What makes a great holiday for you? For some a sun-soaked beach is enough; others want to explore interesting places, or get right into local life. And if food’s your big thing, travel takes on a whole new dimension. Of course, if that’s you, you already knew that. But did you also know that holidays for foodies aren't just about swanky city restaurants? Many of our sunniest holiday destinations and their hotels are also perfect for food-lovers like you.
I’ve picked out some of the best ways to tickle your taste buds without missing out on all the other things you love about our holidays.
1. Eat well in the Mediterranean
If you can’t get enough of the fresh flavours (and promises of a longer life) that come with the classic Mediterranean diet, just wait till you try your favourite dishes in their home countries on your food holiday. Crisp Cypriot and Greek salads; perfectly balanced Spanish paellas, with different versions to try in different regions; and aubergine like you’ve never tasted before in Turkey. And if you love a good sharing platter, you’re in for a treat when it comes to Spanish tapas and Greek or Turkish meze menus.
Even better, our Sunprime Hotels in Greece, Turkey and the Spanish Islands should be right up your foodie street (and they’re just for adults too). My top tip? Head to the Sunprime Dogan Side Beach and you’ll be in foodie heaven, with a great à la carte restaurant of its own and plenty of places to eat nearby.
2. Find the best food in Italy
The land of pizza, pasta and risotto has to be one of the world’s best holiday destinations for food-lovers. Whether you’re into seafood or sweet dishes, wherever you go you’ll be treated to delicious, fresh flavours, from the simply dressed pesce crudo (raw fish) served in the narrow streets of Venice to the wonderful pastries created every morning by Amalfi’s traditional bakers. Actually, if you’re staying on the Amalfi Coast, take the boat over to Capri and you might even see someone famous at the next table as you tuck into your spicy anchovies.
Other brilliant destinations for an Italian food holiday are the Neapolitan Riviera (the best takeaway pizza you’ve ever had), Rome (check out the trattorias in the Trastevere district) and the island of Sicily, where the arancini rice balls are simply incredible.
And how could I forget the desserts? Gelato, tiramisu, panna cotta; I don’t know about you, but my mouth’s watering just thinking about it.
3. Try Croatian cuisine for more Italian flavours
What if you’ve already done Italy and love the food but want to go somewhere new this year? Well, I think Croatia could be just the place for you. The food in the Dalmatian region has a definite Italian influence but with a twist all of its own, so you should have a fantastic time checking out the menus and sampling all the traditional dishes.
Croatia’s quite a different place from Italy, though, giving you that change of scene you’re craving. Think fantastic Mediterranean beaches, imposing forts and castles, the quaint city of Dubrovnik and beautiful islands to explore, plus plenty of places you might recognise from Game of Thrones, and that’s just the start.
4. Visit San Francisco for Californian fusion food
California’s famous for its fusion food, fast food, health food and seafood, and right at the heart of it all is San Francisco. This wonderful, eclectic, inclusive city makes a dream holiday for foodies, with a real melting pot of cultures from all over the world. You can expect all kinds of cooking smells to make your mouth water as you explore, from Mexican chillies to proper American apple pie. Look forward to the simple delights of the local sourdough bread, the Italian-style cioppino fish stew, huge Mission burritos and, of course, the famous San Francisco clam chowder.
It’s true that San Francisco does a good steak, but don’t ignore all the creative vegetarian and vegan dishes you’ll find on the menus. They’re big here, so even if you usually stick to the meat section, you should give them a try; I think you’ll really enjoy them. It’s amazing what magic those health-conscious San Francisco chefs can do with plain old tofu.
5. Eat at a Thai night market
Those Thai curries you wolf down at home are nothing compared to the flavours of the real deal over in Thailand itself. Take yourself on a little tour around the night markets on your food holiday, for aromas to get your tummy rumbling, then take your pick and tuck right in. Plus, the food in Thailand isn’t just delicious, it’s good value too. In fact, Thailand’s fairly easy on the pocket all round; you can even stay in the most stylish hotels for less than you might pay elsewhere (oh, and in case you haven’t heard yet, it’s not just a backpacker destination these days). While you’re there, you might even be tempted to join a cookery class so you can recreate the local food at home.
If you like the idea of going further off the beaten track, how about an adventure in Cambodia or Vietnam? Not only are they eye-opening destinations, they’re also a real treat for your palate. Like in Thailand, think freshly cooked street food and amazing spice combinations.
6. Tuck into South African specialities
Have you heard of bobotie? Tried it? Well, head on over to South Africa, the mecca of holidays for foodies, and prepare to savour the national dish of spiced mince topped with a combination of egg and milk and baked to perfection. Other typical foods in South Africa include the dry cured meats (such as biltong) that you might already be familiar with, aromatic Cape Malay curry and battered snoek (a type of mackerel) with chips.
There are some top-quality restaurants in South Africa, especially in the famous Winelands, but I was surprised by how much South African street food there is, including various sandwiches like the foot-long Gatsby. And don’t miss your chance to tuck into South African ‘bunny chow’ when you’re out and about. It’s curry served in a bread bowl, and completely unmissable.
7. James Martin meals on Thomas Cook flights
Ok, so it’s not a destination but I’m very excited about this, so bear with me. You can get your food holiday off to a flying start (sorry) before you even arrive. You might not know this, but our own inflight menu was created by top telly chef James Martin, so make sure you add meals onto your Thomas Cook Airlines flights if they’re not already included. He’s thought of everything, with tasty options for special diets, like vegetarian and gluten-free, so you can look forward to some great flavours as you fly. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better way to whet your appetite for what’s in store when you land.
Right, now that you’re sold on the dream of savouring the food of big-name chefs while you travel, you should definitely consider a cruise. With people like Cornelius Gallagher, Atul Kochar and Marco Pierre White involved in some of the best restaurants at sea, you’re in for a foodie treat.
As you've just discovered, there's lots of food to enjoy all around the world, but you can also indulge yourself just as much at home. If you're heading off on holiday soon, you can enjoy amazing discounts at hundreds of restaurants in the UK, with a free, year-long membership to the Gourmet Society. All you have to do is reserve & collect £500 or more of travel money, or visit one of our stores to buy your currency. Find out more here.
What’s the best foodie experience you’ve ever had on holiday? Where’s your stomach telling you to go next? And have you been to one of our Sunprime Hotels yet? Fill me in on your own foodie adventures using the comments below.