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The island of artists

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Tinos: The island of artists

Cosmopolitan yet traditional, noble yet approachable, the fourth largest island of the Cyclades is a land of distinct history.

Chiselled by the art and labour of great artists and local folk craftsmen, the Island of Aeolus and of Megalochari (the Virgin Mary) has always been blessed. Inhabited since the prehistoric times, it went through the difficult centuries of the Turkish occupation under the Venetian rule, became a great maritime power and an international centre of marble craftsmanship in the 19th century and was eventually praised as the spiritual centre of Orthodoxy.

There are many reasons why it’s worth visiting the "handmade island", as philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis called Tinos: From the dozens of picturesque villages and stone chapels to the ancient paths, the terraces made of dry-stone walls on the hills and the stunning dovecotes in the valley, Tinos isa unique island for those who appreciate authenticity and alternative experiences.

Routes & Attractions

The most famous attraction of the island is the majestic Monastery of Evangelistria. Built in white marble in 1823, it stands out on the hilltop village of Chora. Walk up the wide steps leading to the courtyard with the exquisite pebbled floor (1833) or admire the stately bell tower (30 meters high), a unique work of folk art by the Tinian sculptor IoannisFilippotis.

In the elegant Old Town of Tinos, every corner radiates the wealth and old maritime supremacy of the island. Wander the serpentine alleys with the beautiful mansions and lavish fountains; admire the old churches; take a history lessonat the exquisite Archaeological Museum and don’t forget to visit the amazing Museum of Tinian Artists with a collection of more than 100 works by leading local sculptors and painters (N. Lytras, N. Gyzis, G. Gaitis, D. Filippotis, G. Halepas etc.).

Outside Chora, the nature and history of Tinos offer unexpected emotions. Exo Meria is dominated by the famous Tower. This is the birthplace of the great sculptor Giannoulis Halepas and painter Nikiforos Lytras. Every marble-built alley of the settlement is evidence of the high level of aesthetics and artistic background. From carved marble fountains and stone churches to gilded lintels with crests. You should definitely visit the state-of-the-art Museum of Marble Crafts (2007) and the houseof Halepas, currently a museum dedicated to the sculptor.

Amphitheatrically-built, verdant Kardiani resembles a painting with its thousands of natural springs (xynaria), the arcade alleys and vaulted white houses.

Very close to the mountainous village of Arnados, the historic Monastery of Kechrovouni or Lady of the Angels, steals the scene. Builtona steep slope, 650 meters above the sea, this impressive complex of seven churches (10th-11th century) resembles a Cycladic settlement.

In the medieval Ano Meria with the ancient paths and lacerating north winds, each village is a "work of art". Tripotamos known for cheese making and potters, the Cycladic village of Mountados once associated with literature, Triantaros of the stone craftsmen, known as the "balcony of Tinos", Falatados with the Caricature Museum, the evergreen Potamia bathed in the light of the first sunrise.

Kato Meria is known for its lunar landscapes, its hundreds of dovecotes (600 in total), its orchards and forsaken olive presses. In Kampos, overlooking the rock of Xombourgo, beats the heart of Tinos hinterland. Here is the "Costas Tsoclis” Museum of Contemporary Art. Tarampados with its 11 dovecotes, unique examples of folk architecture made of lime, slate, and geometric motifs, is the jewel of the green valley that goes by the same name.

Beaches & Activities

The shoreline of Tinos is endowed with wonderful beaches for all tastes. The largest beach of the island, Agios Fokas, is gaining popularity due to its proximity to Chora. Fine sand, shallow waters and full-fledged facilities make this beach a pole of attraction for all ages. The impressive Livada, with its sculptural rock formations, deep waters and large waves, is a magnet for  wild nature enthusiasts and surfers. The exotic Pachia Ammos, with its golden dunes and views of the Straits between Tinos and Mykonos, mainly welcomes families with children. On the twin beach of Kolymbithra, the crowds are divided between the organized Mikri Ammos and the alternative Megali Ammos (California for the locals), a haven for youth and surfers. Finally, in the cosmopolitan Kionia, nature and culture come to an enchanting agreement as the beach stretches in front of the archaeological site of the Temple of Poseidon and Amphitrite.

Tinos is famous for the alternative off-road experiences it offers to its visitors. Hiking lovers will discover a network of 150 km of cobbled paths (marked on 12 routes) that cross the ancient roads of Tinos hinterland. If you have to choose a single route, let this be the historic Vari trail that connects ancient Asty with the Cities in the center of Tinos. Otherwise, follow the routes that pass through the valleys of Tarampados, Agapi, Livada, Potamia and Kardiani, to admire the hundreds of Tinos’ dovecotes, unique monuments of folk art made of stone and geometric decorative representations.

Extreme sports enthusiasts and geological mysteries hunters will meet in the striking lunar landscape of Volakas. The area is scattered with spherical granite boulders (volakes), the result of a volcanic eruption or, according to the legend, a remnant of the mythological Titanomachy. Today, the area is the largest bouldering climbing field in Europe.

Tastes of the island

Tinos’ gastronomy is rich with culinary treasures that are based on the finest local raw materials. The great cheese-making tradition of the island is glorified through Tiniako Tyraki (volaki or slavotyro), the kopanisti cheese of Tinos (PDO), the unsalted petroma and the graviera cheese of Tinos. Local livestock farming gives refined flavors such as the Tinian louza (smoked pork marinated in sweet wine and spices) or saltsisi (air-dryed salami). The famous Tinos sausage (with fennel seed or marinated in garlic and wine) and the siglina or soussira (pork chunks in glina, i.e. pork fat) are uniquely coupled with the local Fourtalia (traditional omelette).

The wild artichoke and capers of Tinos are transformed into unique recipes. Don't miss the chance to taste the famous artichoke pie, pickled artichoke and caper salad with tender caper leaves.  Also, sun-dried tomatoes (fried in batter), fennel balls, alifonia (Tinos spiny chicory), arnathkies (local wild mushrooms) and potato balls.

Those seeking some vivacious taste experiences, try the traditional savore (bogues, atherines and whitebait with sweet and sour sauce made of Tinos grape molasses) and braised pitsouni (pigeon) with pilaf.

Traditional confectionery is fragrant with orange, vanilla and cinnamon. Enjoy tsimpites (sweet fried cheese pies with petroma unsalted cheese) and psarakia (fish-shaped pies filled with walnut kernels and breadcrumbs, sprinkled with icing sugar) Don’t leave Tinos without tasting the sublime wines of the local vineyards. Try the famous red Koumariano or the white Aspropotamisi and Asthathari. And of course, the light aromatic raki of Tinos (Strofylia or Strufflia for the locals) with the characteristic fennel aroma. Ideally, you will enjoy it in shots accompanied with dried figs, walnuts and cinnamon.

Traditions & Events

Some of the most beautiful traditions and customs of the island are linked to the rural life of Tinos. Take part in Rakizio (the ritual revival of the raki making process) in the village of Falatados (in September) and drink the first hot raki that comes out of the cauldron, accompanied by traditional dances. In June, all roads lead to the valley of Komi for the Artichoke Festival. In August in Potamia, the locals set up a feast with delicacies based on capers. The largest celebration of the island is, of course, the celebration of the Virgin Mary, on the 15thof August, one of the largest pilgrimages of Orthodoxy. Locals and crowds of faithful honor the miraculous icon of Panagia Evangelistria in Chora, with a glorious ritual, religiousnessand all ceremony. The discovery of the icon (in 1823) is celebrated on January 30 with the special ritual of the custom of "Fanarakia".

Don’t miss...

Climb the imposing rock of Xombourgo, next to the ruins of the Venetian castle of St. Helena. The panoramic view of Tinos and the horizon from the top of the rock (640 m.) is breathtaking.

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