Here are five of the best places to visit if you don’t eat meat.
Vegetarian travelers have their work cut out for them when planning a trip. They need to learn how to explain their dietary restrictions in a foreign language, seek out special restaurants that can accommodate their needs, and devote real estate in their suitcase to granola bars—just in case.
However, meat-rich dining isn’t the norm everywhere in the world. Some countries are plant-based paradises that welcome jet-setters to dig into their culinary cultures.
Vegetarian travelers, eat your heart out: Here are five of the best countries to visit if you don’t eat meat and here is the best flights to take you there.
Best travel destinations for vegetarians: India.
No country in the world gets vegetarianism quite like India. Since man followers of Hinduism, the country’s dominant religion, abstain from eating meat, you’ll rarely come across a restaurant that doesn’t have at least a few vegetarian options, if not an entire menu devoted to vegetarian dishes.
Indian cuisine varies significantly depending on the region you’re visiting. In North India, you’ll find rich vegetable curries, lentils, and chickpeas swimming in spicy sauces, along with fried street foods and comforting breads, like poori and naan. Lighter (yet no less tasty!) vegetarian food abounds in South India, as well. There, travelers can tuck into perfectly crisp dosas stuffed with turmeric potatoes and idli sambar (spongey rice cakes with spicy onion and lentil soup). The biggest challenge for vegetarian travelers in India is leaving enough room to try everything.
Best travel destinations for vegetarians: Italy.
Fresh produce plays a starring role in restaurants throughout Italy. Ripe, juicy tomatoes top crispy pizzas. Aromatic truffles infuse savory flavor into meat-free risotto. Big, silky basil leaves add a splash of green to caprese salads. Roasted squash and peppers, and glistening olives, create rainbow-colored antipasti—best washed down with a glass of bold Tuscan wine.
Then, there’s Italy’s famous pastas—bucatini blanketed by grana padano cheese and black pepper; spaghetti tossed with olive oil, chili flakes, and sliced garlic; and humble bowls of gnocchi soaking in tomato sauce. With dishes this comforting, you won’t even realize that they don’t have meat.
Best travel destinations for vegetarians: Iceland.
Little green “Vs” confetti menus at restaurants around Iceland—a comfort to vegetarian travelers who need to refuel after adventures atop volcanos and glaciers in the land of fire and ice. The quirky capital, Reykjavik, boasts tons of charming plant-based restaurants that serve veggie burgers, vegan tacos, tapas, soups, and healthy grain bowls.
Reykjavik isn’t the only great vegetarian travel destination in Iceland, though. Tourist areas around the country make it easy to avoid meat on your travels. For example, the visitor center across from Geysir, the first-known geyser to Europeans, has a variety of meat-free soups and wraps. Bed and breakfasts throughout the country always have skyr, a yogurt-like dairy product, as well as just-baked breads and farm-fresh eggs. And if you need a quick bite while you’re on the road, you can easily find vegetarian sandwiches at all of the gas stations and rest stops.
Best travel destinations for vegetarians: Jordan.
As long as you like mezze dishes, vegetarian travelers have no trouble finding tasty meals in Jordan. Crispy, bronze-hued falafel can be found just about anywhere in the Middle Eastern country, and it often comes paired with puffy pita, sliced tomato, and sprigs of mint leaves. And when it comes to hummus, restaurants around Jordan do not disappoint. Expect whipped chickpea spreads to come doused in olive oil, sprinkled with herbs, and spritzed with lemon juice.
Hummus is just the beginning of the tasty meat-free mezze you’ll find around this vegetarian travel destination. Other highlights include tabouleh (a finely chopped salad with lots of parsley and bulgar), fattoush (an herbaceous salad with sumac and crispy pieces of bread), mujadara (a comforting combination of rice, lentils and caramelized onions) and moutabel (a spicy spread of eggplant and tahini). With all the tiny bowls of mezze covering your table, each meal in Jordan proves to be a feast for both your palate and your eyes.
Best travel destinations for vegetarians: Mexico.
At surface level, Mexico might not seem like a very vegetarian-friendly destination. Most tacos come with meat, chicken, or fish, and it’s not uncommon for chicken broth and lard to make their way into some otherwise dishes that would otherwise be vegetarian. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that Mexico actually brims with plant-based foods.
Cosmopolitan Mexico City is a gold mine for vegetarian travelers. There, you’ll find plant-based restaurants, like Yug Vegetariano and Forever Vegano, along with conventional restaurants serving classic meat-free Mexican foods, like quesadilla and chile relleno de queso (roasted peppers stuffed with cheese). Chefs at upscale restaurants also work their magic on seasonal wild mushrooms, transforming them into a succulent vegetarian version of tacos al pastor.
Even outside the capital, though, you won’t have much trouble finding vegetarian food in Mexico. There’s always rice and beans, plus ample amounts of fresh avocado and cheese. And if you’re really in a pinch, just order a churro and indulge in the cinnamon-sweetness with abandon.