Summertime is just around the corner and that means it’s time to start planning your next island getaway with the family! If the Greek Islands don’t automatically spring to mind, then it’s time to start exploring the beautiful gems hiding in the Aegean Sea.
Tinos, one of the islands in the Cycladic archipelago, is an ideal family destination. No matter what you are looking for from your vacation — fun, relaxation, culture and history — Tinos has it all.
The island is famous as a religious destination thanks to its impressive iconic landmark, the Holy Church of Panayia Evanyelistria. The sanctuary is a sacred site to those of the Greek Orthodox faith as followers visit en masse to light a candle and climb the church’s marble steps on their hands and knees. The church is home to a famous icon of the Virgin Mary, said to have healing powers. The cathedral and attached museum is a must-see for anyone visiting the island. Its impressive architecture and ornately decorated interior make it well worth the trip.
While popular among Greeks for its religious significance, the island is not well known as a tourist destination, making it one of those rarities for travelers looking for a relaxing Greek Island getaway. Tinos gives you a glimpse of real life on the islands without the oppressive throngs of tourists you will find in popular destinations like Mykonos or Santorini.
The hora, or capital, is Tinos Town, which sprawls outward from the port and is home to the spectacular church. It’s a great place to grab a meal, whether it be breakfast or coffee in one of the many trendy cafés or a delicious meal of fresh caught fish in one of the local psarotavernas, or fish restaurants.
With alternating mountains and valleys, the island is loaded with amazing vistas and beautiful scenery typical of the Aegean islands. The stark contrast of whitewashed buildings against the arid landscape and bright blues of the surrounding sea create an impressive site to behold. The countryside is dotted with traditional Cycladic windmills that make for great photo opportunities and the island’s famous pigeon houses, intricately decorated buildings remnant from Tinos’s Venetian heritage that house the island’s pigeon population.
The Greek Islands are well known for beautiful beaches and Tinos is no exception. The island’s calm waters and slow pace make it the perfect place for families to enjoy a stress-free time on the island, soaking up the sun and taking refreshing dips in the turquoise waters of the Aegean. One of the best beaches for families is Agios Foka on the island’s southern tip near Tinos Town. The beach has everything a family could need, such as umbrellas, restaurants and water sports. The climate tends to get windy, typical for the island chain, but when the winds calm down and the heat sets in, the beach is the best place to be.
While visiting the island be sure to shop for some of the great local products the island is famous for, like Tinos honey. Raw, pure and flavored with local aromatic thyme, this is the stuff honey legends are made of. Don’t forget to stop at Halaris Bakery in the port town to try some of the island’s special almond cookies and delicious custard pastry, galaktobouriko.
Tinos is easy to explore — simply rent a car from one of the many local providers and hit the road to discover the natural beauty and picturesque villages scattered throughout the island. The village of Volax is a must-see. Situated amidst a scattering of incredible rock formations, the quiet little village is a great place to stop for a bite to eat and do some sightseeing. According to local legend the massive boulders of the area are otherworldly and they create an awe-inspiring site as you approach the village.
The island is easily reached from the mainland by ferry from Pireus, the main port of Athens. Blue Star Ferries is one of the most affordable and easiest to navigate ferry lines with daily departures leaving at 7:30 a.m. throughout the summer months. After a brief stop at the nearby island of Syros, passengers arrive on Tinos around noon. When you are ready to return to Athens, the return ship will depart from the port at 3 p.m. This convenient timetable gives you plenty of time to enjoy the island on both arrival and departure days.