In this post I write about our whole experience of food and dining on our trip to the Cyclades Greek islands this summer. Since we stayed the longest time in Santorini – I particularly mention all the Santorini food spots where we found vegan food. In addition, I also write about some ethical issues that came up.
- Greek Islands in general
- Vegan in Santorini
Vegan in the Greek Islands
I have to break it to you – vegan food is hard to come by here, if you plan to dine out. We didn’t stay in accommodation with kitchens, so had no choice but to eat out daily. After all, these are the islands and I didn’t have much expectation but at times it seemed impossible to find something proper to eat. Things would have also been easier if we spoke Greek or had a local guide with us every time.
Greek cuisine has a lot of vegan options they said.. I read this on several travel blogs. They listed many Greek dishes that are traditionally plant-based. Greek salad minus the feta, dolmas (vine leaf rolls stuffed with herbed rice), fava, fried potatoes etc. These are more like starters, and dishes are often served with some dairy yoghurt/dip or cheese. Most restaurants don’t stock plant-based cheese. If you look at menus as a whole, it’s heavily animal-based, especially ‘seafood’. On the islands, restaurants mainly offer different type of marine animals, caught killed and served ‘fresh’ supposedly. Alternatives to animal products were virtually non-existent. You won’t really find tofu or seitan on these islands. We were surprised that even Asian restaurants didn’t have tofu on the menu. The only places that may have such are the exclusively vegan restaurants and those are few.
On a couple of occasions we requested a dish without the cheese/yoghurt but they forgot to do so or couldn’t. Restaurants are busy here and may simply say it’s not available. They won’t make you the spinach pies without cheese so don’t bother asking. The cheese addiction is real. Feta, made from sheep and goat milk is widely used here. Even if something doesn’t have cheese, it might have eggs. It must be convenient for lacto-ovo-vegetarians here. But exploiting female animals for their milk and eggs shouldn’t be an option. Is feta even vegetarian? Some cheeses use enzymes (look up ‘rennet’) extracted from the stomach of slaughtered young calves. It’s messed up.
All this aside. What’s good to eat – the fresh vegetable and fruits. They do taste unique and in Santorini, for example, they cultivate their special tomatoes, fava (split peas), capers and white eggplant. These grow on the volcanic soils and with little rainfall – they are shrunken in size and different. I can tell you that these are delicious! I usually dislike capers and eggplant. And the fava is tasty – we had a LOT of it. Plenty of olive oil and olives as well. Most of the other produce is from Crete, where more stuff grows. Traditional Mediterranean diets are high in veggies and I believe meat consumption was lower compared to modern day consumption. Check out this blogpost by Olivetomato.
Oh and the wine is amazing. Most local wines are natural/unfiltered (check with the producer) and thus vegan-friendly. Natural wines are my favourite type of wine and I couldn’t get enough.
Vegan in Santorini
In Santorini, we spent a whole 8 days. It was our arrival and departure point. We had the privilege to stay at MOD Santorini – the very first vegan boutique hotel on the island. Breakfast was included – chickpea omelettes, pancakes, waffles, fruit salad, loaded avo toast, smoothie bowls – we had it all! For our other meals, we mostly ate out.
On another note, I’d like to point out an ethical issue regarding the donkeys/mules on the island(s). There seem to be places where animal rides are still given. Read the reviews on donkey tours on Google maps yourself at Santorini Donkey. It amazes me how people come together on these kind of issues and speak out against animal abuse. This they see happening in front of their eyes, the animals beaten and suffering in the heat. What happens to other farm animals? It’s all hidden away – real atrocities are happening in factory farms and slaughterhouses.
So I saw donkeys as they were taken to the tour point (stairs that go down to the Old Harbor of Santorini). I didn’t visit that place but J climbed up and down the stairs. The animal rides are losing popularity now and there’s a cable car that you can take up for the same price, if you can’t walk up!
Let’s eat some vegan food now! Below I mention all those places in Santorini where we did manage to find some vegan food.
Restaurants in Santorini
Erithrou Stavrou, Santorini, Greece
5 Senses is the place you will find if you search for vegan restaurants in Santorini in 2021. They are a plant-based Mediterranean restaurant. Many dishes are inspired by Greek cuisine but you will find a variety of options on the menu. The restaurant is a bit on the fine end – the space, the service, quality of dishes.. as well as the prices. They have separate lunch and dinner menus, which you will be able to check out on your phone using a QR code they provide. We dined at 5 Senses three times as it was also near Firostefani 🙂 it takes only about 10min to walk there from MOD – how convenient. A nice walking route towards Fira.
We were always warmly welcomed – they have the sweetest staff and the manager is always around making sure things are going good. The seating space is on a terrace overlooking the town. They give you welcome shots of corn soup with chili oil. On these 3 occasions we tried out: The traditional Santorini Fava, vine rolls with vegan tzatziki, Chicky Strips for mains; Greek Baklava and Avo Scandal for dessert! Oh and did I mention vegan shrimps? At first, I was wondering if they are actually vegan but they told us it’s made of rice protein and stuff. I’d never eaten shrimps or any such thing and thought these vegan shrimps were really good! Creative and flavourful.
The desserts were amazing. They also have a smoothie, yoghurt and ice cream kiosk right below the restaurant. We highly recommend dining at 5 Senses at least once!
This is the place that saves the budget traveller in Santorini! All vegetarian menu with mostly vegan options. I wish we had eaten from here more. It’s located in Fira but not in the main square. FalafeLAND is a kind of kiosk with a small outdoor seating space in front. I had the volcanic wrap (spicy) and J had the falafel box. It all tasted really good and prices affordable (6€ for a filling wrap). They also have refreshing lemonade, ice tea and vegan desserts!
There’s another falafel kiosk which we actually ate at once thinking it’s this place (they made us vegan falafel wrap, but I was a bit suspicious about the mayo). This ‘other’ falafel kiosk is in Fira centre nearby and has similar wraps and also salads:
On the way back from Skaros, along the caldera walking route to Firostefani, we settled down at Onar for some refreshments. They had some vegan food stated on the menu including starters and mains e.g vegan garlic macaroni. We had the fava spread with a bread basket and the eggplant salad with Arab pita bread – it was delicious! Amazing views, good service too – recommended!
Marinatou, Thira 847 00, Greece
This is one of those fine resto-bars with a caldera view which people settle into to watch the sunset. We went there one one evening as well to try out their cocktails and signature vegan dishes. Black bean burger and the Beyond meat dog. They came with tasty potato wedges and vegan mayo which was amazing, ohh boy! The sunset view was pretty nice and was enjoyed along with some fancy cocktails. Prices are $$$$
**update 16.10.2021: They have closed for the season** Many restaurants in Santorini close in October/November for winter so check restaurants official page before you go.
Ginger Sushi Lounge
near Firostefani central square, Thera 847 00, Greece
We had a good couple of experiences at Ginger Sushi Lounge – right next to Firostefani square. They didn’t have a ton of vegan options, but I was craving some strong Asian flavours after eating only falafel hummus- salad type food two days straight. The staff at this place is welcoming and friendly and are ready to help you out with choosing the vegan dishes. There’s edamame for starters which we absolutely loved – served warm and salty. For the main food we had a choice of 3 types of sushi rolls and veg noodle bowl, which was vegan. Weirdly, the sushi rolls came with one central ingredient – either cucumber, mango or avocado. Usually we get rolls with several different things in. The portions were measly for the price. Go here for the flavours and ambience.
Παραλία Ακρωτηρίου, Akrotiri 847 00, Greece
You will probably visit Akrotiri and the Red Beach on your stay in Santorini – make sure to dine at Melina’s Tavern! It’s a seafood restaurant but they actually have a vegan menu. We stopped by here for lunch on our way to the Red Beach. Started to order what we thought were the vegan options from the general menu but then the waiter asked if we were vegan and voilà – produced a Vegan Menu! This is a family run restaurant and the service is friendly (we did wait a while for a bill in the end since they were busy at lunch hour but they made up by giving us berry shots).
Food – we had the veggie pasta, zucchini fritters, potato fries and fresh juices to go along. Simple, tasty and homemade style. The fritters were heavy and there was no sauce to go along. The veg Mousaka would have been worth a try.
Restaurants in Oia and other suggestions
We mainly stayed and dined in Fira, the ‘capital’. This was the best place in terms of vegan options too. We visited Oia on one day but it wasn’t easy to find food there. Already tired and hungry after the 3.30hrs hike from Fira, Google or HappyCow etc. didn’t help us find any vegan options. One google review stated a place had vegan wraps but we went there and there was nothing vegan (3Bs restaurant). Just a veggie wrap, with cheese of course. Managed to get a detox juice and moved on. We spent some time sightseeing and then stopped by Lotza Greek restaurant. The signboard outside had 2 dishes marked (V). Note that this only meant vegetarian and not vegan. The spinach pie had feta (and probably eggs) in it. We ordered the traditional fava and stuffed eggplant.
We had a poor experience with the service there. The waitress didn’t seem interested in taking our order and seemed offended when we asked if they have a vegan spinach pie. Moreover, we waited ages for the bill. Their response on google.. ”as I personally did your payment and you where in the restaurant for 45 minutes to an hour so it’s not possible for you to be waiting 30 minutes to pay.” how weird, I wrote the review days later, no way such a busy restaurant remembers these details. They also claim to have 7 vegan options, but they don’t (probably confuse it with vegetarian). I wouldn’t recommend dining at Lotza. The food is ok, view is alright.
Instead, I would suggest Karma Greek lounge. We passed by this place on the way to the bus stop in Oia, located on a pretty and peaceful alley. There used to be a fully vegan meze bar in Oia that sadly shut down (Katharos Lounge). There are a some places we know that have vegan options but didn’t mange to dine at in this trip. I’m going to mention those below. Let me know if you’ve been there and how was the experience!
Tranquilo beach bar & restaurant – vegetarian food in Perissa. Faros products – a deli serving some local light Greek food, vegan options like fava, tomato balls etc. You can find their shop/café in Akrotiri, at the southern tip of the island. Kaliya Restaurant– a fancy restaurant on the highest points of the caldera in Fira has a vegan menu section. Probably the only place on the Greek Islands that has tempeh and tofu on the menu!? We passed by a couple of times and had a look at the menu at the decorated entranceway (where people stopped by just to click their photo). As you can see, prices are $$$$. The café near Kaliya (in pic) has plant milks.
On this trip we didn’t do much of grocery shopping (yay) and only went to mini-markets for snacks, instant food or beer/beverages. Always came across some vegan products like Alpro milks, Starbucks cold coffee and Violife cheese! We didn’t need to buy those but we were happy to find instant noodles (yes, the chicken flavour one is actually vegan) and such. You will also find many smoothie kiosks and fruits stalls selling fresh fruit juice. We found some good acai smoothies and it doesn’t usually contain milk.
Overall, it wasn’t the easiest time finding vegan food – but luckily more options are popping up. Vegan travellers – don’t hesitate to visit Santorini! We can leave quick feedback/reviews to restaurants and create demand for change.