Andros & Tinos walking holidays

The Cyladian islands of Andros and Tinos may not be so well known as others in the Aegean group, but for walkers they’re difficult to forget. Among the greenest of the islands, they share a wild landscape, many charming traditional villages, and an invitingly peaceful atmosphere.
These islands are easy to get to, lovely to walk around, and next to impossible to leave.

Walking on Andros

Andros is one of the most advanced of the Cyclades in terms of hiking routes, with around 25 carefully marked trails spanning around 300km. For centuries these trails were how villages would communicate and trade with each other; today they are near paradise for walkers. The hills and valleys of Andros aren’t just green, they’re deeply green.

You’ll pass groves of cypress, olive and fig trees, blackberry hedges and wild acorn trees, and dense thickets of vegetation where badgers, hares, partridges and weasels tread. A centuries-old seafaring tradition that resulted in great wealth is reflected in the mansions and marbled streets of the Hora (main community), a handsome coastal town. The architecture is a lively mix of Ottoman, Byzantine and Venetian styles.
Walking on Andros will take you to dreamy secluded beaches such as at Korthi and Achla, the Sariza spring at Apoikia where the waters flow from the head of a stone lion; along trails lined with vertical slabs of slate in the traditional manner; over rustic stone bridges and past old watermills in lush river valleys and deserted monasteries. You might pause to visit the Goulandris Museum of Contemporary Art that features works by a host of renowned Greek artists, a Prehistoric settlement, or to sample the goodies in a patisserie – tradtional ‘spoon’ sweets, fruits and nuts preserved in sugar syrup, and deliciously strong Greek coffee.

Walking on Tinos

The third largest Cycladian island, Tinos spans almost 200sq km across a rollercoaster-y interior composed of mountains and valleys. Many of the picturesque towns and villages with cobbled streets and windmills that dot the landscape are almost deserted, so that tourism here not only brings much needed income but also helps preserve traditional ways of life.

For Greeks, it is an island of pilgrimage centred on the Our Lady of Tinos shrine. Some of the country’s finest painters and sculptors originated from here, with the marble-work of Pyrghos especially prestigious. There are plenty of beautful beaches, including Voula and Kavalorko, for a daily swim and picnc. The village of Volax meanwhile has a lunar-like appearance, scattered with large round boulders that the more energetic can climb up.

Tinos Pigeon Houses

There are pigeon houses, or dovecotes, on many Cycladian islands, but on Tinos their construction has been raised to an artform. Pigeons have been kept for centuries here, for food, for their droppings which are used as fertiliser and for, er, target practice. Thankfully that practice is now banned and about the only place on the island that you can enjoy a plate of baked pigeon is Pyrghos. The pigeon houses, however, are just as lavish as they were in Venetian times, and in fact are often more elaborate than your average mansion. One walking route takes you past many of the more decorative pigeon houses (Tarampados is particularly famous for its medieval dovecotes), where you get the distinct impression that building them was often a case of one-upmanship.
Annie Antonatou from our Greece walking specialist Mystic Blue:
“Tinos boasts more than 1200 pigeon houses, around 600 of which can be admired today by the visitor. They appeared during the Venetian occupation (1207-1715). Pigeons were used for meat and an excellent high-nitrogen fertilizer, which was one of the most important export products of Tinos for many years. They were also used as messengers. The pigeon was a delicacy for the Venetians and they wouldn’t allow the locals to savour them. The pigeon house was a symbol of noble origin and economic power. So when they left, it is said that local people started building their own as it was prestigious, not only profitable. Pigeon houses had two floors. At the ground floor you would find the warehouse and at the upper the pigeons. Slate was the main building material and the Tinian craftsmen used squares, triangles, circles, diamonds, suns and flowers in order to decorate the sides and make them unique. You will have the chance to see various pigeon houses, as well as old watermills, terraces, stone walls, windmills, countless churches, fountains, picturesque villages, giant rocks with strange shapes, as you walk with us through cobblestone paths”
Travel Team
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Walking holidays on Andros and Tinos are usually small group tours, led by local guides, lasting between eight and 10 days. Trips usually begin on Andros, which is two hours by ferry from the Athens port of Rafina, although fast ferries also run that take nearer to an hour. They then continue to Tinos, between an hour and a half and two hours away, depending on the ferry service, from Andros.

You’ll stay in small, family run guesthouses on each island, gorge on fresh seafood in waterside tavernas, and walk up to around 16km (seven hours) each day, with one rest day. These are centre-based trips, with different start and finish points for every walk (transfers to and from trailheads provided). Maximum ascents are around 500m, and the terrain will not be challenging for regular walkers with decent fitness. Trips do not generally run in August, the hottest month of the year in the Greek Islands, when you’ll be far happier on the coast rather than hiking mountain trails.
“This is an excellent walking tour. The guides are welcoming, know the islands and very friendly. The accommodations are all comfortable, with great breakfasts. Walking the beautiful trails and swimming in the turquoise sea with wonderful fellow travelers was a fantastic experience. There is so much to see in these beautiful islands that I feel sure I will be back to see other islands by booking walking tours.” – Russell Parkin
“Go in May- warm enough to swim, not too hot for walking. Feeling of places getting geared up for the summer but not yet busy…Wonderful, exceeded my expectations. The local guides were superb, every day was well planned and varied, we did a huge amount in one week, but the pace was relaxed with time to appreciate everything.” – Carys Evans
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Luc.T] [Andros – bay of Korthi: G Da] [Tinos pigeon house: grassrootsgroundswell] [Andros – Vitali beach: Theanatomica]