13 best vacations for foodies

Whether you like learning to cook a new cuisine at home or letting someone else do the hard work for you, these 13 destinations will have your tastebuds tingling.
Shrimps Pad Thai, Thailand's national dishes. Photo: Shutterstock
Shrimps Pad Thai, Thailand's national dishes. Photo: Shutterstock

Last Updated 21 July 2023

Perhaps travel writer Deborah Cater put it best: "You have to taste a culture to understand it." We couldn't agree more. Cooking your way around the world from your own kitchen or planning your next food-centric getaway? Do yourself a favour and check out these 13 best destinations for foodies.

1. Mexico

Mexican cuisine barely needs an introduction (it's that delicious). Street food has its own sub-culture, especially in Mexico City. Here tacos, tortas, and tamales steal the show, with las taquerías to be found in virtually every neighborhood. 

Downtown favorite Salón Corona is known for its mouthwatering tacos al pastor, a popular dish made with savory pork and small corn tortillas. Meanwhile, El Vilsito in Narvarte is famous for its gringa dish: an extra-large taco prepared with melted cheese and a soft, flour tortilla.

Hungry yet? Our local expert can plan your next trip to Mexico – where you can try these mouth-watering dishes.

2. India

Eating in India is a treat for the senses. To get an authentic taste of Indian culture and cuisine, speak to our local expert who can organize your next trip (when it is safe to travel, of course) from start to finish. You'll discover the food is highly seasoned yet subtly spiced, its flavor-packed dishes are quite different than the Indian food you're used to back home. 

Mealtime also kicks off on the later side, with locals typically sitting down for dinner at around 9 pm. In the mornings, you'll likely find puri and curd breakfasts or fresh idly-wada-chai coffee.

 Come evening, Veda in Mumbai offers up inventive, modern dishes and a solid wine list. For something a little easier on the wallet, try Amethyst in Chennai. Its tranquil garden cafe is an experience in itself. Wherever you eat, do be sure to take precautions by opting for bottled drinks, no ice, and cooked hot food only. 

3. Argentina

If you're a meat-eater, Argentina was made for you. This South American gem produces some of the world's most luscious, succulent beef imaginable, which is precisely why Argentina is famous for its huge, tender steaks. 

Its wines are also superb, making for a lovely combination (we suggest sipping a full-bodied Malbec with your steak). That said, you can score the best dishes in a parilla (steakhouse) or an asado (barbecue). 

La Cabrera in Buenos Aires is a popular parilla that serves up gigantic cuts of top-grade beef alongside a mix of tapas-style sides. In other words, it's a stunner. Our local expert can plan your trip to Argentina when flights are rescheduled, where you can score these dishes and more.

4. Italy

We couldn't very well leave Italy off our list of best vacations for foodies. The pasta, the rich sauces, the complex olive oils; and that's not even taking into account the breathtaking wine regions and top-notch gelato vendors. What can we say? Italian food just tastes better when in Italy.

If you find yourself in Florence, you can't leave without a meal at Acqua al 2. The fresh cheeses, homemade pasta, and refreshing limoncello are all to die for. As far as pizza goes, the world-renowned L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples is writer Elizabeth Gilbert's personal favorite (she sang its praises in Eat, Pray, Love). Talk to our local expert who can create a trip itinerary to include the most authentic food in Italy.

5. Vietnam

Vietnam definitely makes the cut of top foodie destinations. While Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are brimming with upscale restaurants with tasty dishes of their own, we'd argue that the best eats are actually to be found outside. We're talking about street food, and Vietnam has some of the best. 

These streetside shacks are hidden jewels, whipping up steaming noodles, beef stew with vegetables, fresh fruit, rich coffee and more. In the north, enjoy sliced pork with vermicelli. Down south, lime juice and coconut milk make an appearance on most plates. Travel on Insight Guides' Vietnam Culinary Experience trip and learn how to make these mouth-watering dishes.

Vietnamese pho with spicy sriracha sauce.Vietnamese pho with spicy sriracha sauce. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Singapore

Speaking of street food, Singapore is another foodie paradise that's known for its hawker centers. Scattered throughout the island are local vendors eagerly preparing everything from Malay cuisine to Chinese fare to Indian favorites.

Singapore's best-known dishes include spicy chili crabs, kicky fish-head curry, and laksa (rice noodles mixed with curried coconut gravy and sprinkled with a mix of fish and bean sprouts). 

7. Peru

Lima has certainly earned its nickname as the gastro capital of South America. Experimental and forward-thinking, the Peruvian capital is the place to be for elevated takes on ingredients like highland potatoes, wild Andean berries, and alpaca meat. 

Restaurants like Malabar, for instance, work with farming cooperatives in the Amazon to highlight exotic, sustainable ingredients. Maido is another must-visit restaurant that specializes in Peruvian-Japanese fusion. The final product is refreshingly inventive. Speak to our local expert to visit all of the foodie highlights in Peru.

8. Thailand

Thai cuisine is wonderfully diverse, with regional styles and varying cultural influences all coming together in a way that delights the taste buds. Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Yunnan all influence Thai food in unique ways. 

In the south, the coastal city of Phetchaburi is said to have the best palm sugar in the country, making for some pretty exquisite desserts. Khanom mor keng, a celebrated yellow bean pudding, is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. In other regions, expect tea-leaf salads, curries (some spicier than others), soft-shell crab, black-fried squid, and many other culinary delights. Learn how to make these culinary delights and more on Insight Guides' Bangkok Gourmet holiday.

9. France

The traveling foodie will definitely want to add France to their bucket list. Lyon, about four hours southeast of Paris, is arguably the food capital of France. This is where you'll find a beautiful fusion of haute cuisine, charming bistros, and tiny cafes, all serving up the very best French food in the country. 

Typical menu items include everything from wild game to pork to foie gras. For an authentic taste of the region, try Cafe des Federations, an award-winning bouchon famous for its andouille, tripe, and tête de veau and ris de veau (veal's head and brains that's rumored to be delectable). 

Awaken your palate on a gourmet tour included in our Insight Guides' Luxury Paris trip, or speak to our local expert in France who can plan a holiday to Lyon for you.

French escargot, snails a la bourguignonne.French escargot, snails a la bourguignonne. Photo: Shutterstock

10. Japan

Japan's food scene is a mish-mash of upmarket eateries and hole-in-the-wall locales. Both serve up fantastic Japanese fare if you know where to look. Either way, Japanese culture comes to life vibrantly in the food, with the preparation and presentation being just as important as taste. 

Regardless of what region you find yourself in, fresh seafood, edible roots, local vegetables, and even flowers may make their way onto your plate. From sushi and sashimi to kaiseki ryori (haute cuisine), authentic Japanese dishes are fresh, light, and worth exploring.

11. Nepal

This Himalayan country is known for its generally light fare and indigenous goodies like potatoes, lentils, peppers, and more. Local Nepalese dishes also use signature spices like coriander, turmeric, cumin, and other complementary spices.

According to The Culture Trip, rice is the must-have staple of Nepalese cuisine. A tasty variation is called vegetable pulao, which spotlights aromatic fried rice and warm spices usually served with yogurt. Like many other dishes in Nepal, it's satisfying, balanced, subtly spiced, and packed with flavor. Chat with our local expert in Nepal and get a taste of these flavourful dishes for yourself.

12. Costa Rica

Rice, black beans, tropical fruits, and local vegetables are standard parts of any Costa Rican meal. Don't expect to see too much cheese and dairy; instead, Costa Rica is all about super-fresh produce and Brahman cattle. 

Take a page from the Matador Network's book and try chifrijo, a dish made up of black beans and rice, along with fried pork and pico de gallo, giving it a fresh kick of citrus and cilantro. This specialty is quintessentially Costa Rican (and sounds delicious to boot). Speak to one of our local experts in Costa Rica so that you can try this signature dish on your tailor-made holiday.

13. Spain

Foodies who appreciate the social aspect of the dining experience as much as the food itself will fit right in with Spain's food scene. Locals celebrate the act of coming together to break bread, making for dynamic, colorful restaurants. 

For elevated takes on classic dishes like Cocido (a chickpea, meat, and vegetable stew), give El Charolés in Madrid a whirl (once it's reopened, of course). And there's more to Spanish cuisine than tapas. Freshly caught fish, fragrant rice, and local veggies are evident in signature dishes like paella. Beef-filled empanadas and chilled gazpacho are other examples of traditional Spanish fare at its best. 

Need more foodie inspiration?

Check out the 10 healthiest cuisines around the world and dream up a guilt-free menu. Or see our Insight Guides guidebooks for the best restaurants and bars in the world.