The beauty, the romance, the myth of the Greek Islands, even with today's mass tourism, still can be found on the third largest of the Cycladic Island group, the Island of Tinos. Just a thirty-minute ferryboat trip away from its sister island, Mykonos, a wonderful surprise awaits the visitor upon his arrival at the Port of Tinos ~ an island offering first-quality accommodation; inexpensive, freshly-prepared local cuisine; pristine, uncrowded beaches; and plenty of activities to amuse, or peace and quiet to relax.
Though Tinos is by far the most popular destination for Greek tourists, who come to visit the famous Church of the Panagia and the miraculous Icon of the Virgin Mary, the foreign visitor will find all of those special ingredients that make a holiday truly memorable, guaranteed to entice him, like the Greeks, to return again and again.
The expansive island scenery is, simultaneously, dramatic and serene. Rolling hills of green and brown, laced with an intricate series of endless rock walls, a landscape dotted with clusters of white villages, churches and dovecotes, all accessed by excellent paved roads. While traveling through the countryside, you have the overwhelming feeling of going back in time to a centuries-old way of life which has changed little over the years. Here, you can still see the farmer plowing the fields with his donkey, observe the ancient craft of basketweaving, or perhaps follow the locals about in their search for wild dandelion leaves and capers to add to a wonderful fresh Greek salad.
There is no limit to the number of nature walks you can take through fields of wild flowers. Pack a lunch or stop at one of the village tavernas for an inexpensive, freshly-prepared lunch or dinner, accompanied by homemade cheese and wine. Not to be missed are the local sausages, the famous Tinos beef and pork, and the sinfully delicious Tinos honey.
As you wander through the countryside, you are never far from a beach and an opportunity to cool off in sparkling clean waters, often without another soul in sight. For the adventurous, there are caves to explore, mountains to climb, and opportunities to brush-up on your Greek with the friendly villagers, who are ever-willing to give directions, discuss the weather, and perhaps share a glass of their homemade raki.
Tinos has a long tradition of painting and sculpture which continues to this day. The island is a showcase for its marble artists, as evidenced by fountains, statues, and adornments in and on churches and houses (particularly window fanlights, a Tinos creation), whether the structure be humble or noble. Some of the most exquisite artistry is to be found on the 600 or more dovecotes sprinkled throughout the countryside, each handcrafted in a unique and complex design.
And for those wishing to learn, firsthand, the technique of marble sculpture, there are regularly-scheduled classes conducted by one of the island's foremost sculptors. Additionally, there are several fine museums on the island, as well as a School of Fine Arts in the village of Pirgos. The emphasis on art is well-merited and is a continual source of pride and accomplishment for the numerous Tinian artisans who are known the world over.
For beach-lovers, Tinos has something for every taste ~ golden sand, pebbles, or rocks and boulders, and none are crowded nor noisy. Almost all of Tinos' beaches have eating facilities nearby, and many offer freshly caught fish, grilled to perfection. Snorkeling in protected bays is a marvelous way to spend an afternoon, exploring an incredible variety of underwater flora and fauna.
In town, you can shop for fresh fruit and vegetables at the local farmers' market in the area called Pallada, have fun browsing through the Tinos flea market for trinkets and souvenirs, and relax at a harborfront café with an ice cold beer, or a Greek coffee, and those wonderful little Greek donuts called "Loukoumades." For nightowls and insomniacs, the town has a full range of late-night restaurants, snack bars, coffee shops, bars and discos, and many of them stay open 'til the wee hours.
So … now you know the best kept secret of the Cycladic Islands … culture, history, art, things to do, places to go, friends to make, and memories to keep. No such thing as perfection? It's waiting for you here on Tinos!
(by Sharon Turner-Windmills Travel Tinos representative)