Vegan travel - The best destinations for vegans and vegetarians around the globe

Earth-friendly travel takes on a whole new dimension when our stomachs get involved, ever-hungry as we are for non-polluting, cruelty-free menus that taste divine. Lucky for us, vegan travel has never been a more popular or exciting niche, as longstanding vegan hubs such as India join with forward-thinking veggie cities such as Portland to lead the global vegan revolution. With a New Year’s resolution to eat well and do good while we travel, we’ve put together a list of the best destinations for vegans and vegetarians around the world below.

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1. India

Of course, the predominantly Hindu nation of India has to take the top spot, not only for its beef-free beliefs but also for its spicy array of veg-dominant dishes, showcased nationwide. No Indian vegan recipe is alike and distinct variations come from across India’s 29 states (and seven territories), encompassing vegetarian curries, biriyanis, dosas and sambar, not to mention on-the-go selections such as samosas, kati rolls, bhaji, vada and pani puri. While not all of this will be for you – unless you can handle any degree of spice liberally added to each explosive dish – the diversity of Indian vegan cuisine means you’re sure to come across something to suit your palette, and much of it vegetarian if not all-out vegan.

To find your go-to as a vegan in India, try ordering the ‘thali’, which comes as a set lunch item served up as a range of dishes to be eaten with rice and naan. The grander restaurants may present up to 20 dishes in their thali, often inclusive of daal (lentil staple), at least one vegetable masala, pickle, yoghurt (which your burning tongue will be very thankful for) and a dessert such as gulab jamun (sweet dough ball). Outside of thali culture, the street is also pulsing with possibilities, and in any of India’s best cities, you’ll find a mindboggling choice of affordable street food. Take a Vegan India walking tour (such as the Delhi food walk around Old Delhi), where you’ll get to sample Indian food vegan specialities such as aloo chaat (fried potato with chutney), potato-stuffed paratha and sugary sweet jalebis to finish.

New Delhi | Photo: Raghu Nayyar

Photo: Shantanu Pal

2. Portland, Oregon, US

US culture has made its way around the globe, influencing world cuisine as it went, having a hand in creating much-loved dishes from the French fry to the California roll. Ignoring for a moment the Creole movement of the South and the Mexican infusions of the West, we instead focus on one Pacific Northwest state in particular; Oregon’s Portland, where visitors will find a microcosm of modern American dining.

Known for being slightly off-kilter, the quirky population of Portland is actually ahead of the curve. Its farm-to-table movement predated that of many other American cities and an all-natural, cruelty-free ethos is something held close to its heart. As a result, vegans and vegetarians will do very well in Portland, spoilt for choice by the variety of restaurants, food stores and even a mini-mall that cater entirely to veggie lifestyles. Its stores range from vegan BBQ at Homegrown Smoker to vegan doughnuts at Doe Donuts, and even vegan artisan cheese can be found at Vtopia Cheese Shop & Deli. For a full meal, diners can try Israeli, Japanese, Thai and Mexican, all of which come with a vegan twist. To wash it all down? Stores like Happy Day Juice and Fermenter can provide you with all your smoothie and kombucha needs.

Portland, Oregon | Photo: Peter Bucks

Photo: Vlada Karpovich

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Vegans and vegetarians will do very well in Portland, spoilt for choice by the variety of restaurants, food stores and even a mini-mall that cater entirely to veggie lifestyles

3. Tel Aviv, Israel

One of the world’s most gay and most vegan cities, Tel Aviv is constantly surprising the world with its delightful cosmopolitanism. How many people are vegan in Tel Aviv? According to a survey conducted by Tel Aviv Global & Tourism department, nearly one in ten residents (around 40,000) identify as vegan (4.3% of 400,000) or vegetarian (4.5%), making the Israeli capital the vegan capital of the world. Also the nation’s cultural centre, Tel Aviv is at the forefront of gourmet trends nationwide. As of now, the city’s farm-to-table movement is louder and prouder than ever before, making for some deliciously sustainable Mediterranean, Israeli and Middle Eastern meals. Fans of falafel will be very satisfied on tours of Tel Aviv, so too will sushi-lovers (at The Green Roll) and Ethiopian curry critics (Tenat).

Anyone travelling as a vegan in Israel may have to forego the kebab and shawarma part of each menu, but luckily many other traditional dishes are meat-free. For breakfast, there’s the staple poached egg dish of shakshuka, while, for lunch, hummus, falafel and stuffed vine leaves abound alongside pickles, tabbouleh and bread for dunking. Head to any of the city’s 400 veggie restaurants and 36 fully-vegan restaurants (including Four One Six and Anastasia), also making room for street eats and grocery store purchases to prepare at home. Go Italian with vegan pizza at Hatool HaYarok or light with a salad at Alegria, while outside of meal times, you can still join the raw food movement over at Neroli Healthfood Store & Diner or try gourmet vegan cheese at Meshek Barzilay Deli (which has its own vegan restaurant on-site too). Read our guide to the best vegan restaurants in Tel Aviv.

Mashawsha Hummus and Tzatziki | Photo: Mor Shani

Photo: Edgar Castrejon

4. Thailand

Mixing up the flavour profile yet again, we head to the nation of Thailand where noodle dishes and coconut curries are elevated to godly levels with devilish amounts of chilli, lime and cilantro. Instead of choosing just one city or island, we recommend doing a food tour across Thailand, sampling Bangkok’s frenetic markets before embarking up north for Chiang Mai’s speciality dish of khao soi (coconut curry) among others. Unfortunately for vegetarians, Thai chefs like to put fish sauce in almost everything, meaning that it can be difficult to dine freely. To overcome this obstacle, arrange an expert veggie foodie tour, allowing for all the papaya salad, tofu red curry and coconut rice pancakes you can handle along the way.

In October specifically, Thailand becomes every non-meat-eater’s best friend with its annual Bangkok Vegetarian Festival that celebrates Chinese-Thai cultural customs across nine days, where participants practice mindfulness and abstinence from meat and alcohol. Catering to them, a whole bandwagon of restaurants and food stalls in Bangkok’s Chinatown eliminate all animal products from their menus, allowing savvy travellers to try all manner of dumplings, noodles and spring rolls without worry. Then, for dessert, the fruity dish of nam kaeng sai (crushed ice topped with syrup, coconut milk and a range of other toppings). Outside of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket City also hold their own vegetarian festival, though in Phuket you may get more than you bargained for with public piercing and self-mutilation in honour of the holiday.

Photo: Pascal Debrunner

5. London, UK

England may sometimes be mocked for its below-par cuisine, but the UK capital is pushing back, reclaiming itself as a foodie empire; the United Kingdom of Nom. Forget the tired franchises and chains that lay in wait in London’s most touristy areas and instead research the latest openings and long-standing local favourites. Believe it or not, some of the best Indian food outside of India can be found on East London’s Brick Lane, while Colombian food takes over the north, Little Portugal lies south and Koreatown brings authentic bibimbap to the southwest. Amidst all of this international cuisine, London also proffers a growing number of plant-based dining options melding these fusion and global flavours.

Vegan visitors to London can get traditional British fare without the cruelty, ordering tofish n’ chips or vegan shepherd’s pie at New York chain By Chloe or Indo-Euro-Mediterranean cuisine at The Gate. Also on offer across town, there’s meatless pizza (at Purezza and Young Vegans Pizza Shop), Middle Eastern (The Magic Falafel), burgers (The Vurger Co and Neat Burger), fried chicken (The Temple of Seitan) and beyond. Saturday meanwhile calls for a walk around Broadway Vegan Market, an unquestionably hip affair just south of London Fields, or otherwise hit up the mainstay food stalls around Camden Market. Those looking for more ethnic favourites and African vegetarian recipes to take home can try Zionly Manna and Andu Café, or go vegetarian in japan without the airfares at Itadakizen Macrobiotic restaurant. Finish off with sweets at Vida Bakery, gorging guiltfree on Crosstown Doughnuts or Yorica’s vegan ice cream.

Photo: Ron Lach

Photo: Bakd Raw by Karolin Baitinger

6. Warsaw, Poland

Demonstrating its worldly cosmopolitism, Warsaw shoots to the top of the list of Europe’s most vegan-friendly cities, as Poland’s food and culture capital. Polish hipsters’ preference for meat-free burgers has led to a wider vegan movement in the city, a movement that quickly developed to include vegan ramen, bakeries and traditional Polish diners. Fill up on plant-based fare while also engaging in political activism alongside the national counterculture at wholefood co-ops and cafés around the city.

As many as 50 fully-vegan restaurants come condensed within a 7-kilometre radius, though most offerings are based within walking distance of each other in Śródmieście Południowe (Southern Downtown), making for the most convenient of vegan walking tours you’ll ever attend. Specifically, get your meat-free burgers at Krowarzywa, your Eastern European fix of borscht, blini and pierogi at Vege Bistro or Lokal Vegan Bistro, stopping by all-vegan, organic wine shop Solvino Bio for your cruelty-free grapes. Vegan sushi is also a thing in Warsaw, with two joints leading the way – namely, Edamame and Youmiko Vegan Sushi. For vegan Italian fare, Leonardo Verde is the name, then, Momencik for Mexican snacks, or Mango Vegan for Mediterranean fusion.

Warsaw | Photo: Kamil Gliwinski

7. Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan’s large population of Buddhists and Taoists, alongside its growing farm-to-table movement, makes this tiny island a fine choice for vegan vacations in east Asia. While you might overlook teeny Taiwan in favour of its Japanese and Korean neighbours, that would be a mistake as, in fact, Taiwan is the regional foodie capital. With food so good that China wishes to reclaim the whole island as its own, Taiwan remains humble in its foodie credentials serving up Asian vegetarian recipes at its many night markets across Taipei and beyond, including fragrant soup noodles, scrambled tofu (mapo doufu) and handmade veggie dumplings at insanely affordable price points.

The streaming traffic of Taipei may not indicate it but the majority of Taiwan comes forested and mountainous, allowing for unbeatable outdoor adventure as well as easy and affordable agriculture – pak choi, broccoli, sweet potatoes, you name it, Taiwan grows it. Try the freshest veggies wok-fried to perfection at any night market, or boiled up in a hot pot at numerous self-serve joints across the city. Of its more modern vegetarian eateries, Ooh Cha Cha is a favourite for vegan bowls and raw desserts, while Plants and Herban Kitchen & Bar also compete for vegan customers. Yu Shan Ge may be the most upscale choice for vegans in Taipei, but Brother Su keeps things simple for quick meals. And, to get you through until lunch; grab a protein-packed mung bean smoothie at any corner tea shop.

Photo: Jennifer Schmidt

Taroko National Park, Taiwan | Photo: Ruslan Bardash

8. Canada

Canada as a whole is a foodie paradise, but there are a few cities worth looking more closely at for their vegan communities and French gastronomic influence both. First is Vancouver, with more vegan restaurants per capita than any other Canadian city. Meet on Main is the local go-to for comfort food, Acorn is the winner for a fancy meal but it’s the local farmer’s markets that give the widest choice, from meat-free burgers to vegan poutine galore. Next is Toronto, Canada’s largest city with a number of vegan districts worth scouting out. The most famous of these is Vegandale, a whole block dedicated to animal-free eateries, a vegan brewery and a handful of ethical clothing stores. For upscale meals, Avelo and Lov are fixtures for the Toronto vegan community, plus Rosalinda for gourmet Mexican cuisine, while Toronto’s Veg Food Fest comes as one of North America’s largest festivals each year.

Montreal is the third city to reckon with, a French-speaking city with European flair that seeps into its architecture, festivals and cuisine. Diverse and progressive, Montreal has much in the way of international fare, offering up falafels, tacos and sushi as easily as it does authentic Quebecois poutine. Copper Branch is a vegan fast-food chain that operates across all three cities (and worldwide), notable for its mushroom dishes, such as the delectable Shitake Teriyaki Sandwich. Other fast-food outposts to try include Toronto’s Globally Local and Fresh, Urban Herbifore and Kupfert and Kim for healthy food on the move.

Photo: Eleanor Carter

9. Berlin, Germany

An internationally-minded city shrugging off its schnitzel casing, Berlin is both the German capital and its vegan frontrunner. HappyCow goes as far as to label Berlin the ‘world’s most vegan-friendly city’, offering up 500 vegan restaurant listings within the city’s limits. Us classy vegans can head straight to Kopps for a five-course tasting menu, yet low-key days may call for a visit to Veganz grocery store for picnic bites to lay out on a blanket in Tiergarten Park. Other notable stop-offs include AtayaCaffe, for its African- and Italian-inspired vegan options, as well as two vegan-Vietnamese favourites; Vegan Living and Quy Nguyen. Four more Asian-fusion options you won’t regret are Secret Garden, Element Five, Feel Seoul Good and li.ke, the latter serving up Cambodian-inspired tapas.

For a community aspect, the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood towards the northeast can provide hipster-watching opportunities alongside various animal-free restaurants, boutique stores and bars on Schivelbeiner Strasse (aka ‘Vegan Avenue’). On some days, the street also hosts a vegan market and other ethical events. After a full day running from restaurant to restaurant, finish up by satisfying your sweet tooth at Brammibals Doughnuts, French pastry shop Be Sweet or Balaram Eis for out-of-this-world peanut vegan ice cream.

Photo: Elizabeth Zernetska

Photo: Roam in color

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HappyCow goes as far as to label Berlin the ‘world’s most vegan-friendly city’, offering up 500 vegan restaurant listings within the city’s limits

10. New York City, US

Our second city in the US also worth a mention is of course New York City, which, like London, showcases its multiculturism freely across its menus. Accessible and high quality (as assessed by Wallet Hub), the only possible downside of dining while vegan in NYC is the overwhelming choice you’ll be faced with. A case in point on arrival at JFK International Airport Terminal 4, travellers will find that 90% of restaurants offer vegan and vegetarian options. Forego the airport food however and get into the midst of Manhattan Island for the best choice, beelining to Marty’s V Burger on the Lower East Side for classic veggie American fare or go south to Brooklyn’s Champs Diner for a vegan brunch to remember. If you’re struggling to choose between the 111 vegan offerings within the city, head to Vegan Food Court for satellite versions of NYC’s top restaurants, including V Spot.

International cuisine meanwhile begins on the vibrant streets of Chinatown, where Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian brings Cantonese dim sum to all. Franchia Vegan Café has Korean-Asian fusion, though those in the mood for Eurocentric flavours can try vegan crepes at Delice & Sarrasin. For Afro-bites meanwhile, Seasoned Vegan restaurant brings organic juice and Caribbean cuisine to the lucky people of Harlem. Finish up your foodie tour at vegan bakery Erin McKenna’s, sweets shop Confectionery! Or raw dessert shop Rawsome Treats. And, if you’re too full to move, vegan shoe store Moo Shoes will help you find a reason to get back on your feet and strut the streets once more!

Photo: Jannis Brandt

Photo: Roam-in-color

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