For many travelers, food isn’t central to their itineraries. Delighting in the tastes of regional cuisine often plays second fiddle to activities like going on safari, whiling away the hours in the Hermitage Museum, or even watching moss grow (yes, this is a real and apparently popular travel activity in Japan). But culinary tourism—where food is the focus and the safari is secondary—is becoming increasingly popular, and even non-foodie travelers are discovering that a culinary excursion can be just as insightful and exciting as a traditional trip. Whether or not you were one of the die-hards hopping a plane to Copenhagen just to visit Noma, here are five food-focused destinations and tours that will whet your appetite.
La Villa Bonita, Tepoztlán, Mexico
This food sanctuary is located about an hour and a half from Mexico City and run by chef Ana Garcia, who has owned and operated the culinary resort since 2001. For one week, visitors learn to make traditional Mexican dishes like mole and cochinita pibil from scratch, while also meeting with cheese-makers, butchers, and bakers. La Villa Bonita offers the chance to forage the surrounding area for fruit and visit local Tepoztlán women, who show guests how to make fresh tortillas. With only six guest rooms on the property and a beautiful pool and garden area, this tiny cooking school is a dream for any traveler.
Dolce Vita tour, the Dolomites, Italy
Whole Journeys takes private groups of eight or more on a food journey through the Dolomites, tasting gourmet takes on the region’s classics like apple strudel and goulash. There’s a lot of hiking involved, but stops along the way include a luxury spa, a pasta-making class, several meals cooked by Michelin-starred chefs in gorgeous locales, and a wine tasting in the chalet-style cellars of the Ciasa Salares hotel.
The Fat Hen, Cornwall, England
Founded by Caroline Davey—a peripatetic food enthusiast who grew up in Hong Kong, England, and Botswana—the Fat Hen offers both set courses and bespoke cooking and foraging itineraries. Hiking the surrounding area and searching for ingredients is the main draw of this “wild cookery school.” Programs include seaweed foraging, game cookery, artisan bread-making, and a food cycling day in which guests can search for their ingredients by bike.
Thailand for Foodies, Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand
This impressive itinerary comes from one of the world’s most trusted food-centric travel companies, Artisans of Leisure. The seven-day tour takes travelers through some of the country’s most highly regarded culinary sights. Visitors can shop the local markets for ingredients with chefs and learn to cook native dishes like steamed duck with tamarind sauce and deep-fried fish with lemongrass. In Chiang Mai, there are culinary excursions to the local nighttime food stalls and long walks through the rice paddies in surrounding areas.
Gastronomic Gulet Cruise, Turkey
After boarding a traditional Turkish wooden sailboat about 40 minutes from the city of Bodrum, travelers begin a culinary jaunt that includes exquisitely prepared meals on deck, as well as day trips to the Carian coast and such towns as Knidos and Bozburun, where guests spend time in the kitchens of chefs and local cooks learning to make Turkish dishes. The journey ends with a trip to a family-owned olive farm in Lydae, where visitors are schooled in the process of making olive oil.
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