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Sizzling Hot Summer Culinary Destinations

by Cris Puscas

The go-to resource for choosing your dream culinary vacation. Find all you need to know about the top destinations and ways to elevate your cooking skills & knowledge.
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Think of summer and, no doubt, endless sunny days, azure waters, sandy beaches, and outdoor meals will come to your mind.

For the Northern Hemisphere, summer also means the peak of the travel season. Activities abound and, among them, scrumptious culinary vacations are an excellent way to get to know new cultures, try new foods, and learn cooking techniques.

Ready to plan your sizzling and tasty culinary trip this summer? Read on and discover delicious destinations, their traditional dishes, and what to expect in terms of weather & entry requirements.

Note: BookCulinaryVacations offers a flexible cancellation policy. Should you not be able to travel as scheduled, we’d be happy to help you alter your booking with the same organizer or a different organizer.

 

Crete, Greece

Chania, Crete, Greece

 

The largest and most populous of the Greek islands, Crete is not only blessed with sun, sea, and sand, but has one of the oldest gastronomic traditions in the world.

While the cuisine of Greece has similarities across the regions, the Cretan diet is known to be one of the healthiest in the world, featuring fresh & healthy ingredients. It’s simple, yet so flavorful.

Home to more than 1.5 million olive trees, it’s no wonder that, on average, locals use 25 liters of olive oil per person, each year. By comparison, in the US, it’s about 0.5 liters/person.

Without a doubt, the staple of the Greek cuisine, the traditional Greek salad, has its own twist here, often using local, soft cheeses instead of feta.

Featuring tomatoes, barley rusks, and goat’s cheese, Dakos is a local staple. Olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano are also added to the dish.

Lamb (cooked with local greens), snails (Chochlioi boubouristi), and various pies add another delicious layer to this scrumptious Cretan cuisine.

Wash everything down with a local wine or a refreshing frappe coffee (iced coffee).

cooking in crete

Photo credit: Aegean Flavours

Due to its location, summers in Crete last long and start in May. The gorgeous weather lasts well into October. But most of the visitors come in July and August, overlapping with the summer school holiday (in Europe).

Temperatures average in the lower 70s F / mid-20s C from June to August. So, bring your swimsuit and sunscreen.

Traveling to Greece in 2021

Residents from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and the UK, along with travelers from Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and the UAE are allowed to enter Greece.

A negative test taken no longer than 72h before arrival is required and so is the need to quarantine for 7 days (or 14 days if the person arrives from the UK). All passengers must complete the Passenger Locator Form (PLF).

Since late April, visitors from European Union, the United States, Britain, Serbia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, Rwanda, Singapore and Thailand. will be allowed to travel to Greece via the airports of Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Chania, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini, and Corfu, and two border crossings without quarantine by proving they are fully vaccinated, have antibodies or show a negative PCR test carried out 72 hours prior to their arrival.

For visitors from the UK and UAE, a second test is required upon arrival.

All visitors from abroad who have been vaccinated, have antibodies, or have a negative coronavirus test will be allowed into the country starting on May 15. (source)

What can you do in Greece in 2021?

Tavernas, cafes, and restaurants will open on Monday, May 3 and will only serve customers outdoors initially.  Until then, only take out is available. Either way, you’ll be spoiled for choice and you’ll certainly be able to enjoy favorite Greek staples.

 

»Read more: Why You Should Go on a Culinary Vacation in Greece

 

Tuscany, Italy

Florence, Tuscany, Italy

 

Throughout the eras, Tuscany has always been one of the greatest repositories of art in the entire world. Visitors flock here to discover the fine museums in Florence, while others simply look to rejoice in the calmness of the countryside.

And then, there are those who choose this Italian region for the mouth-watering dishes and incredible wines.

The staple Italian appetizer (antipasto), bruschetta here takes a different name: fettunta. The bread is toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with a lot of olive oil before being topped with tomatoes.

Stale bread gets a makeover in the form of Panzanella. Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olive oil, and vinegar are served on top of the bread.

In general, the cuisine features simple, cheap ingredients, which were easy to source by the local farmers. A tasty example is the vegan & gluten-free torta di ceci, made with chickpea flour.

Pasta dishes abound and wild game also makes an appearance even in ragù (the meat-based sauce that goes on top of pasta).

Craving something sweet? Gelato hits the spot no matter when you visit Tuscany!

italian ravioli

Photo credit: Francesco Private Cook

Tuscany’s climate is generally mild. It’s hotter on the coast and colder in the mountains and hills. July & August are the hottest months with temperatures averaging in the mid-70s F/mid-20s C and highs in high 80s/ lower 30s C. June, however, is a great summer month to travel to this Italian region.

Traveling to Italy in 2021

Residents of EU (except for Austria) and Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and the UK are allowed entry and must present a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival. A 5-day mandatory quarantine is in place for them. Mandatory testing after the quarantine time is also required.

Those arriving from Austria must present a negative test and will spend 14 days in quarantine and take another mandatory test at the end of the period.

Arrivals from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Rwanda, Singapore, and Thailand are also allowed entry and must provide a negative test. They also spend 14 days in quarantine and must not take public transportation to get to the quarantine location.

All arrivals from the EU (and the UK) must fill a self-declaration form.

Italy is aiming to fully reopen for tourists on May 15 according to this source citing Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia.

What can you do in Italy in 2021?

Non-essential travel between towns and regions is not allowed.

Italy uses a color-coded zones map based on the cases. In yellow zones (lowest risk), the restaurants and bars are open but have to close at 6 p.m. whereas, in red zones (highest risk), all non-essential shops are closed.

The nationwide 10 p.m. curfew remains in place.

»Read more: Why You Should Go on a Culinary Vacation in Italy

 

Andalusia, Spain

cadiz, andalusia, spain

A region of contrasts, Andalusia is home to charming beaches, glorious mountains, and ancient cities.

Spanning the entire south of Spain, its cuisine is a gorgeous mix of fresh ingredients, Moorish influences, and typical Spanish fare. It might just be one of the tastiest cuisines in Europe.

The star is, without a doubt, gazpacho, the cold tomato soup that delights the taste buds anywhere in Spain. In Andalusia, each restaurant has its own recipe!

With access to a large coast, seafood is present in plenty of dishes: from mojama – the salt-cured, filleted tuna- to las gambas de Huelva – the prawns from Huelva, espetos – skewers of sardines – and the famous seafood paella.

Potatoes and pork meant aren’t missing either, and for dessert, you might want to indulge in a hot chocolate!

spanish food in andalusia

Photo credit: Just Explore

Due to its varied landscape, the region has three climates. Cooled down by the breeze, Cadiz, on the Atlantic Coast, stays a balmy mid 60-70s F/ mid-20s C from June to September, with July and August being the warmest months. On the Mediterranean coast, Algeciras is slightly cooler, but comfortable in the high-60s F / 20s C.

Inland, Seville sees similar temperatures, but the peak summer months can be toastier.

Traveling to Spain in 2021

Travelers from most of the European Union, as well those from the UK, Australia, China, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand, and Uruguay are allowed to enter Spain without having to undergo quarantine. United States nationals are not allowed entry.

All travelers must complete a Health Control Form (HCF). Travelers arriving from 'risk' countries also need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours before departure.

Those flying into the Canary Islands need to show a negative test result, regardless of where they fly from, if they plan to stay in a tourist establishment.

Spain aims to reopen for overseas travelers starting from June under the Covid digital health certificate. Fernando Valdés, the country’s secretary of state for tourism said Spain would participate in a pilot digital certificate scheme in May and would be “ready to receive visitors in June”. (source)

»Read more details from official resources

What can you do in Spain in 2021?

Hotels are operating at limited capacity, masks are mandatory in both indoor and outdoor spaces, and other restrictions are regional.

There is a nationwide curfew in place from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Bordeaux, France

bordeaux france

Renowned for its wines, Bordeaux is a relaxed city that has an “English flair”. It may have been ruled by the British for a long time, but, nevertheless, it is now known as “Little Paris”.

And just like anywhere else in France, expect a mouth-watering cuisine. Between the land and the sea, you’ll enjoy a variety of traditional French dishes, as well as local staples.

While oysters have been naturally grown here since Roman times, you won’t find Cap Ferret oysters in grocery stores. Instead, you need to search for them in restaurants. They are sold by the plate, accompanied by bread and butter.

And did you know that the Bordeaux area is the largest producer of French caviar? Make sure to try caviar de Neuvic while you are here.

The traditional dessert is canelés, a soft pastry on the inside and caramelized to perfection on the outside. The well-known and colorful macaron can also be found here: macarons de Saint-Émilion have only three ingredients.

canele in bordeuax

Wash everything down with wine. The region is famous for its reds (90% of them are made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon).

Bordeaux is blessed with sub-oceanic climate, with some Mediterranean influences. The summers are warm and quite sunny. Average temperatures are a mild mid-60s-70s F / 20s C but do bring that waterproof jacket with you. In July and August, it may rain quite a bit.

Traveling to France in 2021

Travel to/from France is permitted, for some nationals, but is strongly discouraged. Those arriving from the European Union (and affiliate countries, except the United Kingdom) need to show a negative PCR test and the swarm declaration to enter the country. There’s no need to self-isolate.

Travelers arriving from Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or the United Kingdom may enter France, and must comply with the regulation (negative PCR test and declaration), as well as self-isolate for 7 days after arrival.

Travelers flying from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and South Africa must undergo a 10-day mandatory quarantine. (source)

All other travelers are not permitted entry (unless there’s an exemption).

Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, gave June 9 as the prospective date for the return of EU travelers. They will be required to show a negative test upon entry. (source)

»Read more details from official resources

What can you do in France in 2021?

From April 3, stricter measures have been introduced in France. From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., you must stay within 10 km of your home, except for specific reasons. From 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. there’s a curfew in metropolitan France, except for specific reasons.

Masks are mandatory both indoor and outdoor. Restaurants are due to reopen as of May 19 (source) but until then, sharing a meal with other people is forbidden.

 

»Read more: Why You Should Go on a Culinary Vacation in France

 

Riviera Maya, Mexico

playa del carmen, riviera maya, mexico

An area just south of the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Riviera Maya stretches along the Caribbean coastline, offering perfect weather, sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and scrumptious cuisine.

Each state in Mexico reflects its own cultural and natural legacy which are also present in the traditional dishes. The cuisine in Riviera Maya makes no exception and truly showcases its intricate culinary roots.

Most of the food revolves around either seafood or pork.

Ceviche gets a twist here: it’s made with sea snail (instead of fish, octopus, or shrimp).

Banana leaves are used to bake a variety of dishes, such as Cochinita Pibil – which comprises shredded pork meat marinated in annatto, cornmeal, and garlic - , and Tikin Xic Fish – fish marinated in annatto, pepper, cloves, cumin, and salt.

One of the most popular snacks is Salbutes, made with a crunchy fried corn tortilla with black beans puree, served with chicken or pork meat, onion, coriander, lettuce, avocado, and spicy habanero chili. 

ceviche

Photo credit: Mexico Lindo Cooking

With gorgeous weather year-round, you only need to factor in two things: the rain and the crowds. May to October is the rainy season. Crowds will be thinner, and a few drops of rain should not put a damper on your fun. Expect mid-90s F / 30s C from May to August.

Traveling to Mexico in 2021

Mexico is open for travel. There’s no need to show a negative test or quarantine upon arrival. Travelers, however, must complete a declaration.

Do keep in mind the requirements for your trip back home. For example, travelers going back to the US should show a negative test upon boarding the flight back (or proof that they’ve had the disease in the past 90 days).

»Read about the COVID-19 restriction and control measures in Mexico here.

What can you do in Mexico in 2021?

Mexico uses a four-tier traffic light system of restrictions. Red is the maximum, while green means no restrictions in place. Riviera Maya, as well as the entire Quintana Roo state, is listed as yellow, allowing for people to gather and business to be open.

Mexico City, on the other hand, is orange, with various restrictions in place for restaurants and bars.

»Read more: 7 of the Most Mouthwatering Tacos in Mexico You Simply Can't Miss Out On

 

California, USA

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA

Located on the Pacific coast, California is home to a variety of natural attractions, theme parks, and bustling cities. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the hills of San Francisco, the beaches of Miami, and the vineyards in Napa Valley are popular with visitors from all over the world.

The Gold State’s cuisine can best be described as fusion. Shaped by history and its inhabitants throughout the eras, it combines the Native-Americans’ diet, based on fruits, corn, pumpkin, and beans, with the Spanish diet based on peppers and olive oil, baring even influences from China, Italy, and France.

Avocado is present in plenty of dishes, including the famous California pizza – also featuring artichoke, goat cheese, and chicken – and Cobb Salad, which mixes lettuce, egg, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon, and blue cheese.

Burritos and tacos are excellent here, as California has some of the most authentic Mexican foods.

Seafood is also present in the form of a stew – Cioppino – made of squid, Dungeness crab, mussels, clams, and white fish.

Cobb salad

Photo credit: Flickr

The state’s climate varies from the mild temperatures on the coast to the brutal winters in the mountains. And it’s also home to one of the hottest deserts in the world.  

From May to August, the temperatures in Los Angeles range from mid-60s F to mid-70s F / around 20s C. Expect little to no precipitation.

 

Traveling to the USA in 2021

With specific exceptions, travelers from the following countries / areas are not permitted entry in the USA: China, Iran, European Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa.

All travelers who may enter, including US citizens returning from abroad and those transiting through the US, must have a medical certificate with a negative COVID-19 viral antigen, NAAT, RT-LAMP, RT-PCR, or TMA test result. The test must have been taken at most 3 days before departure.

Alternatively, if the passenger has a medical certificate with a positive coronavirus test result issued at most 90 days before departure and has been cleared to travel, they don’t need to provide a negative test result.

California is open for out-of-state visitors and people are not required, but are encouraged, to quarantine.

Hawaii has a continuously evolving set of travel requirements. Travelers who want to by-pass the 5-day quarantine need to show proof of a negative test result, taken no longer than 72 h before the flight.

There’s no need to quarantine or show a test result if you fly internationally or domestically to New York.

»Read more from official sources.

 

What can you do in USA in 2021?

The restrictions are different for each state. Some states don’t have any restrictions and allow leisure travel. Others mandate the use of masks in public spaces.

Kerala, India

kerala india

Known for being a tropical paradise, Kerala is blessed with sandy beaches, lush vegetation, and outstanding cuisine.

A melting pot of cultures, this Southern Indian state combines the Arabian, Malabari, and French influences into its dishes, alongside its own tradition.

Don’t be surprised to find a variety of vegetarian dishes on offer. The lentil & pumpkin stew is a hearty curry loved by locals and travelers alike. The coconut, turmeric, cumin, and other Indian spices blend nicely and are best enjoyed with steamed rice. But curries can also be served with idiyappam (or thin vermicelli). Other curries to enjoy include the curried dahl and the Kerala prawns curry.

The spicy fried chicken (Nadan Kozhi Varuthathu) is also a staple dish. Thanks to its location along the coast, seafood is abundant and fresh. Make sure to try the local fish stew.

kerala fish curry

Photo credit: Wikimedia

 

Being close to the equator, Kerala has a tropical climate. It’s one of the wettest areas in the world and experiences rain throughout the year. During the Northern Hemisphere summer, Kerala is right in the middle of the monsoon. But temperatures average around high 60s to high 80s F / mid to high 20s C. Just make sure to always carry an umbrella with you.

Traveling to India in 2021

Travelers are allowed to enter India if they are citizens, PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cardholders holding passports of any country, as well as all foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose (including their dependents on the appropriate category of dependent visa) except those on Tourist Visa. 

Those allowed to enter need to submit a self-declaration before travel, upload the results of a negative RT-PCR test taken no longer than 72 h before travel, and abide by the decision of local authorities to quarantine / self-monitor at home.

»Read more details from official resources

What can you do in India in 2021?

Local restrictions are in place and states, depending on the number of cases, are also enforcing testing for domestic travel.

Mumbai has stricter restrictions in place – with bars, restaurants, and shopping malls being closed -, whereas in Kerala the authorities ask locals to wear the mask in public places.

 

Bangkok, Thailand

bangkok thailand

Thailand’s capital, Bangkok is a cosmopolite metropolis, dotted with temples, markets, canals, and home to a vibrant nightlife.

The dishes here are just as vibrant as the city itself: spicy, sweet, salty, sour, and colorful. The iconic dish of choice is papaya salad (Som Tum), a tangy combo of shredded green papaya, carrots, tomatoes, fish sauce, chilies, peanuts, and sticky rice.

And speaking of sticky rice, if you have a sweet tooth, you should try mango with sticky rice (Kao Niew Mamuang).

There are a variety of fried noodle dishes to try, too. And you may want to surprise your taste buds with the flavorful hot and sour prawn soup (Tom Yum Goong).

 

thai salad

Photo credit: Pink Chili Cooking Class Bangkok

Located close to the equator, Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world. There’s little to no variation in average temperature throughout the year, around 86 F / 30 C.

Traveling to Thailand in 2021

Travelers from countries or territories exempt from having a visa to travel to Thailand for tourism may enter the country for a period of maximum 45 days. Various documents have to be presented, depending on the country of origin, including the negative results of a PCR-RT test taken no longer than 3 days before departure.

Travelers need to quarantine for 7 days (if vaccinated), 10 days (11 nights) (if not vaccinated) or 14 days, depending on where they come from.

Starting in July, Thailand is starting a pilot program to allow vaccinated travelers on the island of Phuket, without restrictions. To board the flight, travelers must present a negative COVID-19 test taken in the past 72 hours. They also must obtain online approval for entry. Showing proof of insurance with COVID-19 is also required.

What can you do in Thailand in 2021?

In Bangkok, masks are mandatory both indoors and outdoors. Throughout the country, restaurants, museums, theme parks, and fitness centers are open.

Beaches are open but with restrictions in place.

Most businesses are closed in Phuket due to a lack of visitors.

Bali, Indonesia

bali indonesia

The Island of Gods is blessed with a varied landscape of hills, mountains, sandy beaches, lush rice terraces, volcanos, and rugged coastline. A deeply spiritual place and home to a unique culture, no wonder Bali is high on traveler’s bucket list.

The Balinese food is just as colorful as the island. Making use of local herbs and spices, it features a lot of exotic dishes, simply perfect for any adventurous taste buds.

Try the abundance of sate (or satay) varieties, which are pieces of various meat marinated in sauces. And you can even find tofu ones!

Babi guling (suckling pig) is relatively hard to find across the archipelago but there is plenty of this on the Hindu island of Bali. The baby pigs are rubbed with spices, such as turmeric, coriander seeds, lemongrass, and garlic and are cooked on a spit. For those who don’t eat pork, the alternatives are whole chicken (ayam) or duck (bebek).

You may also want to try nasi goreng (fried rice), one of the most iconic local dishes. The cooked rice is fried with vegetables, pieces of meat, hot chili sauce, and sweet soy sauce.

balinese food prep

Photo credit: Traveling Spoon

There’s little change in average temperatures during the year, as they are comfortably around 70-90F / 20-30 C. From June to September, the humidity is low, and it can even be cool in the evening. Don’t forget to pack that light jacket!

 

Traveling to Indonesia in 2021

Visitors are not permitted to enter Indonesia, except for travelers permitted under the travel corridor arrangement (TCA) bilateral agreement scheme: United Arab Emirates (UAE), the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore and holders of visa and stay permits issued according to the New Normal law, which is implemented since Sep 29, 2020.

All travelers permitted entry need to provide a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test, taken no longer than 72h prior to departure. Upon arrival, they need to take another test. After 5 days in isolation / quarantine, a new test is required.

Please be advised that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of the Republic of Indonesia has temporarily suspended visa applications.

The government, however, is working on a plan to open Bali for foreign travelers by July.

What can you do in Indonesia in 2021?

Public restrictions are in place across the country, but they may vary across territories.

Shopping centers and food establishments can stay open until 9 p.m. In some areas, social distancing rules are in place. Where these aren’t in place, other restrictions may be enforced.

Hero photo credit: Oxygen Food Tours


Looking forward to traveling once more? You can do so on a budget! Check out our selection of affordable culinary vacations and choose the one that best fits your needs.

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