Escape to the beautiful island of Tilos (Greece's best kept secret)
Sure Santorini gets all the attention but there's so much more to discover further afield and away from busy tourist life at the more famous Greek islands. Introducing, Tilos, Greece’s hidden gem.
This small island has many highlights. Bring walking shoes for the wild terrain and plenty of sunscreen for the beautiful clear days. The season begins slowly in May and continues until early October. Accommodation is easy to find, and simple rooms can be found from 35 Euros upwards. (The only very busy time is during the Festival season in late July, when even the ferries can be packed)
Livadia (the meadows) where the ferries arrive, makes the perfect base. Drink a frappe in the square and eat the home-made pastries, then shop for the delicious thyme honey.
There is a bank and ATM, but soon the crystal blue waters of the long pebble beach will lure you for your first swim.
Tavernas along the small promenade cook delicious Greek food at reasonable prices. Sun beds are usually free if you eat lunch.
Hunt out the café selling crepes and waffles covered with chocolate, or the bar providing cocktails and club sandwiches.
In the evenings revisit the square and watch the world come and go. Many families volta (take a stroll) down to the harbour, and meet and have a drink with friends, young and old.
Look carefully for little tavernas hidden away along side streets or above eye level. Unlike the large tourist islands they will not be hustling for your custom, but they are all good and not expensive, discover your own favourite.
A day of sightseeing. Catch the local bus or hire a vehicle and head out of the village on the winding ‘main’ road, up over the hills. You may catch a glimpse of the deserted village to your left as you travel. Go further on the road cut through pumice hills, watching out for the goats that skitter across the tarmac, and you will see Megalo Horio ( Large village) with the beautiful traditional white houses ascending the hillside. Explore the tiny steep footpaths that reveal old Greek architecture at its best. Tiny courtyard gardens laden with flowering trees and old Feta tins sprouting lilies and geraniums, interesting shuttered windows, and doorways. A photographer’s dream.
Discover the black and white pebbled courtyard outside the largest church, and find your way to the café which overlooks it. On the small terrace with a glass of ouzo and a plate of mezes are views of the valley and bay, and above you, the crusader castle. The path up to this medieval landmark is steep and crumbly, but well worth the effort.
Trip to the monastery. On Sundays a bus will take you there, wait an hour then make the return trip. The ride is death deifying, it hugs the hillside and winds up and up to one of the highest points of the island. If your eyes are open you can see the neighbouring island’s volcano on Nisyros ( Worth a visit if your holiday plans allow as you can walk on the smoking caldera)
At the monastery enjoy the views, the tranquillity of ancient terraces full of herbs, huge trees and taste the natural spring water. Visit the ornate church with lovely frescos, and traditional black and white pebble floors.
If you are feeling energetic why not walk back some of the way? There is pilgrim’s path above the road which leads you to the fishing port of Agis Andonis. Eat fresh caught fish here, swim from the tiny beach and stay to watch the sunset.
Beaches. The largest beach is a Eristos, again well served by the bus. It provides excellent swimming and a wide sandy beach. There are a few sunbeds outside the hotel to the right. (They even have pool and cook moussaka to die for)
Look for the charming cantina on the beach for drinks and snacks.
In high season the shade of the trees is often to be shared with a row of tents, but there is room for all. Facilities include a toilet block and showers.
For skinny dipping walk to the far end of the beach to your left.
There are also a couple of tavernas who grow their own produce a short stroll from the beach, and a beach bar too.
Walk to Gera. If this is your thing you will already have bought the map, but for lesser mortals this is the place to get away from it all. You do need to take water with you, much of the island is totally deserted, and mobile signals do not reach all parts!
Walk around the bay at Livadia and follow the sea front until you reach another tiny harbour, full of old wooden rowing and fishing boats. Call in for a drink at the Faros (lighthouse) hotel, (and return for lunch under the bougainvillea -covered terrace another day.) Now you need to take the higher path above the building, it climbs steeply, pass the nursery school and villas and continue to the small church. Here are great views of Livadia and opposite Goat Island.
If you are warmed up head up over the hillside path and along the most spectacular high cliff edge. Follow the route as far as a rock face, then zigzag up the stony path for more of the same. As you descend you can take the path to the right and return to the village by that route. Otherwise, turn left and pass deserted stone houses further around the coast for 2.5k until you reach Gera. The only inhabitants now are the goats, lizards and butterflies. The circle of stones was used to thresh corn, and until the 1950’s people used to keep a house here to use at harvest time. The whole family would pick grapes and fruit, you can see the fertile terraces right down to the water’s edge. The buildings are unsafe, and the streets overgrown, so take care if you venture down. Ancient wells and water storage pits are always a hazard off the beaten track, so watch your step.
Return by the same route, ( or make the circuit as previously mentioned) The whole walk will take about 3 to 4 hours, depending how many photo opportunities you stop for.
After all the exercise, you'll want to spend at least a few days relaxing by the gorgeous clear water. Read, sleep (or stitch?) with nothing to think about apart from choosing which taverna for lunch...
Nightlife. In the high season there is a nightclub but it won’t disturb your romantic meals by the sea. Take the free bus at midnight to Micro Horio (yes you guessed it – small village)
By day this deserted village that you saw from the main road, is mainly full of goats, but at night…. The most enchanting sight, the streets are dotted with lights and a bar with small dance floor comes to life. Busses run every half hour almost until the dawn breaks. Even if this is not really your scene, go for the unique experience, and have a drink under the spectacular stars, unimpeded by light pollution.
And if you do spend the night dancing in the mountains, a sunrise swim makes a rather perfect ending...