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Top 5: Most Popular Adventures for Food Lovers Opening in 2021

Posted on 6/1/2021 12:00:00 AM in The Buzz

Local markets like this one in Catania, Sicily, offer a window into local culinary traditions, from the freshest ingredients to prepared snacks ready to sample.

Cuisine speaks volumes about a destination, from the ancient footprints of invaders and conquerors to the way modern-day residents celebrate and come together. At O.A.T., we don’t travel for Michelin-starred restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs. We see food and drink as an opportunity to connect with local history and culture—though that doesn’t mean it can’t also be delicious.

Read on to see our most popular adventures that visit the world’s most delicious destinations, both by land and small ship.

While we will be resuming operations on all of these adventures in August-September of 2021, we understand many travelers are planning further ahead. We have opened 2023 departures of many O.A.T. adventures—and you can reserve any 2021, 2022, or 2023 adventure with confidence with our Risk-Free Booking Policy through 12/31/21.

1. Sicily’s Ancient Landscapes & Timeless Traditions —16-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure (Average group size: 13)

Our most popular independent film

Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa: Sicily

Join Emmy Award winner Rudy Maxa for a tour of Sicily’s timeless treasures.


Travelers reserved for 2021, 2022 & 2023: 2,458 | Operating months in 2021: August-December

The cuisine of Sicily is markedly different than on the Italian mainland—just like Sicilians themselves. One reason is geography. Sicily is blessed with abundant sunshine, fertile volcanic soil, and mild Mediterranean winters that allow for year-round agriculture. Another reason is the culinary legacy of the invaders who came to Sicily. The Greeks, Romans, French, Spanish, and—most notably—Arabs all added ingredients and techniques to the mix.

Dishes to try:

  • Street foods like sfincione (pizza with caciocavallo cheese, onions and bread crumbs), panelle (fried chickpea pancakes), arancini (deep-fried rice balls stuffed with meat and cheese)
  • Pasta alla Norma (short pasta with eggplant, tomato, and ricotta salata)
  • Pasta con le sarde (bucatini with sardines, fennel, pine nuts, and raisins)
  • Involtini di pesce spade (swordfish rolled with capers, basil, and olives)

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2. Ancient Egypt & the Nile River —16-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure (Average group size: 22)
7 nights aboard the privately chartered 75-passenger Nefertiti

Our most popular independent film

The Golden People

Get to know the "golden people" of Aswan and see how their lives are inextricably tied to the waters of the Nile.

Travelers reserved for 2021, 2022 & 2023: 1,975 | Operating months in 2021: September-December

With similarities to both its Middle Eastern neighbors and eastern Mediterranean cuisine, Egyptians believe their own cuisine to be widely underrated. It may not be fancy, but it has a simple, fresh, and hearty appeal, making use of abundant local vegetables and legumes. Dining out is often a social occasion and may involve many courses and a shared platter of mezze: Small plates that may be served as starters, snacks, or a light meal. These are often served with flat bread, which is used to scoop up the dips and toppings. A typical meal ends with an after-dinner coffee or shisha water pipe.

Dishes to try:

  • Mezze, such as hummus, tabbouleh (a mix of bulgur wheat, parsley, garlic, and tomato), baba ghanoug (eggplant dip), and fuul (slow-cooked fava beans with garlic)
  • Taamia, also spelled ta’amiyya (the Egyptian version of falafel)
  • Kofta (spiced lamb meatballs) and kababs (skewered chunks of beef, lamb, or chicken)
  • Firekh (rotisserie-style chicken)

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3. Northern Spain & Portugal: Pilgrimage into the Past —17-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure (Average group size: 13)

Our most popular independent film

Finding Mimo in San Sebastian, Spain

Learn about San Sebastian’s eclectic cuisine—which you can experience on our pre-trip extension.


Travelers reserved for 2021, 2022 & 2023: 1,169 | Operating months in 2021: August-December

The 21st century’s culinary firmament is lit by a galaxy of superstar chefs from Spain. Even if you do not dine in one of their restaurants, they have influenced Spanish chefs in even the humblest establishments. The Basque region is a standout in a country of culinary superlatives. The city of San Sebastian is one of the world’s great food meccas, and even outside its Michelin star heavy hitters, the average restaurant will blow you away.

As for Portugal, start with rich farms and Europe’s oldest vineyards, add in the bounties of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and season with some Moorish spice. Then, you can ramp it up with a variety of novel ingredients that Portuguese explorers brought home during the 15th-century.

Dishes to try in Spain:

  • Paella (saffron-scented rice layered with vegetables and protein)
  • Pulpo a la Galega (boiled octopus with paprika and olive oil)
  • Basque pintxos, like bacalao pil-pil (cod fried with garlic, olive oil, and chili) and txangurro (baked, stuffed spider crab)

Dishes to try in Portugal:

  • Caldo verde (soup of kale, potatoes, onions, and garlic)
  • Bolinhos de bacalhau (deep-fried cod fritters)
  • Cataplana (fish and shellfish with peppers, tomatoes, garlic, wine, and paprika)

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4. The Aegean Islands, Athens & Istanbul —16-day O.A.T. Small Ship Adventure (Average group size: 22)

7 nights aboard the privately owned 50-passenger M/V Athena or M/V Arethusa

Our most popular independent film

My Greek Table: Santorini: Flavors of a Volcano

Venture to the volcano-studded island of Santorini, and pick fresh ingredients with host Diane Kochilas as she learns to cook traditional Greek dishes.

Travelers reserved for 2021, 2022 & 2023: 731 | Operating months in 2021: August

A perfect Mediterranean climate. More than 6,000 islands and no mainland location more than 90 miles from the sea. Bountiful (and mostly organic) olive groves, fruit orchards, pastures, and vineyards. With all this richness, Greece has had no reason to change or complicate its cuisine in thousands of years.

Turkey’s storied gastronomic tradition is often ranked as one of the world’s top three cuisines (alongside French and Chinese). Aside from Turkey’s own rich agricultural bounty, its crossroads location has meant that exotic ingredients from Persia, Central Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean and beyond have graced the local diet for centuries.

Dishes to try in Greece:

  • Meze like marithes (grilled octopus or smelts), keftedes (seasoned meatballs), kolokythokeftedes (zucchini fritters), or dolmas (grape leaves rolled and stuffed with rice, pine nuts, or meat)
  • Moussaka (casserole of eggplant, ground lamb, tomato sauce, potatoes, and béchamel sauce)
  • Spanakopita (phyllo pastry layered with feta cheese and spinach)

Dishes to try in Turkey:

  • Street food like kebabs, pide (flatbread-style pizza), or mantg (meat-filled ravioli in yogurt and spiced oil)
  • Hamsili pilav (oven baked rice layered with fresh anchovies)
  • Midye dolma (mussels stuffed with aromatic rice, nuts, and spices)

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5. Tuscany & Umbria: Rustic Beauty in the Italian Heartland —15-day O.A.T. Small Group Adventure (Average group size: 13)

Our most popular independent film

Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa: Hill Towns of Tuscany and Umbria

Uncover ancient rivalries and the scrumptious specialties of Tuscany and Umbria with Emmy Award winner Rudy Maxa.


Travelers reserved for 2021, 2022 & 2023: 708 | Operating months in 2021: September-December

Every region of Italy has its own unique culinary specialties and traditions, many of which evolved from humble beginnings in la cucina povera—“the kitchen of the poor.” This is particularly true of Tuscany, where both home cooks and restaurant chefs transform the simplest ingredients into a sum greater than their parts. With a perfect climate for farming, vegetables and fruit are abundant; and beef, pork, and wild game are superb. Staying true to cucina povera, seafood dishes aim to use every part of the fish.

In neighboring Umbria, five key ingredients form the background of local cuisine: pork, game, salumi, truffles, and lentils. The cured salumi alone makes for some of the best antipasti in Italy, and the same high-quality meat also features in hearty main courses, from suckling pig to wild boar. As the only landlocked region in Italy, Umbria may not be famous for fish, but seafood lovers need not despair: Lakes supply several species of excellent freshwater fish.

Dishes to try in Tuscany:

  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina (very rare T-bone steak with salt and olive oil)
  • Ribollita (soup with cabbage, beans, and stale bread) (casserole of eggplant, ground lamb, tomato sauce, potatoes, and béchamel sauce)
  • Cacciucco (seafood stew made with literally any variety or combination of seafood, tomatoes, and white wine)

Dishes to try in Umbria:

  • Pasta alla Norcina (short pasta with sausage, cream, and pecorino)
  • Porchetta (stuffed and rolled roast pork)
  • Crostini al tartufo (toasted bread topped with truffle paste and anchovies)

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