Tourists headed to Mykonos by ferry from Athens seldom get off the boat when it docks at Tinos. The lure of the more popular party capital of the Greek isles, it’s just that powerful. But for the curious traveler who does step off to explore, this little gem of the Cyclades is a magical paradise.
Mykonos and Santorini get all the travel headlines, and most of the visitors to Greece’s more than 6,000 islands. But right in their path, Tinos offers less crowded beaches, the white cubist architecture they saw on paper or digital postcards, and the magnetism that is old Greece.
Situated on the northern side of the Cyclades group of islands, Tinos is one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Its minimalist Cycladic architecture, the traditional villages filled with old-world atmosphere, and the unpressurized vibe of the island make Tinos a true hidden gem.
Those who take the time to tour the island are usually amazed to find Panagia Megalochari Church and the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary that it holds. This is the site of a yearly pilgrimage for thousands of people on August 15th, at time of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary For visitors from the ferries on this day, most will be amazed to find the faithful moving on their hands and knees the 800 meters from the ferry wharf to the church as a sign of their devotion.
Tinos has 41 fantastic beaches most travelers never see. The largest of these, Aghios Fokas has a charming beach bar, sun loungers, and all the usual services available. Then there is exotic Aiganias with its incomparable turquoise waters. And for naturists looking for unusual geological formations, Livada, offers a wild untamed wilderness. Be sure to go to Kolimbithra if you are a kiteboarding or surfing enthusiast, since the wind and sea there are ideal.
The food of Tinos is as amazing as the nature of the island, with dishes derived from the best local products. Thalassaki, on Ysterni Bay, is a culinary trip you won’t soon forget. And O Ntinos on Giannaki Bay is a famous taverna specializing in home-cooked island specialties. Maybe after lunch, you’ll want to explore some Tinos culture at the School of Fine Arts, or perhaps paying a visit to Kionia Temple of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Greek mythology buffs may recall that Tinos is where the hero Heracles is supposed to have slain the sons of Boreas. Modern-day visitors will want to check out the Vryokastro Prehistoric Acropolis and the Tinos Archaeological Museum too.
Be sure and visit Volax Village too, just to puzzle over the strange scenery and the poems at the doors of the houses. The views at this wondrous village are pure magic too. And at the square of Kampos, you’ll be impressed by the iconic little alleys that lead outward. The island also has a good selection of bars and nightclubs, but with a more subdued vibe than those of Mykonos.
Tinos is also famous as the home of some of the greatest artists of marble carving such as Gyzis, Lytras, Chalepas, Filippotis, and Sochos. In Pýrgos the Marble Art Museum is well worth a visit. And there’s the other villages of Falatados, Kallomi, Komi, Steni, and Ysternia, each with its own unique character.
Finally, whether it’s lapping up the sun on a perfect beach you seek or trekking the unspoiled paradise of Tinos, this island has as much beauty per square meter as anyplace on Earth. There’s fantastic places to stay, amazing history and archaeology, rock climbing, monasteries, feasts, shopping, you name it.
Tinos is actually close to Athens and very easy to get to. There are many itineraries throughout the day, either from Piraeus or from Rafina. The trip from Rafina takes about 2 to 4 hours, and from Piraeus you can get to the island in about 3 or 4 hours. It all depends on whether you take a conventional ferry or one of the fast ferries headed to the island.