Spain’s olive oil country.
Virgin olive oil is a vital ingredient in Spanish cuisine and the Mediterranean diet. Healthy and delicious, this is a treat for the palate that we suggest you try in the olive-growing regions themselves. You will find out about the production process and a whole culture focusing on the olive. Sample this gastronomy and you are sure to want to take Spanish extra virgin olive oil back home with you.
Spain is the world’s biggest virgin olive oil producer and proof of its quality is the existence of a total of 27 Designations of Origin. The majority are in Andalusia (12) and Catalonia (5). Here we recommend these regions to enjoy olive oil in the very place it is produced.
Jaén, Andalusia’s olive grove
Andalusia is a region of olive groves. This is especially true of the province of Jaén. You will see this from the moment you arrive – everything here revolves around olive oil. Come and sample the local gastronomy and explore the Olive Route in the Sierra Mágina Mountains, where there are huge olive groves set around the Sierra Mágina Nature Reserve. You will visit towns and villages that reflect olive growing culture, through the unusual architecture of their farmhouses, and in their traditions and crafts. You will have the chance to visit “almazaras” (mills where olives are crushed), take part in tasting sessions and discover the whole virgin olive oil production process at the Olive Culture Museum, just 8 kilometres from Baeza and less than 20 from Úbeda, towns whose Renaissance monuments have the UNESCO World Heritage designation.
The Olive Route in the province of Jaén takes in many small towns and villages. For example: Cambil, with its ancient olive trees; Jimena, with a huge valley of olive groves that stretches from the Sierra Mágina Mountains to the banks of the Guadalquivir; arid Cabra del Santo Cristo, the olive grove of the desert. To find out more and design the best route for you, we would recommend you contact the tourist offices in Jaén.
Another interesting option is to do the “Vía Verde del Aceite” (Olive Oil Greenway) by bike or on foot. It runs for 60 kilometres from the north of the city of Jaén, through the surrounding mountains, crossing many different olive groves.
Monumental olive groves in Cordoba
Cordoba , also in Andalusia, is another of the main olive oil producing areas in Spain, with many towns and villages dependent on the olive. Many of these organise breakfasts and tasting sessions featuring virgin olive oil, and there are guided visits to places like Hornachuelos, Montoro and Adamuz, close to the city of Cordoba and the Cardeña-Montoro and Hornachuelos Nature Reserves, home to more than 100,000 hectares of olive groves. Furthermore, the province of Cordoba has many ancient olive trees in places such as Almedinilla, Baena, Luque, Montilla, Priego de Córdoba and Lucena. In fact, the "Priego de Córdoba" Protected Designation of Origin area covers 29,628 hectares and includes the municipalities of Almedinilla, Carcabuey, Fuente Tójar and Priego de Córdoba, in the heart of the Sierras Subbéticas Nature Reserve. At Cordoba’s tourist offices you can get information on the many mills and bottling plants open to the public, and the activities available.
Olive oil in Catalonia
Catalonia is the second Spanish region in number of designations of origin. These are to be found mainly in the Costa Brava, Costa Dorada and Lleida areas. In the first of these, special mention should be made of towns and villages such as Cabanes, Pau, Toroella de Montgrí, Ventalló and Vilafant. For its part, the Costa Dorada has Reus, a historic capital for olive oil production, and places such as Cambrils, Horta de Sant Joan, with an ancient olive tree, the El Priorat area and Ribera del Ebro, all in the province of Tarragona. Here you will find cooperatives that offer guided tours to show you how olive oil is produced first hand. In the province of Lleida, we would suggest visits to the regions of Les Garrigues, El Segrià and L’Urgell. A few places not to be missed are: the Oilve Oil Eco-museum, in Pobla de Cèrvoles; the Castelldans Olive Oil Museum; and the Olive Oil Theme Park in Les Borges Blanques which has 54 ancient olive trees.
Besides tasting sessions and guided tours of olive groves and mills, in Catalonia between November and January there are many olive oil-related fiestas in places such as Reus, Castelldans, Espolla and Les Borges Blanques. In any of these, and indeed throughout Catalonia, you can savour some “Pan Tomaca” (tomato bread), a simple recipe of Catalonian gastronomy which gets its unique flavour from virgin olive oil.
Andalusia and Catalonia are the main olive oil producing regions in Spain, but there are many more. For example, the region of Castile-La Mancha has four designations of origin, and the mountains in Toledo province are home to huge olive groves that are open for visits. You will also find top quality virgin olive oil with designation of origin certification in Aragón, the Balearic Islands, Extremadura, Navarre and La Rioja. If you like taking souvenirs back from you holidays, try some extra virgin olive oil and you will feel like you are back in Spain at every meal.