Food tours are having a moment. Adam Shaw explores the best trips out there
Whether it’s sampling tasty treats at a bustling street food market or enjoying a traditional home-cooked meal with the locals, a country’s cuisine is one of the best ways to experience a destination – so it’s little wonder that food-themed tours are on the rise.
Intrepid Travel reported a 55% increase in bookings for its culinary range compared with 2022, while several operators have expanded their food and drink offerings this year too. Explore has introduced six food‑themed packages for 2023, spanning Peru, Japan, India, Jordan, Italy and Georgia.
Programme manager James Adkin says: “I think one of the best things about travel is the food – it allows you to fully engage all your senses and gives you a deeper understanding of the culture. And locals love it when visitors are enthusiastic about their food. Even if there’s a language barrier, you can still appreciate great food.”
Although such tours cater primarily to those with an interest in food and drink, operators are keen to stress that they can offer much more.
“It’s never 100% food; you get all the other highlights that you would expect on a regular tour,” says Adkin. “We want to make sure there’s at least one food experience each day, but we also want to showcase the people, history and culture of the places we visit.”
Best for: Cheese lovers
A Taste of Georgia: Tbilisi to the Caucasus Mountains – Explore
Shared borders with Turkey and Armenia ensure some real treats for gastronomes and wine lovers alike in the cradle of wine. And it all comes together in this Explore tour, a highlight of which is a khachapuri masterclass in Tbilisi, where they’ll be taught about the regional varieties of this warm cheese-filled bread, considered Georgia’s national dish.
But there’s plenty more to Georgia’s cuisine besides cheesy bread. “When I visited, I hadn’t appreciated how much of a foodie destination it is. There’s so much for visitors to try that they might not have been aware of,” says Adkin.
In the country’s wine region of Kakheti, guests can taste wines made in large earthenware vessels, before sharing a traditional mtsvadi (barbecued kebabs) lunch with a local family.
More hands-on activities include making aubergine rolls stuffed with walnut paste as part of a cookery lesson in Mtskheta. Georgia’s cultural heritage is just as compelling as its food and wine, as evidenced by visits to the Narikala and Gremi fortresses, the Jvari Monastery and the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Explore’s eight-day tour departs 30 September 2023, explore.co.uk
Best for: Vegans
South Korea Real Food Adventure – Intrepid Travel
Veganism is on the rise. Last year, Intrepid Travel decided both to keep up with this growing trend and promote eating habits that have less impact on the planet, adding vegan experiences to all its culinary tours.
Chiming with a recent poll that saw the country’s cuisine ranked as the world’s favourite, Intrepid’s Hazel Maguire, general manager for the UK and Europe, recommends heading to South Korea, where one of the operator’s bestselling foodie tours includes a plant-based celebratory dinner during a stay at Golgulsa Temple.
Other vegan-friendly culinary experiences on the tour include a kimchi cooking class, where guests make pancakes out of the spicy fermented veg; a demonstration on how the traditional red chilli paste gochujang is made; and a craft brewery tour in Jeonju.
For tour meals, participants who would prefer plant-based alternatives will be catered for with meat-free substitutes and a range of other local vegan dishes, including soybean and sprout soup or aubergine dumplings. The eight-day tour departs 18 September 2023, intrepidtravel.com
Best for: Art and culture
Parma to Florence: Italy’s Culinary Highlights – Exodus Travels
Southern Italy’s cucina povera (kitchen of the poor) and its many meat-free dishes make it a favourite with vegetarians, but it’s good to see provinces farther north getting in on the act, offering visitors the chance to eat globally popular cuisine while experiencing Italian culture at its best through Renaissance art and architecture.
A new tour from Exodus combines these via a journey through Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, mixing a range of classic food-themed experiences with visits to the arts-rich cities of Parma, Bologna (named world capital of food by Condé Nast Traveller last year), Modena and Florence.
Food experiences include sampling classics such as Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar and Brisighello olive oil with local producers, taking part in a Sangiovese wine tasting and joining a cooking class led by a local chef to make a traditional Bolognese dish.
“We visit small-scale authentic producers who are always happy to evangelise about local produce and its place in regional life,” says Tom Wilkinson, senior product manager at Exodus. The seven-day trip with Exodus departs on 3 October 2023, exodus.co.uk
Best for: Walking up an appetite
Tapas Trails – Ramblers Walking Holidays
If clients want to combine walks through spectacular scenery with stops for equally stunning food, this new trip mixing countryside strolls with food and wine experiences in northern Spain and the Basque Country – home to more than 20 Michelin-starred restaurants – should prove irresistible.
Highlights include tapas trails in Logrono and Barcelona and a pintxos tour in Bilbao, where, by visiting a series of bars, clients can try typical bites such as salted cod and veal cheek alongside Riojan wines.
Wine figures large, with a tasting session at Vivanco, one of the world’s largest wine museums, in the Rioja region, as well as the chance to sample cava at the Caves Llopart winery on the outskirts of Barcelona.
The Basque Country walks take in the high points of the Tolono and Pagasarri mountains, along with ancient forests outside Bilbao and rolling vineyards near Laguardia. The 10-day tour departs 26 September 2023, ramblersholidays.co.uk
Best for: A no-fly feast
A Taste of Yorkshire – Shearings
Cheese, ales, confectionery and stunning scenery don’t have to involve overseas trips – the UK has plenty for clients to sink their teeth into, including a new tour from Shearings that explores the best that Yorkshire has to offer.
A visit to the Wensleydale Creamery gives guests a chance to sample this king of English cheeses, freshly made, while real ale fans will be able to sup bitters, IPAs and stouts at the Black Sheep Brewery.
The tour also takes in a gentle meander around the cobbled streets of York – home of the Rowntree’s and Terry’s brands – to learn about its longstanding relationship with confectionery, plus the chance to make chocolate, and enjoy a classic fish and chip supper in Whitby.
But it’s not all about the food and drink – exploring picturesque Dales villages such as Ripon, Aysgarth and Hawes, and climbing aboard a steam train to ride the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, are experiences as moreish as the region’s cheeses. Shearings’ five-day trip departs 28 August 2023, shearings.com/agents/login
Best for: Wine lovers
A Taste of Veneto – Jules Verne
Clients can take in the best of the Venice region’s wine alongside cheese and meat boards in a classic bàcoro (a typical wood-furnished tavern), as well as sampling some of the area’s best grappa in traditional wine cellars. The tour departs 3 October 2023, vjv.com
Best for: A quick bite
Four Days in Marrakech – G Adventures
Customers who are short on time can experience an immersive foodie trip with this brief Moroccan tour that includes making an authentic tanjia – a tagine cooked in a special clay pot overnight – and a visit to a bakery to sample khobz, a thick, round loaf that is similar to pita. The three-night tour departs on 5 October 2023, gadventures.com