The island of Tinos is part of the North-Eastern Cyclades. It is located approximately 160 kilometers (86 nautical miles) south-east of the mainland ports of Piraeus and 115 kilometers (62 nautical miles) from Rafina. The capital is Chora with about 4000 permanent residents.
Tinos is the island of religious faith, pilgrimage, beauty and art. Religious pilgrims are so convinced of the healing powers of the icon of the Virgin Mary housed in the splendid church of Panagia Evangelistria, that they crawl on their hands and knees up to the holy icon.
But Tinos is also home to great sculptors, painters and poets, certainly influenced by the numerous beautiful villages, dovecots, churches and windmills surrounded by a unique landscape.
Tinos is the island of return. Once you go there, you become addicted to it! Every visit offers new impressions and discoveries. The scattered white houses and villages in picturesque settings, the green valleys, the dry-stone walls and over 1000 churches are an unfailing source of inspiration.
Numerous quiet villages scattered around, built on the slopes of the valleys wait to be explored and their special atmosphere experienced. Many of them are well preserved and show the wealth of their inhabitants. The village of Pyrgos in the northern part of the island is a centre of marble sculpturing. There are even small marble inlays (ships, shells, dolphins) in the street surfaces of the village and the cemetery is full of carved marble pieces. An art school of marble was founded here in 1955.
This windswept island has a long history of battles and resistance. But it was also known that refugees were always helped. The ancient Greek God Aeolos (God of the wind) is said to have once lived here. More influence on the history of Tinos though was the worship of Poseidon (Temple at Kionia) and Dionysos. Above all Poseidon, known here as the “great healer” attracted pilgrims who were in quest of healing or purification, before they left for the Apollo sanctuary of Delos.
Due to the long lasting rule of the Venetians an almost unique co-existence between the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches developed. Though the main religion remained the Greek Orthodox a substantial Roman Catholic community exists until today. There are three Catholic monasteries still on Tinos founded in the end of the 17th century: Jesuits, Ursulines and Franciscans. Together with Mykonos, Naxos and Andros, Tinos forms an archbishopric with its seat at Xinaras.
Tinos has also some of the most beautiful beaches in the Cyclades. Organized or deserted, secluded small bays or long stretched – something for every preference. Most of them are situated long the south coast but also Kolymbithra and Panormos in the North are worth a visit.
A good selection of footpaths, built during the centuries of intensive farming, invite you to explore the island on foot. This network of paths still exists but some of them are threatened with decay. Useable paths are described in the section activities. There are organized walking tours offered as well.
The island is the third largest of the Cycladic archipelago, after Andros and Naxos. It covers approx. 196 square kilometers and is coastline is 105 kilometers. Its neighboring islands are Andros in the North-west and Mykonos in the South-east. Tinos is separated from the first just by a span of only about 1,5 kilometers. The distance to Mykonos is 8 kilometers.
Tsinikas, located in the East is the highest mountain (725 meters), gives also the name to the channel between Tinos and Mykonos. The frequent strong north-wind supported the Myth of the god of the winds, Aeolos, living here.
Although the water supply on Tinos is good compared to the other Cycladic islands, the strong winds limit the vegetation. There are several fertile valleys in the western and south-western parts. The area of Volax is characterized by massive granite rocks. Marble is broken especially in the area of Panormos. The green marble is unique and was used in Buckingham Palace in London and in the Louvre in Paris.
The main agricultural products are olives, olive oil, figs, wine and different vegetables.
Louza is a kind of ham made from pork, cured with herbs (oregano and thyme).
Different kinds of local cheese are offered as well.
The climate is typical for the Mediterranean with mild winters and long summers. The always present wind (mostly from North) reduces the humidity and limits the temperature to acceptable levels.
The island has over 600 dovecotes (pigeon houses) decorated various unique ornaments. These eye-catching buildings will certainly draw your interest when you drive around. Most of the older ones were built in the 17th and 18th century when Tinos was still under Venetian dominance. They are masterpieces of Tinian architecture, each different in its design and decoration. The dovecots resemble more towers than pigeon houses but still are functional buildings that fulfill the needs of the birds. Dovecots are rectangular and usually 5 meters high. There are the openings on the upper part that allow the pigeons to move in and out, preventing bigger birds from entering. Plus these “holes” provide a good air circulation. One dovecot can house up to 100 mating pairs. Inside they are protected from the wind and wild animals. The droppings constitute a good fertilizer and the meat is considered a delicacy.
Tinos is an island that has a lot to offer to its visitor. The natural beauty, the secluded villages or the lively Chora, the walks through the nature on a footpath or a lazy day at one of the beaches, contemplation or shopping – Tinos covers all the needs of a traveler!