The enchanting Cycladic island of Tinos is the spiritual heart of Greece. Waves of worshippers pour off ferries into the main town of Hora every year, making their way past buzzing restaurants and souvenir shops to the majestic Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. Outside town, you can spend days sunbathing on tranquil beaches, sampling fresh local produce and exploring the island’s many charming villages.
A cluster of whitewashed buildings in the hillside village of Loutra, just north of Hora, is home to the Ursuline Convent. Since it was founded in 1862, this sprawling institution has evolved from an orphanage into a university and a prestigious school for young girls. Today, it’s a museum where you can explore the old dormitories, classrooms, C20th furniture, sewing tools, paintings and photographs. After wandering through the impressive complex, stop by the chapel to gaze up at the pale-blue arches of the chapel.
Agios Sostis Beach, on the southern tip of Tinos, is buzzing with cosmopolitan restaurants, beach bars, deck chairs and umbrellas. This stretch of soft white sand is an idyllic spot for a big beach day. You can sizzle under the sun, before cooling down in the crystalline waters and grabbing a fruity cocktail. Views of a nearby ancient church add to the postcard-perfect Greek setting, while a picturesque pier offers a great launchpad for practising your diving skills.
Taking a bumpy dirt road, near the village of Kardiani, will get you to the wilderness of Agios Petros Beach – a haven of fine sand and shallow waters. Most strikingly, the 16th-century church of Agios Petros hangs on a large rock that stretches into the sea and divides the beach into two. There’s no natural shade and the cove can be exposed to northern winds, so come prepared to weather this wild, secluded setting.
Santa Margarita Beach, near the town of Steni, offers soft sands and impressive views of neighbouring Mykonos. You are completely isolated from civilization on this narrow deep-set beach; other than the Catholic Santa Margarita Church on the shore, there are no buildings in sight. You can bathe for hours under the one patch of shade provided by big tamarisk trees, surrounded only by the sound of the singing birds, gentle breezes and lapping waves.
At least 600 white dovecotes are dotted across Tinos like a string of pearls. The two-story-high structures, first built on the island by the Venetians, traditionally housed pigeons, utensils and farming tools. You can spot these charming little buildings in areas like Krosos, Tarabados Valley and Kardiani village. Up close, you’ll marvel at the intricate geometric shapes, cypress trees and variations of the sun painted on their whitewashed walls – all believed to attract the pigeons, whose droppings further enrich Tinos’ fertile soils.
The Sanctuary of Poseidon on Tinos – thought to date back to the 4th century CE – was once an important temple dedicated to the sea god. You can walk from the beachside town of Kiona to spend a couple of hours exploring the archaeological site. Now all that remains are the excavated foundations of marble baths, temples, an altar, a monumental stoa and a fountain. Top tip: pick up a pamphlet from the front desk to get a richer understanding of the sanctuary’s former glory.
The Ballis Winery, on the slopes of Karvouni mountain, is where the tastes, scents and history of Tinos are all infused into their local bottles of wine. On a balmy evening, take a step away from the busy beach bars and head to this charming winery in Arnados village, which is higher than most Tinos settlements and boasts panoramic views of valleys, ocean and neighbouring islands. You can sample vintage wines from native vines and pastries enhanced with locally grown herbs.
This modern museum, on the slopes above the village of Pyrgos, explores the material that’s dominated Greek architecture and art from antiquity to the present day. More significantly, it highlights the long history of marble crafts in Tinos. You can walk through the airy rooms, absorbing the artefacts and architectural features, as well as the social and economic context behind Tinian marble. Don’t miss the fascinating films of the last traditional quarrymen at work.
To explore more of Greece, check out the best boutique hotels in Santorini, and the best hotels in Zakynthos. These are bookable with Culture Trip. During your stay, explore the 11 best things to do in Zakynthos, and relax on the 10 best beaches in Santorini. Make sure you also book a table at at least one of the 10 best restaurants in Mykonos to sample some delicious Greek dishes.
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