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Sizzling Summer Culinary Destinations

by Cris Puscas

The go-to resource for planning unforgettable travel experiences. Find all you need to know about the top destinations and enrich your life through travel.
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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.

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 per person.

Without a doubt, the staple of 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.

»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 a vegan & gluten-free torta di ceci, made with chickpea flour.

Pasta dishes abound and the 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.

»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.

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 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 a 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.

»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 snails (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, and 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.

 

 

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, bearing 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 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.

 

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 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.

 

Bangkok, Thailand

bangkok thailand

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

 

Bali, Indonesia

bali indonesia

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

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).

 

balinese food prep

Photo credit: Traveling Spoon

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.

There’s little change in average temperatures during the year, as they are comfortable 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!

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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