Tinos, the fourth largest island of the Cycladic archipelago, with its fresh winds, enchanting sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, endless small whitewashed churches, unique dovecotes, picturesque windmills and breathtaking rugged landscape, is the only Greek island my husband and I visit just about every year. We love the island’s well-preserved primitive charm, the simplicity of everyday life, its great food and, most importantly, its friendly and hospitable people.
Most Greeks associate the island of Tinos with religious worship and the faithful who pay homage to the reputedly miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, situated inside the imposing Panagia Evangelistria church near the harbor.
A yearly pilgrimage takes place on August 15, when Orthodox Greeks celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Hundreds of pilgrims make their way on their hands and knees from the ferry wharf to the church, a distance of about 800 meters, as a sign of devotion.
On our recent visit to Tinos, at the beginning of June, we enjoyed another lovely beach and seaside holiday at Skylantari, an area adjacent to the beaches of Agios Ioannis and Agios Sostis, which is situated on the eastern side of the island . . . just opposite of Mykonos.
As always, we stayed at the family run Byzantio Beach apartment Hotel, which after so many visits feels a bit like a home away from home. The hotel itself, with its blue windows, white walls and numerous flower pots and herb garden, offers its guests typical island lodgings with a few lovely extras which include a relatively new & spacious Jacuzzi, a beach bar area with comfy sun chairs and umbrellas and the small tavern all-day restaurant, Kapari, where breakfast is also served.
At the hotel’s Kapari restaurant (whose name means capers) you will often find Evangelia (one of the hotel owners) proudly preparing delicious traditional specialties for her guests. Everything she cooks is made with high quality fresh local produce as well as various organic vegetables and lemons from her gardens, wild and self-grown aromatic herbs, home-made cheese, pickled capers and marinated artichokes. For those who like it sweet, be pre-warned . . . her marmalades and scrumptious spoon sweets (photo of lemon spoon sweet below) are addictive!
This time around my top luncheon picks were a healthy salad made with lentils, black-eyed beans, lettuce greens and tuna fish and savory oven baked eggplants topped with a divine tasting aromatic tomato sauce . . . both just perfect with a glass of chilled local white wine . . . which was also tops!
As creatures of habit our late afternoons is our time for journeys of discovery. One of my favorite pastimes during our stays on Tinos is to visit some of the island’s many villages and get lost among their many whitewashed streets. Driving around the island is no problem as Tinos has a good road network that leads to pretty much every corner of the island… so, if you visit, make sure to see as much of the island as you possibly can!
The villages of Pyrgos, Panormos and Ysternia are a must for all visitors. They stand apart for they are picturesque and every little corner is decorated with pieces of artwork, sculpted with stone or marble by one of their many renowned artists. Needless to say, marble carving has always been an important element of the island’s cultural identity and has thrived in Tinos from the period of Venetian rule (1715 -1821).
The dovecotes of Tinos are also worth a closer look!
They can be found all over the island. The oldest ones were built by the Venetians in the 18th and 19th centuries and are truly matchless! A local told me that there are about 1,000 dovecotes on the island and many have amazing harmonious facades decorated with rhombi, triangles, suns and other pretty designs.
Another much-loved past time of mine involves visiting the small local farmer’s market next to the main harbor in Tinos town. I usually go in the early morning and, each time I visit, I find truly great products! It goes without saying that I stock up on capers, sundried tomatoes and lemon-marinated artichokes for the winter months!
Part 2 with some of my favorite taverns/restaurants in Tinos . . . . coming soon!