Home to an icon of the Virgin Mary that is thought to work miracles, the Church of Panagia Evangelistria is also the centerpiece of Easter celebrations on the island of Tinos, where the locals continue to embrace age-old customs. Among these, the “tyropites” (cheese pies) made on Holy Tuesday are stuffed with a mixture of local, salt-free cheese, eggs and sugar, and flavored with vanilla and orange. As a final touch, a toothpick is used to prick the pastry to give them a crenelated effect, so they look like flowers to symbolize the coming of spring.
On Holy Wednesday and Holy Thursday, visit a church at one of the small villages of Tinos’ hinterland to feel the true spirit of Greek Orthodox Easter, while on Holy Friday, all the Epitaphioi (funeral biers) of Hora converge at the marble platform by the seaside for prayers. It is also worth then making your way to Spitalia beach, near Hora, where the Epitaphios from the Church of Ai-Nikolas (with Nicholas being the patron saint of sailors) is met with flares from the fishing boats. It is moving ceremony, the priest enters the water with the decorated Epitaphios to bless sailors and fishermen, and pray to the memory of those lost at sea.
The following morning, at the first Resurrection service at the Church of Panagia Evangelistria, lemon leaves are distributed for good luck, while on Easter Sunday, the aroma of oven-roasted lamb and goat fills the air.
Walks and excursions
Tinos’ inland villages are absolutely beautiful. Triantaro, some 7km from Hora, is famed for its views and its vernacular architecture. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the neighboring islands of Mykonos and Delos on the left and Syros on the right, not to mention all the different ferry boats sailing backwards and forwards across the Aegean Sea.
A bit further north, the villages of Kalloni, Steni, Falatados, Ktikados, Krokos, Skalados and Tripotamos are mostly agricultural, growing the island’s famous artichokes and wine grapes on terraced plots interspersed with small white Cycladic houses. Most of these villages are also oriented to the west, which means they have lovely views of Hora and the sea.
You know you’ve reached Volax when you see a bunch of big grey rocks that appear to have fallen from the sky. The round, granite boulders are believed to have come from a volcanic eruption and have become a popular site not just for tourists wanting to take photos, but also for climbers. Volax is a historic medieval village that has a reputation for traditional basket-weaving, and it is still possible to see locals working at the craft.
Perched on a steep slope on Mount Pateles, Kardiani needs to be explored on foot. Have a wander around its narrow streets and porticos, enjoy the birds-eye view, and breathe in the fresh air from the lush vegetation and cool fresh waters that surround the village.
The island’s famed marble workers’ villages are further north, with Pyrgos being chief among them thanks to its elaborately adorned streets and houses. It also boasts the home of renowned sculptor Yiannoulis Halepas (1854-1938), which is now a museum, as well as the Museum of Marbles Crafts (a part of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation network) and several artist studios.
Tinos has also been evolving into a major destination for foodies in recent years thanks to a local initiative called Tinos Food Paths, aimed at showcasing the island’s agricultural output, traditional products and new restaurants. Don’t miss the opportunity to try as many products and dishes as possible, but also to visit the local workshops and manufacturers. One of the star players is the microbrewery Nisos (Tinos-Agios Ioannis Bay road, Tel. (+30) 22830.263.33; reservations required; cost €15), which produces seven unpasteurized beers, all of which have won awards.
There’s also the Tinos Agricultural Cooperative (22 Magelocharis Avenue, Tel. (+30) 22830.232.89), where you can pick up all of the island’s amazing cheeses, like the kariki, balaki, petroma, the kopanisto spread, and graviera. For louza (cured meat), sausage and other delicious cold meats, head to Kritikos (Vintsi, Tel. (+30) 28230.292.80).