I'm a Vegetarian Who Has Traveled to More Than 50 Countries — and These Are the Food Trips I'd Take Again and Again

These cities take vegetarian food very seriously — from fast food and street food to fine dining.

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Photo: Angelina Borowska/Getty Images

There's no better way to experience a local culture than through its food. So much about a country's history and values can be gleaned by how people prepare food and utilize the resources around them.

But dining while traveling isn't always easy when you have dietary restrictions. I've been a vegetarian for more than 24 years — and have been traveling for just as long. And while I try my best to sample local food, sometimes I have to get creative.

After visiting more than 50 countries, I've tried everything from translating my dietary restrictions in Google Translate to learning specific words for things — like fish sauce (looking at you, Thailand) — to stealing instant ramen from the plane to cook with boiling water when there was nothing else (sorry, not sorry).

But sometimes you come across a destination where you don't have to worry and can eat anything in sight. That scenario isn't just a luxurious vegetarian pipe dream, it's a reality in many places throughout the world.

Some cities, like Jaipur in India, for example, take vegetarian food very seriously with endless options nearly everywhere you look from fast food and street food to high-end dining. Others have all-vegetarian resorts people can stay in or offer the opportunity to take vegan food classes in a country that may not be inherently very vegan-friendly.

These are 10 can't-miss trips that every vegetarian should take.

Eat Your Way Through India

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Emad Aljumah/Getty Images

India is one of the most vegetarian-friendly countries in the world, with a large swath of the country eschewing meat for religious reasons. In India, vegetarian food is available literally everywhere you look (and packaged foods are even labeled with red or green dots to indicate if it is vegetarian or not).

One way to get a true taste of the country is to try its street food. Travelers can head out on a culinary walking tour of Old Delhi with Delhi Food Walks for a whirlwind journey through the noisy and busy streets of the city complete with tastings of aloo chaat (fried potato with spicy and tangy chutneys), stuffed paratha, and crunchy jalebi that burst with sugary syrup when you bite into them. (The entire tour is not vegetarian, but there are options at nearly every stop.)

Or settle in for an upscale feast at Mohan Mahal at The Leela Palace in Jaipur (the hotel group was voted No. 1 in the world by Travel + Leisure voters in 2021). Diners will feel like royalty surrounded by ornate walls illuminated by candlelight as they dig into a vegetarian thali with inventive flavors like Mathania chili-marinated paneer and bina pani ki roti, which is almond and ghee bread.

Learn to Cook Vegan in Thailand

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Koen van den Heuvel/Getty Images

In Thailand, fish sauce tends to be in everything — well nearly everything, at least. And for a vegetarian, that can be very difficult. Thankfully, there's a cooking school that takes the guesswork out of eating in this Southeast Asian country and allows travelers to enjoy Thailand's complex flavors.

Travelers can book a custom multi-day course at May Kaidee in Bangkok, which has been teaching all-vegan Thai dishes since 1988. Learn about the staple ingredients of Thai food like galangal, Thai basil, and kaffir lime, and whip up favorites like tom yam soup, massaman curry, and mango sticky rice. Short on time? May Kaidee also offers a half-day program.

Eat Well in Reykjavik

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Michael Godek/Getty Images

When you think about traditional Icelandic food, dishes like dried fish jerky and fermented shark come to mind — neither of which are vegetarian. But don't fear, vegan-friendly food is very easy to find in Reykjavik and is available on the menus of some of the coolest spots in town.

Sample inventive vegetable maki at Fish Market, which was crusted in crushed garlic when I visited for a surprisingly delicious take on the classic roll, or head to Kol to try the vegan tasting menu (think cauliflower tacos with granola and chili jam and yellow beet carpaccio with cashew and cranberry cream). Later, head to Veður, one of the best bars in Reykjavik, for a cocktail where they've been known to use ingredients like aquafaba, a vegan alternative to egg whites.

Mediterranean Feasts in Tel Aviv

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Angelina Borowska/Getty Images

Without even trying, Israeli cuisine tends to be inherently vegetarian-friendly with staples like hummus, falafel, and shakshuka. The country also happens to have some of the freshest and best-tasting produce I've ever had, where a tomato tastes like a tomato and a head of slow-roasted cauliflower will make you hungry for more.

In Tel Aviv, travelers can stop at nearly any restaurant and find something that is vegetarian on the menu, but certain spots take it to the next level. For a real treat, try the addictively delicious pizza with black pepper, tomato seeds, and crème fraîche, or the super fresh bag of garden peas with lemon and olive oil at North Abraxas. Or head to Abu Hassan for a heaping plate of hummus served with fresh pita and onions (be prepared to wait for a table). Later, head to Carmel Market to pick up some honey-soaked baklava and fresh fruit smoothies while taking in the bustling energy of the market.

Vegan-friendly Cruising

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas

Heading out to sea can be difficult for vegans and often comes with a weeklong menu of pastas and simple (i.e. boring) salads. Luckily, cruise lines are adding more and more plant-based options to their menus that are both flavorful and — most importantly — varied so travelers can explore port cities and relaxing beaches knowing they have a delicious and vegan-friendly meal waiting for them.

In 2019, Regent Seven Seas Cruises started adding "gourmet plant-based selections" to their menus with dishes like falafel fritters with harissa mayo, a wild mushroom tart with red pepper coulis, and an "Impossible" cheeseburger. Similarly, Oceania offers several plant-based options on their menus (think: grapes and melon with a gin-green peppercorn syrup at dinner or vegan banana-oat pancakes for breakfast). Royal Caribbean offers a separate vegan menu upon request in its main dining rooms, and Azamara offers a vegan menu at its Discoveries, Prime C, and Aqualina restaurants with options like tomato and corn tostadas with avocado and cilantro, tomato and roasted bell pepper gazpacho with carrot foam, and Peking seitan duck pancake rolls.

Stay at a Vegan Hotel

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Courtesy of The Stanford Inn

All-vegetarian restaurants take the guesswork out of navigating a menu, and staying at an all-vegan hotel makes things even easier. There's no better way to relax than a stay at the Stanford Inn by the Sea, which sits about 150 miles north of San Francisco on the Mendocino coast.

Each room includes complimentary breakfast with options like chilaquiles and house-made buckwheat and oat waffles for a great way to start the day before travelers rent a canoe or bicycle to explore. Later, settle in next to a wood-burning fireplace with your furry friend (pets are welcome) before heading down to an upscale vegan dinner with dishes like wild mushroom and creamy polenta, and kale with cauliflower ceviche and avocado tartare.

Or head to Europe for a stay at the Raphaël Hotel, which combines high-end vegetarian food with elegant rooms, a terrace overlooking Roman rooftops, and a traditional ivy-covered facade, all just off the Piazza Navona in Rome. Travelers can treat themselves to inventive dishes like Jerusalem artichokes and chestnuts soup, porcini mushrooms with potato mille-feuille and truffle, and a Sicilian style cannoli stuffed with almond ricotta and served with raspberry ice cream and orange sauce.

Wine Tasting on the North Fork

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Courtesy of Shinn Estate Vineyard

While many people think wine is just made from grapes, not all wine is vegan-friendly. In fact, it is common for wine to be processed with ingredients like gelatin or egg whites as a way of fining it, which is part of the clarification process. At Rose Hill Vineyards on Long Island's North Fork, however, they list the ingredients right on the label — including the bentonite, or clay, which is used to fine their white wines.

Travelers can visit the vineyard for a tasting or indulge in a stay at the Rose Hill Inn, which boasts idyllic plush beds, a complimentary wine tasting, homemade chocolate chip cookies, breakfast with Belgian waffles and eggs from the property's chickens, and lush grounds to enjoy all that vegan-friendly wine.

Food Halls in Florence

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Busà Photography/Getty Images

A food hall tends to be a vegetarian's friend since there is often so much to choose from. In Florence, that dream is taken to the next level.

Italy in general is a food lover's paradise with perfectly al dente pasta and crisp, chewy pizzas everywhere you turn — and many dishes can easily be made vegan by simply asking for it "senza formaggio."

A trip to Florence simply isn't complete without a visit to Mercato Centrale, where options to suit just about all taste buds abound. I would personally trek all the way back across the ocean just to eat the white truffle pasta from Il Tartufo Luciano Savini again. Perhaps the best plate of pasta I've ever had, it came complete with a heaping pile of thinly shaved white truffles and a decadent, creamy sauce all served on a paper plate for just about $30. After, head across the food hall to Trapizzino, where you can bite into pizza bianca that's crisp on the outside with a perfectly chewy interior, served with a rotating list of fillings (pro tip: try the spicy greens in the misticanza alla romana if it's on offer).

Vegans will also love The Vegetarian and Vegan, which serves up salads, veggie burgers, smoothies, and more made with seasonal and locally sourced vegetables.

Get Adventurous on a Safari

Vegetarian-friendly travel trips
Cavan Images/Getty Images

A safari can be a life-changing experience. Watching wildebeest cross into the Serengeti from Kenya in a single-file line was one of the most breathtaking natural phenomenons I've ever been fortunate enough to witness. And many safari packages are all-inclusive, including your meals. That can take the guesswork out of a trip, but a buffet of mystery ingredients can also make a vegetarian quite nervous.

Here's the good news: every safari lodge I visited in Kenya cooked every dish from scratch or to order right in front of you. That meant I was able to find out all the ingredients of every item to determine exactly which were vegetarian and enjoy my meals without a second thought. So vegetarians rejoice, you can enjoy your animal spotting and your breakfast waffles, too.

Relax at a Southeast Asian Vegan Wellness Retreat

Picture waking up beneath wood-beamed ceilings and a thatched roof in a suite modeled after a traditional rice barn in the Philippines, or taking a dip in a pool surrounded by greenery from the comfort of your private villa. This idyllic setting is reality at the luxury vegan resort The Farm at San Benito, which sits about 90 minutes from the capital of Manila. The resort, which happens to be one of the best places in the world to unplug, welcomes guests with complimentary vegan food classes, yoga, and more. Guests can also pamper themselves with holistic and traditional Filipino treatments like the Hilot Haplos with a coconut cream and powdered cocoa body scrub, a warm coconut cream milk bath, and a hilot massage.

Or head to Bali for a stay at Fivelements, a vegan retreat where travelers can relax while watching a river flow by from their private pool or take an open-air bath in a tub made from volcanic stone surrounded only by the sounds of nature. Later, fill up on plant-based dishes like Southeast Asian-style "tacos" with young jackfruit "carnitas," and a superfood salad with organic greens, avocado, ginger-cacao cashews, and more. Enhance your trip with a culinary training program, or book a private water healing session in the resort's hydrotherapy pool.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles