Foodies will relish these unique culinary experiences from travel specialist members of The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO)’s consumer research has seen interest in gastronomy and wine experiences grow steadily over the past three years, and the category is ranked in the top 10 special interest holidays, alongside gardens, wildlife, walking and city breaks. Join food bloggers to unearth local specialities in Vietnam, learn to cook regional dishes in Andalucía’s hidden High Alpujarras or savour Sicily’s diverse cuisine and learn the art of slow cooking in Piedmont – food lovers are well-catered for with this mouth-watering selection of gastronomic getaways in 2018.

Culinary Crete – from £3,240 pp with Martin Randall Travel
With a culinary history dating back to the age of the classical Greeks, the island of Crete offers a distinctive gastronomic experience. Feast with a shepherd in the mountain foothills, taste wine at a vineyard overlooking the ancient site of Gortyn, and meet restaurateurs championing Cretan cooking on a new eight-night Gastronomic Crete tour, departing 30 September. The price is from £3,240 pp (two sharing), including flights (Heathrow), hotel accommodation, private coach travel, most meals, all wine and food tastings, and dinner at Nykterida, Babis Mastoridis’ pioneering restaurant overlooking Souda Bay. The trip is led by Rosemary Barron, a food writer and Greece specialist. Call Martin Randall Travel on 020 8742 3355 (www.martinrandall.com).

A gastronomic adventure in Vietnam – from £2,995 pp with InsideVietnam Tours
Uncover the secrets, flavours and origins of Vietnamese food on this 13-night culinary journey. With the help of local guides, chefs and food bloggers, you’ll sample the best street food and homegrown specialities, join locals in their homes for dinner, learn how to replicate the flavours of Vietnamese cuisine in your own kitchen and even get to work in the paddy fields. If you’re a fan of Vietnamese food and have a passion for cookery, this is the trip for you. Departing throughout the year, Gastronomic Trails of Vietnam costs from £2,995 pp (two sharing), including 13 nights’ B&B, all transfers, six lunches, seven dinners and activities as stated in the itinerary. Flights extra. Call InsideVietnam Tours on 0117 370 9758 (www.insideasiatours.com).

Hill walking and hearty eating amid Italy’s Sabine Hills – from £790 pp with On Foot Holidays

Photo of Cotanello by Dave Beales, courtesy of On Foot Holidays

Starting in the hilltop town of Contigliano, 60km north east of Rome, this self-guided walk explores the Sabine Hill’s green ridges, scenic pastures and fortified villages, ending at the famous abbey of Farfa. The guesthouses en route offer wholesome home cooking that’s perfect for tired trekkers. Juicy olives and rustic breads are prominent, while tasting menus come packed with prosciutto. Optional gastronomic extras include an Italian cooking course at La Torretta, a historical house in Casperia, and foraging fun at agriturismo Il Fienile di Orazio in Misciani. A walking tour of the Sabine Hills costs from £790 pp (two sharing), including six nights’ B&B, two picnics and three evening meals. Departures available until October (excluding late July and August). Flights extra. Call On Foot Holidays on 01722 322 652 (www.onfootholidays.co.uk).

Learn to cook like a local in Andalucía – from £1,345 pp with Ramblers Walking Holidays
Discover the hidden region of the High Alpujarras in rural Andalucía and sample the delicious regional cuisine, learn how to cook local dishes and explore traditional villages on foot. Forage for ingredients for an outdoor paella cooking demonstration with local chefs, soak up Almería’s lively food hall and fish market, take a fascinating wine tour of an award-winning bodega and visit a local cheese producer and olive oil mill. Naturally, there will be a chance to sample the prized local speciality Sierra jamón near the village of Yegen. Departing 3 June and 14 October, the seven-night Ambles in the Alpujarrastrip costs from £1,345 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick), transfers, hotel accommodation and all meals. Call Ramblers Walking Holidays on 01707 331 133 (www.ramblersholidays.co.uk).

Gastronomic Walking in the Dordogne – from £3,565 pp with Kirker Holidays

Photo courtesy of Kirker Holidays

Perfect for expert oenophiles and amateur wine enthusiasts alike, this holiday offers an intimate insight into the wine-tasting process as well as leisurely walking through France’s beautiful Dordogne region, and a short break in La Ville Rose (the Pink City) of Toulouse. Travelling in a small group, led by Francophile James Tamlyn, visit an array of vineyards, enjoy tastings with Minette Constant (Master of Wine) and feast on delicious cuisine, paired with local wines. After a week of walking and gastronomic indulgence, transfer by private car to Toulouse for a two-night stay. Departing 12 October, Treading the Grape costs from £3,565 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick), nine nights’ accommodation with breakfast (two in Toulouse, seven in the Dordogne), and seven lunches & dinners. Call Kirker on 020 7593 2283 (www.kirkerholidays.com).

A sensory food journey like no other in the Loire – from £999 pp with TravelEyes
Uncover the gastronomy of the Garden of France, the Loire Valley, sampling mouth-watering chocolate, wine and patisserie amid scenery and châteaux as historic as they are beautiful. Based in Orléans, you’ll discover France in the most sensory way possible – through its famed food and drink – but with an added twist: half of your travel companions will be blind, and half will be fully-sighted. The sighted travellers simply guide and describe to a different blind partner each day, and in return, they learn how to explore with all their senses and travel for up to 50% less. The seven-night Loire Valley – Ancien Régime trip departs 21 August and costs from £999 pp (two sharing), including flights (London City Airport), B&B, excursions and the services of a tour manager. Call TravelEyes on 0113 834 6094 (www.traveleyes-international.com).

The art of slow cooking in Piedmont – from £760 pp with Fleewinter

Photo courtesy of Fleewinter

Venture to scenic Piedmont in Italy’s gastronomic heartland and learn how to recreate its wonderful cuisine in your own kitchen. There’s more to this region than chocolate and truffles: roll up your sleeves, don your chef’s hat and get up close and personal with tasty local produce and ingredients such as peaches, hazelnuts and the rare white truffle, and learn the origins and art of ‘slow cooking’. You’ll prepare several regional dishes and discover how Italians turn a simple meal into a passionate love affair, under the guidance of a number of experienced chefs. Departing April-November, the four-night Piedmont Culinary Journey costs from £760 pp (two sharing), and includes B&B accommodation, activities and excursions as stated. Flights and car hire are extra. Call Fleewinter on 020 7112 0019 (www.fleewinter.com).

Discover the gastronomic soul of Portugal in the Alentejo – from £1,059 pp with Sunvil
This little-known region of south-central and southern Portugal produces a wonderful array of regional delicacies and is responsible for almost half of the country’s wine production and 90% of its olive oil. Discover the culinary delights of the Alentejo on this seven-night journey, where you’ll taste a mouth-watering array of dishes, from sheep’s milk cheeses and organic asparagus to black pork, chestnut specialities and delicious egg-based desserts, as well as world-renowned wine. Departing March-December, the Discover the gastronomic soul of Portugal trip costs from £1,059 pp (two sharing), including return flights (Gatwick), eight days’ car hire, B&B accommodation and a three-course complimentary tasting menu at the wonderful family-run wine estate, Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, in Albernoa. Call Sunvil on 020 8758 4722 (www.sunvil.co.uk).

Savour Sicily’s eclectic cuisine – from £3,525 pp with Peter Sommer Travels

Photo by J Sibley, courtesy of Peter Sommer

Home to a wonderfully vibrant culinary tradition, Eastern Sicily boasts an abundance of delicious local produce and an array of cooking styles, drawn from the many peoples who have graced its shores, from the Byzantines and Arabs to the Normans and the Spanish. Led by knowledgeable tour guides who have lived and worked on Sicily for many years, sample almond granitas in Noto, savour complex red wines on the slopes of Mt. Etna, and taste olive oils and chocolate prepared using age-old methods, among other delights. Departing 22 and 29 September, A Gastronomic Tour of Sicily costs from £3,525 pp (two sharing), including seven nights’ B&B, six lunches & four dinners, excursions and transfers. Flights extra. Call Peter Sommer Travels on 01600 888 220 (www.petersommer.com).

A gastronomic nod to the North in Yorkshire – from £815 pp with Inntravel
Explore the best of Yorkshire’s culinary fare on this foodie four-night break, combining scenic self-guided walks, exclusive access to Yorkshire’s food producers, and dining experiences at some of the area’s best restaurants. Observe the art of cheese-making at the Botton Village Creamery; take a tour and taste the wines of the Ryedale Vineyard, the most northerly commercial vineyard in Britain; learn how Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil is made; and dine at Andrew Pern’s Michelin-starred restaurant, The Star at Harome. Stay at three premium hotels along the route, including the luxurious Talbot Hotel in the historic market town of Malton. Departing April-November, the Yorkshire Gastronomic Holiday costs £815 pp (two sharing), including four nights’ B&B, three dinners (including a 5-course tasting menu), two picnics, guided visits, route notes and maps. Call Inntravel on 01653 617 000 (www.inntravel.co.uk).

Foodie heaven in Peru’s gastronomic cities – from £1,849 pp with Llama Travel
Peru is renowned for its cuisine and offers a variety of exotic produce certainly not found on the shelves of UK supermarkets. Discover why Lima is known as the foodie capital of South America in an optional cooking class and visit the fascinating local food market, or try traditional Andean cuisine prepared by the Misminay community in the dramatic Sacred Valley near Cusco. In the city itself, a variety of tempting restaurants await adventurous foodies. Departing throughout the year, the 14-day Incas & Conquistadors and The Jungle trip combines gastronomic experiences with wondrous wildlife-watching and costs from £1,849 pp (two sharing), including flights (London), transfers and B&B accommodation. Call Llama Travel on 020 7263 3000 (www.llamatravel.com).

Local food experiences and island adventures in the Azores – from £1,295 pp with Artisan Travel
With its subtropical climate and fertile soil, the Azores boasts a rich culinary heritage. On the spectacular island of São Miguel, discover one of Europe’s oldest tea plantations, learn about the archipelago’s favourite fruit on a tour of a pineapple farm and taste ‘Cozido das Furnas’, a meat stew slow-cooked underground using the heat from geothermal vents. Other activities include whale watching, swimming with dolphins and a visit to the lava tunnels of Gruta do Carvão. Departing weekly from 7 April to 13 October, the seven-night Volcanic Wonderland trip costs from £1,295 pp (two sharing), including flights (London), transfers, seven nights’ B&B, five lunches and guided excursions. Call Artisan Travel on 01670 785 085 (www.artisantravel.co.uk).

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