A Food Tour of the Greek Isles

A Food Tour of the Greek Isles

The Greek Isles are a truly paradisaical destination: warm white sands, hidden coves, villages clinging to craggy hillsides.

Many travelers know to head for Kefalonia in search of a quietly beautiful beach, or Crete if they need a history fix, but out of the 200-odd choices, which are the best Greek islands to sample local food?

Gastronomic trends flow between clusters such as the Ionian Islands and the Cyclades, south of Athens. Grilled fish, herby stews from the mountain villages and even a marinated goat or two certainly characterize the Greek islands, but there are some key regional differences to look out for.

Cretan Islands

As the largest isle, Crete has some unique offerings, coupled with stunning mountainous terrain, particularly around Samaria Gorge in the west. Food fans should try outlying villages like Rethymno for some local sweet cheeses like a myzithra (with a glass of raki, of course!) to go with the gorgeous harbor views.


Myzithra / Source: feministjulie

If you fancy something a little different, try some fasolakia, which is a bean dish cooked with crushed tomato and local olive oil.


Fasolakia / Source: kightp

Or, try some dakos, which is dry bread that is often baked many times, kept for months and then moistened with water and served with cheese, tomato, oregano and, of course, some olive oil.


Dakos / Source: feministjulie

With around 1.5 million olive trees on the island, it’s unsurprising that most dishes on Crete will contain a drop or two of the local oil.

The Cyclades

Nearby Naxos, the largest island of the Cyclades, is another one of the best Greek islands for a foodie, especially if you love cheese; the selection of locally-produced cheeses is almost bewildering! Try the legendary graviera. Although it's produced elsewhere in the country, including on Crete, the Naxos version uses cow's milk instead of sheep’s milk. It’s incredibly versatile and can be used in salads or pies, or as an accompaniment to the likes of local spirits, ouzo or raki.


Graviera / Source: curious-food-lover

Or it can be fried to produce the appetizer saganaki.

Saganaki with figs

Saganaki with figs / Source: avlxyz

As well as producing around 14% of the country’s dairy, the island of Naxos also produces some fine cattle and you’ll generally find a good steak in any one of the island’s many restaurants.

Picture-perfect Santorini also gets its fair share of visitors, but the island also has a deserved reputation for food. Fava beans and white aubergine (eggplant) are among the highlights which you can eat in the presence of one of the famous Fira sunsets (the capital of Santorini), overlooking a volcano, no less!

The island also boasts some of the finest cherry tomatoes you’ll find anywhere. Here they use them to make tomato balls, a Santorini local delicacy.

Santorini tomato balls

Santorini tomato balls / Source: Klearchos Kapoutsis

The Dodecanese

Hop across to Rhodes (Rhodos) in the Dodecanese, and try fresh octopus or the catch of the day in Kamiros Skala, before taking in the famous hilltop necropolis. On Rhodes you’ll also find a more Eastern influence on the cuisine and certainly more spicing and seasoning.

Fresh salmon

Fresh salmon / Source: jabbarman

Aegean Islands

Into the Aegean Sea, wine connoisseurs will find much to engage them among the vines of Icaria (Ikaria), where some of the best red varietals are produced. Further north, Lesvos (Lesbos) is admired for its ouzeries, restaurants which serve the native ouzo spirit with their appetizers or ‘mezedes'.

Ouzo / Source: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson

The distinct Turkish slant on seafood in Mytilini is also worth sampling. Check out the olive groves to the south, where the island's top-class olive oil is produced.

Each Greek isle boast its own personality in terms of flavor and produce, and nearly every option is going to be a delight. If you're something of a foodie (and, you know, don't mind a few “visual distractions” along the way), you're definitely going to want to consider the Greek Isles.

How could you not?

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7 Responses to A Food Tour of the Greek Isles

  1. Jennifer Dombrowski October 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    I love the Santorini tomato fritters! They are also famous for their tomato paste.

  2. Green Global Travel October 19, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    I find travel has inspired me to become much more engaged in food as a rule and I love getting to know a culture by investigating it’s culinary practices and ideally by participating in cooking courses and workshops! So much fun to learn more about Greek food through your experiences in different regions of the country which all vary with the exception of the delightful ouzo and ever present raki!

    • Jeremy Foster October 19, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      Same here! I think food and culture are deeply intertwined, and I love exploring both of them!

  3. Frank October 20, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Hot damn – all looks fantastic!
    Frank (bbqboy)

  4. Cheryl Howard October 20, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    I just had breakfast but I’m hungry again. Everything looks delicious!

  5. Ismini December 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Great site great work,glad you showed interest in greek cuisine since i m from Greece but i ‘d like to let you know that in the “graviera” picture that is not a “graviera” but a salad, a salad named “horiatiki” that contains feta cheese!!!!never let go of what completes you and makes you happy Jeremy!!Greetings from Greece!!

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