It’s a foodie world, and Avanti Destinations is right in step with it. Harry Dalgaard, the founder of the independent travel provider, was a foodie long before it was fashionable.
Dalgaard said he founded Avanti for people who liked to travel the way he did. That included traveling independently, not being tied to a group itinerary, and enjoying plenty of good food experiences. Food was always a central part of the travel experience for Dalgaard, and he incorporated his personal preference into the company.
As Dalgaard was ahead of the curve with the rise in popularity of independent travel, he was also well ahead of the pack in regard to the rising wave of culinary interest in the U.S. Avanti was in the right place to ride that wave.
Though Dalgaard retired two months ago, Avanti was already steeped in food culture for decades, and the company is continuing to build and evolve its culinary offerings.
Those options include tastings, cooking classes, and great restaurants along the way. Of all of the hundreds of possible optional activities that Avanti offers — such as whitewater rafting, cave exploration, snorkeling, reef fishing and bungee jumping — the food-related offerings are far and away the most popular.
Avanti now has extensive culinary offerings in Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Among the new offerings are two culinary programs in the new Avanti Journeys product line. While Avanti built its business on custom travel packages that are made to order, the Journeys product is an exception to the rule. They are air-inclusive packages offered in a particular form and cannot be customized. The advantages are low cost and ease of purchase.
Avanti introduced new cuisine-focused Journeys packages in Europe this year, including a 10-day/nine-night “European Classics for Foodies” program that visits London, Paris and Rome; and a 13-day/12-night “Flavors of Southern Europe” program that includes Rome, Athens, Barcelona and Madrid. The packages include transatlantic airfare, transfers, hotels and tours.
Avanti also introduced some new customizable culinary, land-only itineraries, including “Sips and Samples of Southern England,” “Gastronomic Wonders of France and Spain” and “Taste of the Wachau Valley” (Austria).
These add-on experiences include such food- and drink-oriented experiences as a pierogi-making class and a vodka tour in Krakow or Warsaw; tours of markets in Vienna, Paris and Avignon; a Nordic food walking tour of Stockholm; a macaroon- or baguette-baking class in Paris; a risotto cooking class on the shores of Lake Lugano; a dinner with a Parisian family; a private distillery experience in Helsinki; and a tour of a chocolate-making workshop in Paris.
Avanti is now offering stays at wine villas in four regions of Italy. The four-day/three-night packages each include three tastings, as well as opportunities to meet and visit with the winemakers and sample their products. The regions include Veneto, with its Prosecco and Valpolicella; Piedmont, with Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto and Gavi; Puglia, with Primitivo and Negroamarano; and Tuscany, with Brunello di Montalcino, Bolgheri-Sassicaia and Chianti Classico.
With demand for Europe in a growth mode, this year, Avanti introduced 73 new activities, 178 hotels and villas, 17 suggested itineraries and four new destinations to its extensive European offerings. Among the new culinary offerings are a private beer spa and massage in Prague; and a private Chianti with truffle-hunting tour and lunch out of Florence.
In Austria, the company is offering a three-day/two-night “Taste of Wachau Valley” program that includes one dinner, a private tour with a wine tasting, and a visit to the place where Richard the Lionhearted was held captive and other ancient abbeys and castle ruins.
In Britain, Avanti has teamed up with VisitBritain to offer “Local Flavors in Great Britain,” promoting the rising diversity and creativity in British cuisine. It is a series of five itineraries focused on London, Yorkshire, Edinburgh and Cornwall/Devon, which are the four regional “food hubs” identified by VisitBritain as having rich culinary heritage as well as new, innovative food and drink experiences. The itineraries range from seven to 13 days.
Avanti is also offering four new, four-day modules, each focused on one of the four food hubs, which can be combined or added onto another Avanti Great Britain itinerary.
In its Asia division, Avanti has introduced a series of four-hour recommended dining experiences with special menus, led by a local guide who is well-versed in local cuisine. These include a Duck de Chine Sanlitun dinner at a stylish French-Chinese fusion restaurant in Beijing; an elaborate meal at Hakkasan on the Bund in Shanghai, with a menu created by Michelin-starred Tong Chee Hwee; and a night tour with dumpling dinner at De Fa Chang, sampling more than 20 types of dumplings, and followed by a visit to the largest musical fountain in Asia.
Similar kinds of programs are available in Singapore, Tokyo and Bangkok.
Avanti has been beefing up its culinary offerings in Latin America as well, with more than 100 packages to choose from.
“Cultural and Culinary Peru” is an eight-day/seven-night package that includes Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cuzco. It includes a tour to sample the flavors of Lima through a market visit, a cooking demonstration and lunch; a tour of the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo with a farm-to-table lunch and traditional musical performance; and a wine-and-cheese tasting, a walking tour and cooking class with lunch, and chocolate-making class in Cuzco.
“Culinary Highlights of South America” is a 12-day/11-night, air-inclusive food-and-wine package loaded with culinary experiences in Peru, Chile and Argentina. Highlights include a Lima gastronomy tour, lunch and class on preparing ceviche and pisco sour; a Lima bike tour of three huariques (small family restaurants serving traditional cuisine), a dinner overlooking the Pacific; a Chilean wine discovery tour, dinner and tasting in Santiago; an all-day gourmet tour to food markets and specialty food shops in Santiago; a Colchagua Valley winery tour and lunch; a Maipu Valley wine tour with cooking class and lunch; and a gastronomic tour with dinner in the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.