Eating Vegan and Vegetarian in Greece and the Greek Islands
by Veronica Grace (originally written in 2010 for an older blog) Majority of photos included copyrighted by Veronica Grace
A Travelogue on my adventures of eating vegan in Greece back in August and September 2010.
Greece is unlike any other place in the world. It is a place that has always fascinated me since
I was a child and I often dreamed of going to ancient sites and gazing upon ruins built by an
ancient civilization that was so advanced for its time. Fortunately for us, so many ruins and
texts (such as the Iliad and the Odyssey) have withstood time and can still be enjoyed by people
from all over the world today.
It is definitely a place you should consider visiting at least once in your lifetime.
Greece is a country where even the smallest of islands and remotest of places will have beautiful
temples dedicated to any number of the pantheon of gods of Mount Olympus. They would often
choose the highest plains on which to build a temple to their chosen god. The most famous of all
is the Parthenon for the goddess Athena at the Acropolis of Athens as well as the Oracle at Delphi
for the god Apollo.
The Greeks (after the Egyptians) were one of the first civilizations to ponder the creation of
the universe. The most widely accepted version is reported by Hesiod in his writing the Theogony.
It begins with Chaos, a yawning nothingness. Out of the void emerged Eurynome also known as Gaia
(the Earth) and some other primary divinities: Eros (Love), the Abyss (Tartarus) and Erebus. Gaia
gave birth to Oranos (the Sky) who then fertilized her. From their union were born the Titans, six
males: Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus and Oceanus and six females: Mnemosyne, Phoebe,
Rhea, Theia, Themis and Tethys. Cronus was the last Titan to be born because he was the most terrible
of all of Gaia’s children and he ended up castrating his father and became the ruler of all the gods
with his sister-wife Rhea.
You may have heard of Cronus, as he is the father of the almighty Zeus, the ruler of all the gods
at Mt. Olympus who overthrew him with the help of the Cyclops and banished him along with the
other Titans into the Abyss (Tartarus), a dungeon in the underworld for all eternity.
Although these tales are purely mythological it is interesting that so many beliefs have stemmed
from Greek origins, such as the name Gaia for the Earth, being the mother of all living things. And
the underworld being a dark place of torment and suffering.
We also have the Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle to thank for shaping
the entire thought of Western Civilization today. All of which have had an immense effect on
our beliefs about the world as we perceive it.
So the Greeks earned some well deserved respect from us on our travels!
But It’s All Greek To Me!
“Why would I travel to Greece? I don’t speak let alone read Greek!” you might exclaim.
Fear not, Greek is not an intimidating as you think and you will miss out on a great culture,
country and ancient history if you let this deter you.
In Greece, you will see the Greek alphabet everywhere. And unless you are only staying for a
day or two, you really should spend a few minutes going over the Greek characters, as you will
find it very useful when deciphering road signs and menus if you plan on stepping anywhere
outside of your resort haven where everyone speaks English. Even so, after about an hour of
practice (in total) you should have no problem deciphering some basic Greek.
Here’s a quick look at the Greek Alphabet, it’s translation into Roman characters to help you
read Greek signage.
Do I Really Have to Learn Greek?
The answer is no, you don’t HAVE to learn Greek. Any tourist place you are going will have
more than enough locals that speak both Greek and English. Generally if they didn’t learn
English they’d have a hard time communicating with the rest of the world since few people
who are not Greek, speak Greek and fewer still can read it outside of Greece itself.
A lot of English and even German words have Greek roots, as the Romans read and spoke Greek
fluently and integrated a lot of their words into their vocabulary. If you are going to
spend a few weeks there, it definitely comes in handy and anyone you talk to in Greek will
light up and be astounded that you took the time to learn their language for such a short
Here are some Greek phrases to help you break the ice, or get
along with the locals (using the Roman alphabet).
Excuse me – Signomi
Do you speak English? – Miláte angliká?
Do you understand English? – Katalavenetay angliká?
Where is _____? Pou eneh _____?
I am vegetarian – Emeh hortofágos
Can I order this without milk or cheese? – Boró na parangelo aftó horís gála í tyrí?
Can I order this without meat or fish? – Boró na parangelo aftó horís kréas í psári?
Greek salad with no feta cheese please – Ellinikí saláta me féta den parakaloúme
I’d like a fruit plate please – Tha íthela éna piáto froúton parakaló
Is there cheese in this? – Eínai tyrí se aftó?
Greek Restaurant Types
Tavernas are the standard eatery you will find whether you’re in a city
or in the middle of nowhere. They’re usually owned by a family and will cook some traditional
Greek dishes along with more westernized touristy dishes. Quite often you can tell a place is
a Taverna if it has a chalkboard out front with daily specials and a menu with pictured dishes
down the side. These places are fairly inexpensive if you stick to fruit plates, salads, beans,
soups, side dishes, and dips.
What Taverna’s offer on the menu and what they have available are two different things,
generally if you are at an establishment frequented by locals and not just tourists there
will be different items offered based on days of the week or season. Often there will be a
few vegetarian friendly dishes available, but not every item listed on the menu. Always ask,
as the kitchen can sometimes modify and they generally have daily specials as well.
Gyros and Souvlakias are fast food style stands that generally sell shaved
meat in a pita bread, kebabs, fries and occasionally falafel and “tost” (a toasted half baguette).
Not really worth checking out for vegetarian fare.
An Estiatorio is a more upscale type of Greek restaurant. These will feature
more high end menu items, most likely fresh seafood dishes along with traditional Greek
vegetarian friendly starters and side dishes. There will not be any pictures of dishes here,
so make sure to ask about certain ingredients if you have any doubts. Almost all items on these
menus are available every day and are made to order. If you ask what can be made vegan or
vegetarian you will be fine.
Greek Produce and Food For The Vegans and Vegetarians
I’d have to say that while Italy was bursting with fresh, delicious local produce, Greece was
not. Yes there was produce, but it did not seem like the Greeks were as proud of their fruit,
as let’s say their olive oil and yogurt. Quite often we would find that produce was not as good
as the shop keeper said it would be and it just wasn’t as flavorful as it could have been. This
is probably due to several reasons, the fact that Greece is going through some hard times, the
produce sellers are not sampling all of their produce and people have switched what was once a
largely plant based Mediterranean diet into a meat and dairy based diet with copious amounts of
olive oil on EVERYTHING.
While the Italians are proud of quality olive oil, they just don’t douse everything they eat and
cook every dish in oil like the Greeks do and it’s probably due to the fact that olive oil was
such a staple export for the country even as far back as the Minoan civilization on Crete in the
15th Century BC. Even through times of scarcity, the Greeks could depend on olive oil to help
feed their families as it’s much higher in calories than fruits or vegetables and lasts longer
than fresh meat. It is seen as flavoring and the main cooking oil and the idea of eating a low fat
diet has not reached Greek shores.
Just know that anything you order at a Taverna or other Greek establishment will likely be
cooked in or flavored with LOTS of olive oil, and ( just like Italy) there is no other salad
dressing available, unless you don’t mind eating your Greek Salad naked!
Deciphering Vegan and Vegetarian Items on a Greek Menu
You may come across some of these traditional Greek dishes if you visit a taverna.
Gigantes – baked broad beans (butter beans) generally in a sweet onion tomato sauce;
occasionally you will find different variations.
Fava – blended chickpeas or split peas garnished with olive oil and served as a dip for
Dolmades – lemon flavored rice stuffed vine leaves.
Skordalia – a dip made with garlic and olive oil blended with either potatoes, stale
bread or nuts. *Some recipes include eggs, so ask.
Yemista – stuffed tomatoes or peppers generally filled with meat, rice and onion
tomato sauce, occasionally you will see these offered without meat.
Melitzanes Papoutsakia (eggplant “little shoes”) – stuffed with tomatoes and onions,
sometimes topped with cheese – ask.
Briam – chunks of zucchini, potatoes and eggplant with (or without cheese), seasoned
with tomato sauce and olive oil baked in an oven.
Imam – eggplant, onions and tomatoes baked in an oven.
Vegan Side Dishes:
Skordia – mashed potatoes pureed with garlic.
Chorta/Xorta – boiled bitter greens seasoned with lots of olive oil and lemon juice.
Eating Vegan and Vegetarian in Athens, Greece
My first stop in Greece was to Athens, one of the worlds oldest cities which has had a
history dating back 3,400 years! Athens has gone through many growth spurts and declinations
over the centuries. The latest of which was in the 1920s when Athens’ population ballooned to
over 700,000 people.
Today, the Larger Urban Zone of Athens is estimated to have almost 5 million people living in it!
Athens is also the 4th most populous city in the European Union. So let’s just say that Athens is
indeed a very sprawling, and somewhat crowded city.
We stayed in the downtown area of Athens near Plaka. If you come to Athens, EVERYONE will be talking
about and referencing Plaka. Basically it is the old neighborhood of Athens that surrounds the
Acropolis on the northern and eastern sides. Plaka was developed around the Ancient Agora of Athens,
which the ruins of can still be seen to this day. You will likely be doing most of your sightseeing
and shopping in this area as there are many old buildings, ruins, and churches along with markets,
vendors and restaurants. All of it is walkable all the way up to the Parthenon at the top of the
Acropolis where you get an amazing view of the city below.
The Plaka Flea Market
If you want high end shopping head to to Ermou Street, the most famous of all shopping streets in
Greece. Many a tourist has shopped til they dropped here!
For everything else go to the Monastariki Flea market, it’s is another name for the Plaka market.
It offers a series of small shops where you can find any kind of knickknacks, antiques, souvenirs
and street food from local vendors. It’s open every day of the week.
However, if you want to buy strictly produce you will have to go to the market early on weekdays,
because it closes on Saturday afternoon and is not open at all on Sunday (much to our dismay as we
spent two weekends in Athens). Other vendors are open, just not produce stands on Sundays.
If you do not shop at the Plaka market, you will be hard pressed to find a decent grocery store to buy
produce at. It is possible to find a few small fruit stands throughout the downtown area, but the
variety of fruit is limited. Check out this page on The Laiki Markets of Athens for a list of all
the community markets and their days : http://www.greecefoods.com/farmers-markets/index.htm
Why Aren’t There Any Grocery Stores in Athens?
The answer is: I don’t really know… This was baffling!
But it seems that Athenians like to buy their produce fresh and
buy it all once a week at their community market in their area (which is usually on a week day) and
then they use convenience stores and small shops for dried and canned goods. There are a scarce few
grocery stores, we found one called Bazaar in the downtown area and another small health food store
attached to the Vegetarian Fast Food restaurant on Panepistimiou.
Basically most tourists use Athens as a short stop over city for either flying in or flying out, and
usually throw in a half day trip to the Acropolis or a full day trip to the Oracle at Delphi. (Both
of which, are highly recommended.)
Athens Tourist Sights
It goes without saying that this is one of the most famous Greek ruins, almost everyone has either
heard of it or seen it’s iconic picture. It was used as a great temple to the goddess Athena whom
which Athens was named after and is the main building of the huge complex on top of the Acropolis.
You can either walk up to the Acropolis yourself and pay for admission at the top, or go on an
organized half day tour which includes admission to the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum
along with a guided group tour. It is very hot at the top under the full sun, unless you go in the
morning or evening, or on an overcast day. Admission: adults 12 euros, children 6 euros. For more
information on the Parthenon go here http://www.athensguide.com/acropolis.html .
The New Acropolis Museum just opened up and boasts a state of the art building design
that showcases many ruins of the ancient city throughout the centuries. Literally the floor is just
plexi-glass and completely see through, so you can gaze down through the stories to the ground below.
It’s definitely worth checking out. The only downer is that about half of the best statues and friezes
are actually at the British Museum in London, as they were plundered by the Duke of almost a century ago.
Needless to say, the Brits don’t feel like returning them any time soon. So if you get a chance to go to
London, you’ll want to make sure you see the Acropolis section as it’s quite impressive and it’s free.
I’m glad we were able to see this earlier on our European trip.
For hours and admission prices for all the sites in Athens check out http://www.athensinfoguide.com/open.htm
for more information.
You should have no problem viewing these monuments within a day or two.
Other than that, you should probably head out of town to either explore the more northern areas of
Greece or head to Piraeus port for some Greek Island hopping, like I did.
The Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurant in Athens:
There is one vegetarian restaurant in Athens, although a little pricey, they do offer fresh juices and a
number of vegan dishes. Granted, if it’s just vegan food you’re after, any taverna should have a few
staples like giantess (broad beans), salads, lava, eggplant etc, for a little less.
Oikologoi Elladas Store(Greek Eco-movement)/Vegetarian Fast Food
57 Panepistimiou Street, El Venezelou, Athens
Description: Vegetarian and Vegan-friendly food, offers dine in buffet, or take out. All food is made in advance
and served at room temperature. Offers fresh pressed juices as well it is attached to an organic
health food store.
Greek Island Hopping – Vegan Style
I chose a travel agent to book all of our island hopping for our first trip to Greece. While it
definitely saved me time, headaches and stress, it is also a little pricier than booking yourself. I chose Fantasy Travel
and all of the hotels I stayed in offered a
complimentary breakfast. While it wasn’t exactly a vegan friendly package, we were able to squeeze out a little
bit of fruit for breakfast each day from the sparse continental buffets and then supplemented with my own
stash in the hotel room.
*If you have some time to research what islands you want to see for sure and read a few reviews on hotels you
can definitely plan it yourself, just make sure that you know the ferry schedule or buy all of your ferry
tickets in advance when you get to Athens.
Wait… Why is everything closed? Oh it must be “Greek Siesta Time”!
On the islands you may notice from 2 to 5 or 6 pm most shops are closed as well as restaurants. The reason
is, that almost all Greeks take a siesta during that time, leave work and close up for a 2 or 3 hour nap.
(Yeah, don’t we all wish…) Smaller hotels can also close their reception areas during this time as well,
so take note. Also make sure that you either have lunch with you or eat before 2 pm as you will be hard
pressed to find much vegetarian friendly food until after 7 pm when everything opens back up again.
*Most Greeks eat dinner between 9 pm and Midnight and you will generally only see tourist restaurants
with diners between 6:30 and 8:30 pm.
Mondays in Greece
While most of Europe enjoys closing up shop on Sundays, (including Athens) a lot of the tourist places
are open on Sundays and closed on Monday mornings, or all day. So just make sure you double check
everything will be open if you end up on a Greek island on a Monday.
Cats! Cats! Everywhere!
You will find cats all over the Greek islands. Most are very friendly, some are garbage raiding alley
cats, but they are everywhere. I think I am a cat magnet, because if there is a cat around it will
usually find me and start up a conversation! Here’s a little friend I met in Santorini when we first
arrived, he was so affectionate I thought we’d see him every day, but unfortunately we never met
again. He personifies the Greek cats very well. Good-natured, happy and probably hungry too. I
hope you like them, if not well then you can just avoid them…
Eating Vegan and Vegetarian on the Greek Islands
Mykonos is a great little island that is generally the first stop for tourists on an island hopping tour.
It’s open seasonally and most of the people who work on island are actually from Athens or other parts of
Greece and just come to work for the summer months. It is also known for it’s party beaches: Paradise and
Super Paradise Beach which attract club hoppers and a lot of gay men from all over Europe with it’s all
night dance parties.
Despite the notion that it’s a party island this, Mykonos is still a great place to visit for a few days
or even a week, if you want to enjoy some scooter/atv riding, sun tanning, lounging by the pool, swimming
and walking through the picturesque streets of Little Venice. If you only had one island to visit, Mykonos
is not a bad choice for your first visit to Greece and will not overwhelm you with Greek ruins and constant
Mykonos is not that big, but if you’re staying in a hotel outside of the main town, walking during the
heat of the day can be off-putting or not possible for some. A lot of hotels are in town, but you will
need to find transportation to get the to nice beaches. Car rentals are abundant in Mykonos as are all
the Greek islands, so booking in advance is not necessary and they are cheap. Better than renting a car,
is to rent an atv or a scooter (helmets are free and engines are only 50 cc and very manageable) and
cruise around to the beaches and park at will. Parking is only available outside of town at the port,
but many people still park their scooters or ATVs in town near Little Venice for evening sunsets. Give
it a try, it’s cheap and it will only add to your adventures on the Greek islands! Taxis are few on the
island with only about 10 running during the day and 10 at night, so don’t count on taking them
everywhere. It’s much cheaper to just rent an ATV for less than $20 US a day. There are also buses
available in Mykonos, like all of the Greek islands and your hotel should be able to provide you with
a daily bus schedule.
Sights of Mykonos
Paradise and Super Paradise Beach are fully serviced beaches, with umbrellas, loungers
and many cafes and restaurants and bars that you can order a la carte from and eat on right on the beach.
There’s also a dive shop on site, but diving in Mykonos is not that exciting and we did not particularly
enjoy the hospitality of the dive master at Dive Mykonos. It’s definitely worth spending at least a day or
two in pure comfort on these beaches where you can buy ample drinks and snacks like fresh juices, fruit
salads, giant fruit plates, Greek salads, garden salads and a few other vegan friendly hot dishes.
Little Venice – reminiscent of Venice in Italy for it’s beautiful little pedestrian
streets and brightly painted houses (in white and blue) it’s nice for a short little stroll, to grab some
photos and watch the sunset from along the coast. It is the place to be for sunset dining in Mykonos.
Look for the many windmills on the hill and get there before sunset to get some beautiful photos. It’s
very windy so make sure to bring a jacket too.
The main town of Mykonos has one decent sized fruit store beside the bus station before you get to
Little Venice, you’ll see a large sign pointing towards it and if you get lost, just ask.
Outside of the main town you will find lots of fruit stores all along the “highway” road to the airport.
You won’t be able to miss them. All the fruit here is basically self serve and then weighed at check out.
Restaurants in Mykonos
There are no specific vegetarian restaurants in town, but just ask around at the tavernas what they have
available that day that is suitable for you. Everyone speaks English and menus are generally available
in several other languages like French, German and Spanish as well.
Naxos was my second island getaway in Greece. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived and I
wondered if all of the Greek islands were as small and touristy as Mykonos.
We were pleasantly surprised on arrival that the island was although much bigger, seemed to have
more options for activities, sights and walking around. It’s actually the largest Greek island in
the Cyclades group.
You will find two things here that you won’t find on other Greek islands. Plenty of fresh water and
Naxos potatoes. The mountains of Naxos are able to trap rain clouds and create the perfect environment
for agriculture on this self sustainable island. Although we heard the potatoes were delicious, I
unfortunately did not get a chance to sample them on our short trip!
Getting Around Naxos
Car rentals are abundant here as with all of the Greek islands and for cheap. I decided to once again opt
for an atv, as it’s easy to take into town and you don’t really need an actual parking spot to park it.
This time I got a bigger one (150 cc to 250 cc) which is just fine for going anywhere in Naxos with two
people. I even headed out into the Naxos mountains and took it climbing up the mountain roads. Yes they’re
steep and it’s a little windy, but the roads are pretty dead and it’s really safe. Just bring your helmet.
Sights of Naxos
Temple of Demeter
This was my first choice of a site since I read rave reviews about it on TripAdvisor. It’s actually fairly
easy to get to with the well labeled signs from Naxos City and took us about 45 minutes to drive to on the
Atvs. When we arrived some people were just leaving and we had the entire temple to ourselves. It was very
very peaceful and beautiful. It’s hard to imagine just how long the ruins have been there because the
quality of the stone is still very good.
This is in the Kastro area at the top of the city of Naxos. The views alone from the balconies are worth
the admission price, even if you could care less about history. We tagged along on the free guided tour
(included in admission price) and it was much more enjoyable than just browsing the small home ourselves.
This way you get access to the secret cellar underneath and they show you some of the ancient stone blocks
that were used to build the foundation. A lot of them have ancient Greek writing on them and it’s very cool.
There’s also a piano and performance area with some great acoustics which they offer small concerts a few times
a week. Highly recommended if you have the time.
While not as exciting as let’s say the New Acropolis Museum, if you’re a history buff and don’t mind looking
and some ruins of columns, statues and pottery it’s still interesting. It’s fairly inexpensive anyway and a
good way to pass the time if you’re wandering around.
While we had intended to check out some sights along the way, we just ended up following the road almost all
the way to the end of the island. The roads climb pretty high, but they seem very safe to drive on and there
is little if any traffic. It is very liberating to just cruise around feeling the wind against your face and
wondering what will be around the corner or at the top of the cliff. There are some very beautiful views from
here, and if you’re tired of tours it’s a great way to spend the day enjoying the natural beauty of Naxos. Bring
sunscreen and jackets
(if coming back after sunset). Water and food is also a good idea, but you can always stop in a town for that as
Make sure you take a stroll through “Old Town” and along the harbor of Naxos. You can get a better feel of what
it must have been like to live in Naxos so long ago. There are some great views to be seen and don’t miss out on
the sunset at the harbor.
The best fruit market we found was in the middle of “Old Town” which you can find by walking along the water of
Naxos town and look on your right for sign placards showing directions to and shops found in Naxos town. It’s also
below the “Kastro” (Castle) area where you find the Venetian Palace and the Archaeological Museum. You’ll know you
found it when you see crates of fruits and vegetables lining the sides of the small pedestrian street.
Restaurants in Naxos
There are no specifically vegetarian restaurants in Naxos, but you will find that many of the tavernas especially in
Old Town will have vegetarian items on their menu, including soups, beans, grilled vegetables, fried vegetables, and
bread. Also check to see if you can get a plate of Naxos potatoes on the side.
Ah Santorini. A place where you swear the sky touches the ocean and everywhere you look seems like a misty blue dreamland
you could just float away into another land. It’s that beautiful.
The second our ferry boat opened it’s huge platform and we stepped onto Santorini our jaws dropped wide open. You look up,
and then up and then up some more and you see a massive caldera cliff all around you. You think, how is it possible that
anyone lives on this island? It’s just a cliff! How are we going to get there?
Oh you do… Once you get in your taxi, bus or rental car you go up a road unlike anything you’ve seen before with many
switchbacks as you weave all the way up to your magnificent view at the top of the caldera below. Really breathtaking.
Aside from the slightly nerve-wracking drive up and down that one road to the port, everywhere else is a breeze to
drive on Santorini and you will have no qualms about it.
A lot of people just stay in a hotel in Thira/Thera and just walk around, but you will miss out on the other side of
Santorini unless you venture out there. Cars again are cheap and you can get atvs upon arrival no problem. There are
busses as well, ask your hotel for help with the bus schedule.
Sights of Santorini
The caldera is very easy to see anywhere from the top of the volcano crater and offers very beautiful views sunrise,
day and sunset. If you have a hotel with a caldera view, expect it to be a bit pricier than one in town or across the
Many people also choose to enjoy the view from up close and take a sail around the interior of the caldera and take a
swim in the open ocean. While the views are certainly lovely, they are not as exciting as say a speedboat tour watching
dolphins play against the backdrop of a tropical island. If you find just relaxing on a boat, getting some sun, going
for a dip and viewing rocky cliffs then this is for you. If you aren’t utterly impressed with the idea you can save
your pennies knowing the best views really are from the top and not on the boats down below. Our pick: a sunset sail
with Santorini Sailing. While they are not “raw” friendly for their onboard barbecue, they can accommodate vegetarian
and vegan guests. Check out their website here for prices: http://www.santorinisailing.com/index.htm
This gem is not near the main town of Thera but on the North tip of the island. We read reviews online and decided
to venture out on an atv down the coast line and all the way down to the bay. The drive is very easy. There are two
ways to get there however. One driving through town will take you along the top to the tourist part of Amoudi bay
which has a million steps to walk down to the ocean below. The other bypasses Thera and goes down along the lower
part of the island and you end up at the bottom of the bay where there’s a beach and restaurants to sit at. The
views from the bottom here are very beautiful with the chiseled red rocks all around you. Don’t leave Santorini
without at least stopping by for a visit!
This is the site of the highest ancient ruins I have ever seen and the views are spectacular. Ancient Thera
sits atop a 360m high (1148 ft) mountain that towers over the bays of Santorini below. How any civilization
could survive up here, no one really knows. It gets so hot up here that it is closed every day after 2pm and
locals head back down for their afternoon siesta. There are a few ways to get up, take a bus from the beach
town below, drive up by car, atv or scooter, or walk. Might I suggest that you actually do not walk on this
occasion, unless it is very cloudy, early in the morning or you are accustomed to extreme temperatures. If you
walk up the mountain it will take you an hour or two depending on your speed, once you’re actually at the site
entrance and likely sweaty and tired, you are exposed to the elements and still have to climb a little higher
and walk around under the beating sun for another hour to see the actual ruins. Our solution was to drive up
by ATV, which was no trouble at all on the steep switchback road and took only a few minutes. Even after being
on the top for a few minutes we could understand why so many people were taking busses and why the site opens
early and closes in the afternoon. Bring sunscreen, hats, umbrellas, and lots and lots of ice cold water you
will need it. The site is very rocky and not easily walkable. If you have little children or have mobility issues
I suggest you take a pass on this one to avoid slipping or heat exhaustion.
You will find grocery stores in Santorini that have a good selection of produce. There is a decent sized one right
before Thera near the post office. If your hotel is not nearby to one you may have to grab a taxi back if you have
a lot of bags.
Restaurants in Santorini
Santorini does not have any vegetarian restaurants and it’s pretty touristy, but a good amount of tavernas will have
some vegan and vegetarian options. One taverna at the far end of Ammoudi bay offered baked beans in vegetable sauce
and fava dip while the rest offered seafood, seafood and more seafood! In Thira town you will find some breakfast/lunch
cafes will offer fresh fruit plates, fresh orange juice and waffles or crepes with honey. Grocery stores will be the
most inexpensive place for food here and are your best bet.
Crete – The Magical Island
Crete is the mother of all Greek islands. It is absolutely enormous, and just a few days on this island does not
do it justice. I seriously recommend spending at least a week here and not spending more than a few days in
Heraklion and moving off to Chania for a base to experience the west part of Crete as well.
Heraklion is definitely not the most stunning city in Greece, it’s rather unimpressive, noisy and crammed. Parking
is very scarce and it’s likely your hotel won’t even have a parking lot. It’s easy to walk about, so I suggest
leaving your car parked while in Heraklion and using it only for escaping the city as traffic can be bad during
*It seems that a lot of places have reduced hours or are closed on Mondays in Heraklion. So make sure to take this
into account if you only have limited time and always check opening hours in advance.
Sights of Heraklion
There are a few sights to see in Heraklion that you can generally see in 2 days.
This can be seen pretty much any day of the week and you will know it when you see it. It looks like a castle
fort guarding the old harbor. For a few euros you can venture inside and see the inside and climb up to the top
for some views of Heraklion and the harbor below.
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Currently there is only a small temporary exhibit open to the public while they finish renovating the rest of
the museum (closed since 2006). It’s basically one room and with artifacts in display cases. There are about
450 artifacts on display (some of them are very small). While interesting, I’m sure the full museum once it’s
opened in spring 2012 will be much better. If you want to skip the admission fee, you can also view all of
the main artifacts online here: http://www.ancient-greece.org/images/museums/heraklion-mus/index.htm
July 1st to October 31 :
Mondays: 1:30 – 7pm
Tuesday – Sunday and Holidays 8am – 7pm
November 1st to March 31:
Daily: 8am – 5pm, Mondays: 1:30 till 5pm
(Subject to change, please check beforehand)
Entrance Fees: Adults: 6 Euros, students and visitors over 65: 3 Euros.
A combined 10 Euro ticket good for the Museum and the ancient palace of Knossos is also available. *Best deal
The must-see historic place on Crete. It is about 15 minutes south of Heraklion by car, and you’ll find parking
just before you see the entrance on your left.
The once great palace of the Minoan civilization on Crete stands in ruins today, but with the help of Arthur Evans
in the 1900s it was unearthed and slightly reconstructed. While some people are appalled at the fact some parts
have been restored to show some vivid decorations, it gives one a better idea of the grandeur the palace once had.
It has been speculated that this is the place from where the Greek myths of Theseus and the Minotaur and the
Labyrinth were born. While the palace itself is certainly not a death trap for an unlucky Theseus, it is definitely
a labyrinth and a very complex building.
There is a guided tour available for 10 euros per person in addition to the entrance fee. I suggest you take the
tour, as you’ll get a much more in-depth history and explanation of what you’re looking at. The tour guides are
licensed and you will enjoy Knossos much more with their help.
You will find a few fruit stands in Heraklion just by walking around. The best one is at the central market
in the heart of Heraklion. You can’t really park here, so it’s best to just walk from your hotel. You will
find much more selection here than at grocery stores or basic fruit stands. We even found figs after everyone
in Greece told us there are no more figs left in September!
Restaurants in Heraklion
There are no vegetarian restaurants in Heraklion but you will find vegan and vegetarian food at some of the
Tavernas. The best vegan-friendly menu we saw was at a place along the port called Maranto (Ma?avto in Greek)
ironically it’s a seafood restaurant, but if you tell them you are vegetarian (and don’t eat milk or cheese)
they will happily show you what they can make for you (like pastas and vegan risottos which they highly recommend)
They also have a tangy shredded vegetable salad which was so delicious we came back the next day.
Sights Around Crete
There is much more to Crete than just Heraklion, so please please visit as much as you can on your visit. The
roads are perfectly safe to drive and well paved and the scenery will be the best you find in the Greek islands.
*A Note About Driving in Crete: roads are single lane and it is customary for those on the right inside lane to
drive in the shoulder or ride the line, to allow cars to pass in between them and oncoming traffic. It is much
safer to do this than to drive fully in the middle of the lane and risk an impatient driver speeding up behind
you or trying to squeeze around you. Most people will drive 100 to 120 km/h.
Heading 30 km east from Heraklion you will find sign posts on the road advertising the Crete aquarium or
CretAquarium in Hersonissos/Chersonissos. It’s open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. Admission: adults 6 euros
and children 4 euros. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re near Heraklion, like marine life or have kids.
They even have several sharks! They offer personal audio guides available in almost every language which really
enhances the exhibits.
The place most often quoted as “Heaven on Earth” on Crete. Sure I read about it and thought I should check it
out to see what all the fuss was about… and boy was it worth the long drive! I spent a while up here before
heading down, getting lots of photos and doing a few videos. The view is just too good to rush. If you come
to Crete you cannot miss out on coming here, I don’t care how many hours you have to drive it will be worth it.
Expect to take about 3 1/2 hours to drive here from Heraklion, or better yet stay in Chania and reduce your trip
to only 58 kms. If you don’t do anything else in Crete but come here, you will feel accomplished, have a great day
and get some amazing photos.
The lagoon is at the northern most tip of Crete of Gramvousa Peninsula. Just keep driving all the way west and then
turn north when you see signs for Balos. You will continue until you reach a two way dirt road on the side of a
cliff and continue to the edge of the island. Go slow and during the day and you’ll have no problem. Once at the
gate there will be a fee of 1 euro per person for the upkeep of the area. Find the parking lot and park your car.
Try not to park it near where any goats are sleeping to discourage them from climbing on and denting your hood!
Ouch… You can bribe them with bananas though, they seem to eat anything!
Once parked grab all your stuff, you will not be coming back until you’re ready to leave. Water, food,
towels, hats, bathing suit, camera etc, bring everything in a backpack. Good shoes are handy too, it takes
much longer to hike down in flip flops. Walk towards the signs and down the rocky plain until you get your
first glimpse of the lagoon. There are chiseled steps to take pictures from and walk all the way down to the
beach below. It is fairly steep and can be hot, so it is not recommended if you have little children, babies
or mobility problems of any kind. You will likely be tired going down and especially coming back up if you are
not in good shape and/or dehydrated. The best shots will all be at the top of the cliff, so best to take them
before you hike all the way down.
The water is warm and shallow and great for taking a dip. The afternoon can be very windy at times so finding
shelter behind a rock or an umbrella will make for a more enjoyable day. There’s not much for refreshments
here other than a small shack that serves souvlaki, french fries, Greek salad, pop and water. You can rent
beach chairs on site from a guy sitting at a table.
Samaria Gorge – Western Crete
While we did not get a chance to view or hike the gorge, it’s definitely on our list of must do’s next time
we’re in Crete. It’s fairly hard to do by yourself since you park at one end and must get a ride or picked
up at the opposite end. You will either have to take a tour bus from Chania or Heraklion (it can be up to a
16 hour day) or go with another couple and have one vehicle on one end and the other on the exit side. The
roads do not meet though so this can take some extra time to get to.
It can be very busy during tourist season with up to 3000 visitors a day so keep that in mind when you decide
what month to visit in. Bring all of your own necessities and good hiking shoes. The gorge is 16 km long and
starts at an altitude of 1250m.
Children under the age of 8 or 9 are not recommended, as they will usually tire well before the end of the hike
which can be a problem if they are too heavy to carry the rest of the way. People with mobility issues or those
who are not moderate to strong hikers should consider whether they are fit enough to take on the gorge as well.
It can be very steep and has many slippery rocks and quite a natural pathway.
Rhodes is the site of one of the 7 Wonders of The Ancient World – The Colossus of Rhodes. It was originally
looming over the entrance to the main harbor in Rhodes and was surely impressive. While nothing remains, you
can still see the entrance where the great statue once stood.
Rhodes is one of the most visited islands in all of Greece, there are even numerous flights coming from all over
Europe that go directly to Rhodes. Let’s just say that it’s way past touristy and can seem down right unauthentic
at times if you’re hanging by resorts and tourist tavernas. If it were not for some of the impressive sights here,
I would say skip it altogether and just go to Crete instead if you want a great vacation.
Still interested? Well I’m not going to write off Rhodes just yet, but the vegetarian choices and produce markets
are scarce, yet a few are still possible to find.
If you’re into beaches and a crazy party scene then you will probably love Rhodes. If you’re into ancient sites and
history then you will equally enjoy Rhodes as well.
If your hotel is in the main part of Rhodes town near all the sights then you can probably just walk. Keep in mind that
it can be very hot here, so bring lots of water and a hat. Car rentals are available (atv not recommended as some sights
are too far) so just get a car for the day(s) that you need to leave Rhodes and drive around. A lot of the streets are
one way in Rhodes, so make sure you have a map and know how to get out of town and back in town to your hotel because it
will be two different routes.
Sights of Rhodes
There are MANY places to see in Rhodes, below are just a few if you have a short time, but also some noteworthy places
such as the Butterfly Valley, Tsambika beach, the Decorative Arts Museum and the Old City could be added if you have a
few more days.
Acropolis of Rhodes
This is a great first stop to see ancient Rhodes and the ruins that have survived thousands of years. Lucky for us
they have been rediscovered and are completely free to visit! There is a bit of climbing and the area is fairly
exposed to the elements. The ancient hippodrome is still mostly intact and very impressive. Come in the early
morning or before sunset, it can be very very hot here if you’re walking from your hotel.
Palace of the Grand Masters of Knights
You will either take a cab or walk here, it’s found in Rhodes town itself. This was the first “real” castle
I’ve ever been in, and I must say it was very impressive. It’s mostly intact and really feels medieval. The
ticket price is a little steep, but this is probably the main reason sightseers come to Rhodes so you have
to see what all the fuss is about. Photos are not allowed in some of the rooms, so just be mindful and make
sure to take photos where you can (like in the outside courtyard and before you get into the palace)
Most of Rhodes town is littered with little convenience stores selling random souvenirs, snacks and some
fresh produce. The quality won’t be great, but you will be able to find things like bananas, apples and grapes
(August and later). The tourists don’t really eat much fruit, so the central market near the port is mostly
souvenirs and cheap tourist food as well.
Sights Outside of Rhodes town
Acropolis of Lindos
Lindos is about 55 km away from Rhodes and is an easy drive. You have to park before the town at the main
parking lot and walk in. Go through the town streets until you see signs for the acropolis and you can follow
it up some slick rock stairs all the way to the top. The acropolis sits on a natural citadel above the city
below and has ruins of an old fortress on top. It offers very beautiful views of the bays and Lindos below.
It can be very hot up here so early morning or after 5pm would be best. They close around 6:40pm and start
pushing people out around 6:35 so make sure you keep that in mind. Bring good shoes as the steps are smooth
and can be slippery.
Faliraki is probably the most touristy place I’ve seen anywhere in Greece. It kind of looks like an old tourist
town built around an amusement park and it’s overall very gaudy looking. There’s a lot of resorts here and it’s
near the beach.
It is home to one of the largest outdoor water parks though and if you’re dying from the heat, or have kids, or
have “big kids” (husbands) it’s still a fun way to spend the day for 20 euros each. It’s open all day and was not
overly crowded when we visited in September. In the height of summer it can be very hot there and people suggest
wearing socks or bringing flip flops for walking around on the hot pavement. This place is past it’s prime but the
slides are still up and running and all the tubes are free so it still has some to offer.
A few caveats: the locker rooms are in a public area, and the change facilities are very small, so wear your bathing
suit to save time. You have to pay 6 euros for a locker and 5 will be returned. No outside food is “allowed” and they
only serve typical American junk food like nachos, hot dogs, burgers, chicken wings and pop. So sneak in your own food
and eat it discretely.
I had a great day here, it was a little overcast and not too hot, but I definitely swallowed too much pool water from
bailing at the end of some VERY fast slides.
…Back to Mainland Greece
After our final island stop in Rhodes we headed back to Athens and spent our last day in Greece at the Oracle of
Delphi and the Tholos of Athena Pronaia (the temple ruins that you can see in the distance in the photo above)
After much research and weighing the costs, I decided we would attempt to make it to Delphi on our own, by taking the
city bus from Athens. A lot of tour companies run a day tour for Delphi but I had heard bad reviews and you only get
2 hours at the actual site after a whole day on the bus and get dragged to some rug merchants for a sales pitch at the
end. Not what I call worth your 90 euros per person!
The bus leaves at the main terminal in Athens (you can take a cab or find the metro if you have figured it out by then)
at 7:30 and 10:30 am every morning. Come at least an hour and a half early and you can buy tickets on site for 13 euros
each (each way). If you take the 10:30 bus you will arrive around 1 and it will give you about 4 hours to enjoy the area
if you take the bus back at 5:30 pm.
Start with the museum and visit it with, or without a guide (with a guide will take longer, but the information is
interesting). There are lockers in the museum where you can leave heavy belongings if you do not wish to carry them
around with you until after you’re done the museum at the ruins outside.
The ruins outside can be fairly busy depending on the season and it’s also very hot up there when the sun is fully
shining. Bring water, a hat and possibly an umbrella. If it’s a little cloudy or overcast you will be fine. If you
have small children or have difficulties with mobility you may only wish to visit the lower part of the ruins because
it takes a little hiking to get to the top to see the hippodrome.
If you still have time before your bus comes back you can hurry over across the street back towards Athens and you
will see some ruins in the distance. This is the gymnasium and the Tholos of Athena Pronaia sanctuary. There are
signs at the entrance of both the gymnasium and the sanctuary where you can walk down the hill to view it closer.
From the museum, it will take you about an hour to get over there, take a quick look through and get back to the
bus terminal in time if you hurry. (Longer if you walk slowly or stop for lots of photos.) It’s definitely worth
at least going to the sanctuary to see the iconic view that you have likely seen so many times on postcards of
We spent 17 lovely days in Greece and saw some of the most amazing sights, had great weather and learned about a
unique culture. While it was definitely not the easiest of all places to find top quality produce in abundance, we
were still able to find enough to eat to enjoy our vacation.
My top favorite places we saw would have to be:
#1 Oracle at Delphi and the Tholos of Athena Pronaia
#2 Balos Lagoon, West Crete
#3 Amoudi Bay, Santorini
#4 Acropolis of Athens
#5 Mykonos beaches and “Little Venice”
#6 Palace of The Grand Masters of Knights, Rhodes town
#7 Naxos mountains
Make sure you visit Greece at least once in your lifetime. Don’t wait until you are too old to really be able to
hike around and enjoy it. The history and the sights are definitely worth it and you will be grateful you did.
Check out my Greek Rice Stuffed Pepper Recipe inspired by my trip here.