South America is famous for its meat and every year carnivorous foodies flock to try Colombia’s bandeja paisa, Argentina’s paving slab-size steaks, and, among the more adventurous, the Peruvian roast guinea pig. This has led to South America gaining a reputation as being a difficult place for travellers to maintain a vegetarian diet, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Vegetarian and vegan communities are well established both in cities and remote, rural locations, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. So, to make your life easier, here are the best places in South America to grab a veggie meal, according to global travellers.*
Vale do Capão, Bahia, Brazil
The 1970s hippie haven of Vale do Capão
In the 1970s a hippy commune was established in the mountain-top village of Vale do Capão and, nearly 40 years later, it’s still popular with eco-travellers, vegetarians, and fans of alternative therapies. The vegetarian and vegan cuisine available for travellers reflects the Northeastern Brazilian tradition of using a delicious combination of cooked fruits, roots, grains, and fresh juices.
Alto Paraiso, Goias, Brazil
Vegetarian breakfasts are the standard in Alto Paraiso
Another Brazilian location known for alternative lifestyles and eco-tourism, Alto Paraiso draws visitors from all over the world to swim in its twinkling lagoons and take in the gorgeous scenery. The influx of earth-loving tourists has brought numerous vegetarian restaurants and food stalls to Alto Paraiso, with vegetarian breakfasts now standard in most of the hotels.
Capilla del Monte, Córdoba Province, Argentina
Traditionally produced, meat-free meals in the moutains
The third most popular place with our vegetarian reviewers was Capilla del Monte, a small city next to the Sierras Chicas mountains in Argentina. The locals focus on traditional methods of producing food and many of the vegetarian-friendly eco-lodges come with their own farm.
Sao Paulo, Estado de Sao Paulo, Brazil
Diverse and distinctive flavours in Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo is home to hundreds of distinct ethnic groups and this diversity is reflected in the variety of food on offer. Italian, Japanese, and Middle-Eastern communities have all brought distinctive, veggie-friendly flavours to Sao Paulo, appearing in the vegetarian restaurants that tend to cluster in the east of the city. Sao Paulo is also a great base for visiting two of the nearby meat-free food festivals (Veg Fest in Campos de Jordao and Vegan Festival) recently. The 2017 version takes place at the Hotel Serra da Estrela.
Cusco, Cusco, Peru
Tourism has led to delicious twists on classic Peruvian dishes
As the gateway to the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu, Cusco has a steady stream of tourists from all over the world and a culinary scene to cater for all. It is a source of local pride that most traditional Peruvian dishes served in Cusco now have a vegetarian equivalent. Hotels and lodges have also got in on the act and many follow the Andean Spirit Lodge’s example by offering an exclusively vegetarian menu.
Curitiba, Parana, Brazil
Curitiba recently played host to Veg Fest
Curitiba is the capital of Parana and the second Brazilian city to host the popular Veg Fest. One of the many reasons Curitiba was an ideal location for this was that it’s vegetarian restaurants are all clustered in the city centre, around the Centro district and to the South of the popular tourist Merces district. Unlike a lot of other South American cities where vegetarian eateries can end up tucked away in the suburbs.
Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia
Make the most of Medellín's impressive food markets
Medellín locals are known for their ingenuity and innovation, traits which transfer to the city’s restaurant scene in terms of creating vegetarian versions of classic Colombian dishes. One of the most popular neighbourhoods for veggie food is the Bolivarian area and many travellers prefer to stay in self-catered apartments in order to make the most of Medellín’s impressive food markets.
Bogotá has a long tradition of producing excellent vegetarian food
Colombia’s capital city recently launched a campaign to improve the nutrition of its locals and the result has been a surge of interest in plant-based diets. That said, Bogotá has always enjoyed a good reputation for vegetarian food, both in Colombia and throughout South America. The majority of meat-free restaurants are well-established and stretch between the La Soledad and La Porciuncula districts.
*The data scientists at Booking.com looked at the top places in South America that were endorsed by our reviewers for the best vegetarian food.