Via Verde of Olive Oil

December and January are the main months for the Olive harvest in Andalucia © Michelle Chaplow
December and January are the main months for the Olive harvest in Andalucia

Via Verde - Olive Oil

This vía verde (railway path or greenway) covers 55km between Jaen and the Guadajoz river, where it joins the Vía Verde of the Subbética. It is suitable for walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users.

This greenway follows part of the 120km-long Jaen-Puente Genil railway line used for transporting olive oil from the late 19th century onwards, linking Jaen with Malaga and Algeciras and opening up the market for oil. Dubbed the ´tren de aceite´ (oil train), it was the first time olive oil could be moved in bulk. The line also carried coal from the Belmez mine, as well as lead and other minerals from the mines in Linares, to the port in Malaga. But the railway was unprofitable and closed in 1985.



The Route

The vía verde begins in the north of Jaen city, near the Fuentezuelas polideportivo (sports complex) at the end of Calle Fuente del Alamillo. It runs alongside a railway still in operation, the Jaen-Espeluy line, until around Km 1.5. The vía verde starts to climb to Martos, skirting the hilly Sierra de la Grana and the peak of Jabalcuz (1,614m). From this stretch of the route there are great views of Jaen city. At Km 2 the route goes under the city's ring road and then passes a fountain at the Jaen-Torredonjimeno crossroads at Km 6.3, a good place to stock up with water.

From here you can take a detour to follow the well-signposted Ruta Arqueológica de Los Torreones (Los Torreones Archaeological Route), made up of seven defensive towers and castles that date from Medieval times.

In this part of the countryside there are many olive groves, interspersed with farms that have their own olive presses for producing oil. At Km 8.8 is a derelict loading platform in a siding, which was used by trains carrying gypsum from a nearby quarry.

The route crosses the Torredelcampo road just before the greenway's first station of Torredelcampo at Km 11, a good place for a stop. Next is a 333m-long tunnel; although well-lit you have to watch out for the occasional car or motorbike. Use of these is prohibited along the vía verde but local residents sometimes use the tunnel as a short cut.

At Km 12 is a 104m-long bridge over a river bordered by olive groves, with superb vistas over the surrounding countryside from here and from the next, shorter bridge 1km later.

Torredonjimeno is the next village, with a station at Km 15.2. There is picnic area but the 19th-century station building itself is in a bad state of disrepair. Just beyond Torredonjimeno the route crosses the N321 twice.

Between Torredonjimeno and Martos is a gentle climb through olive groves. Martos is overshadowed by its spectacular peña, a rocky outcrop towering 350m high over the village crowned by a ruined fortress. Martos marks the highest point of the vía verde, at 650m, and from here onwards it is virtually all downhill. At Km 23 is the village's old station; unlike the building at Torredonjimeno this one has been well preserved.

Just outside Martos the greenway goes under the N321 through a tunnel and then begins to descend in sweeping curves before crossing the road again via a bridge several kilometres later. The route loops round the hill called the Cerro de la Capellanía to the Río Salado valley, crossing the river over an impressive 208m-long bridge at Km 34.

Drawing closer to the foothills of the Sierras Subbéticas, the vía verde goes across another magnificent bridge spanning the Higueral river, before arriving at a remote station, Vado-Jaén at Km 37, 7km from the nearest village. Its only purpose was as an intersection for trains. From here for 2km it is slightly uphill until the route meets the N321 again; this time the road crosses the greenway via a bridge.

The countryside now opens out with superb views across the Víboras valley and the peak of the Ahillo mountain at 1,455m. At Km 42 the route crosses the Víboras river via another grand bridge, 224m long and constructed high over the valley. If you look down from the bridge you can see a much older bridge, dating from Medieval times.

After the bridge, the vía verde passes a disused quarry which used to supply materials for constructing the railway. There are two more bridges, both 70m long, over the Chaparral and Esponela rivers, at Km 45 and Km 46. The last station on this route is at Alcaudete, at Km 48, a shady picnic spot in an olive grove. The village itself is 5km away. The greenway goes over the N321; be careful here since you have to cross the road directly as there is no bridge or underpass.

At Km 50 the route passes the Laguna Honda Natural Reserve, an important wetland area best seen from the viewpoint on the vía verde itself. Apart from the summer when the lake usually dries up, it has numerous birds including purple gallinules and white-headed ducks.

From here the greenway zigzags in sharp curves around the Desjarradero hill and over a 83m-long viaduct at the Barranco de Desjarradero at Km 52. The next and last viaduct on the route spans 200m over the Guadajoz river.

From this point, the greenway continues into Cordoba province as the Vía Verde of the Subbética.

See and Do