Greek Guide

 

Tinos Island Greece Greek Holiday Destinations

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Tinos is one of the Greek Cyclades Islands located in the Aegean Sea 161 kilometres south east of the mainland port of Piraeus. It's one of the most peaceful and unspoilt of all the main islands in the archipelago, attracting mainly religious pilgrims who flock here to worship at a sacred site which is the Greek version of Lourdes. The island is a paradise for hikers and those looking for a taste of traditional Greek life, far from the summer mayhem and round the clock partying of neighbouring Mykonos.

The island has no airport but there are several ferries each day from Piraeus (five hours), and regular hydrofoil services from Piraeus and Rafina. Ferry and hydrofoil services connect Tinos with Mykonos and the other main Cycladic islands.

Tinos is an oasis of peace where it's possible to find uncrowded beaches, even at the height of the season. There are some lovely unspoilt inland villages to explore, remote paths taking you through the green and mountainous hinterland and shady, inexpensive tavernas where you might be the only international tourist.

The island's biggest attraction certainly as far as the Greek faithful are concerned is the holy icon enshrined in the Church of Panagia Evangelistria in Tinos Town. The icon is a portrayal of the Virgin Mary, kneeling in prayer, at the time of her annunciation (when the Angel Gabriel appeared before her and announced that she was to become the Mother of God). Thousands of believers are so convinced of the icon's miraculous healing powers that they crawl on their hands and knees all the way from the port to worship before it.

The icon was discovered after a nun, Sister Pelagia, had a vision of the Virgin Mary guiding her to the field where it lay buried. A church was built on the spot where excavators uncovered the icon which is now bedecked with gold, diamonds and pearls and on display to the left of the central aisle. The church also houses hundreds of gifts of thanks from the many who believe their "miracle" cures are a direct result of their pilgrimage to the Church of Panagia Evangelistria.

If your visit to Tinos coincides with one of the four major pilgrimages to the shrine, you'll be hard pushed to find accommodation unless you've booked months in advance. The mass pilgrimages take place on January 30th, the anniversary of the finding of the icon, March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation of Mary, July 23rd which is the anniversary of the nun's vision and August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

Tinos is also famed for its elaborately decorated dovecotes which pepper the island. Dove breeding was introduced by the Venetians who controlled many of the Greek islands from the 14th century onwards. There are more than 1,300 dovecotes to be found in the villages which once relied on doves as a major food source.

The ruins of a Venetian fortress, the Exobourgo, are another of the island's distinctive features. The fortress, built on a 640 metre mount, was the toughest stronghold in the Cyclades the place where the Venetians made their last stand against the Turkish invaders in 1715. A climb to the top from one of the surrounding villages is hard work but well worth it for the wonderful views of Tinos and the neighbouring islands.