Usually, when thinking of the Greek islands, one’s mind goes to the gorgeous Santorini (Thera) or the cosmopolitan Mykonos, the superstars of the Cyclades.
But the informed travelers and the locals know that you can get the iconic Cycladic beauty and the gorgeous beaches without the teeming masses of tourists in other islands. One of those is Tinos, which will offer you unique experiences that you can’t find anywhere else: spirituality, tradition, relaxation, and authenticity together with gorgeous beaches, good food, and a stunning array of villages to explore.
Exploring Tinos is a treat, with more things than you’d expect to do, so here is everything you should know about the island to get you started!
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- Tinos Quick Guide
- Where is Tinos?
- Tinos’ weather
- A brief history of Tinos Island
- What to see and do in Tinos island, Greece
- Explore Tinos’ Chora
- Visit the Church of the Virgin Mary of Tinos (Evagelistria)
- Explore the villages
- Hit the beaches
- Visit the monasteries
- Enjoy the festivals
Tinos Quick Guide
Planning a trip to Tinos? Find here everything you need:
Looking for ferry tickets? Click here for the ferry schedule and to book your tickets.
Renting a car in Tinos? Check out Discover Cars it has the best deals on car rentals.
Looking for private transfers from/to the port or airport in Athens? Check out Welcome Pickups.
Top-Rated Tours and Day Trips to Do in Tinos:
– Winery Tour and Wine Tasting Paired with Snacks (from € 39 p.p)
– Volacus Vineyards Wine Tasting Experience (from € 83.50 p.p)
Where to stay in Tinos: Voreades (Chora), Living Theros Luxury Suites (Kardiani), Skaris Guest House (Pyrgos)
Where is Tinos?
Tinos is the third biggest island of the Cyclades, after Naxos and Andros. It is located in the northern Cyclades, roughly opposite of Mykonos. The distance from Mykonos is about twenty minutes by boat! You can get to Tinos by boat from Athens’ major ports, Piraeus or Rafina. The trip is about an hour longer from Piraeus than from Rafina port.
Especially during high season, there are different types of vessels you can take to get to Tinos with different time spent on the trip: The regular ferry will take you to Tinos in about 4 hours. The high-speed ferry (catamaran) or the hydrofoil can take you there in about 2 hours.
Make sure you are aware of the specifications of each type of vessel, as most catamarans and all of the hydrofoils can’t carry cars and have plane-line seating arrangements.
Tinos’ climate is Mediterranean, like all of Greece. That means it gets hot, dry summers and mild, damp winters. Temperatures get as high as 37 degrees Celsius during the summer and can drop to 0 degrees during the winter.
A big element of Tinos’ weather is the wind. Tinos is an extremely windy island that makes summers feel cooler and winters feel colder. The winds are mostly northern winds, with the peak of the windy season being during August and its seasonal meltemi winds.
The best time to visit Tinos is from May to late July or September where the winds are moderate or nonexistent if you are bothered by the powerful winds. If you want to experience the meltemi season, August is a great time to visit as it is the hottest month as well as the most culturally engaging month for the island.
Check out my post: How to get from Athens to Tinos.
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A brief history of Tinos Island
Tinos’ history is lost in the sands of time. The island has been inhabited since Neolithic times and is prominent in ancient Greek mythology. It carries the name of its first settler, Tinos, who led his people from Ionia in Asia Minor to the island.
According to mythology, Heracles had a feud with the god of northern winds, Boreas. So, during the Argonaut campaign when he located Boreas’ sons, Zitis and Kales, he chased them to kill them. Because Zitis and Kales had wings, the chase lasted for a long time and Heracles only caught up with them in Tinos.
When Hercules killed the two sons and buried them in Tinos’ tallest mountain, Tsiknias, their father Boreas would angrily roam over his sons’ tombs. This explains the fierce northern winds that characterize the island. Another version of the myth says that the winds come from the two sons’ tombs, to incorporate the northern winds that also overtake the island.
Tinos’ dwellers primarily worshipped Poseidon and his wife Amphitrite. During ancient and Roman times, a shrine to the sea god became central and even offered immunity to appellants.
Tinos’ strategic position made anyone who controlled the island have influenced all over the Aegean. For that reason during the medieval period, Tinos became a hotspot for pirates but also a fiercely held position for the Venetians. So much so, that the Ottomans only overtook the island in the 1700s rather than the 1500s as the other Cyclades. Tinos stayed under Ottoman rule only for 100 years as opposed to 400.
Tinos’ seafarers and commerce boomed during that century, and then in the War of Independence of 1821, they contributed massively to the cause.
In 1823 the sacred icon of the Virgin Mary, which is thought of as miracle-granting, was discovered and the church of the Virgin Mary Evagelistria (i.e. Our Lady of Tinos) was erected. This church became the major Christian pilgrimage in Greece and remains so today.
The best way to see Tinos is by renting a car. I recommend booking a car through Discover Cars where you can compare all rental car agencies’ prices, and you can cancel or modify your booking for free. They also guarantee the best price. Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
What to see and do in Tinos island, Greece
Explore Tinos’ Chora
When you get out at Tinos’ port, you only need to follow the quay to your right to find yourself at the very center of its main town, or Chora. Tinos’ Chora is a very picturesque, whitewashed town with a lot of marble highlights, as marble work and sculpture is part of what Tinos is renowned for.
As you walk or drive along its quayside main road, you will come across an impressive roundabout that also doubles for a dais. It is made of carved marble and is used for religious and other festivities.
Along the quayside, you will also have your pick of taverns, restaurants, and cafés where you can enjoy your meal, drink, or snack with a beautiful view of the sea and the other surrounding islands! A feature of Tinos is that Mykonos and other islands are so close that they look like you could swim there.
As you walk further into Chora, car access becomes quite limited. There are several narrow pathways, paved with characteristic Karystos slabs, a colorful stone that yields shades of green, brown, grey, and blue, with gorgeous archways and picturesque doorways with whitewashed steps leading up to them.
Against the pure white of the walls, splashes of pink and green complete the picture thanks to the abundant bougainvillea and other crawling plants that dwellers raise in large clay urn-like pots.
Check out: Where to stay in Tinos – best areas and hotels.
Visit the Church of the Virgin Mary of Tinos (Evagelistria)
Sitting majestically on a hill overlooking Chora, you will find the church of Our Lady of Tinos or Megalochari (she of great grace) which is a place of pilgrimage from all over Greece. The church is actually a large complex with big marble yards and impressive archways and gates.
Lore has it that in 1823, the nun Pelagia had visions of the Virgin Mary, and thanks to them she discovered the miraculous icon.
The icon was believed to be the work of Apostle Lucas the Evangelist and the church was built to house it, using funds collected from all over Greece. Massive amounts of marble were required for its construction, mostly sourced from the island of Delos. The church itself is a three-aisled Basilica with a cupola over the Holy Altar.
Walking to the church is an experience as you follow a red carpet all the way from the road leading up to the church, through the archway, up the many marble steps, and inside. The several silver lamps and other dedications, the marble colonnades, the gorgeous 19th-century frescoes, and its stunning wooden iconostasis give a sense of spirituality, hope, and beauty.
The miraculous icon itself is in a special, elaborate marble stand and also half-covered with dedications.
Surrounding the church, within the church complex you will also find the smaller church of St. John the Baptist which predated the church of the Virgin Mary, as well as a smaller shrine to Zoodohos Pigi (Life-giving Spring) and Discovery which marks the spot where the icon was found.
Within the church complex, there are also several exhibitions and small museums, including the collection of icons and relics, the sacristy, the museum of Tinian artists, and the gallery of Greek and international painters.
Make sure you don’t miss the Elli Mausoleum. It is a commemorative room and monument to the battlecruiser Elli, which was torpedoed by Italian forces in 1940 at the port of Tinos during festivities for the Dormition of the Virgin Mary on August 15th, effectively marking the beginning of Greece’s involvement in WWII.
Besides the monument, you will also see photos of the cruiser and recovered parts and objects from the actual ship.
Explore the villages
To better get to know Tinos, it’s recommended that you rent a car so you can visit all of its villages. There are buses that can take you, but a car will give you versatility. Tinos has more than 50 villages for you to explore, each one unique in its character and things to see. Here are some you simply can’t miss!
Pyrgos is Tinos’ biggest village and also one of the most beautiful ones. It is considered the hub of marble and marble sculpting. Several famous Greek sculptors, such as Giannoulis Halepas who is Greece’s best representative of neoclassical sculpting, came from Pyrgos. There is a sculpting school operating in Pyrgos that is world-renowned.
Going into the village you will see that marble is, indeed, everywhere! Beautiful marble carvings adorn doorways, archways, church entrances, and the cemetery. At Pyrgos’ cemetery, you can see samples of gorgeous workmanship.
Don’t miss out on visiting Giannoulis Halepas’ home which has been turned into a museum or the various sculpting exhibits that run near the central square of the village. When you are ready for some respite and a cup of coffee, head to the central square with the 180-year-old platan tree to enjoy it under its shade. You will find that a lot of the tables there are also made of carved marble!
If you are a fan of hiking or walking, you can walk the 7 km from Pyrgos to Panormos. It’s an easy walk as it’s constantly downwards and it will yield beautiful sweeping views of the hills and the sea. You can also drive there.
Panormos was named that way thanks to its wind-protected location. It is a fisherman’s village that is renowned for its fresh fish and good seafood. Panormos has a small, picturesque port around which most of the taverns and cafés are lined. Enjoy your meal while watching wooden fishing boats gently bob in the water.
While Tinos is generally a dry, sunbaked island, Kardiani is the surprising exception. You will find it 15 km from Chora. It is a gorgeous, verdant village built at the slope of Mt. Pateles offering some of the most breathtaking views of the island and the Aegean.
Kardiani is not only picturesque, full of the marble sculpting tradition and iconic architecture, but also several springs and running water. There is a stream that runs through the village, offering much-needed cooling during the scorching summer months.
Kardiani boasts a 3000-year-old history, with archeological findings since the geometric era. Several of these artifacts can be seen at Tinos’ Archeological Museum. Make sure you visit Kardiani’s Museum of Folklore, exhibiting everyday items and displaying how life was in the village around the turn of the century.
One of the most iconic features of Tinos is its many artistic dovecotes. These dovecotes are buildings with amazing decorative stonework and were a sign of wealth and power for Tinian families.
There are over 1000 of them scattered all over the island, but the best and most impressive ones are around Tarambados village.
The village of Volax is unique thanks to the unusual rock formations surrounding it. It is about 6 km from Chora, and as you are nearing it, you will see great stone monoliths of various impressive sizes.
Most of them are around, but there are some that are animal or bird-shaped. Mythology explains them as the remnants of the Titanomachy: the huge boulders were used in the war that gave Zeus the throne of Olympus, and some of them were dropped around Volax.
The village itself is very picturesque and full of folklore as its dwellers are famous for their basketry. You can see them weave baskets as you explore the village!
Hit the beaches
Agios Ioannis Porto
If you are looking for a wind-protected beach to enjoy, Agios Ioannis Porto should be at the top of your list. A gorgeous sandy beach with crystal clear, emerald waters that are protected from the northern winds makes this beach popular and quite cosmopolitan.
It is organized with all the necessary amenities. There are also taverns for when you get hungry. On the left side, you will see a beautiful tiny white chapel which you can visit.
Agios Markos Kionia
Another gorgeous beach protected from the winds, Agios Markos Kionia is considered a refuge for beachgoers. It has the iconic crystal clear, emerald waters and interesting rock formations lining its golden fine sand. The beach is organized in a big part, but there are also areas where it is not for those wishing a more natural experience.
Another calm beach in the south part of the island, Agios Romanos is popular with families thanks to its golden sand, natural shade thanks to the several trees lining it, and a great view of Syros island.
If you are a fan of windsurfing, this beach is for you. It is on the north side of the island and exposed to the winds. A beautiful, sandy beach lined with trees and featuring a large chapel of Agios Sostis on its right, it looks like a small bay.
Beautiful rock formations can offer a unique experience if explored carefully. See if you can find the ‘armchair’ rock to enjoy the view of the entire bay and the island of Mykonos from!
The beach is popular with windsurfers thanks to its prevalent winds during the Meltemi season.
Kolymbithra bay is protected from strong winds and features two sandy beaches. They are both quite beautiful and very cosmopolitan. One is more crowded than the other due to the organization, beach bar, and other amenities. The other is calmer, less organized, and more family-friendly.
Visit the monasteries
Tinos features several important monasteries, most of them dating from the 19th century. Here are the most important ones:
This monastery served as a school for girls until about the 1960s. Visit for a tour of the school facilities, historical photos, and the physics and chemistry labs!
This monastery was an important cultural hub and religious center for Tinians. Visit it for its beautiful folklore museum and library.
Dating from the 12th century, this is where the nun Pelagia had her visions of the Virgin Mary. Its architecture is quite intriguing as it made the complex look like a village within its walls. Visit it to see Pelagia’s cell, several gorgeous little chapels, and some impressive marble work.
Enjoy the festivals
If you find yourself in Tinos on those dates, don’t miss:
August 15th, the Dormition of the Virgin Mary
This is the biggest religious holiday of the summer and where the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Tinos takes place. You will see people walking on their knees to the church, as part of their religious experience. After mass, there is a litany of the holy icon, complete with marching bands and happenings. The feast lasts for two days.
This is the feast day of the nun Pelagia (Agia Pelagia) and it is celebrated greatly at her monastery. The sacred icon is taken there for the day, and returned with a litany, taking it back on foot. The walk from the monastery to Tinos’ Chora and the church is quite an experience, with lots of gorgeous views of the island and the Aegean.
This is a holiday on a religious and patriotic basis as it is both Independence Day for Greece and the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. There are litanies, marching bands, and food and drink with traditional dancing to be had after mass.
Tinos’ Jazz Festival in August
Housed at the Cultural Center at the port of Tinos, the Jazz Festival takes place in late August and attracts a worldwide audience of jazz lovers. Each year has a theme, so it’s a different experience every time.
Tinos’ World Music Festival in July
For music lovers, Tinos’ Wold Music Festival is ideal. With a theme each year to showcase the various works of international artists it seeks to underline the importance of Greek and Balkan music within the world music trends of today. It takes place all over Tinos, so look out for various events!
Where to eat in Tinos island
Drosia, Ktikados: Situated at Ktikados village, Drosia is a family-owned tavern renowned for its traditional Greek cuisine to locals and regular visitors alike! Enjoy your food in the tavern’s gorgeous backyard with the overhanging vines and large trees, while looking at the gorgeous view of the ravine below.
Palia Pallada, Chora: In a side path parallel to the quayside road, you will find the traditional tavern Palia Pallada. Specializing in oil-based casseroles and ‘mom style’ cooked food, excellent grill for meats and fish, Palia Pallada hasn’t really changed since it was founded. Enjoy good food and a friendly atmosphere.
Marina, Panormos: This restaurant combines traditional Greek cuisine with the excellence of fish and seafood that Panormos village is famous for. Enjoy your meal right by the sea and don’t forget to try the deep-fried Tinian pie!
FAQ About Tinos Island
Tinos is a very beautiful island close to Athens with gorgeous villages to explore, nice beaches and fantastic food.
Spending 3 days in Tinos allows you to explore the highlights of the island. If you are looking for a more relaxed holiday you should aim for 5 days.