A little-known fact about our appetites: they are great compasses for finding the most authentic and memorable experiences. Heck, you can (and should) travel the globe guided solely by what your stomach wants.
Inspired by our friends at Taste Vacations, a new luxury tour company offering culinary adventures around the world, we have come up with eight reasons to travel on the account of food.
1. Garner new inspiration for culinary pursuits.
Thumbing through a foreign cookbook is great and all, but actually breathing in the aroma of freshly-made pho at a bustling Vietnamese market will spike your cooking inspiration twofold. So don’t be shy—after trying something new and amazing, ask for the recipe and make it at home. Since you’ve tried the real thing, you’ll know how your variation stacks up and will be able to improve on it each time.
2. You’ll meet people who love to eat as much as you.
Traveling alone? Or simply looking to connect with like-minded foodies while abroad? There are plenty of opportunities for food-lovers to convene abroad and take part in group dinners, tour groups, bike trips and cooking classes tailored exclusively to taste buds. The Zephyr Adventures‘ food tour to Basque Country in Spain, for example, takes groups on a luxurious trip to a Rioja bodega during harvest season and offers hiking or biking options each day.
If you can’t commit multiple days to a guided excursion or just want something a little rougher-around-the-edges, never fear—most food-focused cities offer walking culinary tours and opportunities to see behind the scenes at food production facilities.
3. Try ingredients you can’t get in your hometown.
Ever seen rambtan at your local Walmart Supercenter? Didn’t think so. Even though we live in a world where you can get bananas in Maine, there are still a multitude of incredibly good ingredients that are only available where they are grown or in major trade cities.
4. Mingle with the locals.
Since it’s a common curse that all people need to eat, marketplaces, bars and restaurants are the best places to meet and chat with locals. Take your dining recommendations from these people and steer clear of obvious tourist traps. There is absolutely no reason to go a HardRock Cafe when in Rome.
5. Learn the history of an area through the food.
Food (and the lack thereof) has played a huge part in our world’s history—wars have been won on account of who had a better food supply and some countries rely almost exclusively on a single crop for survival. Study up on your chosen destination’s food history before arrival, then see the marks it’s made firsthand when you visit.
6. Dine the cuisine of world-renowned chefs.
Much like a museum, landmark or city ballet, there are countless restaurants around the world that can justifiably be destinations all on their own. Take Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, which has been ranked 2014’s best restaurant in the world. Co-owner and chef Rene Redzepi serves up 20 small plates to the tune of $296 a person and the items can be as eclectic as Nordic-style pancakes wrapped around preserved fish. Bet you don’t get that in your town.
7. See the origin of your favorite foods.
It can be pretty easy to take that package of rice at the grocers for granted. But visit the rice paddies in China and you’ll see just how much labor goes into producing rice for the world’s most populous country. Staying stateside? Visit an orchard, family farm, or production facility.
8. Food and drink festivals.
No matter where you are in the world, people love to celebrate. Thankfully for us, they typically do so with food. Before you plan your next trip, take a look at the festival schedule for the area you’re visiting and see if there are any particular events you’d like to attend. In the fall, these food-specific festivals are particularly fun in the states and if you’re going abroad, check out the German Christmas Markets or L’Escalade, Geneva’s chocolate festival this winter.