Vegan holidays in Greece

The funny thing about veganism in Greece is that while the concept itself isn’t yet very well known here – outside cities you will often struggle to get people to understand what you want – in fact, much of the cuisine is already suitable for vegan travellers. In part that’s down to the nature of Mediterranean cuisine, which of course puts a lot of emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables, and wow, do they grow them well in Greece – the markets on Crete are especially renowned. But religion, specifically Greek Orthodoxy, also plays a role.

During Greek Orthodox Lent, it is normal for adherents to observe a period of fasting. This involves abstaining from eating any animals – or products from any animals – with red blood, as well as any type of seafood that has a backbone. So although it doesn’t correspond exactly with the vegan diet – squid, octopus and honey are still allowed – the dishes served during the Greek fasting period come very close. Easter in Greece is typically very busy as people return home from the cities and abroad to celebrate, and many restaurants close their doors, but the weeks preceding can therefore be a fantastic time for vegan travellers. Like Western Lent, this fasting period also lasts 40 days, but also includes Sundays, and Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church usually falls later than it does in Western Christianity – check online for dates each year.
Fasting also takes place prior to Christmas (around the 7th of January in Greek Orthodox Christianity) and the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on 15th August. So while it’s true that the Greeks are big on their meat, cheese and seafood, there are clearly plenty of virtually animal-free recipes on offer here, even if veganism goes by a different word. And that word, the one you’ll come to rely on travelling through Greece as a vegan, is nistisimo (fasting food). Ask for that, in restaurants, cafes, tavernas, and you can be reasonably confident that you will be offered something that fits in with your diet.

Our top Vegan Holiday

Vegan holiday in Greece, cooking and food

Vegan holiday in Greece, cooking and food

Being Vegan the Mediterranean Way - Greek village holiday

From £845 7 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 18 May
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Vegan or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Eating vegan in Greece

Vegan holidays in Greece see you staying at a villa close to a protected lagoon in a picturesque coastal village on coast in the Peloponnese. Over the course of a week your hosts will take you through the nourishing benefits of slow-cooked food, emphasising the potential for a vegan diet to be ultra healthy, free of toxins and very nutritional.

You’ll dine at local restaurants that serve a range of excellent vegan dishes, wines and beers, and enjoy rustic meals in farmers’ tavernas. You will wander around markets to select seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts and pulses – with translation provided by your hosts if needed – and even knock up a vegan picnic. There will even be the opportunity to do a little foraging for wild herbs around olive groves and beaches.
In between, there will be hands-on cookery lessons to learn how to make traditional Greek hummus and other dishes (liberally drenched in top quality olive oil, of course), daytrips out to ancient castles, archaeological sites, beaches and waterfalls. If that all sounds quite idyllic – well, that’s because it is.
And what vegan-friendly dishes can you expect to find on your average menu? Think hearty bean soup – fasolada; gemistas, that are succulent tomatoes or bell peppers stuffed with rice and herbs; imam baildi, a braised eggplant with a filling of onion, tomato and garlic; fried zucchini and fava. Many Greek appetisers are also vegan: such as keftedes, which are fritters made with eggplant or tomato, and dolmadakia, grapevine leaves sometimes filled with minced beef but usually just rice and herbs.
Be wary when ordering falafel, which is usually bound with egg, and of finding tsatziki in your gyro, the quintessential Greek street food. Many ‘vegan’ dishes often come sprinkled with cheese, too, so be sure to expressly request it without.

Vegan festivals in Greece

The vegan movement has yet to really take hold in Greece, but it’s certainly starting to grow. One consequence is a number of annual vegan festivals, in destinations ranging from Athens to Crete and Thessaloniki. You might consider bookending your holiday with one of these to make your immersion into the vegan lifestyle in Greece complete.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Edgar Castrejon] [Top box: Ella Olsson] [Hummus: Ella Olsson] [Greek market: Dennis Sylvester Hurd]
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