Our friends at The Travel Corporation Canada (Contiki, Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Uniworld river cruises) reminded us that one of the best days of the year is soon approaching. World Chocolate Day will be celebrated July 7, and they compiled a list of the best places to visit if you’re a chocaholic and want to take chocolate tours.
July 7th may be one of the happiest days of the year: it’s World Chocolate Day! That’s right, this international holiday celebrates this oh-so delicious treat in all of its mouth-melting glory. And for good reason. The worldwide consumption of chocolate every year is estimated to be at least 7.2 million metric tons, and Canadians placed ninth overall on world chocolate consumption with an average of 6.4 kilos of chocolate devoured consumed a year. That’s at least 160 chocolate bars per year, per person. But who’s counting anyway? Chocolate is the elixir of life, no matter how much we sugar coat it.
With the summer travel season here, Canadians are reminded that vacations are meant to be a time for indulgence. You’ve heard of wine and yes, even tours visiting shooting locations from Outlander, well, why not chocolate tourism and chocolate tours? From the rainforests of Central America to Europe’s mountain towns, the sweet-toothed team over at The Travel Corporation Canada shares their top chocolate-filled destinations that will leave you drooling on the plane ride over.
SWITZERLAND CHOCOLATE TOURS
No talk about chocolate can begin without talking about Switzerland first. It is the home of the world’s finest chocolate after all! Channel your inner Willy Wonka and make a beeline for Maison Cailler – a real-life chocolate factory sans Oompa-Loompas. It’s one of Switzerland’s oldest and most important chocolate factories and a visit here will introduce you to the highest echelons of Swiss chocolate making. Don’t be fooled, the Maison looks more like a manor house than what might normally be associated with any sort of production line. Surrounded by lush meadows, almost 2,000 cows within a 20-mile radius still produce all the fresh milk required by the chocolate-making process. Immerse your senses in the wonderful world of chocolate by travelling on Luxury Gold’s 11-day ‘Majestic Switzerland’ journey where you’ll be able to witness the different stages of chocolate-making at the Maison. Through cameras you can watch live as the ingredients of chocolate are processed before grabbing fists full of fresh chocolate in the final room. There can be few better ways to end a day than that.
HUNTER VALLEY CHOCOLATE COMPANY, AUSTRALIA
Just a couple hours north of Sydney lies the picturesque Hunter Valley, the heart of Australian wine country. The Instagram-worthy region isn’t just famous for its wines though. The Hunter Valley also has delectable chocolate! Make sure to visit the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company who specializes in handmade artisanal chocolate and fudge. There are three locations to visit within the valley, but the most immersive experience can be found at the Twenty-3-Twenty Chocolate and Fudge Factory – the other locations are at Hunter Valley Gardens and Peterson’s Champagne House – where Belgian couverture is combined with Australian fruit and nuts, as well as fruit oil infusions.
Looking for some chocolate indulgence? Look no further than the Hotel Sacher, home to the often-imitated-never-duplicated velvety Sachertorte. This chocolate cake boasts an apricot jam filling and is often served with a dollop of whipped cream and is considered one of the most famous desserts in all of Austria. So famous in fact that there was a spat in the early 1900’s between Hotel Sacher and competing bakery, Konditorei Demel. In what is now commonly referred to as the ‘cake war’, both establishments entered into a lengthy legal fight over whose right it was to own the label of ‘the original Sachertorte’. The decades-long fight ended in 1963 when both parties agreed that Hotel Sacher could use the phrase “The Original Sachertorte” and Demel had the right to decorate its tortes with a triangular seal reading Eduard-Sacher-Torte. But who has the best slice you might ask? On Insight Vacations 12-day ‘European Rhapsody’ journey, you’ll have the chance to try both and mull it over coffee as you gaze upon the elegance of the city’s architecture – from the Vienna State Opera to the imperial Hofburg Palace – all the while being regaled with tales from a by-gone era from a local Viennese.
As one of the nations where chocolate has long been a part of the indigenous culture, it’s natural chocolate-lovers would want to explore this side to the gastronomy while they’re here. While cacao is cultivated on plantations in the Amazon rainforest, chocolatiers create the final product in the nation’s towns and cities. In Quito, take a visit to the popular Mariscal Foch plaza which will provide an in-depth chocolate tour with three local companies—Republica del Cacao, Pacari, and Kallari—which not only grow their own cacao, but they offer never-heard-of brands for adventurous chocolate connoisseurs.
It seems apt that Bariloche in Patagonia is known as the “Switzerland of South America”; while referring to the mountains and its resemblance to a Swiss mountain town, this is one region of Argentina that also has a notable connection to chocolate. They don’t call it Argentina’s chocolate capital for nothing. If you’re planning on making a cocoa-pilgrimage, you’ll want to visit the many chocolate museums that dot what Argentines call “The Avenue of Chocolate Dreams” (Mitre Avenue). Stroll down the avenue to find out about this region’s Mayan and Aztec roots, as well as its connection to the confectionary, seeing the production process and sampling some for yourself. Make Mamuschka (Mitre 298, San Carlos de Bariloche) one of them. Considered “the daddy of Bariloche’s chocolate scene”, this store stocks every type of chocolate imaginable, from white chocolate Baileys-filled eggs to bars of 90% cocoa dark chocolate. For the full experience, get a seat in the café located at the back and order one of the thickest hot chocolates you will ever taste. Your own chocolate tour through the area will leave you with a sweet taste.
TURIN, ITALY CHOCOLATES
There’s no doubt that chocolate is deeply ingrained in the cultural identity of Turin. Along with Piedmont, Turin embraced chocolate in the 17th century, at which time chocolate houses started appearing and Turin’s answer to hot chocolate was born. Bicerin is a traditional hot drink native to the town, made of espresso, drinking chocolate, and whole milk. The recipe for this delicious sweet and rich elixir has been handed down since the 1700’s and it’s no wonder. It is one of the most addictive hot chocolates (or coffee, depending on how you look at it) you’ll ever indulge in. Experience a piece of the town’s history first-hand by finding a spot in one of the local cafés to enjoy the local Biscotti and steamy Bicerin on Trafalgar’s week-long gastronomic ‘Piedmont and the Italian Lakes’ adventure while being surrounded by the picturesque Piazza San Carlo, complete with its 17th century façades, and the Church of San Lorenzo. Buonissimo!
Long before coffee, Costa Ricans drank chocolate. In fact, cacao has such a long-standing history in this tropical destination that cacao beans were originally used as currency by indigenous tribes in Pre-Columbian times and continued to be a form of currency up until the 1930s. Most of the country’s cacao comes from its Caribbean coast which provides the perfect climatic conditions with plenty of rain. For those looking to feed their chocolate addiction, Contiki’s 9-day ‘Pura Vida’ adventure includes a locally guided visit to a traditional cacao plantation located inside the Tirimbina Biological Reserve – a research center and lodge near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. To get to the plantation, you’ll be taken through a rainforest across the longest hanging bridge in the region before learning literally an A to Z of how chocolate is produced with the opportunity to be involved in the process. Of course, you’ll get to sample everything on display. Just remember, you can eat everything but the guide!
The Travel Corporation Canada is the Canadian division of the world’s leading family-owned travel group whose roster of award-winning brands include Luxury Gold, Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, CostSaver, Uniworld, U by Uniworld, Contiki, Busabout, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection and Lion World Travel. Operating in 70 countries, The Travel Corporation offers immersive and life changing vacations and adventures catered to every lifestyle and budget driven by service to ensure guests not only travel in the best way possible but that they also experience life changing moments that will remain with them forever. The Travel Corporation also created The TreadRight Foundation and started a Social Responsibility journey a decade ago to ensure that the places we live in, the communities we visit, and the planet we love remain vibrant for generations to come.