© 2016 S. Karger AG, Basel. Meiotic recombination is a process that increases genetic diversity and is fundamental for sexual reproduction. Determining by which mechanisms genetic variation is generated and maintained across different phylogenetic groups provides the basis for our understanding of biodiversity and evolution. In this review, we go through different aspects of this essential phenomenon, paying special attention to mammals. We provide a comprehensive view on the organization of meiotic chromosomes and the mechanisms involved in the formation and genomic distribution of recombination hotspots, focusing on the factors influencing the formation and repair of the massive amount of self-induced DNA breaks in early stages of meiosis. At the same time, we discuss the genetic and mechanistic factors that influence recombination landscapes in mammals, as reflected by several layers of regulation. These factors include the selective forces that affect the DNA sequence itself, which can be modulated by genome reshuffling and the evolutionary history of each taxon, and the forces that control how the DNA is packaged into chromosomes during meiosis.