Olive oil has been prized for centuries for its gastronomic and nutritional properties. It is consumed worldwide, but its production is limited to specific regions where the climatic and environmental conditions are ideal for olive cultivation.
In recent years, a new industry has emerged around this liquid gold, known as olive oil tourism or oleotourism. To learn more about what it entails, check out our article: What is Olive Oil Tourism?
Olive oil tourism is a unique form of tourism that offers diverse experiences. It falls under the category of culinary and wine tours, rural tourism, or agrotourism, as it often takes place in natural and idyllic settings. You can enjoy a tasting of the finest oils at a winery, visit olive groves or mills, explore museums dedicated to olive oil, or indulge in a beauty treatment at a spa.
How to choose the best destination for olive oil tourism?
Although olive oil is produced in many countries, primarily around the Mediterranean Sea, not all of them have the same historical tradition or variety of activities to discover.
When choosing a destination for your vacation, factors such as the time of year, climate, and price are important, of course. However, we should also consider the range of activities offered, the knowledge and passion demonstrated by the guides, and the tradition in their work.
The experience varies greatly from attending a tasting at a restaurant in the city to doing it surrounded by olive trees. Likewise, visiting a mill with centuries of tradition is very different from visiting a modern factory.
In this article, we will guide you through the best places to immerse yourself in the culture of olive oil.
Olive oil tourism around the world
As mentioned earlier, the olive, from which liquid gold is extracted, requires specific climate and temperature conditions to grow. As a result, olive groves cannot be found worldwide but are concentrated around the Mediterranean region. The mild temperatures, with dry and hot summers and wet winters, create the perfect conditions for this type of rural tourism.
Thus, we can find olive groves stretching from Spain to Turkey, both on the European and African sides. As an exception to the norm, there are also some olive crops in California, thanks to the Mediterranean climate present along the west coast of the United States. Likewise in Australia.
Top countries for olive oil tourism in Europe
Europe is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting a significant number of visitors each year. Among the various reasons for travel, olive oil tourism is gaining increasing importance. It is an activity that can be combined with other types of trips, whether they are cultural, natural, or even business-oriented. There are numerous types of experiences available to cater to different preferences, durations, and budgets.
Spain: the ultimate destination for olive oil tourism
Spain is the world’s leading producer and exporter of olive oil, with over 32 Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs). It is a country where tradition and passion for olive oil reach their highest expression. The knowledge, respect, and devotion for this liquid gold extend throughout rural areas, primarily in the southern region of Andalusia, where life revolves around its production.
In addition to being one of the countries with the most gastronomic and wine tourism, Spain offers a wide variety of experiences centered on olive oil. These include tastings, meals, visits to mills or olive presses, workshops, tours, massages, and more.
Andalusia accounts for the largest olive production in Spain. However, other regions such as Catalonia, Valencia, Extremadura, Aragon, Castilla La Mancha, etc., also have olive groves.
Andalusia: the birthplace of olive oil
To the south of Europe lies Spain. And to the south of Spain is Andalusia. A land bathed in sunlight, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This region is rich in culinary and wine treasures, known as the birthplace of flamenco and home to majestic horses, all while being immersed in the precious olive oil.
Andalusia is a vast region, and within it, you will find different areas for olive oil tourism, undoubtedly one of the best activities to engage in Spain.
The best activities in Andalusia can be found in:
Jaen is synonymous with olive oil. It is probably the province in Andalusia with the richest history and tradition surrounding olive oil. Thousands of square kilometers of olive groves adorn its mountains and countryside. Today, the main tourist attraction in Jaen revolves around olive oil, alongside rural tourism. The local government even promotes initiatives to support it. Particularly noteworthy are the municipalities of Ubeda, Baeza, Martos, Andujar, and Alcala la Real.
One of the main tourist cities in Andalusia is surrounded by mountains and olive groves, creating an incomparable setting for your trip to Spain. What better place to immerse yourself in the culture of olive oil than amidst nature and picturesque villages? The municipalities offering the greatest range of olive oil tourism experiences are: Priego de Cordoba, Baena, Lucena, Montoro, and Castro del Rio.
The Alhambra has been a witness to Granada’s century-old olive trees. With the Sierra Nevada, the highest point in the Iberian Peninsula, crowning the province, Granada has a long history of olive oil production. Take a stroll through the olive groves and savor the nuances of extra virgin olive oil in charming villages. Some villages with a strong connection to olive oil production include Montefrio, Loja, Illora, Algarinejo, and Alhama.
- Malaga, Seville, Cadiz, and Huelva
While the aforementioned provinces are the best in Andalusia for olive oil tourism, the rest of the region also offers opportunities to enjoy this culinary and rural tourism. Moreover, Seville, Malaga, Ronda, Cádiz, Huelva, and Almeria generate significant tourist interest due to their cultural, historical, and gastronomic value. Therefore, it is ideal to combine an olive oil savoring, a stroll through an olive grove, or a visit to an olive mill with a tapas tour, a visit to a vineyard, and wine tastings at one of the many wineries. The city of Ronda in Malaga stands out as a notable destination.
Other regions in Spain for gastronomic tourism
The Spanish tradition for olive oil has been an integral part of Iberian culture since the appreciation for liquid gold began. Andalusia, in the south, is the motherland where olive groves define the landscape in a large part of the region. However, olive trees extend throughout Spain, allowing us to enjoy olive oil tourism across the country.
The most important regions for olive oil tourism in Spain are: Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura, Catalonia, Valencia, and Aragon.
Italy has a rich history in olive oil production, and regions such as Tuscany, Umbria, and Puglia are popular for olive oil tourism. Visitors can explore olive groves, mills, and participate in tastings to discover the diverse flavors of Italian olive oils.
The Portuguese region of Alentejo is known for its high-quality olive oil. Several estates and olive mills in this region offer visits and savoring that allow visitors to learn about the olive oil production process. Although there may not be as many options as in the neighboring country, it’s only a few kilometers away.
In the center of the Mediterranean, the history of Greek olive groves goes hand in hand with the country’s own history. The best regions to taste different nuances of olive oil and have other experiences are Crete, Kalamata, and the Peloponnese. It’s a unique and distinct experience to add to your trip to Greece.
The country of the Eiffel Tower is globally renowned for its culinary and wine tourism. It offers a wide variety of activities centered on food and wine, such as winery visits, gourmet tours, vineyard visits, and wine tastings. In recent years, in the Provence region, some olive oil producers have also started offering activities related to olive oil.
Turkey is another major olive oil producer in the world. The regions along the Aegean Sea, the Marmara Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea are where olive oil production is concentrated.
Visitors can explore olive groves, learn about ancient methods of oil extraction, and taste local oils in the regions of Galilee and the Golan Heights.
Oleotourism in Africa
The Mediterranean bathes the northern coast of the African continent, creating regions with a Mediterranean climate situated between the Sahara Desert to the south and the continent’s border.
Countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt have been producing different varieties of olive oil for centuries. However, it is only in the last decade that they have started to exploit it for tourism purposes. Therefore, while there are some activities available such as savoring, visits to olive groves and mills, there is not as much competition, and the experiences may not be as comprehensive as in Spain.
Among them, we must highlight the Moroccan region of Marrakech, which is becoming increasingly known for its olive oil production. The farms and olive cooperatives in the surrounding areas offer guided tours and tastings, allowing visitors to learn about the local olive oil industry.
Oleotourism in California, America
On the other side of the Atlantic, there is a region where olive oil is produced due to its Mediterranean climate. This makes California an ideal place for olive tree cultivation, and regions such as Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Paso Robles have a thriving olive oil tourism industry. Visitors can explore olive groves, visit olive mills, and enjoy olive oil tastings paired with local gastronomy.
Oleotourism in Australia
Although the Australian production of olive oil is modest, it has been steadily growing, particularly in regions such as Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. Olive oil enthusiasts can visit olive farms and learn about the Australian olive oil industry.
The love for olive oil spreads, reaching more and more corners of the world. While the majority of production is concentrated in the Mediterranean, specifically in Spain, Italy, and Greece, it is also produced in far-flung corners of the globe, such as California in America and Australia.
With this panorama, one might think it is difficult to determine the best place for olive oil tourism, but it is not. In fact, the answer is quite easy. Taking into account the breathtaking landscapes, the variety and quality of excursions, the accommodations, the gastronomic offerings, as well as the cultural and historical value combined with the Andalusian tradition for olive oil, we can confidently say that Andalusia, in southern Spain, is the best region for olive oil tourism in the world.