I’m in the process of researching and booking my Summer vacation destinations. The criteria for 2018 are unchanged from last year: solid foodie credentials, direct flights on Qatar Airways and as few visa entanglements as I can muster.
If you are, like me, when choosing a destination, food is a major consideration. Well, let’s be honest, it’s probably top of the list along with easy (or no visas) visas and bearable flight times.And many times, I book a food tour before I book a hotel.
All the below destinations are a manageable four to five hours from Doha and have visa on arrival or e-visas AND have the Life on the Wedge seal of foodie approval.
What’s stopping you? Get booking!
India in the monsoon season is something to behold. As a desert dweller, the novelty of heavy rain never seems to wear off (call me strange), but I am making a return visit to Kerala this year because of it.
One of the lushest places I have been to, Kerala boasts an enviable supply of fresh seafood as well as vegetables. Ancient traders also used Kochi as a center for the exotic spice trade and this is evident in the food. Pepper, cardamom, ginger and cloves were among the spices the traders headed to Kerala for. Also, Kerala is one of the few places in India where you can enjoy beef and you will see it on menus everywhere.Like the rest of India, Kerala also loves it street foods. The most famous of which is the banana chip, which are sliced and fried on site then tossed in spices like pepper or chilli, or served as they are. Addictive!
How to get there: Kochi is a 4.5 hour flight from Doha. Qatar Airways flies twice a day
Visas: India has e-visas for many nationalities. Click here for the form and full list. Pro tip – the destinations where you can apply for an e-visa usually have a separate immigration area for these.
Food tour:Pepper Trails food Tours
Where to stay: The Kochi Marriott is beautiful and centrally located hotel, with two terrific restaurants. It’s adjacent to the Lulu Mall (there is a shuttle between the hotel and the mall) and the brand spanking new Kochi Metro. Staff are kind, informed and very passionate about their city. But the newest jewel in the hospitality scene is the Grand Hyatt Kochi, set on the water with spectacular views.
Must eat: Where to start? Well, a seafood curry would be the best place for those spice and seafood fans. Some brilliant fresh seafood available in this coastal town.
This should be top of any travel or food bucket list. An impossibly beautiful city blessed with one of the world’s best food cultures. Combine this with history for days and you have a triple threat.
Turkish cuisine will be familiar to any foodie but there is far more on offer in Istanbul than just kebab. By the way – the kebab comes in all shapes and flavors – from the spicy adana to the eggplant extravaganza alinazik. Head to the fish restaurants by the Bosphorus to indulge in freshly grilled seafood. Pick your fish and have it cooked to order. But first indulge in a spread of their famous mezze – small dishes of dips and starters to share.
Head to the spice market next to the Grand Bazaar (a must visit – but bring your best resolve, the pressure from the sellers can be intense) where you can buy local cheeses as well as spices and honey.
How to get there: Qatar Airways currently operates direct flights to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport (pro tip – this airport is on the Asian side of the city, is further from the city BUT smaller and quicker to navigate) twice daily and to Istanbul Atatürk Airport 10 times weekly.
Visas: Turkey has an e-visa system for many countries and is fast and simple.
Food tour:Istanbul on Food
Where to stay: I’ve stayed in a few hotels on my Istanbul jaunts. It really depends on your needs and budget. I loved the Park Hyatt Istanbul, it’s an almost boutique hotel with highly personalized service and located in the ritzy Nisantasi area.
Must eat: Head to the Galata area for everything from street food to high end dining. For me, my favorite Turkish dish is there version of the dumpling called manti – small or large and served with a spicy sauce and yogurt, this is Istanbul on a plate for me.
I fell in love with Athens as a 20 year old backpacker a couple of decades ago. Say what you want about the Greeks, they do two things really well – cheese and anarchy. I have always admired the Greeks for their ability to enjoy life, create amazing food and manage to plunge their country into widespread chaos at the flick of a switch. the Greeks – they get it. I finally returned recently and found a city cosmetically changed (lots of graffiti) but the heart and soul still the same. And the food, well it’s even better than I remembered. While the famous yeeros (flatbread stuffed with pork or beef or chicken with salad and a pungent garlic sauce) can be found in the still fun Plaka and the hipster Monastraiki areas, those looking for something different should head for Funky Gourmet for a creative take on this ancient cuisine.
How to get there: Qatar Airways flies to Athens 21 times a week.
Visas: Greece is a Schengen country. Click here for details.
Food tour:Greeking Me
Where to stay: The Anenaeum Intercontinental is a little out of the action and looks soulless on the outside, but the rooms are well designed and spacious and if you snag one with an Acropolis view, it’s worth it.
Must eat: Yeeros – of course!
An hour and a bit away from Doha, it’s an exotic destination with its mix of Arabic, African and Indian heritage. But in terms of food, I’ve seen the scene really develop in recent years, thanks to the country’s own abundant fresh food and thriving fishing industry. The produce here is some of the freshest you will find in the region thanks to the country’s prime geographic location. I visited The spectacular Anantara Jebel Akhdar resort last year – an hour from the capital and nestled in the mountains – and found the chefs there working wonders with the fresh produce. In the capital you can experience high end Indian food at places like Indus, or sambusa (crispy parcels stuffed with meat or cheese) and shwarma waterside at the Mutrah Souq. You can sample the sticky harees – basically wheat mixed with lamb or chicken – at local favorite Bin Ateeq. The country’s burgeoning five star hotel scene also throws up some interesting foodie options like spot on Indonesian food at Grand Hyatt Muscat.
How to get there: Qatar Airways has 35 flights a week to Muscat.
Visas: Oman recently changed its tourist visa process and you must apply for an e-visa before you arrive. BUT the good news is that if you have a valid tourist visa for Qatar, you also get entry into Oman.
Where to stay: Anantara Jebel Akdhar: 2000m above sea level and a thousand miles from care. Splurge on a villa with a private plunge pool and sunset views. Grand Hyatt Muscat is your own seaside palace with foodie cred and excellent service. Also check out the luxe Intercontinental Muscat.
Must eat: You can’t go wrong with any of the local seafood grilled fresh. also try the Indian food.
It’s touristy, yes. It’s crowded in Summer. Absolutely. But serious foodies need to book a ticket to this city stat. Street food is everywhere you look here, whether it be kiosks selling freshly grilled sausages or even those touristy icecreams , this is a city that is out and proud about food. I was expecting meat, potatoes and dour expressions. But in the post Communist years, when food was rationed or cooked for the masses, there was been a renaissance. From the bright and colorful chlebíčky – open-faced sandwich that is consumed for breakfast and lunch, for it makes for a quick and filling meal – to the raft of hipster cafes serving everything from icecream cookie sandwiches to meat and donuts (it’s a thing -trust me), Prague is undergoing a foodie boom.
Visas: the Czech Republic is a Schengen country
Food tour:Taste of Prague
Staying There: The Intercontinental Prague is perfectly located within a five minute walk from the Old Town and also within spitting distance of some great restaurants. Try to score room or suite with a view of the Charles River.
Must Eat: The schnitzel at Cafe Savoy is worth it just for the beautifully decorated room.