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Tinos is tailor-made for walking: it is the birthplace of the Greek National Footpath Organization and has one of the most remarkable networks of traditional paths in the country. Rocky mule tracks cut through a landscape that seems made for mythological adventures, with verdant groves alive with the sound of spring water, hidden ravines, and giant, wind-sculpted boulders strewn on mountain slopes as if dropped by passing gods.
Coves bite into the coastline – providing in turn, sheltered mooring for pilgrims to the Temple of Poseidon in ancient times, pirates in the Dark Ages, and for wealthy medieval merchants exporting Tinos marble.
The simplest of buildings and water fountains are embellished with frost-white marble bas-reliefs; courtyards and paths are laid with pebble mosaics; the landscape is dotted with picture-book villages, churches with tiered, Italianate belltowers or coroneted domes, and – an island specialty – the fanciful miniature towers of a thousand or so pigeon houses.
In ancient times, Greek pilgrims flocked to the neighbouring, sacred island of Delos. Today they come to Tinos in a surge of national pride and religious fervour, to visit an icon whose miraculous discovery coincided with the 19th-century declaration of Greek independence. Twice a year, on 25 March and 15 August, thousands of people, from leading politicians to humble country folk, swell the island’s population of c. 8,000. The island has prospered as a result; there are villages, gems of Cycladic architecture, that are smart, brightly painted, and well maintained. On the land around, though, abandoned terraces, which accentuate steeply contoured hills, cute but crumbling pigeon houses and windmills, are ghosts of a more prosperous rural past.
The island’s history and changing fortunes make for interesting and varied walking, and Tinos is relatively unknown to foreign tourists, so you are likely to have its ancient paths, villages, and valleys, to yourself.
Paros is the geometric centre of the Cycladic archipelago and a favorite tourist destination because of its many sandy beaches and lace-like coastline. However, it’s only by exploring well off the beaten track that you get a sense of its commanding location and special ambiance. To be on a path high on the flanks of the island’s central massif is like looking down from the ‘gods’ of an opera house to an elaborate stage set, a layered landscape of accentuated light and shade, form and colour.
On the north-west coast, a landscape of ravaged granite plunges to inaccessible shores, but the eye soars over the ocean to the island figures of Tinos and Mykonos, and an ancient sanctuary is orientated towards the sacred island of Delos. The eastern flanks of the central massif overlook a band of sea with the splendid mountains of Naxos filling the horizon. Outcrops of weathered granite (which served as handy lookouts and defensive positions), curvaceous bays, and coastal plains on the north coast appealed to Neolithic and Bronze Age settlers 3,000 and more years ago.
Inland are hidden valleys, many with isolated fort-like monasteries (an island specialty), and traditional villages with white-washed cubic houses and neo-classical buildings. Heading south, steep medieval paths, perfectly paved and preserved, traverse the hillsides leading to a sheltered, golden-sanded coastline, with views of island silhouettes in the open sea.
WALKING PLUS routes reveal the island’s rich cultural history (with moments of great prosperity), and the present-day blend of gentle beauty, impressive seascapes, farming life, and artistic tradition that dates back to when the island’s light-filled marble inspired the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece.
Travel to Tinos. You will be met at the port and taken to your hotel in Tinos town.
Follow in the steps of farmers and tradespeople along an ancient road that linked the island’s interior villages to the port, and of pilgrims on the route of the Sacred Way to the Temple of Poseidon. Pass remnants of 5th-C BC and medieval fortifications, rest at a Byzantine travelers’ ‘inn’, and visit a beautiful bay that was once a bustling harbor. Exciting new perspectives of island landscape high above Tinos town, a delightful shady village, and a steep, ribbon-of-green valley path down to the coast. Accommodation: hotel in Tinos town
A fine introduction to the small-scale charms of Tinos. Climb from a coast road with views of neighboring islands, above a narrow valley thick with silvered olives, glossy fruit trees, and dark cypress. Pass the ornate pigeon houses that are a Tinos specialty, and rest in the dappled shade of a monastery courtyard. In the dapper interior villages, with their steep, narrow alleys and flower-hung balconies, look out for the decorative extras of marble reliefs and patterned pebbling in the courtyards, water fountains, and buildings. Accommodation: taverna rooms, Falatadhos.
A granite tor, former stronghold of the Venetian occupiers, dominates the landscape as you wind and dip in and out of the secret Edens of deep-cut valleys, and rollover wide-viewed hills. This is a walkthrough island history, for on the surrounding foothills were some of the island’s earliest settlements. Among the scattering of villages are some that are little more than organic extensions of the country rock, others that are palettes of brightly-painted woodwork and flower-filled pots, dark angles and sun-sharp white. Water is often a companion – there are many water fountains en route, and there may be figs or mulberries to pick from overhanging branches. Accommodation: taverna rooms, Falatadhos.
A day of wonderful contrasts – between the severe beauty of a barren landscape to a luxuriant valley. Mainly downhill to the coast, through the Catholic heartland of the island. Clamber down a steep traditional path to the dinky village of Volax, among hills strewn with giant granite boulders. The route winds through the wind-sculpted rocks via a chapel with a perfect picnic spot, to a river valley thick with fruit trees and oleander. Reach the sea, where there’s a choice of wide, sandy bays. Accommodation: taverna rooms, Kolimbithra.
From high in the marble mountains, descend to a dream coastline at Panormos. Abandoned terraces, ruined windmills, and empty farm buildings are poignant relics of once-thriving wheat cultivation. The walk is no marathon but allows time for independent exploring around the coast at Panormos, and opportunities for swimming in hidden bays. The return to Pyrgos takes you to green ravines among the barren hills, where shocks of oleander grow, and an oasis of peace and shade at Kyria Xeni Monastery. Transfer to hotel in Tinos town. Travel to Paros.
A circular walk that takes you past a trio of windmills and over the hills to the monastery of Ag. Kyriaki nestling in a faraway valley. Up for some dramatic views of rock, sea and island, then over to a hidden well, and a small twin chapel with a large feasting area, and an oasis behind which water springs from tilting rocks. Descend to undulating farmland to join the sage-scented ‘Byzantine Way’, a well-restored, stone-paved traditional path. Accommodation, village rooms, Lefkes.
A wild and windy walk high above the rugged coast of the NW, starting from an ancient sanctuary commanding views over the ocean to Delos, and over the island to its NE shores. There are great contrasts en route, taking in giant wind turbines and Stone-Age settlements, a quarry that slices through layers of metamorphic rock, naturally eroded limestone gulleys, remote farmsteads, curvaceous bays and a coastal plain delineated by granite headlands. Accommodation, village rooms, Livadhia beach, Parikia.