How to eat in 6 of the world’s most stunning places

If you’ve ever wanted to dine beneath the Indian Ocean or in a Tanzanian crater, you’re in luck. We’ve rounded up some of the most extraordinary restaurants in the world—and given you the guide to find them.

Restaurants at the End of the World” premieres March 21 on National Geographic Channel and March 22 on Disney+.

Places like Paris and Singapore are well-known culinary capitals. But some of the world’s most intriguing meals are prepared and served in destinations that are well off the beaten culinary path.

Chef Kristen Kish, who owns Arlo Grey restaurant in Austin, Texas, and is the former host of “Iron Chef,” dives into such places for National Geographic’s new TV show “Restaurants at the End of the World.” Her travels take her to the cloud forests of Panama, a remote radio station in Iceland, an island farm in Maine, and even a fishing trawler plying the fjords of Brazil. At the center of these stories are local chefs who create incredible meals where one might never expect to find a restaurant.

You don’t have to be an intrepid chef to find eateries in far-flung locales, however. Here are six dining spots where the surrounding environment is just as intriguing as what’s on the plate.

Restaurante el Diablo, Canary Islands, Spain

On Lanzarote Island’s Restaurante el Diablo, food is cooked by superheated steam escaping from an active volcano vent in Timanfaya National Park.

Established in 1974, the park revolves around the Montañas del Fuego (“Mountains of Fire”) in a desolate volcanic landscape that could easily pass for Mars. The area was considered a barren wasteland until park authorities created a visitor center, hiking trails, a motor touring route, and the mountaintop restaurant.

Built with basalt stone spewed by those eruptions, El Diablo’s open-air grill barbecues meat and seafood at temperatures between 450˚ and 500˚ Celsius. Beyond carnivorous delights, the circular eatery serves island favorites like “wrinkled” arrugada potatoes with mojo sauce made with small papas bonita and papas negra grown in the Canary Islands. Sweet treats include a cinder-cone-shaped dessert called the Lanzarote Volcano made with chocolate, honey, almonds, and local gofio flour.

Despite its mountaintop location, El Diablo is easy to reach via Highway 67 from elsewhere in Lanzarote. Parking is just outside and there’s only a short uphill walk. After your meal, drive the park’s nine-mile paved Route of the Volcanoes. You can also work off calories by walking the 3.9-mile Tremesana Trail around a small volcano of the same name or the shoreline trail where lava meets the sea.

(Here’s how Basque country’s cider houses keep an ancient history alive.) 

Karczma Górnicza, Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

Buried deep beneath Krakow in southern Poland, the 180-mile Wieliczka Salt Mine consists of subterranean tunnels and rooms, including a Catholic chapel, boutique lodging, and Karczma Górnicza restaurant.

The mine, a UNESCO World Heritage site, traces its roots to prehistoric times, when people harvested the salty brine from natural springs. By the 11th century A.D., the springs had evaporated and locals began to dig wells to extract salt. Full-scale underground mining kicked off in the 13th century, as Wieliczka became one of Europe’s most important salt sources.

The restaurant is located along the Tourist Route, more than 400 feet underground, that can only be accessed as part of a guided tour spanning two to three hours. The menu includes mostly traditional Polish fare, such as pierogi, cream-filled kremówka pastries, bigos stew with sauerkraut and bacon, and żurek sour rye soup with kielbasa sausage. Meals are served on wooden tables similar to those used by salt miners before commercial operations ceased in 1996.

The Main Restaurant, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

At Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, the crater-rim dining room offers bird’s-eye views of the wildlife on the floor of Ngorongoro Crater, more than 2,000 feet below.

The restaurant’s stone walls, glowing firepit, and reproduction cave art create a prehistoric ambience that reminds diners that nearby Olduvai Gorge was one of the cradles of humankind.

Sprinkled between the menu’s international items are locally sourced dishes, such as marinated tilapia and Kilimanjaro coffee panna cotta. The latter is made with Arabica beans from coffee plants grown beneath banana trees on the lower slopes of Africa’s highest mountain.

About a four-hour drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport near Arusha, the lodge is located in the heart of Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The UNESCO World Heritage site is jointly administered by the Tanzanian government and the local Maasai people, who continue to live and graze cattle inside the park.

(One of Earth’s loneliest volcanoes holds an extraordinary secret.)

Ristorante Grotta Palazzese, Polignano a Mare, Italy

A natural cave on the Adriatic Sea harbors a dramatic venue for one of Italy’s most celebrated restaurants. Located along the vertiginous coast of Polignano a Mare in southern Italy, Grotta Palazzese serves four- and six-course tasting menus complemented by Puglia wines, like Primitivo (Zinfandel) and Negroamaro.

The spectacular setting has been a tourist attraction since at least the 12th century when it’s believed that Joan of Anjou, the queen of Sicily, paid a visit. The karst cavern has been a popular dining spot since the 18th century, when French artist Jean Louis Desprez rendered the watercolor of a grotto feast that appears on the restaurant’s menu cover.  

Formed over millions of years by wind, rain, and waves eroding the cliff’s porous limestone, the grotto is one of more than 70 caves along the Polignano a Mare coast that can be explored via motorboat cruises or guided sea kayaking adventures.

Perlan, Reykjavík, Iceland

Nearly a century ago, renowned Icelandic painter Jóhannes Kjarval called for the creation of a landmark on Öskjuhlíð hill that would celebrate Icelandic nature, complement the northern lights, and symbolize the city. But in 1939, when something was finally built at the summit, it was nothing so grand—just the first of six giant tanks filled with geothermally heated water for Reykjavík’s homes and businesses.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Reykjavík mayor Davíð Oddsson decided to fulfill Kjarval’s vision by transforming the huge cisterns into a cultural and educational oasis that includes exhibits on Icelandic nature and one of the island’s most distinctive food experiences.

Perched beneath a glass dome above the six still functioning water tanks, Perlan Restaurant offers a 360-degree panorama of the Icelandic capital, as well as dreamy views of the North Atlantic and the island’s volcanic west coast. The menu highlights local favorites, such as Icelandic lamb soup, artisanal cheeses with red currant jam, salads made with ingredients from the island’s vertical vegetable farms, and open-faced smoked salmon sandwiches.

The rest of the Perlan complex includes a walk-through ice cave, northern lights show, virtual aquarium, and exhibits on the country’s iconic glaciers and volcanoes.

(These are some of the most magical places to see auroras.)

Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Rangali Island, Maldives

Accessed via a wooden pier and spiral staircase, Conrad Rangali Island resort’s Ithaa is housed inside large, water-tight acrylic arches sunk about 15 feet beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean. Outside the dining room’s translucent walls, the water swarms with colorful tropical fish, black-tipped reef sharks, and graceful eagle rays. Inside, diners tuck into dishes like lobster wontons and prawn tartare.

Conceived by the local tourism development company that owns Rangali Island, the restaurant was inspired by walkthrough aquarium attractions like the National Science Center Aquarium in Malaysia and the Arctic Ring of Life exhibit at the Detroit Zoo. Fabricated in Singapore, the 175-ton structure was transported to the Maldives on an ocean-going barge and then gently lowered into place beside a coral reef at Alifu Dhaalu Atoll in 2004.

Six-time Lowell Thomas Award winner Joe Yogerst has worked on more than 40 National Geographic books and is a longtime contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler and Islands Magazine. He lives in California.

This story was adapted from National Geographic’s Food Journeys of a Lifetime

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