Tinos: Coming Home
Greece before the summer resembles a home coming dance. This year (or was it last year? It’s hard to keep track of all the jocks) the home coming king is Tinos. And frankly, we’re surprised it’s taken that long for people to take notice. After all, it’s only a boat stop away from Mykonos, a mere 3 hours from Athens. With Mykonos and Santorini dominating for so long, its ‘lesser’ cousins often have to live in their shade. And that’s not a bad thing. Tinos has thrived and will continue to thrive, with or without tourists, and that’s a comforting thought.
Tinos is a tranquil island. The bulk of its tourists come in August, for a few short days and they aren’t looking for the next lost weekend. During the celebrations of Dekapentaugousto, the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, the island comes to life with pilgrims from across Greece. The pilgrimage is made to the town’s church of Panagia Megalochari Evangelistra and the piousness of some of the pilgrims is in full display as they crawl from the harbor all the way to the church. It’s a sight to behold. Expect throngs of tourists around these dates. Greek and orthodox bible thumpers, to be exact. Not exactly a nuisance. Apart from that interruption, though, the island goes back to its sleepy self, its claim to fame secured.
FOOD, WINE AND DOVECOTS
Tinos, like most Cycladic islands is of the arid type. Expect to find the usual craggy and dry landscape, punctuated by olive groves, farm terraces on the hills and dovecots? Yes, that right. Dovecots. The Venetians who once lorded over the island and much of Greece, brought their tradition over and the Tinians adopted it with aplomb. The reason for the existence of the 1,000 odd dovecots is twofold; meat and fertilizer. The arable land is limited so this is actually a genius solution. The dovecots themselves are a work of art, with their ornamental geometric designs and architectural quirks.
It speaks to the Tinian’s craftsmanship that the island is considered one of Greece’s premier ceramics and marble sculpting centers. A vast majority of Greek artists have come out of Tinos and you can get the chance to see this for yourself as you wander around the 40 odd villages and maybe book yourself a ceramics class.
As is the case in Greece, everything comes back to the food. And the wine. Tinos is by no means self-sufficient, but it’s a close one. All manners of cheeses, yoghurts and meats are to be found in this sleepy island. And while the food always takes center stage, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the fact that Tinos is a bona-fide wine producing island. And with thousands of years of history to back it up. The dry air and arid land have forced the Tinians to come up with innovative wine making techniques adaptable to less than friendly conditions. Suffice to say that you’ll be going back with extra pounds in the luggage.
And then theres the activities. Tinos is full of walkable paths. Going up Mount Exombourgo, the highest point on Tinos is like stepping onto a time warp. Even the villages there are from another world. Head to Volax to get a taste of life as it should be. The cherry on top of all this are the surf-able waves on Tinos’s shores. They are awesome! Tinos has upped its wind surfing credentials in the last few years. And that is just taking advantage of what the elements give you. Namely the ubiquitous meltemi winds that rip through the Cyclades in the summer months. International surfers have descended on Tinos to make it one of the top destinations in Europe.
Tinos is this year’s homecoming king, without doubt. As its illustrious cousins, Santorini and Mykonos come to terms with over tourism and its effects, Tinos is mounting a challenge. If your idea of a Greek island paradise doesn’t include hordes of tourists and a jungle of selfie sticks, we strongly recommend you get off the beaten path and explore Tinos, before it shows up on your Instagram feed.