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TINOS is a typical Cycladic island, with a twist or two.

Although sunbaked, year round, and surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches, like the rest of the Aegean islands, Tinos is not a one-town island, like most of the Cyclades. Its interior is dotted with dozens of whitewashed hamlets and about a thousand dovecotes, the fascinating legacy of almost 500 years of Venetian and western rule that ended in the early 18th century. This history of western European influence has created one of the least Orthodox societies in Greece, a country where 97% of the people declare to be Greek Orthodox. Tinos is "only" two thirds Orthodox and a full one third Catholic. There are Catholic churches and 3 Catholic convents on Tinos, which is the center of the Catholic faith in Greece. Interestingly, Tinos, with its large Catholic minority, is, at the same time, one of the two religious hubs of the country, along with Patmos, the island where Saint John wrote the Book of the Apocalypse, a few nautical miles to the northeast from here. The history of the island changed forever in 1823, when the locals dug and found an early Christian icon of the Virgin Mary after Pelagia, a nun at the convent of Kechrovouni, claimed to have dreamt of the Holy Mother telling her where to look for her icon and ordering her to build a church over the site. The church was built, the icon was attributed with healing powers, and the Virgin Mary of Tinos, as Greeks call it, became the site of a year-round pilgrimage, and, in the national consciousness, the holiest place in Greece. This is one reason to come to Tinos. The other is the landscape and the pace of life here.

The dozens of villages that dominate the interior of the island feature traditional architecture, shaded squares, narrow picturesque streets, whitewashed Cycladic houses, and great views of the Aegean. The best of the them, Pyrgos, about 20 km northwest of Tinos Town, is a delight that you must not miss. The villages around Xomvourgo, a rock standing 710 meters (about 2,100 feet) tall, a few kilometers north of Tinos Town, are another sightseeing must. Xomvourgo was the center of the island's Venetian and European rule. The western lords who descended here after 1204 chose this location to build their capital (the "burgh"), because it offered maximum security against the roaming pirates of the Aegean. The locals called the area around the Burgh, "exo apo to burgh" (i.e. outside of the burgh), or, after years of use, Exomvourgo. Tinos is a quiet island, with beautiful beaches, extremely nice interior, interesting museums and artistic heritage, and good local cuisine. Because, as far as glamour and nightlife, it pales in comparison to neighboring islands like Mykonos, Santorini, and Ios, prices have remained reasonable and affordable. That is, until August 15 comes around, and the great Orthodox celebration of the Assumption. This is when Tinos becomes a zoo, with thousands of pilgrims descending upon the island, many of them crawling, on all fours, all the way from the harbor up the hill to the church of the Virgin Mary, with vendors' carts lining the streets to sell all kinds of trinkets, and a lot of human pain and suffering on display, from all those who come here seeking relief and healing.

If you don't come here for religious reasons, try to stay away from Tinos Town from the 14th to the 16th of August, except maybe for a brief walk around to experience a unique sight. At all other times, Tinos is a delight.

 

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