Tinos is a wonderful island in Kyklades. For years it was known only as the island of Panagia (Virgin Mary) and probably the most famous pilgrimage site for Her Celebration every August. The pilgrims came and left from the island but never visited anything beyond the famous church of Panagia. This fact helped the villages and the inland of the island to keep their authentic identity. In the last 20 years the visitors have begun to visit Tinos not only for Panagia but to discover the unspoiled nature of its villages and the beauty of its beaches.
In this article, we are going to suggest six villages and one monastery, in an effort to describe the true identity of Tinos. It is almost certain that many of you who have visited Tinos would suggest other villages and places, but in a way, this is the uniqueness and the beauty of this island.
Kardiani is one of the most beautiful and well-known villages of Tinos. The buildings of the village have exceptional traditional architecture and extended use of marble. A small river runs through the houses and there are many fountains. The view is breathtaking, especially during sunset. This is the birthplace of Agia Pelagia (St Pelagia), the nun who discovered the Holy Icon of Panagia. After a visit to the village head down to Ormos Giannaki, the small harbour and beach of Kardiani, where the very good tavern “O Ntinos” is located.
Pyrgos is the biggest village on the island. Pyrgos reached its economic acme during the 18th and 19th centuries, due to the growth of commercial shipping and the excavation of marble. The excavation of marble had, as a result, the development of marble sculpture in the area. The marble sculptors of Pyrgos were famous not only to Greece but also to a big part of Europe. Some of the most famous Greek sculptors, like Dimitrios Filippotis and the legendary Yiannoulis Chalepas came from this village. Nowadays apart from the excellent Museum of Tinian Artists and the House-Museum of Giannoulis Chalepas (at the entrance of the village), the whole village is an open museum of marble sculpture. The streets, the doors, the houses, the fountains, the churches and the cemetery are all decorated with magnificent marble sculptures. Every walk in the village ends at the central square for a cup of coffee and a big piece of “galaktoboureko” under the huge plane tree.
Volax is located at a mountain plateau in the center of the island, which has been inhabited for 2.000 years. All around the area big round rocky formations are scattered, which are called “volakes” and have given the village its name. The theories about the origin of the rocks are many but none of them has been proved. Τhe area is also known for the basket weaving traditional workshops, which still could be found in the village. Most of the houses are restored and the walk around its narrow alleys is really amazing. What will also surprise you during your walk around the village, is that all the doors and the windows of the abandoned houses are covered with poems by Greek writers (learn more about the history behind the poems at this site : http://volax.gr ).
Steni, at the foothills of mountain Tsiknias, is the most populated village of Tinos. It is a really lively and authentic place, where the Orthodoxs and the Catholics co-exist for decades, and every community has its own church. Although it is one of the least touristically developed villages, every summer hundreds of tourists are searching in its streets the now famous, even beyond Tinos, tavern “Platanos” aka “Ntouar” (due to the name of its catholic owner Edward). The old man Ntouar sits every night outside his tavern and welcomes everyone with a smile on his face, satisfied by the unbelievable success of his old tavern. Come here for a really genuine experience and probably the best-grilled meat on the island.
Triantaros is a village close to Chora and the harbour. The white houses are actually ” hanging” from the cliff and the village offers spectacular views to the Aegean Sea, Mykonos island and Chora – no wonder it is called “Aegean Balcony”. The narrow streets and alleys, with many stairs and arcades, offer an interesting peaceful walk with hidden surprises. In the previous years many of the traditional houses were abandoned but in the last decade many of them have been bought and restored by foreigners from other European countries and artists. In this way, the village is gaining its life back and a strong community of people interested in preserving its authentic identity has been formed. Sit at a table at the tavern “Lefkes” on the main street, have lunch or just a cup of coffee and enjoy the magnificent view.
Smardakito is a small village at the center of the island but also one of the most picturesque. The houses are very well preserved and the small central square of the village with the fountain and the church is really wonderful. The village and the surrounding area have many natural springs and therefore the location has unusually many trees and vegetation for an island as dry as Tinos. Tinians consider it probably their most beautiful village. At the center of the village you will come across the best tavern on the island (in our opinion). The tavern “Katoi” is a destination all by itself. You could taste authentic traditional cuisine in unique scenery. One of the best dishes is “froutalia”, a local omelette with sausage and cheese, which you will remember for a long time.
Kechrovouniou Monastery is probably one of the most significant Greek monasteries. It was built during the 10th and 11th centuries. The monastery has great cultural and religious importance, because the nun Agia Pelagia, who lived here, was the one who discovered the Holy Icon of Panagia (as we have already mentioned above), which is now housed in the Church of Panagia in Chora. The monastery is built as a fortified village with many buildings, streets, alleys and arcades. Apart from the main church and the cell of Agia Pelagia, in the monastery, you could visit an excellent ecclesiastical museum and a library with over 2000 rare editions. Come here, feel the calmness of the place and learn its history. For the inhabitants of the island is their most sacred place.
Visit Tinos without prejudice and try to discover its true nature and spirit. It is really a blessed place.