Culinary Vacations: Letting Your Taste Buds Lead the Way

Plan your vacation based on a region’s food and drink.

Woman offers bite of food with chopsticks to her male partner iStock

On the streets of Bangkok, the scents of spices and other enticing fragrances mingle in the air. A street vendor offers you grilled chicken or pork skewers, while the one in the stall next door is selling sweet coconut milk jelly. The range of foods around you is vast and steeped in tradition and culture. All your senses are tantalized. This is culinary travel.

It’s common to plan trips based on landmarks and scenery, but what about planning trips based on meals? Today, there’s a trend among travelers to seek unique culinary adventures and flavors to experience the culture and character of a place.

“Food is the skeleton key to great travel. If you follow the food, you’ll find whatever else you’re looking for—the people, the adventure,” said James Rigato, chef at the popular Mabel Gray restaurant, located in Michigan.

Immerse yourself in a food experience.

Imagine catching your own salmon on a guided trip in Alaska. Or visiting Tokyo and taking Japanese cooking classes to learn the art of preparing sushi, ramen and more.

Culinary tours provide a way to immerse yourself in the culture, the community and the place in a way that’s quite different from visiting a museum or a castle. These tours provide a peek into the way of life and the nuances that make a dish special and traditional. And having to work a little for your meal leads to a new level of appreciation and understanding.

Quote from James Rigato, chef at Mable Gray in Michigan

Some city tours even give you the option of spending a day with locals, shopping in the market and then bringing the ingredients back to their home to prepare and enjoy together.

Young couple buying nuts and candy at a local food market iStock

Food markets provide a front-row view.

Food markets are another way to experience local life. Traditionally, travelers flock to landmarks and landscapes to gain an appreciation of a place. But culinary vacationers veer toward local markets, finding real-world experiences that sensuously showcase regional and seasonal fruits, vegetables, fish, fowl, and meat, while also providing a view of everyday life.

A traveler can witness the interaction between a grocer and a customer haggling over the price of a melon. Or see how a keen-eyed sushi chef banters with a fishmonger in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market while evaluating the catch of the day.

“People are looking for an authentic travel experience that’s found in the unique food and dining customs of the local culture,” says Sarah Henshall, vice president of travel and branch operations for AAA Carolinas.

Hands holding phone taking a photo of kebabs iStock

Social media platforms spotlight culinary tours.

Social media channels play a prominent role in culinary travel, providing digital display cases via food selfies and things like patisserie livestreams, allowing followers to hit save and remember them for their next vacation.

Photos of mouthwatering foods from all over the world are a finger tap away. And it makes sense that the trend has taken off: Culinary tours enhance our understanding of the world’s diversity in taste and tradition. We’re linked to the nature of a region and the deeply rooted connections that nurture both body and soul.

So whether you choose to take an Italian cooking vacation to learn to make pasta, or you decide to visit the food markets of South Korea, enjoy your adventure—and every bite!

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