For Greeks, August 15 is one of the most important holidays on the calendar, but it is an especially huge day in Tinos. It’s vacation time for most working Greeks, and a celebration of all the Marias, Marios, Panagiotis, Despoinas, and so on.
The day celebrates the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. On the island of Tinos, home to Our Lady of Tinos, also known as Panagia Evangelistria, it is a sacred and festive day that draws visitors from all over Greece.
August 15: The Story of Our Lady of Tinos
Many Greeks may be familiar with the concept of tamata (τἀματα). Worshippers essentially ask a saint or other holy figure for divine help. In exchange, they offer a sacrifice on their end, either materially or giving up something that is precious to them to show the extent of their devotion.
On Tinos, the miracles performed by the Virgin Mary through Our Lady of Tinos (Panagia) became so famous that worshippers descended on the church from all over the country to ask for help. It was common to see worshippers going up the red carpet from the port to Panagia on their knees, in exchange for divine help they received.
Panagia was built on the site where an excavated Holy Icon was retrieved in 1823. The icon was found after a local nun named Pelagia had visions and dreams of the Virgin Mary sharing her suffering and burial site with her.
The discovery took place during the Greek War of Independence, before the Cyclades, to which Tinos belong, had been liberated. Local Greeks took this as a sign that their fight was just and would be rewarded.
The site has been sacred for centuries. Before the advent of Christianity, it was home to the ancient temple of Dionysus. On August 15, the holiest day celebrating the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Tinos becomes a major pilgrimage center. People flock to the site from all over Greece to make wishes or leave their tamata.
Miracles on the Island
Visitors who walk through the church will notice silver, gold, and bronze icons representing the tamata people have made. Here are just some of the stories, represented by icons within the church.
One strange silver tama depicts a whale lodged in a ship. After a ship in a storm had a massive hole punctured in its side and started taking on water, a whale swam into the hole and got stuck. This stopped the water from flooding the ship and saved the sailors.
A blind man prayed for the return of his eyesight. His vision returned, and the first thing he saw upon opening his eyes was an orange tree. He made a silver replica of it and gave it to the church. Lastly, the icon of an infant represents a small baby who was found on one of the island’s beaches after being tossed from a ship lost at sea.
After visitors have lit a candle, made tamata, and paid their respects on August 15, they should stay on the island and discover the many beauties of Tinos.
The Best Beaches of Tinos
Many of Tinos’ major towns are located up on the hill, leaving the beaches themselves mostly pristine. Visitors who want a beach close to the main town (Chora) with full service and sunbeds will love Kionia and Agios Sostis.
Others looking for more secluded, quiet spots may want to venture further out from town. Panormos and Isternia beaches are picturesque, serene coves where sunbathers can enjoy calm waters and a relaxing swim.
Those looking for one of the most unique beaches in Greece should head to Kolymbithres. It is one of the few spots in the whole country where travelers are able to surf and enjoy the waves.
Art and Culture in Tinos’ Towns
Visitors may love nights in Chora for the vibrant food scene and nightlife. However, the best spots to visit are Tinos’ 45 villages around August 15.
One of the most famous such destinations is Volax, a town known for its local basketweaving and moon-like landscape. The craftspeople take pride in their handmade works, and sell them to locals and visitors alike.
Another spot worth a visit, as well as one of the biggest towns on the island, is Pyrgos. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the town’s economy soared thanks to its marble excavations. It’s no coincidence that two incredibly famous sculptors, Dimitrios Filippotis and Yiannoulis Chalepas, were both born here.
Today, visitors can check out the Museum of Tinian Artists located here. Also make sure to stop by the House-Museum of Yiannoulis Chalepas. Even travelers who simply walk through the streets will be able to view endless marble sculptures.
For some of the island’s best views, head to Triantaros. The town has “hanging” white houses built into the cliff. Close to the port and main town of Tinos, Triantaros is nicknamed “Aegean Balcony”.
Traditional Products of Tinos
As with most Greek islands and regions, Tinos has some local delicacies and dishes it is especially known for within the country. First and foremost, the famous local cheeses.
Kopanisti, a soft cheese with a pepper-like flavor, is featured in several dishes served on the island. The Tinian tyraki and graviera cheese are also local specialties, and often served alongside meat cold cuts like sausages or syglina.
Driving throughout Tinos, visitors will notice a lot of farmland and orchards. Local farmers grow olives, figs, and the island’s famous artichokes here.
Where to Stay in Tinos
For a luxurious stay with a great view and easy access to Tinos’ main town, check out Infinity View. Located just a short walk away from Our Lady of Tinos, the hotel is right on the coast and faces the beautiful Aegean Sea.
The rooms are modern, airy, and reflect the famous blue and white color scheme of the Cyclades.
Since the hotel is close to the port and the center of Chora, the location makes it easy to enjoy Tinos’ famous restaurants and nightlife without worrying about how to return to your room late at night.