People get disappointed with Tinos Town as its not attractive with ugly architecture close to the port and although just beyond the port there are some picturesque small alleys and typical Cycladic houses most part of Tinos town is covered with ugly buildings that don’t fit, most of them were built in the 60s and the result was what we see today. So, you have to scratch the surface before you get excited here.
Most people come here for Evangelistria church that lies on the hill that overlooks the port, they go there for pilgrimage and they get back to the ferry in the afternoon. There are two parallel streets that lead from the port up to the church, both of them are lined with stores selling religious items, candles etc
Those who prefer to overnight are the smart ones as the town has much more to offer. There is a nice Archeological Museum at Megalocharis avenue (I was the only visitor while hundreds of people were passing by on their way to the church!), numerous other churches, the Culturar Foundation of Tinos (interesting permanent collection of Halepas works) etc
Later you can enjoy some of the numerois greek restaurants with affordable prices, there are also some nice beaches even in walking distance from the town etc
Tinos island is famous for its dovecotes! There are many of them all over the island but most of them are located in the middle and middle-east part. There are about 1000 dovecotes in total but what makes them interesting is not only their size (they are 2 storey structures) but also the decoration, they have beautiful slate patterns on the exterior walls.
In the past a dovecote was a status symbol for his owner so the richer he was the more impressive the dovecote was! It was very popular during the venetian era when doves were raised to be eaten, it was a delicacy that was also sold abroad to Istanbul etc What’s more their dung was used as fertilizer and their feathers was also helpful.
In our days many people restore and keep many of them in good shape but of course there are some left in decadence. We saw most of them at Tamparados village, there is a big area, actually a small green valley where you can see dozens of them but we noticed some others in other areas too.
Approaching Tinos island by boat you will notice a mountain in the middle. It’s Exomburbo, the biggest mountain of Tinos which is 641 meter high that was the epicenter of the island in pre Christian era. Many artifacts were founded here that belongs to the ancient acropolis that dated back to 2000 BC, I saw many of them at the Archeological Museum in Tinos town. Venetians also lived here, they built a fortress in early 13th century as it was an obvious strategic spot to have view all over the island, a few remains still remain. I guess the view from up there must be impressive but we didn’t have the chance to visit it.
But if you want to see the oldest area that the first people lived on the island check Vriokastro, the hill next to Agios Fokas beach (pic 2), you can actually walk there slowly if you don’t have anything else to do. People settled there since the Bronze Age or probably the first Cycladic Period (3000-2300 BC). Later (between 2300-1600 BC) the settlement was fortified. It was also a strategic spot like Vriokastro, an area that people moved into during the first Archaic period (700 BC)
With a coastline that is 114km long is no surprise that there are many beaches too. Obviously most people they don’t realize that this not just a religious island but also a place where you can swim and have a typical sunburn like in any greek island :)
There are different types of beaches some sandy ones but also many with pebbles. The ones near the Tinos Town use to gather lot of people in high season but they were great in mid july. Agios Fokas is the longest one and its easily accessible on foot from the town. What we liked most were the trees at the back that gave the shade that saved us from the deadly sun. There is a camping area near by but also some café and restaurants.
To the west of town you can visit Stavros and Agios Markos beaches but the famous one is Kionia beach with lots of facilities.
In high season you can drive further away in the island, check small bays etc The famous one is Kolympithra in the north but also the one at Panormos bay. If you go there walk 1km more and you’ll see another one, Rochari beach.
Ysternia is a nice village that is built at 310 meters above the sea, on the steep slope of mount Meroviglia, for this reason it has great view over the Aegean sea. There’s a marble path that connects the village with Ysternia bay (pic 4) 4,5km away.
You can see marble everywhere, down on the streets, at the beautiful arches, the squares etc.
We liked walking around in the streets checking small details of the typical on the island two storey houses. What’s more something also very typical in the architecture are the small marble signs that show the name of the owner and usually the date of the house. Another characteristic is the small windows over the gates that are called yperthira, decorated with several motifs, typical all over Tinos.
Ystrernia was traditionally connected with marble art and it makes no surprise this was the hometown of famous artists like such Fitali brothers, L.Sochos, L.Lameras, I.Vitalis etc
It’s a village that was founded in 1600 and became a big village during 18th and 19th centuries with more than 1,000 inhabitants. At the beginning of 20th century there were 350 houses and 48 stores but in our days not more than 120 people live here.
Although we loved the marble streets and the arches and some churches (Agia Paraskevi is the most interesting to see) we felt disappointed because Museum of local Artists was closed as it is open 11.00-13.00, 18.00-20.00 and we were there at 14.00 :(. It’s a pity because Ysternia is the hometown of famous artists such Fitali brothers, L.Sochos, L.Lameras, I.Vitalis etc With only one tavern open the village seemed like a ghost town so we decided to visit Panormos that was much more lively and gave us more choices.
One of the most beautiful spots we saw at Ysternia was Miloi (pic 5), just a bit outside the village on the way to Panormos(Pyrgos). Ysternia had moments in the previous centuries that was in full action with about 1000 inhabitants. The ruins of these windmills are the relics of that era, an ena tha the village prospered financially. These windmilsl are designated monuments in our days.
Pyrgos (officially known as Panormos) is the second biggest town in Tinos island with about 700 inhabitants.
We visited Pyrgos after swimming at Panormos beach which is just 3km away.
Although it wasn’t the most impressive village we spent lots of time getting lost on the picturesque alleys. There are lots of nice houses, and many cafes for a nice break, you can have some excellent greek desserts at the cafes of central square, don’t forget to ask for galaktompureko, it was delicious, it is a typical greek dessert of semolina based custard flavored with lemon and served with clear sweet syrup.
On the main street we noticed a lot of workshops (not only with marble but with wood too) but we didn’t bother to enter there, we preferred checking the twisted alleys, arches, details on walls, doors and windows.
There are some nice churches around but most of them were closed but still we walked around to see them, there are two big ones, Agios Nikolaos church which is the cathedral of the village and dates from 1874 and Agios Dimitrios church but also numerous smaller ones like Agia Triada church. Not far from Agios Nikolaos church we saw the cemetery of Pyrgos (5’ walk from central square) that dates from 18th century. It’s famous due to the carved marble they have used on the tombs with some of them made by local artists. Big family tombs but also simple ones, all of them have marble plagues decorated with motifs etc. Don’t forget that best works of Yiannoulis Halepas for example were made for cemeteries
No surprise there are many museums dedicated to sculptures of course as this town has a long tradition in sculpture and was the birthplace of many famous artists, some of them are Yiannoulis Halepas, Nikiforos Lytras, Dimitris Filipotis etc Both museums (Museum of Tinian Artists and Halepas house) are open Wednesday to Monday 10.30-14.30, 18.00-20.30. The entrance fee for both museums is 3euro.
Yiannoulis Halepas was born in 1851 in Pyrgos and it one of the most important artists in Neohellenic art. His house in Pyrgos is a typical semi two storey Tinian house with the first floor housing the living room and 2 bedrooms while the ground level had the ancillary quarters, the toilette, the kitchen, the fireplace and the atelier of Halepas.
The house is now a museum housing paintings, old pics, memorabilia and some plaster copies of 6 works of him.
There is also a Museum of Marble Crafts but we didn’t have time for that because spending relaxing time on the main square was more important for us that evening :)
Located on the northwest part of the island Panormos Bay was a relaxing seaside small town where we visited for our evening swim.
It is actually the seaport of Pyrgos village that is located 3km mainland and you combine both like we did.
Panormos has a picturesque small harbor with lots of seafood restaurants along the main road where you can have a lunch next to the sea or just enjoy your drink.
There is a small beach there but you can also check some near by beaches (Agia Thalassa, Rochari, Kavalourko). Opposite the bay is an islet that is called Planitis (planet) with a lighthouse on the top. The islet can be approached from a beach a few meters away if you walk or drive on the left side of the village.
Kionia is a small area 2km west of Tinos town with a popular beach where we spent a relaxing evening swimming on the clear waters. It is well developed but gets a bit packed during high season because not only the people from Tinos Town come here but there are also many hotels rooms and restaurants at the back side of the beach along the coast road. It’s a typical seaside resort but we came one evening when we were bored to drive further out on the island. Most part of the beach is full of pebbles but there is also a sandy part if you walk a bit further to the west. There’s a bus every 30’ but sometimes it is just a mini bus (pic 2), don’t get confused :)
Next to the beach is the archeological site where the Temple of Poseidon and Amphitrite was located (an ancient sanctuary from 3rd century BC when people came here for pilgrimage, not much have changed for the island after 2300 years). Although not much to see here (the place is like an open air museum) don’t forget to check the Archeological museum of Tinos that houses many sculptures and other items that were founded on the site and you will get much more information.
Pic 3 shows the lower part of a roman emperor’s statue that was founded at the Sanctuary of Poseidon during the 2nd century AD
Pic 2 shows a portrait of a woman that was found at Kionia (1st century AD) and probably represents the emperor Domitian’s wife
So, why all these people come here to see this 800 years old miraculous icon?
On july 23, 1822 Sister Pelagia, a local nun from Kechrovounio monastery had a vision of Virgin Mary. Excavations for the icon started on the spot she suggested but nothing was found until autumn 1822 when the remains of a byzantine temple(Agios Ioannis Prodromos) and an old dry well was found.
At New Years Eve water came out of the dry well, the fact was considered as a miracle and they decided to build a church there and named it Zoodochos Pigi church which means Life-giving Font . The church is also called Evreseos church (finding )
There is a small hole covered with silver on the spot that the icon was founded and next to it a marble font that water flows, called Holy Water by the church and the faithful ones. That’s why you see people holding small bottles to fill them. Orthodox Christians don’t bless themselves with holy water but there is always a spot where everyone goes and take back home. This is the church where Greeks bring their babies for baptism.
But the icon can be seen at the church above, at Evagelistria church although when I was young I was confused with the name of the church and even today if you ask a greek he will name the church Panagia Megalochari (She of Great Grace ), Panagia Evagelistria (Virgin Mary bringer of Good News) or just Panagia tis Tinou (Our Lady of Tinos )
Once inside the complex you see people lighting candles on the right or visiting some of the different chapels, churches or museums and galleries inside. Of course most of the people go directly to Evagelistria church. Sometimes there’s a line with people waiting patiently to see and kiss the icon of Virgin Mary.
You can see several different icons inside but the most impressive is to see the tamata (votive offerings usually made by silver or gold) that people have brought here as the icon is believed to be a source of numerous miracles. People come here and give a tama in gratitude for a prayer answered by Virgin Mary or as a reminder of a particular need (usually a health issue), you can see them hanging, most of them made by gold.
If you want to avoid the mass you better visit late in the evening or during the weekdays. In Sundays it gets really crowded because there are many people that come here for their child’s baptism. Of course you can not imagine how crowded it can get on august 15 when is the celebration of Kimisi tis Theotokou (Dormition of Theotokos, the falling asleep of the Mother of God). Other dates that the church gets packed is on January 30 (anniversary of the date that the icon was found), march 25 when is the celebration of Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it’s called Evangelismos in greek, means something like "spreading the Good News", july 23 (anniversary of Sister Pelagia’s vision)
Apart from the churches you can visit some side chapels, check some monuments and statues on the inner yard but also visit the Mausoleum of Elli (a Hellenic fleet that was bombed by an Italian submarine during the celebration of Evagelistria, on august 15, 1940) or some of the small museums of the complex like the Picture Gallery, the Sacristy, the Museum of Tenian artists, the Museum of Antonios Sochos, the Collection of Religious Items and Icons.
Elli was a Hellenic warship (fleet) that took part in WWI for French navy and then for the Greek navy during the Greek-Turkish war (1919-22).
On august 15, 1940 Tinos was celebrating the annual feast of Assumption on Evagelistria church. Elli was moored off the port of Tinos participating in the celebration.
It was early in the morning (8.30am) when a submarine came and unleashed 3 torpedoes, two of them hit on the port without causing any trouble but the third one hit Elli and caused 9 deaths and 24 injuries. An hour later Elli was sank and the rest of the crew jumped into the sea.
The submarine left and the greek government started a secret investigation to find the identity of the submarine and soon it was detected it was an Italian one but it was revealed only two days after the start of the Greek Italian was on October 30, 1940)
Every year on august 15, a small ceremony takes place on the spot. There is a monument at the port (pic 1), made by local sculptor N.Paraskevas with a small cannon gun of the ship. There is also a copy of the front page of a newspaper the day after the torpedoing (pic 2).
At Evagelistria complex, next to Zoodochos Pigi church you can visit the Mausoleum of Elli, a small exhibition with parts of the topedo that sank Elli (pic 3) but also the bones of the first greek victims of WWII.
Kardiani is a village located on steep slope of Pateles mountain with amazing view over Yiannaki bay that you can find a nice pebble beach and some restaurants (we preferred a picturesque small café where we had an iced tea). You can admire the view from many spots, from top of Agia Triada church (pic 5) or from Kiouras square (pic 2) where the marble frogs are. We didn’t go down to the beach but it was already too hot and we wouldn’t dare to walk back with the sun over our head ready to kill us…
But the village is amazing, one of the most picturesque villages of Tinos island with numerous alleys, arches and some beautiful churches, orthodox and catholic (Kardiani is mixed). Another impressive thing to notice is the use of marble in many of the buildings all over the village.
The village has about 100 inhabitants but during our visit we didn’t see people around, only the friendly lady with the small café in the middle.
Not far from the village excavations made by archeologists at Sparta spot. They found some six ancient graves that date back from geometric period (Greek Dark Ages between 900 to 700BC). Most of the items that were founded there (amphoreas, cups, axes, jewelry etc) can be seen at Tinos Archeological Museum
In Kardiani you can visit a different museum, the Historical and Folk museum that houses items that locals donated, mostly daily items that show how was life during 20th century.
St. Pelagia that had the vision of the miraculous icon was born in Kardiani.
Tinos can be the sacred island for all the Orthodox people, but at the same time, is the sacred island for the Catholic Greeks, as well!
The Catholic Sanctuary of "Panaghia i Vryssiotissa" or "Our Lady of the Fountain" is dedicated to the Virgin and celebrates on the 15th of August.In the 17th century A.D. , around 1600-1619, a miraculous icon of the Virgin was found, after digging the ground at Vryssi location, as a result of a nun's vision.In the beggining, there was only a small church, but in 1880 a big church was built.Most of the masses happen outdoors, thanks to a specially arranged place with an altar in the center.
The most famous pilgrim of the Sanctuary, used to be the then Pope John the 23th.
Tinos is famous for the Dovecots that dot the landscape, often sited with the lesser known terracing.
The dovecots were introduced by the Venetians, as they found the doves were useful for food, feathers and fertiliser. Obviously the latter was very important given the sheer scale of the terraced farming that has taken place on Tinos.
What is surprising is just how big and intricate the dovecots are - typically with two levels - I was told the lower level was used like a storeroom or shed.
There are apparently one thousand dovecots still surviving on the island, and the good news is they are being maintained rather than be left to fall apart.
Interestingly, I hadn't noticed until I looked at our pictures of Mykonos, but there is actually a building that is designed to look like a Venetian dovecot sited near the windmills in Mykonos Town, just near Little Venice.
Tinos has many miles of terraces that cover the landscape, even high up into some of the mountains. These must have taken hundreds of years to build - the sheer effort that was required to do this all by hand is staggering.
Tinos supplied food to Athens, with the terraces being used for Olive trees, cereals, grapes, figs and vegetables. Tinos was known as the most cultivated island in the Aegean.
Pyrgos is one of the largest and prettiest villages on Tinos, with great architecture and a long tradition in sculpture. Since 1955 a marble sculpture school works in the village, supports this craft as evidenced by the marble on the churches and houses of the village as well as its two museums. The fountain in the village centre is dedicated to the Greek revolution of 1821 - unfortunately the road behind it was being repaired so it was a bit messy and partly cordoned off. The centre has several cafes and bars where drinks and pasties are popular.