Nourish Your Body and Soul: Plan a Mediterranean Diet Vacation

This photo shows mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and other Meditterranean diet ingredients

A Greek salad with fresh feta. Grilled lamb chops with bright sprigs of mint. Mussels sautéed with flavorful tomatoes and garlic, partnered with earthy olives and potatoes. Now, picture these Mediterranean diet dishes served against a setting as delicious as the meals themselves: a farm-to-table restaurant overlooking rolling vineyards, a cozy neighborhood trattoria, the dining room of a rustic B&B.

A Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, olive oil and spices, and red wine, has long been credited for heart health, longevity of years, and overall health and wellness. (And the key foods taste pretty amazing, too.) Travel, too, gets kudos for stress reduction, real-world learning opportunities, and the opportunity to forge new connections and relationships.

Which got me to thinking: The Mediterranean diet is local to some of the most beautiful and desirable locations around the world. Why not plan a vacation specifically around these places for an incredibly memorable—and delicious—vacation?

If you’re looking to live more healthfully, consider these destinations for your next vacation, where eating in the Mediterranean fashion is simply the way of life.

This photo shows spices at the spice market in Bodrum, Turkey

1. Bodrum, Turkey

One hallmark of a Mediterranean diet is using spice in place of salt. If you’re looking for a destination that’s full of savory goodness, consider Bodrum in southwest Turkey. Stop by the local market, held every Friday, to shop for fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices, or head to the marina for the catch of the day. And be sure to save some spices to take as souvenirs – in doing so, you’ll import a little bit of the authentic Mediterranean diet to your home kitchen.

This photo shows olives on an olive tree in Napa Valley, California

2. Napa Valley, California

If you can’t take a vacation to the Mediterranean region itself, do the next best thing and head to California’s Napa Valley. With its comparable climate and agricultural production, Napa Valley vacations offer a delicious way to have the Mediterranean diet on American soil. And while everyone knows Napa for its wine, be sure to try a vintage of locally produced olive oil, which gives Italy a run for its money.

This photo shows a vineyard in Ravello, Italy

3. Ravello, Italy

Italy’s pedigree as a delicious destination is well established; the challenge is simply choosing which region to visit as part of your Mediterranean diet vacation. Consider the Amalfi Coast for just-caught seafood, lemons right off the vine, and crisp wines harvested from a local vineyard. Make Ravello your home base – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has no shortage of craggy cliffs, gorgeous architecture, boutique hotels, and fine restaurants.

This photo shows grilled octopus at a restaurant in Santorini

4. Santorini, Greece

Seafood is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and the options here range way beyond fish. When in Greece, for example, try the octopus. In Santorini, there’s no shortage of places offering this regional specialty – try it grilled with local vegetables, tossed in a salad, or part of a meze plate. Finish your meal with a glass of vinsanto, a dessert wine produced right on the island.

This photo shows cherries at a market in Split, Croatia

5. Split, Croatia

Split, Croatia’s second-largest city, is home to the lively Green Market, a daily market with the freshest fruit, vegetables, and meats (and souvenirs, too). Beyond the market, be sure to seek out a konoba, a no-frills restaurant serving regional delicacies such as squid-ink pasta or risotto, grilled lobster, octopus salad, and other delights from the sea.

Which types of cuisine do you seek out when you travel? Share your recommendations and leave a comment below!

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Main photo courtesy Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr Creative Commons

Turkish spice market/bazaar, Bodrum, Turkey photo courtesy Alex Berger via Flickr Creative Commons

Napa Valley olives photo courtesy Nagarjun Kandukuru via Flickr Creative Commons

Ravello, Italy photo courtesy Nate Gray via Flickr Creative Commons

Grilled octopus, Santorini (Photo from Mario Restaurant at Monolithos of Santorini) photo courtesy Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr Creative Commons

Croatian cherries from Split, Croatia photo courtesy Josefine Stenudd via Flickr Creative Commons