masses have decreased significantly in recent decades.

The formation of the Pico de Orizaba volcano

Pico de Orizaba

The transverse volcanic axis consists of several volcanoes and is the result of the subduction (collapse) of the Cocos and Rivera plates beneath the North American plate. Pico de Orizaba formed over limestone and shale during the Cretaceous period, but was essentially formed by pressure from magma that was found between plate boundaries.

This stratovolcano developed its shape over millions of years, which has been explained by identifying three phases corresponding to the 3 current superimposed stratovolcanoes, in which construction and destruction were frequent. The first phase began about 1 million years ago in the Middle Pleistocene, when the entire base of the volcano developed. The lava ejected from the interior of the Earth solidified and formed the Torrecillas stratovolcano, but a collapse in the northeast flank led to the formation of the caldera 250.000 years ago.

In the second phase, the Espolón de Oro cone emerged to the north of the Torrecillas crater and the volcano continued to grow on the west side. The structure collapsed about 16.500 years ago, after which there was a third phase: the construction of the current cone inside the horseshoe-shaped crater left by the Espolón de Oro. There is also talk of a fourth phase, which includes the construction of some of the lava domes built during the development of Espolón de Oro: Tecomate and Colorado. The current volcano was integrated during the late Pleistocene and Holocene epochs, and its activity began with the outflow of dacite lava that formed its steep cones.


The last eruption of Pico de Orizaba dates from 1846 and it has been inactive ever since. In its history there have been 23 confirmed eruptions and 2 indeterminate ones. The Aztecs recorded events in 1363, 1509, 1512 and 1519-1528, and there is evidence of other eruptions in 1687, 1613, 1589-1569, 1566 and 1175. Apparently the earliest attested occurrence is 7530 BCE. C±40. Despite being a stratovolcano and having a main cone formed by explosive eruptions, Pico de Orizaba does not go down in history as one of the most destructive volcanoes in Mexico.


snowy volcano

The volcano has formed several tributaries, including the Cotaxtla, Jamapa, Blanco, and Orizaba rivers. It is located in a semi-cold temperate zone, cool in summer and rainy between summer and winter.

As for the flora and fauna, coniferous forests predominate, mainly pines and oyamel, but you will also find alpine scrub and zacatonales. It is home to bobcats, skunks, volcano rats, and Mexican voles.

You can practice different activities, the most outstanding being mountain biking and climbing. It is an almost symmetrical conical volcano with an oval crater about 480 by 410 meters in diameter. The crater has an area of ​​154.830 square meters and a depth of 300 meters. From the summit you can see other mountain ranges such as Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl (active volcanoes), Malinche and Cofre de Perote.

Volcanoes are the main source of water supply for many communities. Three of the five glaciers on Pico de Orizaba have disappeared in the last 50 years, leaving only the Jamapa Glacier, which begins at 5,000 meters above sea level and is the largest glacier in Mexico and Central America.

Researchers from the Center for Atmospheric Sciences of Mexico have confirmed that the effects of global warming have been affecting the region of the volcano. The glaciers of three of Mexico's highest volcanoes are disappearing. In Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl there is almost nothing left, while the Pico de Orizaba is on the same path to reduce its thickness and extension. Throughout its history there have been 23 confirmed eruptions and two indeterminate eruptions, the last eruption dating from 1846. It is not considered a destructive volcano.

What is the legend of Pico de Orizaba?

Local legend says that a long time ago, in the time of the Olmecs, there lived a great warrior named Navalny. She is a beautiful and very brave woman and is always accompanied by her faithful friend Ahuilizapan, which means "Orizaba", a beautiful osprey.

Nahuani had to face one of the biggest battles and was defeated. Her friend Ahui Lizapan was deeply melancholic, she ascended to the top of the sky and dropped heavily to the ground.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the Orizaba peak and its characteristics.

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