Cooking vacations are a unique and delicious way to learn about another culture. So many of our traditions are tied to food and what foods are native to different regions have had a huge impact on their cuisine, customs and daily life. And what better time to go all-out and indulge on some truly decadent meals than on vacation. Foodie vacations continue to rise in popularity and they’re not just for wealthy gourmets.
Erik Wolf, executive director of the World Food Travel Association, tells Forbes: “From research we did in 2007 then again in 2013 we saw that while our consumer is better educated, he or she wasn’t necessarily any wealthier than other travelers. Everyone likes good food and you don’t need to be rich to afford it.” So if you love to eat and learn about different cuisines, here are 10 foodie vacations that offer the perfect combination of food, culture and fun.
1. Journey Through Vietnam
VBT’s 13 day bicycle trip through Vietnam, beginning in Hanoi and finishing in Saigon. Along the way you can soak up the local culture, visit the amazing Dong Xuan food market, take a private cooking class at Saigon Cookery Art and participate in a tea ceremony with the Monks at Thien Mu Pagoda. Don’t be intimidated by biking your way through Vietnam—it’s an easy route, even for beginners.
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2. A Mexican Expedition in the Yucatán
The International Kitchen offers cooking vacations in Yucatán’s capital city, Mérida. Spend a week in a gorgeous boutique hotel, Casa Lecanda, touring Mayan ruins and learning Yucatecan cuisine at Chef David Sterling’s renowned cooking school, Los Dos. The itinerary includes learning to make tortillas from local Mayan women and visiting Hacienda Vista Alegre, a distillery that makes Yucatan honey/anise liqueur Xtabentun as well as a variety of rums.
3. Jade Mountain’s Discover Chocolate Festival
The Chocolate Festival at St. Lucia’s Jade Mountain Estate belongs at the top of your list of cooking vacations. Learn everything cacao and chocolate from bean to bar. Enjoy the traditional St. Lucien Chocolate Tea (Yum!). Activities also include a truffle workshop and chocolate spa treatments. All with stunning St. Lucia as a backdrop.
4. A Taste of Barcelona
Epitourean takes you to the home of the Mediterranean Diet for seven days and six nights of gorgeous architecture and delicious food. Your trip begins with a guided walking tour with tastings along the way. Learn to make tapas, paella and sangria, then visit the Chocolate museum and visit Catalan chocolatiers. It’s a sensory delight!
5. Oaxaca: Culinary Adventure
Go on a six day culinary adventure in Oaxaca with Willing Foot. Visit a Mezcal distillery, learn to make Nixtamal masa and visit the central market with local top chef Alejandro of Casa Oaxaca. Your trip ends with a Temazcal purification ceremony with a local shaman so you can reflect on all you’ve learned.
6. Flavors of South Africa
Zicasso takes you on an 11 day journey to South Africa beginning in Cape Town, then heading to the Stellenbosch Winelands and winding up at the Aquila Safari Game reserve. Along the way you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about African cuisine, take an Afrikaans cooking class and celebrity chef Cass Abrahams gives a class on Cape Malay cuisine. The trip also includes an extravagant evening of cooking at home with chef Sophie.
7. North Carolina Barbecue Society
The North Carolina Barbecue Society offers two-day boot-camps with pit masters who give you all the barbecue tips and tricks to make you a grilling star this summer.
8. Patricia Wells
Author and cooking instructor, Patricia Wells, opens her 18th century Provençal farmhouse to a limited number of students for several week-long cooking classes on the art of French cuisine. She also has a Paris studio that she opens for a few weeks each year. And if you really want to specialize, try her Black Truffle Workshop.
Miami is known for beautiful beaches, beautiful people and fabulous cuisine. Miami Culinary Tours offers day-long food tours of South Beach, Wynwood and Little Havana. You can also book private group tours if you prefer taking foodie vacations with friends.
10. Culinary Paradise in Italy
Spend a week touring beautiful Umbria with Food & Wine Vacations. In addition to cooking classes, you will visit a cheese farm and go truffle hunting in Norcia. There are also cheese, olive oil and cured meat tastings. Pure heaven!