24 July 2022

Vegan in Chania, Crete | Greece

I recently visited Chania in Crete, Crete is the largest Greek island and is one of about 200 that are inhabited. This holiday was a solo trip and it was one of the best holidays of my life; from incredible food and wine, beautiful beaches, mountains, sunsets, fascinating history, incredible architecture and some fantastic people I met along the way, this trip will be truly unforgettable.

The incredible thing about Cretian, or even Greek food is how vegan-friendly it is. So many of the dishes are accidentally vegan or can easily be adapted and it's centered around locally grown and seasonal ingredients and plenty of fresh herbs and olive oil. So in this blog, I'm going to share with you the food I ate in Chania, some dishes that you can try if you visit, and a few restaurant recommendations, as well as my tips for finding the best restaurants and some fun things to do in Chania! I hope you get comfy and enjoy the read, but I've also included a quick guide below with all the highlights. 

I chose to visit Chania (pronounced hahn-yáh) because of the beautiful scenery, historical architecture of the old town, incredible food and hearing it was a very safe place for solo travelers. I can confirm it was all the above and so much more, Chania is truly magical and a must-visit place. I spent 8 days there, which meant I had a great balance of seeing the sights both in and around Chania, as well as a few days to relax and just be. When I got to Chania, the taxi driver from my airport transfer told me that days are typically a bit later in Chania, lunch would be around 2-4pm, you may want a late afternoon nap and dinner is around 9pm, this is when the locals will start to eat when the sun has gone down and it's a little cooler. The word vegan in Chania is mostly understood, the more commercial restaurants and the ice cream places have specifically marked vegan options, however, with the exception of the ice cream, you'll probably want to look a little more of the beaten track for the best food, and whilst vegan is a semi-recognized term, I found that it doesn't hurt to clarify 'no meat, egg, cheese, honey etc' when being served. 

Day 1:

I love to feel like I've had an authentic experience when I visit a new place and I found a local guide on airbnb experiences who has a small business called Hidden Gems of Crete. Garry who runs this offers small personalised tours and experiences, showing you some of the wonders Chania and surrounding areas has to offer, that you just wouldn't see otherwise - you can book through Air BnB or enquire with him directly. I fully paid for all my tours, it was worth every single penny and I would highly recommend you check out these tours too. I started off my trip with a walking tour around the city, where I was guided by Mary - she told me all about the wonders of the city, the history of the architecture, highlighted the influences of the Venetians and Turkish from times they colonised the city over the years, pointed out some spots to eat and I found by the end of this tour I had my bearings, was fully relaxed and was ready to explore even further, I even came away with a list of recommendations for my stay. 

I chose to eat at a restaurant called Steki for my first meal, it was located on the 'foodie' street I was shown. I noticed some dishes that looked vegan and then asked what they would recommend when I ordered, so my first meal was dolmadakia (vine leaves) and zucchini blossom - both stuffed with herby rice and a wonderfully fresh broad bean and artichoke heart stew, with a lemony dill sauce. It was super fresh and delicious and a fantastic start to my trip, I paired it with a glass of the house red and felt truly in the spirit of my holiday.

Day 2:

For my second day, I booked onto a wine and olive oil tour, this started with a tour of an olive oil factory, followed by a wine tasting at 2 different locations, a visit to the worlds oldest olive tree and a meze plate. I phoned up the day before the tour and checked if they were able to do a vegan option and to my delight, they were able to for me. During the first tasting, the main offering as a vegan was bread and olive oil, but for the second location with the meze plate they really delivered and even some of the others were a little jealous of my plate - which was incredible! 

For the evening, I ventured into town to find somewhere to eat, having found a vegan moussaka on the menu, I booked a table for a little later at Steki and went to watch the sunset. I walked around the harbor onto the wall that protects the harbor looks into Chania, it was a beautiful sight and perfect to work up an appetite. I ordered the Cretian salad minus the cheese and it came with an incredible garlic and olive oil dressing. Cretian salad has the addition of crispy barley rusks, green peppers, and capers, I found this salad super flavourful and with the salty olives and capers, perfectly seasoned even without the cheese. This salad was huge, particularly in comparison to the vegan lentil moussaka, but it was a perfect pairing and definitely worth a try!


Day 3:

Something I hadn't tried before but looked like great fun was paddle boarding, I got picked up from my hotel and along with a small group we were driven around 30 mins away from Chania, to a stunning beach surrounded by mountains, we got to paddle board for a couple of hours and I'm already thinking about when I can go again. It was such a fantastic way to see some more of the island too!

I got dropped in the town and had some lunch at a veggie spot called To Stachi which has vegan options - I ordered the pastitsio, a sort of greek version of a lasagne; unfortunately, it had been made with penne rather than the traditional tubes of pasta and was a little too soft for my liking. I got to try galaktoboureko for dessert, a vegan version of a filo custard pie for dessert and I really enjoyed this. To Stachi came recommended, so perhaps there are better options as a main dish worth trying!


I booked another Hidden Gems tour in the evening, the three of us were taken to a few spots in the mountains with historical significance, including a church within a cave that a saint used to live and the final stop was at a beautiful family-run restaurant for a few snacks and a glass of wine. It was located next to a river, nestled in trees with lanterns hanging - it was so magical it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for some fairies to have popped out. A friend I'd met on the tour and I headed into town for drinks and then dinner. Sinagogi was a great bar recommended to me by a friend who recently went to Chania as well as Garry from Hidden Gems, it was a great open-air bar in an old building, some people were even after the actual sinagog and were directed to next door. For dinner we picked a recommendation that on arrival probably wasn't the best option for vegans. But I had some freshly grilled veg, flatbread and some olive oil oregano fries. Having had a big lunch this was enough, but if they have had fava on the menu it would have significantly elevated this meal! 

Day 4:

After a few busy days, I walked along from my hotel to the beach. I stayed at the Alexis hotel, it's a family-run hotel with a nice restaurant overlooking the sea. I opted for a sea view room which came with a fantastic sunset. It was a little further away from the town, but close to some of the lovely beaches which made it easy to leave valuables in the hotel without missing out on the opportunity to snap any pictures of the town. I mostly had breakfast here too and whilst bread and cereal was available, I typically opted for some watermelon, tomatoes & cucumber, dolmadakia and green tea. Golden beach had beautiful sand, a fantastic view and a little tavern near the beach for lunch where I ordered some dakos without cheese - similar to bruschetta with barley rusks, fresh grated tomato, oregano and olives.

I had a relaxing day, read a book and had a few dips in the sea. For dinner I ate at Pulse, a vegan restaurant, it was a little wait for a table so I would recommend booking if you'd like to come here but it's definitely worth it. I even broke my holiday rule of not going back to the same place twice and ate here again on my final night. I ordered the meze plate which was for 2, so I took the leftovers back with me. It was super delicious and had a whole range of dishes. 

Day 5:

Elafonisi beach is one of the must-visit places of Crete, it's about a 90 minute drive from Chania and large tour buses operate this route on a daily basis. This beach was quite possibly the best I've ever been to, it has crystal clear waters and a faint hue of pink sand along the shoreline, it's truly stunning and I felt so content and relaxed there. Having both booked these large tours but being aware it would mean a very impersonal experience, I teamed up with my new friend from the Hidden Gems tour and we organised a private tour with Garry instead. He took us earlier to the beach before the tour busses arrived, bringing us a pastry for breakfast (vegan mushroom pastries are available in a lot of bakeries there), we played road trip songs in the car and on arrival, he pointed out the best spots that wouldn't get quite as busy - walking through the water to get to the adjacent beach. We stayed a few hours at the beach, which in the direct heat was more than enough to take in the spectacular views and swim in the water, there are umbrellas available at €15 each, however, this area is very crowded and not as serene. 

We then took a drive back towards Chania and ate at a beautiful restaurant with mostly homegrown produce, they had vegan options marked on the menu and we all shared a wonderful meal of fresh grilled veg, fava, tempura veg and oyster mushrooms and a Cretian salad minus the cheese. It was a fantastic experience and if you have the means I would highly recommend a private tour, or hiring a car if you fancy the drive, however, the beach is past some pretty windy mountain roads. 



I watched the sunset with a glass of wine from my hotel room before heading down to the hotel restaurant for some dinner. They had clearly marked vegan options, including vegan meatballs and dolmadika and stuffed zucchini flowers. Vegan meat alternatives weren't something often seen in restaurants in Chania, despite being available in the local supermarkets (along with vegan cheese and plant milks), but were available from the hotel.


Day 6:

On Saturday I had a relaxed day, wandered into town and looked around the shops. A little tradition I've picked up when travelling is to buy new rings, I love finding unique jewllery that reminds me of my travels, so I found a couple of new rings in the town and bought a few gifts that I could fit into my hand luggage. For lunch I booked Tamam - I'd been trying to get into Tamam for a few days and it's a restaurant that definitely requires booking a few days in advance. Tamam is a mix of Greek and middle-eastern style food that is some of the best in Chania, they had one of my favourite dishes - giagantes - a butter bean dish with garlic, dill and white wine. The Iranian rice was another dish that came highly recommended to me; lightly spiced saffron rice with dried fruits and pine nuts - it was absolutely incredible and I'll be sharing a recipe soon of my take on it so you can all experience it too. 


Whilst looking around the shops I broke one of my travelling rules, about not going to a restaurant that has someone trying to get you in, but I overheard the host talking to someone about vegan food. After hearing about the chestnut stifado I just knew I had to come back for dinner. I ordered the Stifado - a sweet and warmly spiced tomato based stew with local chestnuts, served with crispy chips around the plate. I also ordered a side of local mountain greens - similar in appearance to morning glory and somewhere between spinach, kale and nettles in flavour, boiled in salted water and served with a fresh lemon wedge. I really enjoyed them and would recommend trying them when in Chania. 


Day 7:

Sunday was due to be a little rainy and overcast, so I decided to book some surfing, I had a lesson in the morning followed by some practise time in the afternoon. I'd never been surfing before but I really enjoyed it, I managed to stand up quickly within the lesson and caught a few waves on my own too. I found a Tavern just past the beach for lunch and had rice-stuffed peppers and tomatoes for lunch along with the mountain greens. Trying something new like surfing was such a good challenge and a reminder to keep trying new things, because you never know how much you might just love it. 


For my final night I booked Pulse, I just had to try their lentil moussaka and it did not disappoint! Before heading to Pulse I walked down to the harbour and watched the sunset for the final time, followed by a cocktail at Boheme - with local gin, sage liquer, lemon and olive vanilla soda. 

Day 8:


For my final day I booked an early lunch at Tamam before heading to the airport. After a little reading by the pool I checked out and walked into town. A final goodbye to the harbour and I enjoyed some gigantes and tomato fritters for lunch. I had a mix of dark chocolate and hazelnut praline icecream from a local stall, headed back to the hotel and got picked up for the airport.


Despite being small Chania airport had a number of vegan options including pastitsio - this was also made with penne rather than the traditional tubes of pasta but was good enough for an airport dish and brought my holiday to a close.


Quick guide

Vegan dishes:

  • Dolma/dolmades/dolmadakia (99% of the time these are vegan and stuffed with herby rice, the menu will mention if these contain mince)
  • Zucchini blossoms (stuffed with herby rice, like the dolma)
  • Stuffed tomatoes/peppers (stuffed with a herby tomato rice)
  • Gigantes (butter beans in a garlicky/tomato sauce)
  • Fava (a split pea dip, similar to hummus)
  • Grilled veg (with olive oil and salt)
  • Artichokes with broad beans (in a light lemony, herby sauce)
  • Local mountain greens (dressed in olive oil and lemon juice)
  • Mushroom pastry (from bakeries, mostly vegan, but worth checking)
  • Cretian/Greek Salad (ask for it without the cheese)
  • Dakos (ask for it without the cheese - rusks topped with grated tomato, oregano, olives and salt)
Specialty options (at certain restaurants):
  • Chestnut stifado (To Xani)
  • Vegan moussaka (StekiPulse)
  • Vegan icecream - multiple icecream stalls leading down to the harbour

Restaurant/drinks recommendations:

Dinner is typically around 9pm in Chania, for the best restaurants it's worth booking a table, particularly if you'd like to eat outside. Here are some highlights from my trip!
  • Oinopoieio (traditional Greek in the heart of the old town) - try the artichokes & broad beans
  • Tamam (Greek/Middle Eastern - a must visit!) - try the Gigantes & Iranian rice
  • Steki (Cretian cuisine) - try the vegan moussaka & Cretian salad (minus the cheese)
  • To Xani (Cretian cuisine) - try the chestnut stifado and mountain greens
  • Pulse (Vegan restaurant with lots of authentic Greek dishes) - try the meze plate & moussaka
  • To Stachi (vegetarian with vegan options) - closes at 10, so good to try for lunch
  • Sinagogi (drinks)
  • Boheme (drinks)
A note that a lot of restaurants will give you Raki at the end of a meal, this is a local spirit and often contains honey - I left the bottle unopened with the hope they could re-use it for the next customer. They will also likely give you a small dessert at the end of a meal with the bill, most restaurants were quite perceptive that I'd ordered something vegan and either took it away again or offered me some fruit instead. 

There's no rush on service in Chania, so if you truly wish to avoid this you can go up and pay the bill before they offer this to you. 

Tips for choosing where to eat:

  • No pictures on the menu - let the food speak for itself!
  • Away from the main square/views/crowds - where you'll find the hidden gems
  • Menu in the country's language first - the locals are likely to eat here
  • No TV - the food is the main draw
  • They're not outside trying to get you to come in - they've probably got enough customers through word of mouth
  • Follow local recommendations - they know the good spots!
  • Give yourself some time to wander and look at some menus - head out a little before you're ready to eat, you can always book a table for later on
  • Trust your instincts - if you like the look of the menu options and want to eat there, go for it!

What I did:

Chania was a truly incredible place and I feel so inspired afterwards - from all the things I did, the food I ate, the people I met and the time wandering around with my camera capturing the natural beauty of the place, but somehow never quite truly being able to capture the magical feeling from experiencing somewhere like this. If you have the opportunity, Chania is a must-visit place in my view, full of natural beauty, incredible food, a rich culture and wonderful people. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing all about Chania and have found the guide helpful. If you have any questions do send me a message on Instagram and if you visit Chania or any of my recommendations do tag me @euphoricvegan. Enjoy!

Cassidy xx