For many travelers, food is a major part of a good vacation. Whether it’s sipping a local wine, shopping at spice markets, or trying street food, seeking out local food and drink helps travelers connect to a location on a deeper level. And culinary tours help travelers go deeper into a destination’s rich food culture.
Travelers looking to taste their way around a place with the help of local experts and guides, there are travel tour companies that lead culinary tours. Some focus primarily on tasting all the deliciousness offered by local producers, growers, and restaurants; while other tours provide the opportunity for participants to try their hand at cooking local cuisine as well.
Tour Companies Specializing in Culinary Tours
No matter which approach you take, it’s impossible to go wrong—or go hungry. Here are the nine best tour companies (in no particular order) for culinary-focused tours.
1. EF Go Ahead Tours
EF Go Ahead Tours is group travel tour company that’s part of EF Education First, which offers experiential learning programs focused on language, travel, cultural exchange, and academics in more than 100 countries and regions. EF Go Ahead Tours leads travelers on a range of immersive, experiential tours of 87 countries on all seven continents.
The company offers a variety of food and wine tours throughout Europe and South America, including tours where participants taste and sip their way around places like Spain, Greece, and Tuscany and Umbria. Most tours have average ratings of 4.7 out of 5 stars or higher and win praise for their mix of culinary and cultural experiences.
THE SCOOP: What to Know About EF Go Ahead Tours
Since 2019, EF Go Ahead Tours has partnered with America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) on an exclusive collection of culinary tours to Italy, Spain, and Portugal. These tours dive deeper into the cuisines of each region, with hands-on experiences and a look at the local food culture from sourcing to preparation to table.
EF Go Ahead Tours believes that smaller groups make for better, more immersive travel experiences, and its culinary tours tend to fall between 12 and 22 travelers. Itineraries include a mix of guided tours and group meals with free time for exploring destinations on your own. Participants get exclusive access to world-famous restaurants and tasting cellars, tips and recipes from local experts, and hands-on experiences like chef-led cooking classes and behind-the-scenes tours. ATK tourgoers also receive free access to America’s Test Kitchen’s recipes and product reviews.
Quick Facts about Culinary Tours with EF Go Ahead Tours
- Average guided tour group size: Between 12 and 22 travelers
- Price range: Culinary tours start at $3,309 per person.
- What’s included: Transportation while on tour, accommodations, meals and tastings, hands-on experiences
- What’s not included: Airfare and airport transfers (participants have the option to book flights through EF Go Ahead Tours and will get airport transfers if they do), tips, optional excursions
- Destinations for culinary tours: Europe and South America
2. Explore Worldwide
Since 1981, Explore Worldwide has been providing tours that combine familiar sights with off-the-beaten-path experiences led by expert local tour leaders. The company offers more than 400 trips in 120 countries on all seven continents, and tour group sizes average 12 participants.
In October 2022, Explore launched its new series of “Food Adventures” all over the world and now offers more than a dozen food- and drink-focused tours that examine each destination’s culture and history through food. Participants learn about the traditions and origins of the regional cuisine and often see firsthand how things are grown and harvested. Along the way, travelers get to sample plenty of local delicacies and even sometimes try their hand at cooking them. Tour options include food adventures through countries like Japan, India, and Peru.
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Travelers can also find recommendations from the company for tours centered around particular types of cuisine or dietary restrictions, like suggestions for the best vegan trips (the Taste of Vietnam food tour is a good option here) and the best tours for vegetarians (for instance, the Jordan food adventure).
Culinary tour descriptions on the company’s website offer information on the sights and foods for each itinerary, including number of included meals, trip pace, day-by-day itineraries, details on local climate and currency, and reviews from past guests. Travelers also have time to explore some of the sights at their leisure and make their own food and drink purchases.
Quick Facts about Culinary Tours with Explore Worldwide
- Average guided tour group size: 12 guests
- Price range: Explore’s culinary tours start at $1,440 per person and go up to $5,730
- What’s included: Accommodations, meals (amount varies by tour), tour excursions
- What’s not included: Flights to and from tour start/end points, some meals, guide gratuities
- Destinations: Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, South America, Middle East
Global guided vacation company Trafalgar offers food travel tours that “go beyond what’s on your plate.” Offered in locations around the world, these tours allow travelers to dine with and learn from locals, see where food comes from, and learn how to cook regional dishes.
Popular itineraries include Tastes and Sounds of the South, a 10-day tour on which travelers can sample everything from Creole cuisine to hot chicken, and the California Coast Food and Wine Trail, a seven-day trip on which participants enjoy locally made cheese, award-winning olive oil, and, of course, wine.
THE SCOOP: What to Know About Trafalgar Tours
Food figures prominently in many of Trafalgar’s nearly 300 guided itineraries across 72 countries and seven continents, even if the tours are more broadly themed. Market visits, information about unique traditions and customs, and sampling of local cuisine are part of tours like a German Christmas markets trip, the Paris Explorer tour, and the Georgia and Armenia Uncovered trip.
Tour descriptions offer day-by-day itineraries and information about accommodations, plus the number of included meals, so you know what you’ll be seeing and tasting. Reviews provide further insight into the experience.
Quick Facts about Culinary Tours with Trafalgar
- Average guided tour group size: Guided tour group sizes differ depending on trip type and travel destination; average group size is 45 max
- Price range: The average Trafalgar trip costs $3,000; itineraries range from $1,500 to $12,000
- What’s included: Accommodations, VIP entry to iconic sights, most meals, coach transportation, airport transfers, luggage handling, some gratuities
- What’s not included: Pre- and post-tour airfare, optional experiences, some meals
- Destinations: Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North America
4. Gourmet on Tour
When Gourmet on Tour started offering food holidays more than 20 years ago, culinary tourism wasn’t on the menu for many travelers. Fast-forward to now and company founder Judith von Prockl has visited more than 500 cooking schools and developed hundreds of culinary experiences around the world.
Gourmet on Tour offers two kinds of experiences. Residential cooking courses—typically in France and Italy and lasting about a week—include daily cooking classes as well as demonstrations, gourmet meals, and visits to local markets and producers. Options include experiences in France’s Loire Valley and the Veneto area of northern Italy.
The company also offers group tours on specific dates and tailor-made culinary tours and cooking courses that can be scheduled at any time. Much-loved destinations include Italy, France, Spain, and Morocco, and the trips have become popular with families with teenagers (as well as with other types of travelers). On the Taste of the Med trip, travelers stay in a villa and learn to cook Italian food with a private chef, and also visit local sights and attractions. The Taste of Morocco tour includes cooking classes, shopping at souks for spices, and other tasty experiences.
The company prides itself on its insider access, unique accommodations, and connections with chefs and guides. Trip advisors help travelers find the right itineraries for their travel preferences and interests, whether they’re wine lovers or novices, want to perfect their cooking skills, or would rather just taste what others prepare.
Quick Facts about Food tours with Gourmet on Tour
- Average guided tour group size: 2 to 8 people
- Price range: Tours range from $1,900 to $5,000
- What’s included: Accommodations, cooking courses, food tasting tours, most meals, transportation
- What’s not included: Pre- and post-tour airfare
- Destinations: Asia, Europe, Morocco
5. Intrepid Travel
Intrepid Travel’s focus on immersive experiences, community-based tourism, and responsible travel makes it an ideal company for food-centric travel tours. Intrepid aims to help travelers “get under the skin of the world’s most exciting food cultures” in a truly local way.
The company’s “Real Food Adventures” take travelers to delicious locations in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas, where they can taste their way through a place. On the Vietnam Real Food Adventure, for example, participants visit markets, sample street food, and enjoy all kinds of special meals and experiences. The Balkans Real Food Adventure includes visits to a centuries-old smokehouse, olive mill, and apple farm, while travelers on the Peru Real Food Adventure learn how to make ceviche and a Pisco sour and eat empanadas just out of the oven.
Tour descriptions include an “Is this trip right for you?” section that contains information about vegetarian and vegan options and what to expect when it comes to weather, terrain, and accommodations. Daily itineraries, reviews, and photo galleries further help with the decision-making process.
Quick Facts about Culinary Tours with Intrepid Travel
- Average guided tour group size: 12 people
- Price range: Food tours range from $1,560 for a nine-day Cambodia tour up to around $8,000 for a 17-day Spain and Portugal tour
- What’s included: Accommodations, transportation during the tour, most meals, included activities
- What’s not included: Airfare, traveler’s insurance
- Destinations: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, Middle East
If you want to burn some calories while eating your way around Europe, consider one of the Active Culinary Tours from adventure tour company Backroads. These trips combine walking and hiking with cooking classes, memorable meals and tastings, and visits to local farms, so you can sip and sample while staying fit.
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Options are limited but totally tempting: The Provence Active Culinary Walking & Hiking Tour in France includes scenic hikes past olive trees, cypress groves, and orchards; a picnic lunch at a winery; and a hands-on cooking class. Not to be outdone, the Tuscany Active Culinary Walking & Hiking Tour in Italy features wine tastings, a vineyard picnic, a pasta-making demonstration, and plenty of strolling through the countryside.
Tour descriptions include a detailed itinerary, info about the local terrain and reviews from past guests. Travelers have the ability to choose their activity level on most days, with options for shorter or longer walks, hikes, and rides at different elevations.
Quick Facts about Culinary Tours with Backroads
- Average guided tour group size: 16 people
- Price range: $4,349 to $5,849
- What’s included: Accommodations, most meals, guides and experts, transportation during the tour, private guided tours at sights and attractions as listed on the itinerary, all gratuities at hotels and restaurants, special events (like wine tastings) as listed on the itinerary, park and other entry fees, baggage transfers and porterage
- What’s not included: Airfare, trip leader gratuity, some alcohol
- Destinations: France and Italy
7. Butterfield & Robinson
Luxury tour company Butterfield & Robinson is known for its high level of service and creative trip design. Its food and drink tours are no exception, with itineraries that take travelers through renowned food and wine regions on foot or bike for unique culinary experiences.
That might mean biking though Italy’s Piemonte wine country or France’s Burgundy wine region while stopping to sample local vinos along the way or walking the Amalfi Coast and enjoying unforgettable meals at day’s end. Tour descriptions online provide basic itineraries as well as info about the accommodations, trip equipment, and activity level required for the trip.
Travelers have the option to extend their stay before or after the tour and can also create bespoke tours for groups of family or friends. And even tours that aren’t specifically cuisine or wine focused, like a biking tour of Southern Japan or an active tour of Uruguay, offer travelers plenty of chances to sample local food and drink.
Butterfield & Robinson’s food tours tie in the company’s sustainability efforts, such as a focus on hyper-local, farm-to-table spots and producers. By taking this approach, the company believes it creates tours that provide “more than a culinary experience; it’s the feeling of belonging.”
Quick Facts about Culinary Tours with Butterfield & Robinson
- Average guided tour group size: 12 people, with a maximum of 16
- Price range: Small group trips start at $5,995
- What’s included: Accommodations; most meals and wine; guide(s) and support vehicle; special events, private tours, guest experts, and entrance fees; a reusable water bottle; all gratuities for baggage, porters, and hotel service
- What’s not included: Pre- and post-trip airfare
- Destinations: Europe and South America (for tours listed on the food and drink tours page), also Asia, Africa, and North America for other tours
8. Avalon Waterways Culinary Cruises
A European river cruise already makes for a special way to see the Continent. But Avalon Waterways has Culinary Cruises that amp it up a notch with samples of regional cuisine, demonstrations, special dinners, and a Master of Wine on board guiding wine and food pairings and tastings.
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The company’s culinary cruises in France are standouts, providing access to both picturesque sights and views (think cathedrals, charming cities and villages) and amazing French cuisine and wine. Options include cruises that travel through Burgundy and Provence and a 15-day journey along the Rhone and Seine Rivers. Other cruises travel on the Danube exploring countries like Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
Cruise descriptions include an overview of locations and sights visited during the trip and daily itinerary, details on what’s included, and information about the ship on which passengers will travel. Extension options are also available before and after cruises.
Quick Facts about Culinary Tours with Avalon Waterways
- Average guided tour group size: Cruises have an average of 150 passengers
- Price range: Starting prices for culinary cruises range from $2,700 to around $9,000
- What’s included: All accommodations, all meals, wine/beer/soft drinks with lunch/dinner, complimentary Happy Hour each day, all AvalonChoice excursions
- What’s not included: International airfare. Gratuities are up to guests and can be paid in advance if desired.
- Destinations: Rivers in Europe
9. The International Kitchen
When The International Kitchen was founded in 1994, the original owner had to convince Italian and French chefs to participate in tours. That’s no longer the case as culinary tourism has gained serious popularity, and the company now offers trips to 18 countries aimed at helping travelers explore the culture of a destination through food.
The International Kitchen specializes only in culinary tourism, offering both food tours and cooking vacations. As a small, boutique company it gives travelers lots of personalized attention. That includes things like arranging extra hotel nights or custom trips, and the company calls itself “a one-stop shop for the trip of a lifetime.”
Tours to Italy, Greece, and Portugal are always popular options. Favorites include a Mediterranean cooking experience on the Amalfi Coast, a food and wine tasting tour in Puglia, and a “cooking odyssey” in the Greek isles. The company also offers excursions in other locations around the world, including Croatia, Peru, Thailand, and Morocco.
Tours are typically three to seven nights in length and include cooking classes, tastings and local producer visits, and plenty of of good meals. Tour descriptions online include daily itineraries, reviews, and info about accommodations, and travelers can search tours by categories like “hidden gems” and “good for solos.”
Quick Facts about Culinary Tours with The International Kitchen
- Average guided tour group size: 2 to 12 people
- Price range: Most tours run between $3,500 and $4,500 for a week
- What’s included: Accommodations, cooking classes, cultural tours, tastings, transfers and transportation, meals
- What’s not included: Pre- and post-trip airfare, gratuities
- Destinations: Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East