Travel Guide to Tinos

Best things to do and see in Tinos

Tinos: Why go

Considering its proximity to buzzy Mykonos, whose silhouette floats on the southerly horizon like a hazy blue triangle, Tinos is remarkably tranquil, undeveloped, authentic - and utterly charming.

Its skyline is dominated by the rocky bulwark of Exobourgo, upon which sit the ruins of a Byzantine - and later Venetian - citadel; the island retains a strong Italianate style. This acropolis is ringed by a necklace of tiny whitewashed villages, linked by ancient footpaths, and dotted with quirky and ornately decorated dove houses for which the island is known. Walking between them is a delight, and the footpaths are still well maintained.

But it's the Orthodox church of Panagia Evangelistria (Our Lady of Tinos), in the island's capital and main port, which draws the majority of the island's (Greek) visitors to its miraculous shrine - one of the most revered in the country. Devout pilgrims leave the ferry on hands and knees, crawling up to the shrine in an astonishing show of humble supplication. Visit in mid August and you won't even get a foothold: the feast day on the 15th (Dormition of the Virgin Mary) brings in thousands upon thousands.

The southeast half of the coastline is peppered with sheltered sandy beaches, and a small but growing array of hotels and bars serving the few discerning tourists who visit. Two of the more popular and family-friendly strands are Ayios Ioannis Porto and Ayios Sostis, with soft sand, safe shallow waters and excellent snorkelling.

Head northwest - past rugged hillsides tamed by endless terraces, now patchily cultivated with vines - for more sheltered coves backed by tamarind trees and fish tavernas: Ysternia and Panormos are the loveliest. Tucked into a valley above Panormos is the picturesque artists' village of Pyrgos, a dense-packed maze of whitewashed houses and labyrinthine alleyways, which is home to marble sculptors and ceramicists.

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Our top tips

Kids

Top Tips

If you're coming with kids, the island's southerly beaches are a godsend: shallow warm waters, soft sand, a sprinkling of bars and cafés - and protection from the summer meltemi wind which blows from the northeast. In most cases, sunloungers, parasols and watersports are available; the area is particularly good for snorkelling and sea kayaking. Ayios Ioannis Porto, Ayios Sostis and Ayios Fokas are among the more popular beaches; to escapes the crowds, try Lihnaftia or Pachia Ammos. Better still, hire a kayak or windsurfer and find your own private cove!

Do

Hiking around Exobourgo castle

With the Anavasi hiking map and a bit of nous - or with a local guide if you prefer (we highly recommend trilingual Karolos Merlin, psarakia@tinos-island.info) - you can follow a lovely hiking trail around the rocky summit of Exobourgo. The best route is Ktikados - Hatzirados - Kambos - Tarambados - Smardakito - Loutra - Koumaros - Ktikados (4-5 hours). You'll pass tiny hamlets tucked into folds of the mountain, a valley dotted with prettily latticed stone dovecotes, the sites of a Jesuit monastery and an Ursuline convent. Detour up to the ruined Venetian castle on the summit for endless sea views, broken by the floating silhouettes of Mykonos, Delos and Giaros. Take plenty of water, sun protection, long sleeves and a phone.

See

Pyrgos - the marble village

Follow the island's single north-south road up to Pyrgos (also called Panormos) to lose yourself in a labyrinth of whitewashed alleys, tumbling pink bougainvillea, streetside cafés, tiny art galleries and marble sculptors' studios. This is the epicentre of the island's marble industry, with a museum and a School of Fine Arts dedicated to its workings. Follow your nose to the village square - marble-flagged, of course, and shaded by a huge plane tree - for coffee and cakes at Sousouro, before visiting the church's incense-laden interior. One last indulgence before heading back south: a swim in the sheltered waters of Panormos bay.

Eat

Fish, Wine & Honey - a Tinos triptych

Tinos has become something of a low-key foodie hotspot, with small-scale biocultures, family-run fish restaurants, Italianate open-air cafés, and an annual culinary celebration called Tinos Food Paths in springtime.

Top picks are: the sea-washed taverna of Thalassaki in Ysternia (pictured), the organic wines of Volacus in Falatados, and the fragrant heather honey of To Spiti tou Meliou in Pyrgos.