Via Verde - Riotinto
Starting from the Valverde railway station, at the end of the Vía Verde of the Watermills that links Valverde with San Juan del Puerto to the south, is this 35km-long route to Riotinto, a historically important mining centre. The final stretch of the train track was used for transporting miners from Zalamea and El Campillo to Riotinto.
This vía verde is suitable for walkers and cyclists, but not wheelchair users since the only section in reasonable condition is between Zalamea and Riotinto, while the rest of the route is stony with many potholes.
Next to the station are two buildings that used to house offices of the railway company, but which have now been converted into a music college.
Next to the Casa de la Hermandad de Nuestra Señora del Rocío (the House of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of Rocío) is the start of what was the railway line and to the left is an impressive mansion, the Casa de la Dirección, where managers of the mining and railway companies used to live. Now it is an interesting museum, the Museo Ethnográfico y de las Artesanías, displaying Valverde´s history of traditonal crafts.
Leaving Valverde behind, the route cuts through the hilly landscape with some superb panoramic views from embankments. The cuttings through the hills are increasingly more spectacular, especially at the Cerro del Aguilucho between Km 2 and Km 3. At Km 3.5 the route crosses the N435, where there is a small whitewashed house that used to be the Empalme de Buitrón station, so-called because there used to be tracks here that went to the Buitrón mine, as well as those going to Zalamea.
At this point, you can return to Valverde via the Vallejo del Arroyo Goborrillo, making a short circular route.
Continuing towards Riotinto from the Empalme station, the route climbs gently through a dense forest of eucalyptus, with some excellent views from a vantage point around the 4km mark. At Km 10 the vía verde crosses the N435 again to another station at Km 12, El Pozuelo. Just before this station is a road to the right leading to the hamlet of El Pozuelo where there are a series of megalithic monuments, the dolmenes de El Pozuelo.
The next station, 1km later, was called the Estación Nueva and was used for loading minerals extracted from the Palanco y Guadiana mines 2½km away. Opposite the Cortijo del Tintillo farm the route worsens and there is a slight detour around El Membrillo tunnel, which is no longer passable.
Just a few kilometres before Zalamea the holm oaks and eucalyptus that have lined the route up until now give way to orange groves, a legacy of the mining-turned-fruit firm, the Riotinto Fruit Company. You can stop and explore Zalamea via the Vía Verde de Zalamea a Riotinto, which is helpfully signposted. If you visited the Dolmen de El Pozuelo on the way here, you may want to visit the interesting Centro de Intepretación in the centre of Zalamea, which is an information centre on the many dolmens found in the area around Zalamea.
Continuing on to Riotinto, at Km 22 is the Estación Vieja de Zalamea, the town´s old train station. One kilometre further north, in pine forest just before El Campillos, the route divides. Left is the 17km Vía Verde de Odiel that goes to Mina Concepción. Take the right-hand route to Riotinto, 3km further on, through more pine trees and orange groves.
You arrive in Riotinto close to the intriguing Barrio Inglés de Buenavista, a formerly British enclave with 19th-century Victorian houses, tennis courts and a presbyterian church. Follow the signs to the Museo Minero (Mining Museum) if you want to find out more about mining history in the area and the British involvement in Riotinto.
The terrain around Riotinto has a surreal quality, with its scarred landscape of large-scale open-cast mines, its rocky slopes coloured red-brown and ochre with minerals and its rusting, abandoned workshops. The most dramatic mining landscape is not along this road, but on the A461 from Riotinto to Aracena. It´s worth extending your route northwards for a few kilometres from the centre of Riotinto to see Corte Atalaya, one of the world´s biggest open-cast mines, whose dimensions are best appreciated from the viewing platform at the side of the road.