Some travelers cross the world for a look at a beautiful building; others sail the seas for a glimpse of rare wildlife. And then there are those of us who brave long layovers and cramped flights for the chance to savor the flavors of the world. Culinary travel is as varied as the cuisines of the world.
Some trips focus on cooking, others on eating and drinking. You can find trips that are totally independent, guided just for you, or join a group of likeminded individuals in pursuit of great flavors. Culinary vacations can be all white tablecloths, or they can be down-and-dirty affairs full of foraging and harvesting. The world is your oyster … and your brisket, enchilada, and vindaloo. So dig in.
Embark on an immersive Spices, Rice Barges, and Tea Plantations tour through the southern tip of India with Gourmet on Tour. Stay on spice plantations and on houseboats and be invited into the kitchens of experts in the local cuisine, which heavily features fresh seafood and coconut. Cultural exploration and cooking classes make up the trip, which can be either eight or 12 days.
The Deal: Prices start at $2,580 (based on double occupancy) per person for eight days or $3,080 for 12 days. The cost includes transfers, accommodations, most meals, private guided sightseeing, cooking courses, tours, and excursions, but not airfare.
Dates: Available year-round, though the recommended season is October through March.
Contact: Gourmet Tours via website or email.
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Europe River Cruise
There's no rule that says you need to stay rooted in one place to discover its culinary riches. In recent years, Avalon Waterways has tripled its culinary-themed river cruises, and this year it will be offering nearly a dozen food-, wine-, and beer-themed European itineraries. Wine appreciation cruises cluster around the October harvest season, while beer cruises are offered throughout the year. And its food-themed Paris to Normandy Landing Beaches sailing departs on March 22. Onboard cooking and pastry demonstrations, food and wine pairing dinners, cheese and wine tastings, culinary shore excursions, and an onboard master of wine round out the culinary offerings on the ship.
The Deal: Deluxe stateroom prices for the eight-day cruise, including culinary events, shore excursions, and some gratuities, are $3,148 per person.
Dates: Sailing departs March 22.
Contact: Avalon Waterways via its website or by phone: 877-797-8791.
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Hudson Valley, New York
Inn-to-Inn Cooking Vacations from Vintage Hudson Valley combine sightseeing and hands-on classes taught by award-winning local chefs at a different inn each day. Take a single class or opt for the three-day series—each two-hour morning class is followed by a four-course meal and the rest of the day is open for sightseeing.
The Deal: $185 per day or $525 for the three-day series of classes and lunches. Accommodations are not included in the course fee.
Dates: One Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in July; dates TBD.
Contact: Maren at Vintage Hudson Valley Email.
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The name alone is mouthwatering. Edible Destination's Tuscany, Truffles, Town Tours, Cooking and Wine itinerary is a seven-day exploration of the heart of Tuscany. Home base for your grand culinary tour will be a restored 19th century villa. During the week, you'll eat, drink, and learn your way around Siena, Montepulciano, Assisi, and Perugia with cooking classes, a truffle hunt, and a chef's tasting dinner.
The Deal: $3,498 per person based on double occupancy. The price includes six nights' accommodations, tours, classes, and daily breakfast, and some meals.
Dates: Sunday to Saturday, April to October.
Contact: Edible Destinations.
Discover a UNESCO treasure during Los Dos Cooking School's Yucatan One-Week Culinary Workshop. Explore Merida's markets, sample your way through regional cuisine, learn to make the perfect tortilla from local Maya women, and enjoy plenty of cooking instruction with Los Dos' Chef David Sterling.
The Deal: The five-day, six-night trip to Merida, Mexico is $2,950 per person for standard accommodations or $3,375 for luxury accommodations. The price includes accommodations, day trips, city tours, cooking classes, daily breakfast and lunch, some dinners, and all transfers. The group size can be as small as two people.
Dates: The trip is offered year-round.
Contact: Los Dos.
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Intrepid's Real Food Adventure- Thailand is an eight-day culinary journey through Bangkok and Chiang Mai. This small-group trip (they range in size from 1 person to 12) takes travelers through bustling markets "spread out over land and water" and into locals' homes for meals. Slurp noodles in Bangkok, watch palm sugar being made, take cooking classes, and explore the delicious intersection between food and culture in Thailand.
The Deal: The eight-day tour starts at $1,090, depending on dates, and include accommodations, experiences, transfers, and meals.
Dates: Tours are offered most months this year.
Contact: Intrepid Tours at 800-970-7299.
Amateur and professional BBQ lovers unite at Jack's Old South Cooking School in Unadilla, Georgia, about two hours from Atlanta. Taught by BBQ legend Myron Mixon, the competition-style two-and-a-half day program blends big meals with serious classes on ribs, chicken, brisket, pork, and more.
The Deal: $795 gets you two days of BBQ instruction and meals, plus a meet-and-greet dinner on the Friday night. There are discounts for signing up more than one person at a time. Accommodations aren't included in the price.
Dates: The next class with openings is from April 8 to 10.
Contact: Jack's Old South.
With its rich culinary history and current reputation as an innovator on the food scene, Spain's Basque Country holds untold edible wonders. On Tenedor Tours' 10-day Essential Basque Country tour, you'll go local with market strolls, meals at traditional restaurants, visits with local winemakers and food producers, a tapas crawl, and guided walks through the region's most beautiful cities and towns.
The Deal: The 10-day tour can be customized or adjusted, but the recommended itinerary, which includes guided tours, market and farm visits, cooking classes, day trips, and dinner at a Michelin 3-star restaurant, comes out to about $3,000. This does not include hotel bookings or most meals.
Dates: Flexible; this is a private trip.
Contact: Tenedor Tours via email.
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Turn Any Vacation into a Culinary Vacation
Add culinary splendor to any vacation with a cooking class or a food tour. If you're on a budget or want a more varied vacation, this is absolutely the way to go. For instance, you can:
- Take a late-night tapas tour in Madrid with Adventurous Appetites.
- Try out a two-and-a-half-hour Vietnamese cooking class at Gioan restaurant in the town of Hoi An. Shop at the local market then learn to cook authentic Vietnamese dishes.
- Tour Barcelona's famous Boqueria Market or sit down to a seven-course Gaudi-inspired meal with Xavi and Nico, the duo behind the Hidden Factory.
- Head to a converted 19th-century molasses warehouse in New Orleans and learn to create gumbo, jambalaya, and pralines in a class taught by a local chef.
- Take a hands-on gnocchi workshop or an eat-and-learn course on flavor pairings at NYC's Eataly, where there's something new going on each day.
Honorable Mention: Stay at Julia Child's Home Starting 2017
Though it's not slated to open for cooking retreats until 2017, anyone with a Julia Child obsession should have the opening of Courageous Cooking, La Peetch Ecole de Cuisine in Provence. The summer course will be held at La Pitchoune, the former summer home of Julia and Paul Child. The weeklong retreat will help timid chefs channel their unflappable inner Julias—and your hosts promise to clean up any omelets on the ceiling and powdered sugar gone awry.
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- 10 Dream Trips You Can Actually Afford in 2016
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Read the original story: Amazing (and Delicious) Trips for Culinary Voyagers by Christine Sarkis, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.