Chocolate is one of the most divine tastes known to man, but the way it is produced and served varies across the world. Ever since Mesoamericans started processing cacao beans to extract their magical brown core thousands of years ago, chocolate has been special - the food of the gods. And when it spread to Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, it merged with the world of art, resulting in some incredible creations. With lastminute.com, you can discover the world's greatest destinations for chocolate tasting. From touring the "chocolate houses" of Mexico's Oaxaca state to sampling the creations of Belgium's masterful chocolatiers, there are plenty of appetising adventures to be had. Here are some suggestions for chocolate-themed escapes that confectionery lovers will adore.
Let's start where it all began: the villages of eastern Mexico. This coastal state still produces some of the finest cacao beans in the world, and there are some delights for chocolate devotees to explore. Don't miss Calle Mina (also known as the "chocolate road", where cafes whip up spiced hot chocolate called "stole" and sell artisan bars made from Mexican cacao. The aroma itself is delicious. But not as delicious as tacos with "mole" sauce - a seductive blend of spices and sauce which truly makes Oaxaca one of the world's chocolate hotspots.
Far away from Oaxaca, shops like Rococo Chocolates in London's Belgravia district have taken chocolate-making to new heights of artistry. When you walk into the company's flagship store, it feels like a jeweller, as much as a chocolate showroom. But it's actually more like a classroom, offering fascinating master-classes about how to create the perfect violet creams, sea salted caramels or truffles.
Few places are as closely identified with chocolate as Bariloche, a town situated high up in the Patagonian Alps. Drawing on the German and Italian roots of many locals, the area's remarkable amount of chocolatiers makes it one of the world's standout destinations for chocolate tasting. There's Mamushka, the home of Baileys-filled cream eggs; Rapa Nui, with its ornate chocolate animal figures, and the Kingdom of Chocolate, where the alfajores (Argentine cookies) are to die for.
As if its tropical beaches wasn't enough, the Indonesian island of Bali is also a prince among chocolate destinations. Spurred on by the appetite for luxury tourism and thriving local cacao production, numerous high-end chocolatiers have set up shop on the island. For instance, Pod Chocolate produces velvety smooth chocolate straight from the source, and also offers master-classes to see how the experts work. And it's not alone. From the raw chocolate of Ubud to chocolate spa treatments at Seminyak, a Bali chocolate break offers no end of attractions.
With a name like Chocolate Valley, this corner of Tuscany would have to be one of the best places for chocolate in the world, and it is. Located near the historic city of Pisa, this region hosts globally famous masters like Amedei, busy chocolate cafes like Slitti in Monsummano terme, and Pasticceria Mannori - where the pralines are exceptional. Be there in October for Prato's Chocolate and Chestnuts Festival.
No list of where to try chocolate in the world would be complete without at least one Belgian suggestion. No country is as famous for the commitment of its artisan producers, and brands like Cote d'Or can be found the world over. But what can't be found anywhere are the family-run chocolate workshops in Bruges. This medieval marvel of a destination hosts innumerable confectionery makers. From Café Tasse, with its liqueur-filled creations to the heavenly caramel of Dumon, the city is a paradise for chocolate fans.
Returning to the cradle of chocolate production, the answer to the question of where to find the best chocolate could well lie in the capital of Peru. More specifically, the holy grail of chocolate making may be La Casa del Chocolate's ChocoMuseo - one of the world's finest museums dedicated solely to our favourite sweet treat. It tells the story of chocolate in an entertaining style. More importantly, visitors can roll up their sleeves and make some chocolate of their own - a great activity for families with young ones who with a sweet tooth.
If you want to mix skiing with sweetness, why not tour the chocolate factories of Switzerland, another legendary European producer? In Zurich, visitors can enjoy Lindt's "Swiss Chocolate Experience", which culminates in a buffet with more than 30 varieties. In Broc, Maison Cailler mixes multimedia history with seductive tastes, while Basel's Beschle Chocolatier lead you through every stage of the production process, before letting visitors try their hand at emulating the masters. With so many tours available, it all makes Switzerland one of the world's great chocolate destinations.