Spring Destination: The Timeless Grace of Tinos

Located only a relatively short ferry ride from Athens in the Cyclades, Tinos has a unique character thanks to its rich historic, religious and artistic heritage.


TOP REASONS TO VISIT:

1. The villages:

The island is ideal for a springtime tour by car of the traditional villages, each of which have their own charms. Start with Pyrgos, the birthplace of Yannoulis Chalepas (the early 20th century sculptor who created the famous “Sleeping Woman”). Thanks in part to Chalepas’s legacy, the village has also been home to many other sculptors and painters.

Continue via Ysternia with its amazing view and head to Loutra which features a convent of Ursuline nuns. For an atmospheric walk surrounded by springtime flowers, visit the ruins of Monastiria, a village abandoned by its last inhabitants in the 1970s and now an intriguing ghost town.

Nearby Volakas (or Volax) is worth visiting for its curious landscape which is littered with enormous round granite rocks as if giants once used the land for a game of marbles. In Tripotamos, noted philosopher and psychoanalyst Kornelios Kastoriades (1922-1997) once had his home, while Komi is famous for its valley where artichokes are cultivated.

But those are just a few of Tinos’s villages; also worth a visit are Xinara, Krokos, Myrsini, Arnados, Falatados and Smardakito.

2. The dovecotes

These are stone-built, elaborate two-story structures for the breeding of pigeons, an activity that dates back to the Venetian period of the island’s history. The Venetians pioneered the use of the structures to attract and raise pigeons both for their meat and to collect their droppings which were known to be a potent crop fertilizer.

The dovecotes are important examples of folk architecture, featuring intricate designs and decorative motifs. While dovecotes are also found on other Cycladic islands, on Tinos they are both more numerous and sophisticated. You will see them in several locations on the island, but most are clustered in the Tarampados valley. 

3. The churches

The island is famous for Panaghia Evangelistria (Our Lady of Tinos), the complex dedicated to the Virgin Mary that is home to an icon considered to be miraculous by many believers. The church is one of the most important Greek Orthodox sites in the country and the focus of an annual pilgrimage made by devotees to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on Aug. 15 (a special carpeted path leads up the main road to the church for those making the pilgrimage on their knees).

But beyond this focal point, the island is brimming with churches and chapels, found even on the most remote hillsides. Interestingly, Tinos’s religious identity is actually split between the Orthodox and Catholic faiths, so that the landscape is a mix of traditional Orthodox churches in the Cycladic style and robust Catholic structures, such as the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Xinara.

EASTER IN TINOS

Six epitaphios processions cross paths on the evening of Good Friday in Chora, the main town, but the one from Aghios Nikolaos proceeds towards Vathy Kladaki, where the crowd follows the priest into the sea for the performance of a memorial for lost seafarers.

On Holy Saturday, lemon leaves are distributed for good luck to young women and are placed in visitors’ wallets. On Easter Sunday, the Catholic villages burn “Judas the traitor” effigies. The feasting does not end on Sunday though as on the Monday after Easter, the village of Ktikados stages a massive “Love” feast for locals and visitors alike.

MINI GUIDE

GETTING THERE

You can travel to Tinos by boat from the port of Rafina (duration 4 hours, cost €54 round-trip).

ACCOMMODATION

Tinos Resort Hotel (Hora, tel. +30 22830.260.06). A 4-star establishment on Aghios Haralampos Square, with suites and a pool. From €150. • Anthea (Aghios Fokas, tel. +30 22830.250.21). A 25-room hotel designed in the traditional Cycladic architectural style. From €90. • Favie Susanne (Hora, tel. +30 22830.226.93). Located in a central but quiet area, opposite Arapaki park, offering a variety of rooms (standard, deluxe, executive and with access to people with disabilities). From €60.

FOOD

• Marathia (Aghios Fokas beach, tel. +30 22830.223.43). A hangout for seafood lovers. It serves fresh shellfish, grilled lobster, crayfish with garlic butter, white grouper with artichokes and Holy Saturday mageiritsa soup made with fish (such as dusky grouper). For meat lovers, traditional mageiritsa is also served, along with roast goat and kokoretsi on the spit. • Douar (Steni, tel. +30 22830.412.31). Try the taverna in this village famous for its spit-roasted pork, goat wrapped in paper and roasted with potatoes, steaks, burgers, sausages and local specialties like louza pork (a Cycladic cured meat) and Tinos cheese. • Volax (Volax, tel. +30 22830.410.21). For lamb on the spit, lemon-roasted goat, lamb in a deep baking dish, cockerel in wine, spicy pork, and vegetables dishes like artichokes à la Polita or Volax eggplant baked with sauce and cheese.

 



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