Cooking & food vacations guide

Taste can trigger our most intense memories, like the bit of petite madeleine that instantly evoked a dreamy past in Proust's A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu. Food-focused trips stimulate all the senses: eyes feast on colourful markets, loud with the call of traders and sizzle of food stalls, with a local guide to help you bargain or banter. Tempting smells waft everywhere, while hands cradle on-the-go snacks or sun-warmed fruit. Take a break from the stove or take a cooking lesson with passionate locals eager to share favourite recipes.
Food reveals many secrets about a place: the people's connection with the land, the barter of the markets, the love poured into the preparation and the rituals of serving and eating
But you don't need to be a foodie zealot to adore a foodie trip. Our cooking and food vacations offer a global menu for every taste: squeezing ripe fruit at the market as your tour leader helps you haggle; weighing out a rainbow of spices to bring to your lunchtime cookery class; browsing street food stalls by day or night; living with a farming family whose lives revolve around creating food from the ground. This cooking & food vacations guide helps you hand pick the ingredients to whip up the perfect food-focused trip for you.

Cooking and food vacations...

...are a multi-sensory pleasure

Cooking and food vacations...

...won't make you fat - you'll be too busy!

What we rate & what we don't

Underrated

Finnish food

Seafood plays a crucial role in Finnish cuisine, with salmon and herring firmly on the menu, either fresh or smoked; and like other countries in the region youll find hearty meat dishes such as meatballs and sauted reindeer, and well as plentiful wild food. One of the great joys of Finnish summer food breaks is foraging in the forest for mushrooms, juicy red berries and herbs.

Regionality

The world's great food destinations offer diverse regional cuisines rather than simple national blueprints. In India, Keralan food reflects Muslim and Syrian Christians influences very different to Goas Portuguese and Hindu nuances. China's Sichuan dishes have a fiery DNA very much their own, and local menus in Sicily will be very different to Tuscany.

Slow food

Born in 1980s Italy, the Slow Food movement counters fast food and package meals by encouraging small regional producers and traditional cuisine as a vital part of eco-aware sustainability. From a handful of good folk in Italy, the organisation now boasts over 100,000 participants in 150 countries celebrating the joys of true local sustenance.

African food

So amazing are sub-Saharan Africa's wildlife, culture and vistas, its distinctive food gets overlooked. Enjoy spicing quite unlike India or Asia; unique local fruit and veg; novel meats like oryx and zebu; flavourings like peanut and vanilla; superb Kenyan and Tanzanian coffee. Diverse colonial influences shine too, from Polynesian and French in Madagascar to German in Namibia.
Rated

Indian food

Forget curry. Indian cuisine is full of subtlety, diverse ingredients, and regional variation rarely represented in 'Indian menus' in the West. Music first hand a vast vegetarian tradition, novel Eastern ways with dairy, or the multitude of ways spices and oils create subtle flavours in one of the world's most striking culinary destinations.

Italian food

Italian cuisine is so much more than soggy pasta in gloopy tomato sauce. The Silver Spoon an Italian cooking bible compiled 50 years ago features over 2,000 traditional recipes. No wonder a proper Italian meal runs to maybe six courses: distinctive antipasti appetisers, risotto or pasta, then both fish and meat courses, plus sweet stuff and cheeses. Bravo!

Cooking

Learning to cook local dishes from hosts adds wonderful extra understanding and enjoyment of a destination. It broadens the experience from the word go hunting for ingredients makes you engage with food sellers like a local not a visitor. And knowing how to cook a dish makes it part of the rest of your life not just your vacation.

Good seasoning

Foods taste better in season fresher plus more nutritious for not being warehoused for ages or transported long, planet-harming food miles. Harvests are also a cue for special menus and celebrations: wine tastings globally; autumn truffles in France and Italy; October saffron festivals in Spain; mid-autumn Chinese shindigs; or ancient Sri Lankan New Year feasts held in April!
Overrated

Snobby foodies

Enjoying food is a universal pleasure not sign of cultured sophistication. Foodie should be a good tag, based on open-minded interest in all foods, producers and places to eat as intrigued by foraged food in an Asian market as at the latest trendy restaurant. Humbleness and curiosity are the watchwords - beware food snobs obsessed with trappings not the essence.

Whale meat

Whale meat is still on menus in Iceland, Norway and Japan, though tourists drive most of this tragic trade based in the mistaken belief that whale is a key traditional meat. But only a few percent of locals eat whale. For better local treats, try Iceland's Arctic lobster, tuck into plentiful Norwegian elk in Norway or Japan's dazzling seafood alternatives.

Swanky restaurants

Fine dining has its place mainly in the dreams of poncey food pages. Too often it focuses on glitzy surroundings and needless tizzying with ingredients or pandering to 'international' tastes - rather than just celebrating fantastic local flavours. Get a real taste of your destination by finding the diners or food stalls where locals flock.

Winery visits

Too many vineyard visits involve standing in front of vats getting stats and/or visiting a bland tasting room to sip reds needing more breathing or whites needing more chilling. Instead, ask to venture into the fields for a real sense of terroir, or try the wine paired with local nosh in a village brasserie.

Our top Cooking & food vacations Vacation

Vietnam small group vacation, a food adventure

Vietnam small group vacation, a food adventure

Exotic 2 week culinary and cultural tour of Vietnam.

From US $2025 12 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2018: 30 Dec
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Cooking & food vacations or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

How to choose a
cooking & food vacation

On some activity breaks you might fancy your chances spotting fellow participants from afar - their aura of fitness perhaps, or relevant kit. Not on cooking and food vacations unless you can spot curious taste buds at 10 paces! These trips draw a range of folk as eclectic as the broadest ingredient list. What will unite you is a passion for learning at firsthand about wonderful cuisines while discovering the land and culture from which they sprang.

To decide what kind of vacation is right for you, ask yourself a few simple questions. Do you want a significant part of the trip to involve hands-on cooking lessons or are you keen to have a total break from the stove? Do you want to be based in one place or would you like to move around a region to experience different places and diverse local culinary traditions?

You also need to decide whether you'd rather be based in one place a rural farmstay, for example, or just in one city, or whether you'd like to be on the move around a region to experience different places and diverse local culinary traditions all on one trip.
Also consider what level of guiding you want. Some trips are hosted throughout, and youll often be traveling as part of a group of a dozen or so people on an escorted itinerary. Other trips you can do solo or just with your partner, with far more time to yourself a self-catering agritourism break with a few cooking lessons, perhaps, or a totally self-guided trip where the operator will provide you with suggestions but you are free to please yourself.
Of course youll need to decide which country's cuisine you want to dip into. You may have a passion for a particular kind of food or the appeal of the setting may be just as important as what's on the plate think tropical shores, rustic backwaters or pulsing street life. And don't assume you have to travel far for amazing new experiences 'familiar' countries like Italy or Spain can surprise and delight as much as 'exotic' spots like Mexico or Cambodia.
Its also worth bearing in mind that you don't need to be a full-on gastronome to enjoy a food vacation. There are plenty of trips that combine foodie exploits with a host of other activities so you aren't just thinking about whats going in your mouth next.
Written by Norman Miller
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