Traveling the globe with your taste buds is one of the most exciting and sensorily stimulating ways to experience our vast and complex world.
All countries, and often their various individual regions, are treasure troves of unique ingredients, cooking styles, and recipes worth traveling the distance for. From Morocco to Italy, Japan to Mozambique, every country’s local food scene has something special to offer your palate. Flavors, spices, textures, and colors—each one as unique and unreplicable as the cultures they’re born from.
But what, in addition to incredible meals and exotic drinks, is it about culinary tourism that makes it such an unmissable travel experience? The truth is, there isn’t just one answer.
Here, we’ll peel back the layers of culinary tourism and tuck into what makes it such a satisfying and stimulating way to experience our beautiful world.
What is culinary tourism?
Culinary tourism, also known as food tourism or gastronomy tourism, is traveling with the specific intention of exploring food in various native regions.
Food is a big part of traveling. However, if you’re a chef, home cook, or general foodie, shaping your journeys abroad around the kind of ingredients, cooking methods, and food history of your destination can be an illuminating and educational experience.
Of course, pretty much every travel experience involves eating regional cuisine or trying out local drinks, but culinary tourism places food at the center of everything. This typically entails planning journeys based on restaurants or agricultural regions, attending local cookery classes, and, of course, indulging in as much local cuisine as possible.
5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Experience Culinary Tourism
Food is integral to human life. And there are as many ways to live life as there are communities and cultures spread across the globe. Preparing and eating food is a practice that brings people together, honors traditions, and gives you insight into the nature of a country’s unique community bonding structure.
If traveling by bike is the best way to see a country, then traveling by food is the best way to feel a country.
Let’s elaborate on that notion by taking a look at a few reasons why culinary tourism should be on every traveler’s bucket list:
- Discover new dishes and flavors
One of the first and most obvious benefits of experiencing culinary tourism is that you get exposed to an enormous variety of new flavors, dishes, and ways of thinking about food.
When traveling to a new country with the specific purpose of absorbing its food culture, you’re likely to be introduced to a whole new world of ingredients, flavors, and aromas that you wouldn’t experience anywhere else. This can make your trip an extremely stimulating and memorable experience.
- Learn how to cook different foods
If you want to truly immerse yourself in a city or region’s food culture and relationship with food, consider participating in a cooking class or workshop as a part of your culinary tourism experience.
All countries naturally take pride in their native recipes and food processes and are very happy to share them with people who show them adequate respect and appreciation.
Furthermore, learning how to cook traditional meals and products will mean you come away from the experience with much more than a full stomach. You’ll return with a wealth of practical knowledge that can be used to recreate those flavors once you have returned home.
- Become educated on the cultural and food history of a country
Did you know that guinea pigs are an age-old Peruvian delicacy, that Vindaloo comes from Portugal and not India, or that many of the mocktails we enjoy today were made famous during the prohibition era in the US? Food culture is deeply intertwined with a nation’s history. The ingredients and recipes that feed a country are often the result of social, cultural, and political changes that are all well worth learning about if you want to fully understand the value and meaning behind their most celebrated dishes.
When you experience culinary tourism, you get the privilege of discovering the heart and soul of a nation—one that has likely endured a rich and complex history. The stories behind each dish can change the way you experience eating them and allow you to forge a deeper relationship with the land you explore.
- Experience local community and hospitality
The world is filled with passionate, talented, and loving people who derive genuine pleasure from preparing and sharing incredible meals; you just have to seek them out.
Culinary tourism can be about visiting the region’s best restaurants and eating food prepared by the most critically acclaimed chefs, or it can be about finding hidden gems, immersing yourself in local communities, and experiencing food the way everyday people from that region eat.
As culinary expert and avid traveler Anthony Bourdain once said:
"Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It's inseparable from those from the get-go."
Approaching culinary tourism with a genuine desire to experience local cuisine and hospitality is a powerful way to get to know a nation. Plus, it means you get to meet a variety of interesting, passionate people, many of whom may have preserved local recipes for several generations.
- Expand your palate and worldview
Ultimately, culinary tourism is about deepening and expanding your worldview. The delicate balance of flavors, textures, care, and history that goes into a dish or a drink can tell you much more about a country than any clinical hotel stay will, and you’ll likely walk away feeling more satisfied.
On another level, culinary tourism is a great way to broaden your taste bud horizons and familiarize your palate with flavors and textures you wouldn’t encounter anywhere else. It’s a beautiful way to learn about the world and all its differences, one mouthful at a time.
A journey of taste
From street food to fine dining, good food can feed more than just your body. It can also feed your mind, your senses, and, some might even say, your soul. Experiencing the depth and complexity of a country through your taste buds is one of the most rewarding things this world has to offer and something everyone should get to experience at least once in their lifetime.
So, next time you’re planning a trip, let your palate guide the way and find out what delights and deliciousness are out there, just waiting to be discovered.