Via Verde del Aceite: how to cycle the Olive Oil Greenway
This post is about cycling the Via Verde del Aceite or the Olive Oil greenway in Andalucia Spain. The via verde del Aceite follows the old railway track that runs for 120 kilometers from Jaen to Puente Genil.
Cycling the Via Verde del Aceite allows you to visit picturesque Andalucian villages as well as the natural beauty of the Subbetica National Park. After a couple of days in the city of Granada, the rural atmosphere was a welcome change of scenery.
Why cycle the Via Verde del Aceite
Cycling the Via Verde del Aceite or the Olive Oil Greenway in Zuheros is an excellent way to experience the stunning Andalusian landscape and the region’s rich cultural heritage. The route passes through beautiful countryside, olive groves, and historic towns, offering stunning views. Despite running through the Subbetica mountains, it is a relatively easy and flat trail perfect for cycling.
The Olive Oil Greenway is a 128-kilometer (80-mile) route that follows the old railway line that used to transport olive oil from the region to the coast. The railway line was first built in the late 19th century. It connected the city of Jaén with the town of Baeza.
One of the first things you notice when cycling the Via Verde del Aceite are the olive groves everywhere. The Olive Oil Greenway is named after the region’s most famous product, olive oil. Along the way, you can visit olive oil mills, learn about the production process, and taste some of the best olive oils in the world.
The train played an important role in transporting the olive oil to the cities for processing and export. It was also a passenger service, connecting the rural communities along the line with the larger towns and cities.
With the rise of road transportation in the mid-20th century, the railway’s importance decreased. The line stopped working in the 1970s, but the area remained an important production center of olive oil. The olive oil you will taste here is nothing like the olive oil you buy in your supermarket at home.
In the late 1990s, people began to look for ways to revitalize the railway and to preserve its cultural heritage. The idea developed to convert it into a recreational trail, or “greenway”. The first section of the Olive Oil Greenway opened in 2002. Although the trail gets more popular every year, it is still an off the beaten path destination in Andalucia.
There are only a handful of other travellers, despite its beautiful scenery. The trail passes through Subbética Natural Park. An area known for its rolling hills and its small villages and historic sights. The trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers.
Hiking or Cycling
The via verde del Aceite is not the only Greenway in Spain. There are other greenways on old railway tracks through the beautiful landscape of Andalucia. Due to the flat terrain they are perfect for both hiking and cycling.
I also did the Via Verde de la Sierra (Sierra greenway) near Olvera. I was in doubt whether to hike or to cycle. In the end I am glad I chose to cycle in both cases. Although the greenways are still relatively unknown, there were enough other cyclists on this route that would disturb me if I had hiked.
The distance you can cover is also greater on a bicycle. When hiking you would need at least a week to hike from Jaen to Puente Genil. When cycling it is possible to cycle the whole track in a couple of days. It also gives more time to explore the towns along the way. Although not as spectacular as the white villages of the Alpujarras or the Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos, they are certainly worth a visit.
I choose to cycle the stretch from Luque to Lucena. This is a particularly scenic part of the Via verde del Aceite that includes the beautiful and historic white village of Zuheros. Zuheros is one of my favourite white villages, because of its Arab castle and stunning location.
Things to see on the Via verde del Aceite
I did not cycle the whole Via Verde del Aceite, but only the stretch from Luque to Lucena. I chose this part because it goes straight through the beautiful Subbetica National Park. Therefore some say it is the most beautiful part of the trail.
I started the Via verde del Aceite at the Luque station. The station is 4 kilometers away from the actual village. The old station building is now a restaurant and cafe as well as a shop selling local products.
The daily menu (menu del dia) is delicious and it is a great place to buy the local olive oil, cheese and hams.
From Luque to Zuheros you cycle through the hills of the Subbetica mountains with beautiful views over the olive grooves. The scenery gets more and more spectacular once you get near Zuheros.
Zuheros is among the most beautiful white villages of Andalucia known for its historic center and natural beauty. It has a rich history dating back to the Roman era. The old town is characterized by narrow streets and white-washed houses.
The highlight is the Arab castle perched on top of a hill overlooking the town and the olive groves. It’s right in the middle of the Subbetica National Park. Besides the Via verde del Aceite there are lots of hiking trails as well.
Zuheros is definitely worth a stop to get off the trail and explore the village. I used Zuheros as my base to cycle the Via verde del Aceite and also did some hiking in the area.
The nearby Rio Bailon is a beautiful area where I spotted griffon vultures and a herd of wild Iberian ibex (Spanish mountain goats).
As you leave Zuheros you will cross several bridges and tunnels. The scenery remains beautiful as you pass by olive groves and farm fields.
I ended my Via verde del Aceite cycling trip at the station of Lucena. This station too has a great restaurant with an affordable and very delicious daily menu (menu del dia).
This is also where you can find the Centro Cicloturismo. Here you can rent bicycles and get the most up to date information about the trail.
Lucena isn’t as scenic as Zuheros, but it too has a long history with evidence of Roman, Visigothic, and Islamic influences. Making a detour to visit the old center is definitely worth it.
Via Verde del Aceite travel tips
Via Verde del Aceite Accomodation
There is accomodation in Luque, Zuheros and Lucena. I decided to stay in Zuheros, which is definitely the most scenic town on the Via verde del Aceite. I would even recommend staying at least two nights here to explore the area.
In Zuheros I can recommend Hotel Zuhayra. Very friendly owners with lots of information about the via verde del Aceite and other hiking and cycling opportunities in the Subbeticas.
Via Verde del Aceite Food
Andalucia is renowned for its cuisine, which includes traditional dishes made with local ingredients such as olive oil, cured meats, and cheeses. The station restaurants in Luque and Lucena both offer cheap daily menus (menu del dia).
In Zuheros you can eat at the restaurant of hotel Zuhayra where you can also try some local specialities. Dishes that are from the Cordoba region include Salmorejo (a cold and creamy tomato soup), Mazamorra ( a cold almond soup) and the Flamenquin (a deep fried roll of pork with ham and cheese).
Do take into account the Spanish opening times. In Spain, restaurants typically open for lunch between 1 and 3 pm and for dinner from 8 pm to 11 pm. You will find many restaurants are closed in between.
You can rent bicycles at the Centro Cicloturismo at the Lucena train station.
When to visit
Spring (March to May) is a great time to cycle the Olive greenway. The temperatures are mild, and the landscape is lush and green with wildflowers in bloom. This is also the best time to see the migratory birds passing through the area.
Autumn (October to November) is another great time to go. The temperatures are pleasant and the landscape is colorful with the changing of the leaves.
Winter (December to February) can be cool and sometimes wet, but the trail is still open and can be a great time to visit if you’re looking for a quieter and less crowded experience.
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