If you’re passionate about food and wine, you’re probably already aware that some of the world’s best gastronomic destinations are located right on our doorstep.
From the villages of coastal Italy to the wine-making towns of Central France, Europe is packed with diverse destinations that boast some of the best dishes and drinks in the world. And aside from offering exceptional cuisine, these places also offer plenty of culture, history, and sensational natural surroundings.
If you’d like to enjoy a relaxing holiday where you can feast upon fresh food, delicious wine, and discover the local culture at your own pace, you might want to think about a holiday with Headwater. Since 1985, Headwater has been creating award-winning, tailor-made tours that don’t only show you the very best of each destination but offer lots of variety too.
Whether you want to explore your surroundings by foot or by bike, spend time touring historic towns or kicking back on the beach, a Headwater tour gives you both flexibility and autonomy. Combining hand-picked accommodation, beautiful routes, and inspiring destinations, a Headwater tour takes all the stress out of holiday planning, allowing you to relax entirely and focus on enjoying your break. Plus, you can get an exclusive £100 off your trip by quoting RESTLESS2023 when booking.
So, to inspire you, here are 11 food and wine holidays to give you some ideas for your next culinary adventure.
1. Piedmont, Italy
If you’re a fan of Italian food and wine, you might want to think about a cycling holiday in Piedmont.
Italy’s second-largest region is known for its mouth-watering food, fine wine, and gorgeous pastoral landscapes. Deep valleys, dense pine forests, gleaming rivers, and hilltop hamlets that sit beside the ruins of ancient castles are a common sight here.
During this eight-night tour, you can visit pretty medieval villages and frescoed chapels and stroll through the cobbled streets of Alba. You can also cycle along quiet country roads, past rippling rivers and UNESCO vineyards, and explore the maze of streets and flower-adorned houses of Monforte d’Alba. Your luxury accommodation also includes elegant villas, stylish country houses, and four-star hotels.
In terms of food, you’ll be spoilt for choice when you want to take a break from cycling. Piedmont is known for its decadent gastronomy, so we’d recommend trying their local dishes such as stuffed egg pasta, beef sausage, porcini risotto, white truffles, and their many ‘protected designation of origin’ (DOP) cheeses, including Montebore, Robiola di Roccaverano, and Castelmagno.
If you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of hazelnut and chocolate pastries, and desserts to indulge in too. And when it comes to wine, Barbaresco and Barolo are known as two of the world’s best.
Discover the gastronomic delights of Piedmont
2. Lake Constance, Germany, and Switzerland
If you’re drawn to the alpine landscape of Germany and Switzerland, then why not take a culinary cycling tour to Lake Constance?
This gleaming turquoise lake is bordered by three countries, giving you a unique opportunity to discover different cultures and cuisines, as well as a magical landscape that includes pristine pebbly beaches, wildflower meadows, vineyards, and cherry orchards.
During this 10-night tour, you’ll be exploring the surrounding area by bike. But don’t worry, it’s not strenuous because the cycling routes are flat, making this a relaxing way of getting around.
The land surrounding the lake is home to historic, half-timbered towns, fairytale castles, baroque churches, pretty waterfronts, and breathtaking mountain views, so there’s plenty to explore – and you can also swim in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Constance every day.
Your accommodation is varied and includes an old coaching inn, a sleek riverside hotel, and a grand lakeside mansion. The food is delicious, and the location means you can enjoy plenty of fresh fish, like whitefish and perch.
In the evenings, you can dine alfresco by the lake, sip a glass of local wine, and tuck into local delicacies like cheese fondue, potato rösti, Swiss chocolate, and fresh cherries, apples, and plums.
Explore the beauty of Lake Constance
3. Madeira, Portugal
Located off the northwest coast of Africa, the Portuguese island of Madeira is like nowhere else in the world.
Boasting dramatic landscapes, fascinating wildlife, captivating culture, and pretty flora that includes frangipani, camellia, bird-of-paradise, dragon trees, and lilac jacaranda, there’s a reason this subtropical paradise is nicknamed the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’ and ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’.
With such spectacular scenery, the best way to explore Madeira is on foot. On this seven-night tour, you’ll soak in the island’s most spectacular scenery – from the lunar-like volcanic landscapes to craggy coastal trails, and the famous network of flower-lined Levada water channels. Along the way, you can spot whales, sea lions and dolphins; float in turquoise pools; and stroll around sleepy Santana and lively Funchal.
You’ll be staying in three luxurious hotels – one surrounded by vineyards, one set among botanical gardens, and one 1920s hotel that used to be a golf house.
Madeira is famous for its world-class wine, but there are many more gastronomic delights to discover during your trip. Feast on fresh codfish and tuna, tuck into local dishes like tomato and onion soup topped with a poached egg, try marinated pork meat, and enjoy sweet treats like honey cake and passion fruit pudding.
Discover paradise in Madeira
4. The Istrian Peninsula, Croatia
The beauty of Croatia is no well-kept secret, and parts of the country, like Dubrovnik and Split, can be uncomfortably busy during summer. But Istria, in the northernmost part of the country, is different, and this charming peninsula will allow you to discover Croatia’s diverse scenery, captivating culture, and mouth-watering cuisine without the hustle and bustle and hordes of tourists.
This seven-night walking tour takes you through Istria’s most incredible scenery, from rolling hills and hilltop towns to glittering bays and verdant valleys. You’ll visit coastal towns, bustling marinas, Venetian castles, and Renaissance palaces, and can swim in azure waters every day. You can even trek up Istria’s highest peak, Mt Vojak, to enjoy incredible views of the Dolomites and Switzerland.
You’ll unwind in boutique accommodation throughout the trip including a converted 17th-century palace, a beautifully converted townhouse, and a sleek waterfront property – and you’ll have plenty of chances to tuck into the local cuisine.
Be sure to try local delicacies like truffles, mussels, and oysters, frittatas with seasonal greens, vegetable soups, and fritule – battered doughnut balls – as well as sample the fine regional wine.
Discover the delights of Istria
5. The Dolomites, Italy
The Italian Dolomites are one of the country’s most unforgettable regions.
Located in northeast Italy, the jagged peaks, shimmering lakes, and emerald-green hills of this destination are beloved by hikers, skiers, and anyone with a sense of adventure – or an appreciation for natural beauty. With over 1,000km of trails, a walking holiday is a wonderful way to explore the area.
This seven-night tour takes you through the heart of the Dolomites, and you’ll have many chances to relax and sample the local food and wine, as well as stretch your legs.
You can hike around the iconic Tre Cime – three huge rock obelisks – trek up a high ridge path by the Austrian border to admire jaw-dropping views of both the Dolomites and Alps, and marvel at the beauty, flora, and fauna of the Alta Pusteria Valley.
You’ll also be spending all seven nights in a four-star hotel that comes complete with a spa, pool, sauna and steam room, so any aching muscles will soon be soothed.
In the evenings, you can feast upon five-course banquets and buffets, where you can try Tyrolean dishes like lamb cutlets, stuffed dumplings, pumpkin mash with speck, and tortellini stuffed with local cheese. Afterwards, you can wash it down with regional wine!
Soak up the scenery of the Dolomites
6. The Wild Algarve, Portugal
Portugal’s Algarve region may conjure up images of overdeveloped resort towns and busy beaches, but it has a wild side too.
While parts of the Algarve can be crowded, the Sagres Peninsula is a whole other story. This is a rugged-yet-tranquil land that’s home to sweeping golden beaches, dense pine forests, vibrant flower meadows, and dramatic cliffs.
To really appreciate this wild landscape, it’s best to explore on foot – that way you can follow the tree-lined trails that wind their way through lush valleys, rustic villages, and craggy coastlines.
During this six-night tour, you’ll visit pretty fishermen’s villages and the famous Cabo de Sao Vicente lighthouse, and enjoy a blissful sense of peace as you trek through these glorious natural surroundings. Keep an eye out for birds as you hike, as the region is home to over 190 species of birds!
With an eclectic mix of 4-star hotels and rustic village conversions, all your accommodation has pools, so there’ll be lots of time to lounge in the sun. And the local cuisine is also fresh, diverse, and delicious. Think grilled sardines drizzled in olive oil and lemon juice, Portuguese and Arabic-inspired flame-cooked meat dishes, sun-ripened vegetable dishes, tangy local cheeses, indulgent custard tarts, and a wide range of Portuguese wines.
Discover the wilderness of the Algarve
7. The Julian Alps, Slovenia and Italy
Slovenia’s Julian Alps may not be as famous as the Swiss Alps – or the Italian Dolomites – but they’re no less spectacular.
Slovenia in general is one of the most beautiful yet underrated countries in all of Europe, boasting mysterious forests, jagged limestone peaks, and impossibly blue lakes. During this 10-night tour, you won’t only explore Slovenia, but Austria and Italy’s gorgeous Adriatic Coast too.
This is a gentle cycling holiday that kicks off on the shores of the stunning Lake Bled, from where you’ll enjoy leisurely cycling past tranquil countryside and babbling mountain streams, and through sleepy Slovenian hamlets.
As you wind your way through Austria, you can admire views of towering mountains, glacial lakes, and alpine towns, before you reach the shores of the cobalt Adriatic Sea. You can also visit medieval villages, renaissance towns, and ancient castles, as well as the UNESCO-listed Roman city of Aquileia.
You’ll stay in a hotel on the shores of Lake Bled, an alpine lodge, and a grand hotel on the Adriatic, and can sample the culinary delights of these regions. Be sure to try rolled dumplings, Carniolan sausage, and jota (sauerkraut and bean) stew in Slovenia, as well as the many fine Adriatic wines.
Marvel at the beauty of the Julian Alps
8. Veneto, Italy
Venice might be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy – but its region, Veneto, remains relatively undiscovered.
The countryside here is packed with serene lakes, Roman ruins, interesting villages, and more olive groves, vineyards, and cherry orchards than you can shake a stick at, and this idyllic landscape seems as though it was made to cycle through.
So why not enjoy a seven-night cycling tour through this tranquil region, wheeling your way through picture-perfect scenery and experiencing rural Italian life at its very best?
Aside from cycling through such an enchanting landscape, you’ll also get the chance to visit the breathtaking cities of Venice, Verona, Padua, and Vicenza, so this is definitely a holiday where you get to experience the best of both worlds!
Throughout your tour, you’ll be staying in the wonderful, family-run Agriturismo L’Albara where, when you’re not relaxing by the pool, can go fruit picking or visit the local grappa distillery.
And then there are all the other local delicacies to try; Veneto classics include pasta in anchovy sauce, pea and pancetta risotto, borlotti bean soups, and white asparagus. The region is also known for its crisp white wine – as well as the refreshing Aperol Spritz!
Discover the delights of Veneto
9. The Loire Valley, France
In terms of food and wine, France is one of the most celebrated destinations in the world – and for good reason.
While the whole country boasts its own regional delicacies, the Loire Valley is arguably one the best holiday destinations if you’re looking to sample exceptional cuisine, sip outstanding wine, and supplement each of those with plenty of culture, beauty, and history.
Located in Central France, the Loire Valley is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and this seven-night walking tour will allow you to explore the best of the region.
You can visit some of France’s greatest chateaux and aristocratic estates, stroll through charming hamlets and historic villages, explore the bustling city of Blois, and hike through unspoiled landscapes that include river valleys, sunflowers fields, and sprawling vineyards.
Visiting so many vineyards and wine towns will allow you to sample a wide range of local wines, but the food is just as good. The forests of the region mean game is in abundance, from pheasant and pigeon to wild boar – though freshwater fish like bream are also popular.
The Loire Valley is also known for its cheese, which you can choose to eat by itself or in fouaces (little stuffed pockets of warm bread).
Feast on the food and wine of the Loire Valley
10. The Cotswolds, England
If you don’t fancy going abroad to sample exceptional food and wine and enjoy a relaxing holiday, there’s good news: you don’t have to.
The Cotswolds are England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and aside from boasting truly blissful pastoral landscapes, this unique region is also known for its exceptional dining options – including many Michelin-starred restaurants!
The vast meadows and quiet country lanes mean the Cotswolds are perfect for cycling – and the famous picturesque villages, with their honey-coloured houses, quaint shops, and cosy pubs and tea rooms, are perfect for stopping off at.
On this five-night tour, you’ll visit some of the area’s prettiest villages, including Chipping Campden, Bourton-on-the-Water and Moreton-in-Marsh, and will stay in cosy and welcoming B&Bs.
If you’re into history, you’ll find plenty of that here: you can visit Sudeley Castle (the resting place of Katherine Parr), the ancient Saxon capital of Winchcombe, and National Trust stately homes that are packed with artefacts.
Cheese lovers will be in their element, as the area is known for Single and Double Gloucester cheese as well as Stinking Bishop! Tewkesbury mustard, Bibury trout, and Hobbs House bread are also popular local delicacies.
Discover the charm of the Cotswolds
11. Puglia, Italy
Italy is a country that’s astonishingly diverse in terms of landscape, culture and cuisine. And the region of Puglia – located in the heel of Italy’s boot – couldn’t be more different than Piedmont, the Dolomites, or even Veneto.
If you want to immerse yourself in an Italy that feels both traditional and ancient – and enjoy plenty of unforgettable food and wine along the way – this is the destination for you.
Celebrated for its splendid coastline, quaint towns and, thanks to its compelling blend of civilisations, cultures, and unique history, Puglia is the perfect location for a walking holiday. You can walk past olive groves, vineyards, and wheat fields; admire traditional trulli conical stone houses; stroll through the gleaming whitewashed city of Ostuni; and visit the famous cave houses in Matera.
Along the way, you’ll have plenty of time to kick back on pristine beaches, lose yourself in the narrow alleys of historic towns, and enjoy long, decadent meals in local trattorias.
You’ll stay in charming boutique hotels and can feast upon the very best of Puglian cuisine. Try freshly-baked focaccia, sour cherry tarts, orecchiette pasta, cheese-stuffed panzerotti, fresh mozzarella, and full-bodied red wine. Puglia is also responsible for around 40% of olive oil production in Italy!
Immerse yourself in the culture and history of Puglia
Whether you’re a Francophile or an Italy enthusiast or looking to travel somewhere new or stay on our own shores, the good news is that there’s a gastronomic holiday for everyone.
From the island of Madeira to the lakes of Slovenia, Headwater offers an exceptional range of food and wine holidays where you won’t only get to enjoy delicious cuisine and discover the local culture and history, but you’ll be able to do it at your own pace too.
Whether you choose to walk or cycle, Headwater tours provide you with the opportunity to discover our wonderful world while making sure you have plenty of time for relaxation too – and because everything is planned for you, from transport to accommodation, allowing yourself to unwind becomes even easier.
To find out more about Headwater and their tailor-made tours, head over to their website. Remember, you can get an exclusive £100 off your trip by quoting RESTLESS2023 when booking.