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Another amazing Greek island, more fascinating white villages, plus scenic drives, rocky beaches and wild hikes. Tinos may not be the best known of the Cyclades Islands – or even moderately known – even though it has all of those things. Not to mention a famous church that people literally crawl on hands and knees to visit. Weird but true.
Tinos Greece was our feature destination on this particular visit to the Greek islands (a trip that is becoming something of an annual fall tradition these days). Despite not being a household name, Tinos is actually quite large – 195 square kilometres – making it the third-largest island in the Aegean (behind only nearby Andros and Naxos) and over twice the size of Mykonos, which is far more famous. Amazing what a few thousand viral bubble raves will do for your reputation.
Meanwhile, Tinos falls on several frequent and convenient ferry lines, is known for having a whackload of fantastic villages (my words, not theirs) and is a major pilgrimage destination for Greek Orthodox Christians. Not because there are somewhere between 750 and 1,000 churches on the island (the number varies depending on who you ask), although that probably can’t hurt. No, it’s more a miracles kind of thing, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
For now, just know that Tinos is pretty awesome. We would agree with those who have come before us that the villages are the best part, but there’s plenty more to recommend it as well. Scenic, well-marked hiking trails. Hilly barren scenery. Lots of beaches, although the sand is mostly crap.
More uniquely, Tinos is home to hundreds of “dovecotes” or “peristeriones” – intricately decorative towers made from stone and marble to house pigeons and, well, doves. Originally they were raised for food and fertilizer. These days, the dovecotes seem to be more for decoration and, well, maybe still food and fertilizer. We were never offered pigeon with fries but we certainly can’t rule it out.
All of which is to say, we spent a full week, visited a lot of cool spots and, rather than describe them all one by one, instead we narrowed it down to our 7 absolute favourite places on Tinos. Many people just come to Tinos for 2 or 3 days so if you don’t have time to explore every corner of this surprisingly large island, this list should help you prioritize your time.
Our 7 Favourite Places on Tinos Greece
We’ve broken them down into 7 different categories, because it seemed like a clever thing to do.
Our Favourite Tinos Area
Panormos itself is a small, adorable fishing village with a picturesque waterfront lined with colourful little boats and, yup, Greek tavernas (impressive “rooster in tomato sauce”, incidentally). All of which would already be enough to recommend the place. But wait, it gets better.
There is also a sheltered little boho beach around the corner (Rochari Beach) with a laid-back beach bar (picture beanbag chairs and cheap ratty loungers) and some scraggly trees for shade. Laynni loved it because she got to watch a heavy tourist snorkel in 18 inches of water, repeatedly going head-down for a closer look, demonstrating his own individual style of “duck bum”.
You can also head the other way and brave a rough dirt road along the edge of the water to reach Agia Thalassa Beach (Holy Sea Beach), an even smaller and quieter spot. From there you can walk for about 10 more minutes to Kavalourko “Beach”, which is really just a lot of big flat rocks, and not actually a beach no matter how far you stretch the word.
However, it does look pretty good and is very close to a cool island with a lighthouse on it. An island that I walked/swam/stumbled across to, then found a blue lagoon style ledge to swim under, then peed in the water, then dried off on the rocks, quite pleased with myself, all things considered.
Then, just when we thought we’d “seen everything” the area had to offer, the views back from the impressive, winding coastal road as we were leaving were great, too! Ok, now you’re just trying too hard, Panormos.
Our Favourite Tinos Attraction
Our Lady of Tinos Church of Panagia Evangelistria
Yes, I agree, the name is a bit of a mouthful. And I’m not even sure that it’s quite right. Like, are all those words supposed to be used together or are some of them substitutes for each other? I just don’t know. Plus, some people apparently also call it the Tinos Church of Miracles, although those are probably mostly PR folks.
Either way, it is, undoubtedly, the most famous attraction on Tinos, drawing religious pilgrims throughout the year and thousands for the big procession every August 15th. The Tinos Church, as I’ll call it for simplicity, features a shrine to the Virgin Mary because, along with her general charm and charisma, in the early 19th century a Greek Orthodox nun had a vision. In that vision, ol’ Mary told this lucky nun where to find the famous (and presumably quite important) Icon of Her Anunciation could be found.
Now, you’ve probably guessed where we’re going with this but, yeah, it turns out the icon was in Tinos! So in 1823, not long after liberation from the Ottoman Empire, somebody tracked down the icon, built a church and now, 200 year later, people still show up every day to see it.
An added wrinkle, they do so by crawling on hands and knees for 6 blocks (uphill, to boot) from the port to the church, at which point you reach the red carpet, literally. They call it “walking the line”.
Helpfully, the town has also installed a small brown carpet all the way up the side of the street before the red carpet starts, to save people’s knees and whatnot, although it looks pretty well-worn and there are gaps whenever a side street meets up, which is probably why many of the pilgrims wore gloves and volleyball kneepads, too.
At least I assume that’s why, it seems a more likely reason than that they were heading straight to practice right after they were finished miracling. Whatever the reason, it is all quite fascinating.
Our Favourite Tinos Viewpoint
The view of the little village of Tripotamos from the western “highway”. Just the perfect angle of a prototypical Greek village with white buildings clustered on hill, with majestic Exomvourgo Peak looming in background for good measure.
The only downside is there is no reasonable place to pull off the road, and since the road is already only really wide enough for, say, 1.75 cars at a time, just pulling over isn’t really a good idea. We opted to nose slightly into a very steep driveway dropping away off the road at nearly the right spot and weren’t smashed off the cliff by a passing truck so I guess it worked.
Our Favourite Tinos Village
Oh, you want to know more? Ok. Volax was our favourite village on Tinos.
Still more? My word. Fine. Volax is tiny, white, super-cute, and has a bunch of little alleys that seem to go in circles. There are probably only 4 streets in the entire place but we still got lost twice. There were some nice flowers. And some guy who said “yassas” every time we passed, even after it started getting awkward.
Our Favourite Tinos Hike
Agapi – Volax Loop
Sticking to the same area, there is a 2 km hiking trail between Volax and the somehow even tinier village of Agapi (also quite photogenic). This rough path makes its way through a lunar landscape of giant boulders and scattered rocks, the origin of which is still strangely debated.
I mean, the “ancient volcanic eruption” explanation seems to make a lot of sense to me, although I’m far from an expert in hills covered in big rocks. Other theories, apparently:
Unusual geological erosion.
A meteorite. And meteorite-related damage, I suppose.
That this area was formerly the bottom of the sea. Although I’m not exactly sure that explains the rocks. Or the really dry grass, for that matter.
That the rocks got there by being tossed in anger by legendary giant Titans. I mean, maybe, but anger about what? And what were they aiming at? Those are the parts I don’t get.
Anyway, regardless of origin, this is a very interesting hike with good scenery, just the right amount of hilly exertion and even a hint of bouldering to give you that “I’m a boulderer!” vibe when you’re sitting in town later alternating between drinking beer and eating ice cream.
We would recommend starting in Agapi (low) and hiking up to Volax (high) on the rough eastern section because it will be easier going up than down, then following our Wikiloc back on a slightly different path (partially dirt road, partially easy trail) to make it a loop.
Our map doesn’t go all the way into Volax since we had just been there and decided to turn around shy of it, but the entire hike with some exploring in both villages would be about 5 km with just over 200 metres of elevation gain/loss and take around 1.5-2 hrs.
Runner-Up Tinos hike:
Myrsini to Livada Beach
A surprisingly diverse out-and-back hike that is all downhill from cute Myrsini (also spelled Mirsini) to lovely Livada Beach. The trail starts out through trees, moves into a rocky valley, passes through a rather lush area with ponds full of turtles (and I do mean full), before you do a little bouldering right before reaching the rocky beach.
11 km / +/- 400m / 3.5 hrs
This hike is actually the marked M3 from Tinos Trails, a good site where you can check out a dozen challenging hikes around the island. Most of their loops are all-day affairs but you could easily mix and match to fit your schedule and fitness. All the trails are all well-marked.
Our Favourite Tinos Beach
As per usual, we didn’t spend a lot of time hanging out on the beach. I’ve always been irrationally annoyed by sand and I’ve haven’t started liking it any more as I’ve gotten older. Nevertheless, we can still very much appreciate the scenic appeal of the beach, especially ones tucked into sheltered coves with lots of rocks and super-clear water and maybe a beach bar or two… for example.
Anyway, with that in mind, we think the best beach on Tinos is Kolimvithra Beach. It is split in two by a rocky spit with great views of an island sitting out in the mouth of the bay.
Of the two sections, Megali Ammos is wide, flat, sometimes good for surfing and usually has an extended-length VW van parked behind the few tiny trees serving as a beach bar.
A 5-minute walk away, Mikri Ammos fits our criteria better – sheltered, high rocks, clear water and more interesting views. There we had a great lunch at Victoria Restaurant – the standard Greek salad for Laynni, “fourtalia” for me – an omelette loaded with Tinian sausage, cheese and fries. I don’t try a lot of new foods so it’s always quite thrilling when I find one I like (although with those ingredients my risk-level was pretty low).
Runner-Up Tinos beach:
There is no sand (which I’m usually excited about), as it is made up entirely of water-smoothed rocks (which I’m apathetic about) and is at the end of a remote dirt road (or 1.5 hr hike, in our case) and usually pretty quiet.
There are some fascinating rock formations, rough water, and at certain times of year, big waves (up to 3m), making for some excellent surfing. There is even a little taverna that is open in high season.
Our Favourite Tinos Meal
Besides the obvious choice – every Greek Salad Laynni had on the island – here are our other picks:
To Perivoli (Kardiani)
The meal was terrific. Chicken “cottelete” for Laynni and I had some daily special I didn’t completely understand – maybe “like pistachi”? Anyway, it was a creamy pasta with meat, right up my fairly picky alley.
On top of that, the terrace had an amazing sunset view and the village itself was pretty great, also, with little alleys with surprising ocean views now and then, black and white photos of village history all over the place and a cute courtyard with massive marble frogs. Score.
Runner-Up Tinos Meal:
The gyro platter (pork, fries, tomato and tzatziki with pita bread) and the gyro wrap (pork, fries, tomato and tzatziki IN pita bread). We went twice.
Other Tinos Highlights
So now you know the places that really stood out for us. However, that’s not to say there aren’t plenty more worthy attractions around this fantastic island. If you happen to have extra time (and you should definitely try to), here are some more great things to do on Tinos:
You can drive right up to the Catholic Monastery of Ieras Kardias (Sacred Heart) and from there it’s just a 10-minute climb to the castle ruins at 640m above sea level for incredible panoramic island views. It is also a popular rock-climbing spot.
Tinos Trails outlines 12 official routes covering 150 total kilometres but they all criss-cross each other and are well-marked so you can mix and match as much as you want.
Bigger than most, and with tons of Tinian marble and several important museums it is the most popular destination on Tinos outside of Chora. For some reason, Google Maps shows it as Panormos.
Good sea views all the way to Syros, along with some windmills and another museum. It is also the birthplace of many important marble sculptors. Laynni almost knocked over a tray of coffees precariously carried by a tiny woman while fleeing from a potential conversation with a friendly priest, but that probably won’t happen to you.
This cute little village in a valley is home to the informative 19th century Saint-Joseph Monastery (€3 with mandatory guided tour) and Ursuline Convent, formerly a school for orphaned girls and now a museum.
Tinos Highlights Map
Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)
In addition to visiting amazing Tinos Greece, you should consider checking out some of these other outstanding Cyclades Islands:
Is it worth going to Tinos?
Yes, Tinos is definitely one of our favourite Greek Islands. With phenomenal villages, excellent hiking through wonderful, hilly terrain, some great beaches and one of the most important religious pilgrimage sites in Greece, Tinos is an ideal choice for a longer visit.
Plus, you get to use the word “dovecote” a lot, which is normally more difficult to use in casual conversation.
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