A stroll Through a Magical Landscape of Olive Orchards
The growing demand for olive oil related tourism has found that the best attractions are the olive grove and olive oil routes. The fact is that, bewitched by the powerful influence of this magical tree and it’s golden elixir – symbols of Mediterranean culture – lovers of new experiences appreciate the high historical, cultural and scenic value of these routes, as well as their gastronomical and health-friendly aspect. Following these lines we present you with some of the more beautiful olive oil routes in the world. Enjoy the voyage and, above all, be inspired to embark on it. You will not regret it.
Olive oil and Millennial Olive Trees in the Sénia Territory
(Community of Valencia/Catalonia/Aragón)
The grouping of communities Taula del Séniais is made up of 27 municipalities (15 are in Valencia, 9 in Catalonia and 3 more in Aragón), situated around the River Sénia and the mountain ranges of Els Ports.
Their natural museums, areas and pathways of millennial native olive trees of the ‘Farga’ variety, transport the visitor into surprising landscapes, allowing him to contemplate wonderful examples of spectacularly shaped trees, and at the same time to observe on the spot the labors of olive tree farming and taste their fruit in the exquisite gastronomy that has always been linked to olive oil.
Thus, in the natural museums at Arión (Ulldecona) and Pou del Mas (La Jana), located next to the old Roman Via Augusta, one can admire more than fifty millennial olive trees in little more than two hectares, amongst which one can find the Farga del Arión – whose trunk measures more than 8 meters wide, at 1,30 meters from the ground – La Farga del Pou del Mas whose trunk perimeter measures nearly 8 meters and the Olivo de las Parejas.
A must-do visit are the areas around Alcanár (seven millennial olive trees surrounded by historical remains), Canet lo Roig (2), Vinaròs (3), La Sénia (3, amongst which there is a specimen whose rarity resides in the large hole in it’s base, the Catxo olive tree), Godall (2) and the Foia d’Ulldecona (7).
The three itineraries –Freginals-Sant Carles de la Ràpita-Ulldecona-Alcanar, with stages of more than 15, 6,5 and 7 kilometers; Santa Bàrbara-La Galera-Godall-l’Arióm (Ulldecona); and Mas de Barberans-La Sénia, both of which are 18 kilometers long – these routes can be followed practically entirely on foot or by bicycle.
Olive Oil Routes in Mallorca
In Mallorca, Nature has sculpted the trunks of the olive trees over the centuries and has turned them into real works of Art, into authentically natural open-air museums. A part of life on the island gyrates around the olive tree and it’s fruit, el oli de Mallorca.
El Camí de Muleta (Sóller), el Barranc de Biniaraix (Biniaraix), el Camí de la Font Garrover (Mancor de la Vall) y L’olivar de Coma-Sema (Orient) are the routes proposed by the Oleorutas Mallorca, el Arte de la Naturaleza (Mallorca Olive culture routes, Nature’s Art) with an itinerary on foot for nearly 12 kilometers that begins half-way down the road that links Sóller to Deià, in the Cas Avinyons plantation.
A route across the Sierra de la Tramuntana, a mountainous formation declared a World Heritage Site by the Unesco for it’s scenic, cultural and historical value, and traveling through the settlements of Es Verger, Deià, Port de Sóller and Sóller, we come face to face with the captivating mythological and fanciful figures at Els Camell, that recall – depending on the angle they from which they are observed – a snake throttling it’s prey or a Chinese dragon, ready to attack; Sa Madona des Barrabc (Sóller) – a spectacular century-old olive tree, twisted in shape and of notable beauty – the olive orchard in la Tanca de s’Atzeroler – a place where dozens of millennial olive trees grow into extraordinary shapes – or Na Flamarades (Pollença) – a singular olive tree that, when observed up close, recalls Dante’s Inferno, as it’s ‘flames’ are really fascinating.
This is doubtlessly another way to get to know Mallorca.
Liguria, the Italian Riviera
A terrace dressed in silver, with a view of the sea, rises above a rocky coastline that is bathed in sunlight, and interrupted by little inlets hiding charming little coves of fine sand.
This is Western Liguria, the northeastern corner of Italy, a land of imposing mountains and gentle hills, with its extraordinary olive trees of the ‘taggiasca’ variety – one of the most delicate and most valued in the world.
They owe their name to the place where the olivegrowing tradition began – thanks to the perseverance and dedication of the Benedictine monks – cultivated on steep and abrupt terrains. It is precisely at the medieval city of Taggia that a route of some 30 kilometers has it’s starting point.
This route provides the way to discover the PDO Riviera Ligure and the olive variety called ‘taggiasca’ – fruity and sweet, cylindrical in shape and with tones that go from green to brown to black – by traveling through the most representative places for extra virgin in this region: Badalucco, Montalto Ligure, Carpasio, Molini di Triora and Triora. The Frantoio Roi olive cultivation hacienda is in Badalucco, in an historic building of the same name, which is a study center belonging to the Pollenza University of Gastronomic Science.
In the small village of Carpasio one comes across the Museum of Lavender, whose distillery and colorful gardens, perfumed by thirty-odd different varieties of lavender, greet us with an explosion of color and delicious fragrances. Finally, it is well worth visiting the Rinaldo Firighelli Ethnographic Museum, in Molini di Triora. It gives us the most authentic testimony on the lifestyles of the local farmers and artisans; as well as the Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum in Triora, the living memory of it’s dark past and the best way to get to know this small locality with a population of 380, set deep in the Alto Valle Argentina, forming part of a circuit around the most beautiful villages in Italy, their Nature, their history and their inhabitants.
The Tras-os-Montes Olive Oil Route
Since ancient times, olive trees have been cultivated in the bleak land of Tras-os-Montes, and from the fruit of these trees, a magnificent golden olive oil with a characteristic taste of its own has been extracted, constituting the treasure trove of this northeastern region of Portugal that borders with Spain.
Coming under the certificate of quality defined in the PDO Azeite de Tras-os-Montes, its manufacturing process has been transmitted from generation to generation, and is now combined with more sophisticated modern-day techniques.
The Tras-os-Montes olive oil route is born of the desire that public and private institutions have to promote and valorize the ‘tasmontano’ territory, by means of their most genuine ambassador: olive oil.
The sole objective of this non-profit association is to convert this product into the element that will fire new energy into local tourism and economy. There are 15 routes throughout the region, one for each municipality implied – Alfândega da Fé, Alijó, Bragança, Carrazeda de Ansiães, Feirxo de Espada à Cinta, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Mirandela, Mogadouro, Murça, Tabuaço, Torre de Moncorvo, Valpaços, Vila Flor, Vila Nova de Foz Côa and Vimioso – which all together make up the Trasos- Montes Olive Oil Route.
Each itinerary includes getting to know the varieties of olive trees, and the organoleptic elements and other details that tell us about the quality of ‘trasmontano’ olive oil. The route invites the traveler to discover the intense aromas of the different Tras-os-Montes varieties of olive – cobrançosa, verdeal, cordovil y madural – tiny fruits that produce a balanced and fruity EVOO, bitter and intensely complex.
All this is to be found in a territory dominated by green hills and valleys, that outline the contours of a region rich in historical, cultural and landscape heritage, with an enormous diversity of wild flora and fauna.
And one should not forget the regional gastronomy, which faithfully brings the essence of Tras-os-Montes to the table in dishes such as the veal sirloin from Miranda, Bisaro pork and river trout as it’s most notable exponents.
The Colors of Istria
The Istria Peninsula, the largest in the Adriatic Sea, is synonymous to quality olive oil. With this privileged geographical situation, an excellent climate and fertile soils, centuries of olive cultivation history are explained.
Even in Roman times, the olive oil from Istria was considered to be the most exquisite and refined of the Empire, as one can verify when reading the manuscripts written by a renowned epigrammatist of Spanish origin, Marco Valerio Marcial (40-103 AC).
For more than 2,000 years, the Istrian farmers have cultivated and preserved more than 11 varieties of olive that are native to this peninsula: črnica, buža, buža minuda, buža puntoža, drobnica, istarska bjelica, karbonaca, žižolera, moražola, oblica and rošinjola.. -all of which show high tolerance to low temperatures – and from which very aromatic oils are obtained, with a high level of fatty acids.
Many other Italian and French varieties, such as the French picholine, have been added to them. With only 1.6 million olive trees, the extra virgin olive oil produced in this beautiful region in northern Croatia – a territory shared with Italy and Slovenia – presumes to be one of the most expensive olive oils in the world, priced, on average, at 20 Euros per liter.
At present, none less than 600 of the 200,000 inhabitants in this area are EVOO tasters, promoting the culture of olive oil in hotels and restaurants. There are seven olive oil routes in which 150 producers offer an exquisite EVOO to their visitors in establishments with a tasting salon and sale points – whose owners are obliged to speak at least two foreign languages.
The itineraries, which receive from 6.000 to 10.000 people a year – no group visits admitted – are the chance to discover the secrets of this Istrian liquid gold and the varied palette of colors of the region, bathed by more than 500 kilometers of coastline, dotted with little ports and traditional fishing towns, medieval villages and Roman, Byzantine and Venetian remains.
The ruins of old oil presses are spread all over the western coastline, especially in the Brijuni archipelago, the cities of Barbariga, Poreč and Červar Porat. The oldest olive tree in Istria grows precisely in Brijuni, it is 1.600 years old.
The Aromas and Tastes of La Provence
Since ancient times, olive trees have been cultivated in the At the doorway to Provence, between Lyon and Avignon, la Drôme surprises us with its landscape: fields of lavender (the well-known Provence symbol), rosemary, truffles, vineyards, almond trees, walnut trees…and olive trees.
With five Designations of Origin – Nyons, Aix-en-Provence, Haute- Provence, Vallée-des-Baux and Nice – extra virgin olive oil is very present in the gastronomy of this region in the south of France, and is a part of its most famous routes, such as the Lavender Route, that gives us the chance to discover some of the most beautiful and picturesque villages in France.
For example, in the medieval town of Nyons – known as “le petit Nice” (little Nice), located near Mont Ventoux, – olive oil is the main protagonist, thanks to an exceptional climate that makes it the most northern area of Europe dedicated to olive culture.
When visiting this agricultural cooperative, the traveler can taste the olive juice from this region, characterized by it’s special fruitiness and strong personality -produced from native varieties such as la cailletier, tanche, picholine, bouteillan, salonenque, verdale or aglandau – and let himself be seduced by other local artisanal products made with olive oil or olives, such as soaps and cosmetics.
Other attractions are the Olive Museum and the ancient oil mills dating from the 18th and 19th Centuries. In Volx, a visit to the Olivier Baussan Ecomuseum of the Olive Tree is well worth it – created in 2006, it offers audiovisual projections, interactive tools and sensorial activities, as well as a shop where one can taste and purchase the best EVOOs and other regional products.
On the other hand, there are many festivities and markets that celebrate the colors, aromas and essences of Provence, that have become a part of Provence’s heritage. Thus, the annual olive oil market organized by AOC (Acronym in French for Controlled Designation of Origin) Huile d’Olive d’Aix-en- Provence, at Aix-en-Provence, is a date that gathers together, on one weekend in December, producers, oil press owners and consumers, to celebrate the arrival of the new batch of olive oil from this Designation.
During this weekend, visitors can enjoy the multiple aromas and tastes of Provence extra virgin, as well as many other traditional artisan products from the region of Aix, such as table olives, tapenades (olive paste), cookies and gibassiés (pastries made with olive oil).
The market allows us to appreciate the talent and creations of the artisans who work with olive tree wood, and admire the beautiful floral arrangements displayed by the Bouches-du-Rhône florists.
The Cape Olive Route
On the Western Cape, the Cape Olive Route covering an area of approximately 4.000 kilometers, was born in September 2012, as an initiative towards promoting the education and raising of awareness towards olive culture, the promotion of the benefits of it’s consumption and the splendid work done by the local producers.
Renowned globally for the quality of it’s wines, few realize that in this area of South Africa – one of the most important for the cultivation of olive trees, thanks to a benevolent climate, very similar to that of the Mediterranean countries – there is a growing number of olive oil producers whose oils have already been awarded several international prizes.
10 olive oil exploitations make up this route, in which olive oil tasting tours are organized, teaching visitors how to differentiate and recognize a good virgin extra, as well as familiarizing them with the processes involved in olive oil production.
Due to the vastness of the area, the Cape Olive Route is divided into four regions: Paarl, Stellenbosch y Helderberg, Overberg and Breede River Valley. Thus, in the Paarl region, there is an excursion called Gourmet Olive, Wine and Cheese Tasting Tour.
This tour starts at the Fairview Estate, at the foothills of Agter Paardeberg, and includes wine, cheese and olive oil tasting, giving the visitor a chance to blend his own EVOO. It then continues to Olyvenbosch, where the visitor can take a walk though magical gardens of flowers and ferns, go on a hike or enjoy a picnic lunch.
After crossing the beautiful village of Paarl and taking the longest main road in the country, the route ends at the amazing Afrikaanse Taal Monument, at the summit of the Paarl mountains, an ideal scenario that invites one to go for a relaxed walk before ending the day enjoying a cup of coffee or tea in the restaurant overlooking the valley towards Franschoek and Stellenbosh.
Another more luxurious proposal is the Gourmet Full Day Tour in the region of Stellenbosch and Helderberg, one of the most beautiful on the Cape, that include the tasting of wine and extra olive oil (produced from the leccino, frantoio and mission varieties, among others), and lunch at one of the best restaurants offering traditional South African dishes, in Stellenbosch.
The tour begins in the center of the historical town, whose lovely buildings are clearly influenced by Dutch architecture, and then climbs up to the Helshoogte Pass, where one can contemplate spectacular views of Cape Town and Franshoek from the Tokara Estate.
The visit then continues through Hidden Valley Estate, in Helderberg, with it’s wonderful views of Table Mountain – recently declared as one of the natural wonders of the world – and Stellenbosch, where one can taste the local cheeses, olive oils and olives.
The next stop is Morgenster Estate, on the other side of the mountain, in Somerset West, famous for the quality of it’s virgin extra, winner of numerous prizes.
And if all this isn’t enough – beaches of fine sand and observation of Nature, such as whale-watching from May to December in Hermanus, the whale capital, where these animals go to reproduce, – there is a wide range of aquatic activities available, from underwater diving to a thrilling immersion (inside a cage), for a close-up view of the majestic white sharks. All of which doubtlessly make the journey to this area in South Africa an enthralling experience.