Your Next Vegan Voyage: Croatia

I often travel to Mediterranean countries during the summer, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. Still, I was originally hesitant to visit Croatia, as several friends said there were few vegan options at restaurants. But I decided to plan a trip despite this, as the ocean water looked so breathtaking in photos and the country has such rich history.

I ventured to Croatia with my friend Roya in August. Our journey began in Dubrovnik. We stayed at the Hotel Excelsior, in a guestroom with sweeping views of the sea, and only a five-minute walk to the historic Old Town of Dubrovnik. The ancient walled city dates back to the 14th century, and it felt like stepping back in time to a medieval village made of stone. 

I was happy to find a vegetarian restaurant in the Old Town, Nishta, which was recently opened by a Croatian/Swiss couple named Ruzica and Gildas, both certified chefs. The menu offers several vegan options. I began with the Crusty Salad: A raw, vegan dish of arugula, almond cheese, tomatoes, zucchini noodles, avocado, and a flax seed crust made with sundried tomatoes. It was excellent. I also liked the Banana Curry dish with brown rice. Roya loved the vegetarian burrito with tempeh, salsa, beans, cheese and rice, which can also be made vegan. 

The second day, we proceeded to walk the famous Wall of Dubrovnik in the Old Town, when a thunderstorm with rapid lightening appeared! It was the first rainstorm in more than three months. We ran as fast as we could to reach the end of the wall, where we could get back down to the city. We quickly entered an oyster and sushi bar called Bota Sare. I was very impressed to find that they offer an elaborate vegan sushi platter, with veggie cut rolls, zucchini and carrot tempura, and two pieces of individual sushi made with avocado on top. It was a perfect lunch paired with wine, while we waited for the intense storm to settle.

On our final day in Dubrovnik, I left the gorgeous Saint Jacob Beach early to have lunch at the modern Vapor Restaurant at Hotel Bellevue. This spa-focused hotel is perched above a dramatic cove with the most beautiful white sand beach below. Chef Sasa Racunica prepared the best lunch of our entire trip. First, he created a soup with a light broth full of tofu, scallions and rice noodles, paired with delicious avocado toast on the side. The second course included a beautiful display of sautéed green peas, carrots and red bell peppers with grilled tofu. We finished with dessert including an array of fresh fruit and house-made sorbet with mint.

Later that night, we ventured to a new Peruvian fusion restaurant, Victoria, which had just opened at Villa Orsula, located next to Hotel Excelsior. Victoria Restaurant is helmed by Chef Roberto Chavez, who is guided by a philosophy of health-conscious cuisine, blending Inca roots with the flavors of Spanish, Basque, African, Asian, French, Italian, and British cuisine.

Chef Chavez prepared a delicious appetizer of quinoa with vegetables with a mango citrus sauce. I also enjoyed a dish of roasted vegetables. We took in the stunning location, as Victoria Restaurant is a very chic eatery, set on a grapevine-laced terrace overlooking the Adriatic Sea and Dubrovnik Old Town.

Later that day, we took a ferry to the island of Hvar and found a healthy restaurant upon landing, by viewing the Happy Cow app. Vita Health Food Bar serves smoothies, green juices, and an array of salads and sandwiches. We started out with almond milk lattes and green smoothies, and then enjoyed a salad of arugula, quinoa, avocado, tomatoes, walnuts, and hemp seeds. It was exciting to see such a health conscious restaurant in the middle of the touristy Hvar town.

That night, we went to Kod Kapetana restaurant. The server explained that the chef could make an heirloom tomato salad, and a vegan risotto entree infused with tomato sauce and vegetables, which was delicious. We spent the rest of the time in Hvar enjoying the scenic beach club Hula Hula at sunset and also Carpe Diem Beach Nightclub at night, located on a remote island accessible only by boat. Both venues featured great cocktails with beautiful settings on the water.

I am so grateful to have experienced Dubrovnik and Hvar, which both offer increasingly gourmet options for people following a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Kim Kessler writes The Vegan Travelista, a guide for jet setting foodies in search of plant-based meals in
far-flung locales.