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Cook Your Way Through Spain

Basque Country, Spain
Allianz - Basque Region, Spain

One of the best ways to experience both the culture and flavors of Spain is to embark on a ten-day cooking tour of the country. Because a visitor can spend weeks in each region without seeing everything, it's best to choose only one or two regions to maximize the experience. 

Planning Your Trip

In order to make the most of a ten-day vacation, it's important to focus on one or two regions. If you want to experience the variety that Spain offers, it's a good idea to select two regions that are very different from each other, such as Andalusia and Basque Country, or Catalonia. This gives you the opportunity to set up two cooking tours, one for each region. If you prefer, you can explore each region at your leisure and book a variety of day trips to their most interesting spots. Here's a suggested itinerary based on a two-region trip:

Andalusia (Five Days)

Allianz - Andalusia Spain

Located in southern Spain, Andalusia has a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Alhambra palace in Granada, the great mosque in Cordoba and the cathedral and Alcazar palace in Seville. Andalusia is a great place to start a Spanish holiday, since the culture and food is decidedly Spanish but with clear influences from the Arab world and other areas. Dominated by seafood and olive oil, typical dishes include gazpacho, a refreshing soup, Iberian ham and pseciato frito, or fried fish.

There are a number of cooking tours that offer not only guided tours of the local markets and wineries in the region, but also give visitors the chance to try their hands at cooking. Depending on how much time you want to spend here, tours can last anywhere from three to five days. These excursions include accommodation and transport, making them an easy way to explore the region in a structured and guided manner. If you prefer organizing your own itinerary, there are many day tours centered on the local cuisine.

Plan to spend about five days in Andalusia, either on one cooking tour or through traveling around, taking day tours of the wineries and taking in the historical sites. Then, plan to move onto either Basque Country or Catalonia, depending on whether you want a foodie experience (Basque Country) or something a bit more cultural (Catalonia).

Basque Country (Five Days)

The individual nature of Basque Country (see main pic) is evident in the culture of this remarkable place, with festivals, events and sports that are completely unique relative to its neighboring regions. Basque Country is experiencing a resurgence in popularity: the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is drawing vast crowds of visitors each year, and San Sebastian has been crowned as the foodie capital of Spain, with gourmands and food-lovers from all over the world flocking to the city's many Michelin-starred restaurants and markets.

If you want a cooking tour, consider a three-day tour that gives you time to explore San Sebastian properly. This tour gives you plenty of time to visit Bilbao as well, allowing you to cook with some of the freshest produce in the region and take in the region's culture and events. The Basque Country's cuisine is inspired by both the richness of the sea and the fertile inland valleys: the coastal cuisine is dominated by seafood, whereas inland cuisine focuses more on cured meats, vegetables and freshwater fish.

Catalonia (Five to Six Days)

Allianz - Barcelona Tapas

Catalonia is best known for its capital Barcelona, which offers many cultural and historical landmarks. North of Barcelona is the Costa Brava, a beautiful place characterized by steep cliffs and romantic coves. If you're more interested in ancient history, Tarragona is definitely worth the visit.

Catalonian cuisine reflects the Mediterranean influences of the region. Seafood dishes are very popular here, and are combined with vegetables such as artichokes, eggplant and peppers. The high-quality pork and mutton of the area combine well with the seafood, and surf-and-turf meals are incredibly popular. Butifarra, an uncured sausage, is used both for main dishes and for tapas with bread and fresh tomatoes.

Culinary tours in the region range from one-day feasts to longer celebrations of Catalonian cooking and wine, so you can choose what suits your itinerary the best. However, do note that many of these cooking tours are seasonal, and booking in advance is advised.

Conclusion? Spain is varied both in its culture and cuisine, and each region is so different from the others that it's difficult to visit them all in one holiday. Instead, book some interesting cooking tours in one or two regions, and take the time to truly appreciate all that Spain has to offer. (For more food related articles, check out our Food & Drink section)

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Jan 04, 2017