With over 50 picturesque villages and many more pigeon houses (the total is well over 1000), Tinos is an island to discover in a leisurely way over many days. The landscape morphs from lush vineyards into looping coastal roads, barren boulder land, and deep marble quarries. Within just a ten minute drive, its villages and beaches vary dramatically too; from Kolibithra, the surfers’ beach which boasts good waves in the spring months, to the tiny village of Volax at the heart of the island, distinguished by the poetry inscribed on the outside of its pretty, geranium shrouded homes.
Owing to its varied topography, the island also happens to be one of the best destinations in the Cyclades for food. So much so, that popular Athenian restaurants like Theio Tragi (Holy Goat – Tinos has lots of goats..) abandon the city in the summer months, setting up shop on the island. Look to the following guide for the ultimate spots to sample some of Tinos’ very best gastronomic gems.
Breakfast in Tinos
If you can save yourself for a saccharine treat, head to the village of Pyrgos – known for its marble quarries and its generations of marble workers – for breakfast in the village’s most popular kafeneion (café). O Megalos Kafenes at the very heart of Pyrgos serves up (tried and tested) the very best galaktobouriko on the island. This semolina custard pastry with a heavy sprinkling of cinnamon, swilled down with a tar-thick Greek coffee is fuel for a morning of exploration.
Throw good manners to the wind…
Sparrows fly in and out of all the open windows above the heads of customers while inside, marble tables, old family portraits of the owners’ family members and ancient grandfather clocks nod to a bygone era.
Vineyard Tour in Tinos
Forget tangy Retsina, Tinos is fast becoming the Cycladic destination to head to for good Greek wine. Blessed with fertile land and a generation of wine makers returning to their homes to foster centuries-old traditions of grape growing, Tinos now boasts seven producers with up to five labels each. The varieties local to the island range from a fresh Asyrtiko (a refreshingly dry white) and the dark and deeply spicy marvotragano, which ages phenomenally.
If you can find it, head to the hidden village of Tripotamos (genuinely designed as a labyrinth so that its houses could not be seen and ransacked by pirates in the middle ages) to The Cross Roads Inn for a wine tour, tasting and lunch hosted at their own vineyard just above the village. Their label, X-bourgo, is named after the towering granite formation Exomvourgo Hill that serves as Tripotamos’ dramatic backdrop and hides a ransacked Venetian fortress at its peak.
Lunch in Tinos
For lunch with a view and an expertly composed seafood menu from perhaps the island’s most popular foodie spot, look to To Thalassaki. On the beach at Ormos Isternion on the south west of the island, this restaurant takes bookings in advance and will likely not have a table for those without a reservation.
Expect Mediterranean flavour with a refined twist. Smoked herring salad with a dainty garnish of red onion and dill as an absolute must-order here, as are the marinated anchovies on a bed of beans and the hearty penne (order it to share) topped with bottarga. There must be room made for dessert, which absolutely should be the mastika ice cream with loukoumi (Turkish delight) – a genius balancing act of aromatic pine and syrup-sweet rosewater.
Dinner in Tinos
Journey up to the village of Aetofolia past sci-fi feeling boulderland to dine at the family run taverna, Sta Fys’Aera. Sourcing everything locally, the taverna serves up meze dishes in a laid-back atmosphere but tired and outdated this is not. The dishes served here, though against a rough and ready feeling backdrop, are not your standard tavern fare.
Expect delicately spiced louza (the Cyclades’ most loved smoked pork), healing wild greens tea neatly served up in a teapot as a side to your wild greens order and the most satiating courgette salad you will ever have the pleasure of sampling. Wash it all down with a glass of mavrotragano or the taverna’s own raki.