Many of the Cyclades group of Greek islands do not show their best sides in autumn or winter, better suited to the bright sun. However, Tinos remains alive and kicking beyond the summer season with alluring autumn colours and winter welcomes in the many mountain villages.
Tinos holds a prominent place in the northern Cyclades courtesy of its simple beauty and the finest mountain villages preserving their traditional Cycladic character and style. Many of the visitors to the island are in search of spiritual nourishment as Tinos has one of the holiest sites in the Greek Orthodox Church, and the island attracts year round custom rather than hedonistic summer swallows – Mykonos may be next door but the two isles are more kissing cousins than brother and sister.
Tinos’ elongated triangular shape features Tsiknias the island’s tallest mountain at 726 metres above sea level to the east while the island’s centre is dominated by an impressively steep rock, Exomvourgo at 641 metres high. The mountain hosted an ancient city around 1100 BC and later during medieval times, a Byzantine fortress that became a Venetian castle.
Virtually all of Tinos’ settlements have remained authentic, filled with light and colour, and they are ideal places to get acquainted with the island culture. To connect them, Tinos has an interesting network of trails that covers the entire island and measures a total length of 150 kilometres. These trails were originally used by locals to get from one village to another before the island road network was developed. Some signposted trails cover the island’s coastline while others are circular, leading trekkers to lovely dovecotes, archaeological sites, monuments, monasteries, a Venetian castle, as well as an amazing otherworld landscape with rounded boulders.
In autumn, the weather conditions in Tinos are usually mild as August’s meltemia, the strong, dry north winds of the Aegean Sea, have stopped blowing. The sea is darker and richer, the horizon softens, and the light is kinder. At this time of the year, Tinos is an ideal destination for nature lovers, hikers and food aficionados. Serenity prevails but the island is far from deserted, it is a time for excursions to island villages, where visitors can expect to find traditional kafeneia open for raki and meze. Best of all, most accommodation is more economical in autumn, while the tavernas, bars and shops that remain open beyond the summer to cater to the needs of locals tend to offer a less rushed service during this slower-paced time of the year.
In more recent years, efforts have been made to promote the charm of alleys at the main town’s back end, as well as its numerous stylish shops. The overall scene here creates a delightful setting in autumn. Lovely small cafes with great brunch offerings, confectionary shops, small bars, pizza shops, even small clubs, all offer a vibrant touch. The island’s fruit and vegetables market is set right by the port. Goods to be found here include truly delicious fresh tomatoes, exceptional potatoes, pickled artichokes, autumn grapes, dried figs and anything else produced at the local orchards.
A number of renowned cheeses are produced on the island, including volaki, sklavotyro, malathouni and kariki, a blue cheese matured inside gourds. Tinos’ kopanisti, a soft cheese with a peppery flavour, is a renowned PDO cheese. Petroma, a salt-free cheese, is another local cheese worth trying.
The wines at T-Oinos are some of the most celebrated in Greece, the vineyard located in an area scattered with granite boulders that was first planted 6,000 years ago.
Pyrgos, Tinos’ biggest village, stands out on its own with picturesque cobbled paths, a superb square with a centuries-old plane tree, and examples of marble art. Don’t miss the Museum of Marble Crafts housed in a contemporary building at the edge of the village.
Falatados, Tinos’ second-largest village, whose highlights include the Agia Triada church, with an impressive blue dome, is also home to the House of Sketches, a Cartoon Museum, unique throughout south east Europe.
Kampos, a beautiful village below the Exomvourgo mountain, is located just 6 km from Chora.
With a lunar-like landscape, Volakas is seemingly balanced between a real and imaginary world as a result of the hundreds of granite boulders scattered in the area.
Isternia is an enigmatic village offering panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and surrounding islands; sunsets here are sensational when the remains of old windmills cast impressive long shadows as the light dies.
Panormos, small and sleepy, is a classic fishing village with clean sandy beaches in the north.
Blindingly white and architecturally adorable, Kardiani is one of the most beautiful villages of Tinos. It is built on the lush slopes of Mount Pateles, featuring abundant streams and far-reaching views.
Dyo Horia, originally two villages, has fountains with running water, paved paths, bougainvillea in full bloom alongside tall plane trees at the central square, as well as picturesque medieval arches. The view from here, 450 metres above sea level, is immaculate – Syros, Delos and Mykonos are easily seen, with Paros, Naxos, Kythnos and Serifos visible on a clear day.
Chora, the main town, offers numerous accommodation choices, while many properties are available for rent through Airbnb at Kionia. Recommendations: The Houses of Dreams, in the Myrsini area (+30 6973-381085), Tutti Blu Living Space, a restored 18th century mansion in Mesi (+30 6955-093535), Xinara House in Xinara, Tinos E-houses at Dyo Horia (+30 6944-602567) and Tinos Hearts at Kardiani.
Many of Chora’s eateries as well as some traditional kafeneia in the villages remain open throughout the year.
This spot serves traditional Tinian casserole dishes plus other culinary delights.
5 Gafou, Chora,+30 2283 024857
Agyra, meaning anchor, is a fine place to go for fresh fish and seafood meals.
Kyprion Ethnomartyron square, Chora,+30 2283 023016
Home to traditional Greek cuisine; Tinian cheeses and sausages, local omelettes (froutalia) chickpea fricassee, lahanodolmades (stuffed cabbage rolls) and other marvellous food choices are served at Tsabia, in Kionia.
At the edge of the port, by the old shipyard, Tarsanas offers the finest seafood menu on the island.
Using local ingredients Psomi & Alati offers Mediterranean cuisine with a twist and it is open for lunch and dinner, staying open during winter.
Tereza is a hybrid bakalotaverna, or small grocery store and taverna, combined. Homely comfort food is in order here; choices include meatballs, roast kid goat, and a superb Tinian froutalia, or omelette.