Top 10 Must-See Destinations for the New Year
Here's our travel dream list
It’s the holiday season and the beginning of a new year—a time to dream season. As always, The New York Times, Trip Advisor, CNN, Forbes, Travel & Leisure, among others, have published their lists of recommended places to go in 2023. Not to be outdone, at Oldways, we have our Dream List of 10 food-focused places we’re going or planning on going.
We hope you’ll join us and the chefs who are an integral part of each trip. What could be better than experiencing and learning about food, wine and culture through the eyes of experienced and knowledgeable chefs, and with our thirty years of experience planning travel that emphasizes the delicious and healthy “old ways” of eating.
San Sebastian: Known as one of the ultimate food destinations in the world, beautiful San Sebastian is located in Basque country in the north of Spain. In addition to fabulous restaurants (including a number of Michelin starred restaurants), pinxtos bars throughout the city are perfect for hopping from one to another, and there are spectacular markets and food shops.
While we can’t wait to experience chef-led cooking classes from Chefs Deborah Hansen and Tracy Chang, we are also eager to visit Spain’s Rioja wine region; Bilbao and the Frank Gehrey designed Guggenheim Museum, along with local producers of cider, conservas, cheese and Txakolina, the delightfully drinkable wine of the Basque Country.
Ayvalik and Izmir, Turkey: Istanbul is a perennial on our travel dream list, but this year, we’re also traveling to the olive oil capital of Turkey, Ayvalik, and Izmir, the third largest city in the country. Close to Ayvalik is a very special cooking school created by Chef Semsa Denizsel, who left her well-loved restaurant in Istanbul, Kantin, and founded the Cooks Grove, a cooking and event space near Ayvalik on the Turkish Aegean Coast. At the Cooks Grove, the experience ranges from hands-on cooking classes in small groups, along with visits to cheese farms, markets, cultural sights and wonderful Turkish meals in local restaurants, also with Oleana Chef Ana Sortun.
To the south of Ayvalik, Izmir is an interesting city with seafood restaurants and markets, and is also a gateway to the south for a visit to Ephesus, the well-preserved and legendary ancient city. To the west, the Cesme peninsula has fascinating food explorations. A stop in Istanbul is also very possible -- hour-long flights leave from Izmir almost every hour.
Costa Rica: Known as one of the Blue Zones – places or cultures where individuals live the longest —Costa Rica is special for many reasons. One of them is the possibility to have a number of different experiences, as varied as the rainforest, beaches and coastline and a bustling city full of history and culture, all within a few hours of one another. Add interesting food experiences – a coffee plantation, chocolate making and tasting, sustainable cooking classes with Chef Tom Berry, and market visits – plus eco-hikes, ziplining, boat trips and sustainability discussions with nutrition expert Walter Willett, this is a full-on experience. And, don’t forget….we’ll be dancing on the beach.
A Cheese Adventure in Switzerland: Switzerland is known for cheese, chocolate, watches, luxury and beautiful scenery. We are excited about zeroing in on cheese, learning from world famous cheese experts (including world-renowned cheese judge Cathy Strange) and experiencing the annual Desalpes – the cows coming down the mountain from their summer highland grazing homes, decked out in flowers, crowns and bells. We’ll also visit cheese caves, watch cheese being made (both modern and the old ways – over a fire), take a cooking class and taste Swiss chocolate. We’re also eager to learn more about Swiss wines. Since the Swiss don’t export their wines (they consume it all intra-country), this is a great opportunity to taste Swiss wines that are increasingly receiving accolades. Add in the beautiful cities of Zurich, Bern, Lausanne and Lucerne. Dreamy.
Parma, Modena and Bologna: If San Sebastian is famous as a food city, Emilia Romagna is, for sure, the food region of Italy. While people from all over Italy, as well as chefs around the world, have always known that Emilia Romagna is “Italy’s food region,” the rest of the world has, most often, only known its signature products – traditional balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and some very special pastas. If you’re a food lover and cook, a visit to the region is not to be missed. Each of the major towns – Parma, Modena and Bologna – are more than charming or amazing on their own, too. We love Parma, Modena and Bologna and all that this region has to offer, and are content to return over and over again. We know you will be, too.
Bangkok and Chiang Mai: If you’re interested in both plant-based eating and travel, a food experience in Thailand is made for you. Thailand is a beautiful, exotic and exciting place, from north to south. With plant-powered dietitian Sharon Palmer, we’re experiencing Thailand with plant-based eating and cooking at the forefront – cooking classes in Bangkok and in Chiang Mai, visits to markets (floating and urban), an Elephant Sanctuary, farms, along with visits to important cultural sites in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. And of course we’ll have exceptional meals at restaurants – fancy, classic, elegant and simple. Yum.
The Peloponnese and Athens: History, culture and traditional foods go together. What better place to experience this combination of history, culture and food than Greece – the Peloponnese and Athens. What does this mean? Explore folk museums; visit and have tastings at wineries and producers of olive oil, cheese, and other local specialties; cooking classes with Sarma Chef Cassie Piuma; learn about local pottery and experience an ancient theater, plus seaside and country meals. A visit to Athens isn’t complete without a climb to the top of the Acropolis and a visit to the spectacular Acropolis Museum, and a nighttime stroll with food and wine tastings.
Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia: To visit Croatia is a recommendation from anyone who has ever traveled there. Game of Thrones aside, there’s a lot to see, for people who want to learn about food and wine and culture. We want to walk around the Old Towns of Dubrovnik and Split, visit mussel, oyster and salt farms in Ston, take a ferry out to the Island Brac and taste olive oil and wine, take cooking classes, visit cheese and wine producers and experience the local cuisine in restaurants and markets. Sounds delicious and interesting, doesn’t it!?
Palermo and Siracusa, Sicily: Sicily is a special place, a place we could continue to return again and again, and there would always be a lot more to learn and discover. After all, Sicily is not only heart-shaped, but also at the heart of the Mediterranean, and at the heart of the Mediterranean Diet. Its rich history mirrors nearly all of the western world’s past, and is clearly evident in its art, architecture, agriculture and cuisine. Sicily’s cuisine reflects this. The foods and dishes are aromatic and bold, and its wines and olive oils are strong and full of flavor. Sicily’s simple fare—still very evident in cafes and small neighborhood restaurants, in the big cities and small towns— is just that: local ingredients, fresh fish and shellfish, simple pasta and sauces, a rainbow of cheese types, crusty loaves, broad use of olive oil, tomato-based salads and much more. It wines are intense, a suitable match for the island’s elemental tastes and flavors. This is the Sicilian experience we want to taste and explore – along with world class historical and cultural sites like Agrigento, Siracusa, Monreale and more.
Truffles, Cheese & Wine in Piedmont: Piedmont is fabulous in any season. The fall, however, is when we want to go – to experience truffle season in its full splendor: truffle hunting AND eating truffles in every course of a meal. The region also features spectacular, not-to-be-missed wines, cheeses, and many other local specialties. The capital of the region – Turin – is a beautiful, approachable city, and a great base to explore all that the region has to offer.
May your new year be filled with happy travels, near and far. We raise our glass to each of you. Be well and here’s to adventure!
Comment below: Which of these destinations would YOU want to visit?
Global Recipe: Le Gruyère AOP Gratin
This special-occasion recipe from our friends at Le Gruyère AOP is perfect for your holiday table. Cozy and delicious, it is a real taste of Switzerland! If you like it, consider joining us in Switzerland in September 2023, when we’ll get to see firsthand how this special cheese is made.
Recipe and photo courtesy Le Gruyère AOP
Warm wishes from all of us at Oldways!