Greece is well-known for its delicious eats. While plenty of people come for the stunning scenery and ancient ruins, there are lots who head to the country just to enjoy the gastronomic delights. Not only will you find plenty of delicious eats in big cities like Athens, but throughout the islands. If you’re a food heading to one of these islands, expect a real treat, often found in those small, hidden away family-run tavernas.
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Santorini is renowned for its wine with its dry, mineral-rich volcanic soil that’s led to the creation of indigenous grape varieties that are wholly unique to the island, molded by its unique landscape. But it offers a thriving culinary scene too – the unique ecosystem has resulted in varieties of white aubergines, sweet Santorini tomatoes and capers that can only be found right here. As one of the top travel destinations in Greece, there are countless upscale restaurants to enjoy delicious cuisine like Tomato Gefthedes (tomato fritters), Greek salads, fresh-caught seafood and Saganaki (fried cheese in filo pastry covered in honey).
Naxos is not only famous as the home of some of the country’s most idyllic beaches with powdery white sands, but it’s considered to be one of the top foodie destinations in Greece, as highlighted by the late television personality/chef/author Anthony Bourdain on an episode of his series “Parts Unknown.” The island hosts so many outstanding eateries it would probably take at least a year to try them all. Most restaurants feature dishes with island produce like fruits and veggies, including Naxian potatoes, meats and fresh-from-the-sea fish, and all sorts of delicious artisanl cheeses. You’ll find plenty of tasty local wines to enjoy with them too.
Crete is a magnificent and diverse island, home to postcard-perfect beaches, including pink stretches, along with soaring mountains and plenty of ancient ruins. Farm-to-table food has been part of daily life here for generations – in fact, the Cretan diet is considered to be among the world’s healthiest with many living to be well over one hundred years old. The quality of the produce is remarkable but one must try is the flaky filo pastry with semolina custard filling called bougatsa. While it can be found on other islands, Crete’s is considered to be the very best you can enjoy in the country, especially in Heraklion. If you want to taste a variety of delicious Cretan foods, there are multiple tours based in the city that are well worth joining.
Foodie travelers have plenty of reasons to visit Mykonos too. Artisans produce local specialties like kopanisti (a soft, spicy cheese) and louza, while the very best tavernas serve squid that was caught that same day, in many cases just hours before it reaches your plate. There are lots of options for food tours and cooking lessons, many include plenty of local raki and wine too. Learning some of the Myknonian recipes makes for the perfect souvenir to bring back home that will allow you to serve family and friends some of your favorite island dishes.
Tinos may not be as well known as some of the other Greek islands, but it’s slowly been making a name for itself with lots of charms to be found in the small stone villages that are scattered throughout. Greeks make two annual pilgrimages a year to its church of Panagia Megalochari, while other visitors come to enjoy the tranquil cobbled paths, chapels, graceful arches, white home. spectacular beaches and incredible cuisine. The local charcuterie and artichokes are the must-tries here, alongside kariki chese and white malagouzia wines.
Tranquil Sifnos has become a popular weekend escape for foodies from Athens. Called a “rising food star,” its developing reputation began with famed chef Nikolaos Tselementes. From the island himself, in the 1920s he wrote one of the seminal tomes on Greek fare. Today one can enjoy the aromas of fresh-baked biscuits and bread wafting from the bakeries, and lots of excellent fresh fish in many tavernas, particularly in the village of Hersonissos. Those who visit in September can enjoy the Cycladic Gastronomy Festival too.
Lemnos, or Limnos, as it’s also spelled, is also in the running as the Aegean’s Slow Food Capital. Because there has been no boom in tourism here, the island has managed to keep its gastronomic traditions well intact. There is plenty of local, seasonal produce on the menus and it has so many resources it’s practically self-sufficient, thanks to the diverse landscape of volcanic soil, plains, dunes and wetlands. Lemnos has a long history of dairy and cheesemaking, while ancient grains thrive. Be sure to try the snail-shaped pastries made from corn flour called Kilikia. They’re filled with feta, topped with sesame seeds and baked in the oven.
Kefalonia is part of the Ionian islands that lie west of the Greek mainland. It’s unspoiled, lush, green and produces some of the best, if not the best wine in the region while offering high-quality mountain foods that make it one of the top foodie destinations in the country. Enjoy Robola, White Muscat and Mavrodaphne on wine tours or in wine bars. Among the tasty food options are kreatopita, the island’s signature mixed-meat pie, wrapped in a special pastry, beef sofigido (a stew made in the oven) and local chicken sausage with wild marjoram.
Corfu is renowned for its mouthwatering traditional fare that has strong Venetian influence having been under Venetian occupation for 400 years. Look forward to dishes with lots of fresh, local ingredients and a wide range of flavors prepared by talented chefs that often combine modern with traditional cuisine. Corfiot menus often include vegetables, meats, pastas, legumes, spices and olive oil. Sofrito is a trademark dish here made with thin slices of fried beef cooked in a white sauce with garlic, pepper, parsley, vinegar and white wine, served with mashed potatoes or peas.
Kea is another great foodie destination for taking a cooking lesson, learning to make everything from grilled fish wrapped in fig leaves, to your own special filo dough. Cookbook author Aglaia Kremezi and her husband Costas Moraitis create programs that blend culinary delights with sightseeing which also included guided walking tours, visits to archaeological sites, local tavernas and artisans. In the fall, you can help harvest the olives too. If you just want to enjoy the eateries on your own, be sure to sample the local cheeses like Ksino and Kopanisti, and Tsigaropita, Kea’s original pie made with tsigara, eggs, milk, anise and sesame.
Paros has been growing in popularity thanks to its beautiful sandy beaches, rich history, nightlife and a wide variety of activities like hiking, wind surfing and kite surfing, as well as its local cuisine. The Malvasia, Mantilaria, Aidani, Savvatiano, Malagouzia and many other grape varieties are grown here producing fabulous wines that can be enjoyed with tasty dishes. Many menus here have a seafood focus, with traditional recipes from the owners’ grandmothers, including mussels, orzo with shrimp and stuffed grape leaves. You can get a great intro to Greek cooking here too from one of the island’s top gastronomic specialists, learning to prepare dishes like marinated octopus, fish soup, beef onion stew and baklava.
In recent years restaurants on the breathtaking island of Milos have become more gourmet, without losing their core charms. At the family-run beach taverna Sirocco in Paleochori, you’ll find simple Greek food, slow-cooked for hours in a volcanic sandpit. The ingredients are buried in clay pots and heated by geothermal springs. The owner’s father started experimenting with the technique a couple of decades ago, starting with eggs and potatoes before graduating to meats. The island has plenty of fresh fish to enjoy along with plates like roster cooked with wine and tomatoes, eggplant with pork and lamb baked with dill and cheese.
Lefkada is sure to appeal to gastronomic fans as well, with excellent restaurants and cafes in every city of the island, although Nidri is one of the top spots. You’ll find popular Greek dishes along with traditional island cuisine and original masterpieces. Lefkadian cuisine goes beyond Greek salads and typical souvlaki, with restaurant menus often featuring the fresh catch of the day and homemade dishes with lots of local ingredients. Enjoy everything from fried squid to lamb chops and multiple pasta options.
Far off the beaten tourist path, Amorgos offers timeless elegance at the eastern edge of the Cyclades near the Dodecanese, famous for being the filming location for the cult hit “The Big Blue.” It’s renowned for its natural, wild beauty and laid-back atmosphere while boasting plenty of tasty cuisines. Every village here has a kafeneio which is part cafe, part grocery store and part men’s social center, where men gather to enjoy raki and a card game along with meze that’s prepared in a tiny kitchen tucked into the back. Expect tzatziki like Greek grandmothers make, yogurt combined with diced cucumber and a bit of garlic and lemon, croquettes, fava, spinach and cheese pies.