Traveling as a vegan is certainly more challenging than for those who don’t have dietary restrictions. But if you’re not an especially fussy eater, there is almost always something to eat on your vegan travels. It might not be exciting, and sometimes that’s OK. Sure, it’s better to have choices but that’s the trade-off one makes while traveling as a vegan. Because of this challenge, many vegan travelers now regularly choose destinations to visit based on their vegan-friendliness and range in the choice of types of food.
With veganism becoming more and more normalized in many parts of the world, and with many kinds of cuisine being vegan-friendly just by coincidence, there are way more surprising vegan travels destinations than you would think. And depending on where you are travelling as a vegan, some cities even offer vegan food tours to explore the local scene with someone in the know.
If you’re doing vegan travelling, check out these tips for destinations that offer accidentally vegan-friendly cuisines with recommendations on particular restaurants to try out all over Europe, South America, and Asia.
Traveling as a Vegan: Up & Coming Destinations
Even though the vegan movement is still pretty small in Greece, traditional Greek cuisine includes a surprising number of naturally vegan dishes. This is because the Greek Orthodox calendar contains more than 180 “fasting” days when believers abstain from eating foods that are prohibited under rules set out by the Greek Orthodox Church. The good news for those who travel vegan is that these rules prescribe what is almost a vegan diet (with a couple of exceptions, namely honey and certain aquatic animals like squid).
Some of the best foods in Greece include mezedhes (small appetizers) like skordalia (a garlicky potato dip), dolmadhes (stuffed vine leaves) and tomatokeftedes (tomato fritters), which can be combined to make a scrumptious vegan meal. And there are plenty of naturally vegan main dishes too, like briám (similar to ratatouille), gemista (stuffed tomatoes or bell peppers) and imam baildi (eggplant stuffed with onion, garlic and tomatoes). Since many Greeks are not yet familiar with the term vegan, the easiest way to make sure you’re getting a vegan dish is to ask for something that’s nistisimo (fasting food) and doesn’t contain seafood or honey.
When traveling as a vegan to Tbilisi, Georgia you might not expect much in the way of vegan food, but upon arrival, you may just be pleasantly surprised. One traditional Georgian cuisine which happens to be vegan is lobiani, a bread bean pie. Similar to stuffed Indian paratha, but this pie is a bit thicker, and stuffed with bean paste: delicious and filling. Bread is a staple in Georgia, so you will have no trouble finding it all over the country but do be sure to ask whether it is made with dairy, and eggs, or just vegetable lard.
Another favorite on your vegan travels to Georgia should include khinkali. A delicious dumpling that is usually stuffed with meat, but you can often find restaurants that serve mushroom khinkali. Made to order, these pockets of dough with steaming mushrooms are perfect on a chilly day in Tbilisi. Just a sprinkle of salt, and you’re good to go.
Lobio is another wonderful warming dish from Georgia. A vegan stew made with kidney beans, walnuts, and spices, then poured into a clay pot and baked. Honorable mentions include dadridzhani nigvsit: thin-sliced eggplant topped with walnut paste and pomegranate seeds which makes for a delicious, healthy, and visually exciting dish. As long as you know what to ask for, traveling as a vegan in Georgia is relatively easy and enjoyable. Oh, and don’t miss out on the wonderful wines of Georgia. Khaketi is one of the oldest wine regions in the world.
Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, is an up-and-coming hot spot for vegan cuisine in the Balkans. For breakfast, check out Hlebar where you can get a vegan version of traditional Bulgarian banitsa — a long filo pastry stuffed with different fillings. Be sure to try the apple and cinnamon banitsa.
Another recommendation is Sun & Moon Bakery, a restaurant-cafe-come-bakery that makes vegetarian and vegan versions of traditional Bulgarian foods. The vegan mishmash (made with scrambled tofu) is incredible and the mashed nettles are also worth trying out.
Salted Cafe is a great cafe for homemade vegan falafel wraps at lunchtime. For a budget vegan meal, check out the vegan buffet at Dream House.
Medellín is aptly named “the city of eternal spring”, but Colombia’s second-largest city has more to offer than near-perfect weather, especially for those who travel vegan.
If you explore Medellín’s El Poblado neighborhood, you can feast on vegan burgers, falafel, veganized Colombian food, sushi, Indian food, and a plethora of exotic fruit native to this incredible country.
One favorite vegan dining option in Medellín is Lenteja Express, a vegetarian burger joint that serves up a tasty vegan burger with a variety of topping options and some of the best-roasted potatoes you’ll ever find. Another go-to spot is VegStation, a tiny restaurant with outdoor seating and a daily lunch menu consisting of a soup, a huge plate of vegetables and grains, dessert, and fresh juice or smoothie.
What makes Medellín even more amazing to visit as a vegan was the fact that there are health food stores at nearly every turn in El Poblado. Organic fruit and vegetables, herbs, superfoods, grains, non-dairy milk, and even high-quality chocolates are all super easy to find.
Colombia isn’t known for being the easiest when travelling as a vegan, but Medellín is surely on its way to becoming one of the best cities in the world for vegan travelling peeps to visit.
Peru is a great place for vegans, even if at first it doesn’t seem like it. There is a wide variety of fruits to discover (like lucuma, one of our favorites), fresh vegetables and, in general, food is very cheap.
As in most countries, the capital, Lima, is the most vegan-friendly city. There, you’ll find vegan restaurants for all tastes. If you thought you couldn’t enjoy Peruvian gastronomy because you’re vegan, think again. Sabor y Vida will give you some of the best vegan ceviche and lomo saltado. If you’re more into gourmet cuisine, you can try an amazing burger at Seitan Urban Bistro. Raw food, quiches, pizzas, burgers, waffles, pancakes, ice creams, smoothies, everything is possible in Lima.
In Arequipa, the vegan community is growing, and they hosted Veg Fest in the past. And while it has fewer options than in Lima, you will still find delicious vegan food. Recently the first vegan restaurant opened, El Buda Profano, and even meat-eaters are amazed by their sushis. If you’re staying in the Ciudad Blanca, you should definitely try a vegan rocoto relleno (Stuffed pepper, Arequipa’s specialty) at Mandala.
Anywhere in Peru, you’ll be able to find vegan food on your vegan travelling, especially if you speak some Spanish. In almost every place, you can get a veganized dish. And last but not least, food portions are huge in Peruvian restaurants!
Malacca is a quaint UNESCO World Heritage city located in the South of Malaysia. Being mostly famous for its history, it seems to fly under most people’s radar as a travel vegan destination. Malaysia as a whole is one of the easiest countries in Southeast Asia to find vegan and vegetarian food, and Malacca has so much to offer.
A lot of vegan sweets such as nonya kueh (sticky rice and coconut milk treats) can be found at the famous Jonker Street night market and vegan versions of local savory specialties such as chicken rice balls (a Malacca dish consisting of boiled chicken and dumpling-like rice balls) and laksa (spicy coconut noodle soup) can be found at Hui Xian Vegetarian. There’s also longton soup (rice cubes, okra, cabbage, turmeric, lemongrass, tempeh) at Geographer Café that is definitely worth trying on your vegan travels.