A Celiac in Greece (Part 1)

For those looking for gluten free advice for Greece, or more specifically Santorini & Athens! Last summer, May 2018, I was lucky enough to go on a girls trip with my in-laws to Greece for a little over a week. Over the trip there were definitely some high and low moments, and one really bad glutening experience. On paper Greece should be fairly easy to navigate as a celiac, the majority of meals you’ll find are fresh veggies and fish, but the hardest part for me was getting through the language barrier. Like every trip I go on I brought with me a few laminated translation cards spelling out my disease and diet restrictions which mostly seemed to help. I also did extensive research beforehand to find suitable places to eat, grocery stores to shop at, and booked an airbnb with a kitchen just in case. Even with the preparations it was still a bit of a challenge. 

I think for most celiacs when you’re traveling you quickly find out what your “go to” will be throughout a trip. For Greece, no big surprise, it’s going to be Greek salads! Luckily this option is pretty darn healthy, tastes great, and is offered literally everywhere. The salad consists of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and feta cheese with a vinaigrette dressing and some spices. A few places unfortunately add croutons, but the basic salad make up is all naturally gluten free. I think it’s safe to say I had a Greek salad every single day of the trip, and maybe even twice!

Here’s a breakdown of everywhere I ate in Santorini, minus a few places that may have just been quick salads:

Tranquilo, located at: Perissa 847 03, Greece. This place was amazing and located next to the black beach on the southern part of the island. There was a mix up and they brought out a salad for me with croutons, but they quickly apologized and brought out a second salad. This may be the freshest and most delicious salad I’ve ever eaten, and was perfect after a long day at the beach.

Elia Restaurant, located in the middle of Fira. I have mixed feelings about this location. The first time we ate here I had no issues, the waiters were nice and made sure my meal would be gluten free. The second time we ate here I ordered the same exact meal, but cannot remember if I specifically said I needed it to be gluten free assuming I’d get the same exact thing. I did end up getting extremely sick that night, and more than likely it was my own fault, but it was still disappointing. 

Posidonia Greek Tavern, located outside of Fira. This was a bit of a disappointment only because we walked a very long way to get here only for them to act slightly confused about gluten. I wasn’t expecting this because their reviews and the gluten free app all had glowing reviews on the food and how accommodating they were. I ended up using my gluten free card and the head chef came out and talked with me. I ended up trying grilled octopus, which I didn’t like, and had lamb with potatoes which were good. I didn’t get sick either, so that’s all I could really ask for!

Kokkalo Restaurant, located in Fira. This was one of the best meals we had the entire trip! It was so good I can’t even remember exactly what I ate, but it may have been steak with potatoes? It also helped that our waitress knew exactly what celiac was because her boyfriend had it. I did not get sick, and actually felt full for one of the few times on the trip. 

Green Market (Thira). This is a small grocery store in Thira specializing in organic and gluten free products. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but the selection was a bit limited and I actually had more luck at the bigger grocery store next door which offered fruits and produce, and a few big name products that happen to be gluten free as well. 

Overall Santorini wasn’t too difficult, but with the amount of research going into it beforehand I was surprised that I still struggled. I think one remedy would be to splurge on the more expensive restaurants, at least for one meal a day. They seemed to handle more tourists, and would probably be better at accommodating or substituting safe gluten free options. Another side note, the Santorini airport is insanely small and the two small snack stands do not really offer anything gluten free. I was very annoyed that no one seemed to sell fruit anywhere outside of the grocery store, so make sure you’re prepared before getting to the airport. 

Check out Part 2, for details on my experience in Athens!

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