The hypoxia-inducible factor is the key protein responsible for the cellular adaptation to low oxygen tension. This transcription factor becomes activated as a result of a drop in the partial pressure of oxygen, to hypoxic levels below 5% oxygen, and targets a panel of genes involved in maintenance of oxygen homeostasis. Hypoxia is a common characteristic of the microenvironment of solid tumors and, through activation of the hypoxia-inducible factor, is at the center of the growth dynamics of tumor cells. Not only does the microenvironment impact on the hypoxia-inducible factor but this factor impacts on microenvironmental features, such as pH, nutrient availability, metabolism and the extracellular matrix. In this review we discuss the influence the tumor environment has on the hypoxia-inducible factor and outline the role of this factor as a modulator of the microenvironment and as a powerful actor in tumor remodeling. From a fundamental research point of view the hypoxia-inducible factor is at the center of a signaling pathway that must be deciphered to fully understand the dynamics of the tumor microenvironment. From a translational and pharmacological research point of view the hypoxia-inducible factor and its induced downstream gene products may provide information on patient prognosis and offer promising targets that open perspectives for novel "anti-microenvironment" directed therapies.