Tilos

Sustainable, Wild and Free!

The little island of Tilos, recognized for its innovative approach to sustainable tourism, is ideal for people seeking pristine natural beauty.

Between Kos and Rhodes in the Dodecanese, the little island of Tilos has 500 permanent residents. According to mythology, Tilos, the son of Alia, Helios’ sister, gave the place its name. According to legend, Tilos visited this island to gather herbs to treat Alia when she grew ill. He constructed a temple here for the god Apollo when she had recovered.

There are three settlements on Tilos: Megalo Horio, Livadia, and Eristos and Aghios Antonios. The capital is Megalo Horio. There are a lot of places of historical and spiritual interest, such as the Panagia Politissa chapel, which was built in 1879 and is only 2.5 kilometers from the port, and the abandoned town of Gera, where people from Mikro Horio maintained temporary habitations while farming in the summer fields up until WWII.

Tilos has been attempting to establish itself as a leader in ecotourism during the past ten years. By giving its citizens electricity derived solely from renewable resources, it became renowned as the first “green” island in the Mediterranean. A single wind turbine and a small photovoltaic park can be found on the island, both of which are situated in a remote area on Akri Punta Cape. Tilos also made history by being the first island in the world to do away with landfills in favor of the “Just Go Zero Tilos” comprehensive waste management program. Tilos is a desirable summer destination and a shining example of sustainable tourism thanks to its more environmentally friendly attitude, range of activities including hiking and birdwatching, and stunning beaches.

MEGALO HORIO

Tilos is full of surprises, but its main hamlet may be the most endearing. It has Byzantine chapels, abandoned settlements, and a network of ancient stone walls. Birds can be heard singing in the branches of the fragrant lemon and fig trees that provide shade for charming courtyards. The narrow passageways in the village are frequently only big enough for two people to travel through. The streets are lined with whitewashed buildings, colored doors, and staircases surrounded by bougainvilleas, and occasionally you can spot a wild goat right in the middle of the village. On Tilos, the past is present; a portion of the settlement’s old wall, which dates to the first half of the 4th century BC, is still visible.

Under the medieval fortress of Messaria, one of the island’s seven castles, Megalo Horio is constructed amphitheatrically on the western slope of Aghios Stefanos mountain. The ancient temple of Zeus Polieus and Athena Polias originally stood inside the castle walls; currently, this location is home to the Church of the Taxiarchis. It should take around 30 minutes to walk from the trail, which passes through the historic settlement from the Classical and Hellenistic eras, to the castle. “Compared to modern homes, the residences in the Doric town of the fourth century BC were constructed higher up on the slopes. The majority of them were rectangular in design, and they were constructed over sizable rainwater collection tanks, according to architect Seva Vasilara, who has rebuilt over 25 traditional homes in Tilos.

The center of the village is a lovely cobblestone plaza with the Church of the Archangel Michael and the Old Town Hall nearby, but as dusk falls, it might be preferable to stroll to the Church of the Panagia to take in the views of Eristos Beach.

MIKRO HORIO

In 1957, time stood still in Mikro Horio. The medieval settlement’s final resident left at that time, and it hasn’t been touched since. After World War II, its 700-person population was driven to Livadia by poverty and drought. Because wood was in short supply, they took pieces of the roofing and window frames with them as they fled. They all worked as farmers, animal breeders, or both, and many of them were employed in Megalo Horio locals’ productive fields.

They lived in mostly one-room homes in Mikro Horio because they primarily went there to sleep. The rebuilt Timia Zoni chapel, with its unique fresco of Saint Christopher the Cynocephalus (“Dog-headed”), is one of the island’s 125 such buildings and is located in the deserted settlement. When it gets dark, the Mikro Horio Bar’s customers congregate for a calm drink, bringing life back to the settlement, if only for the evening. It gives the impression that you are on a movie set because of the dim lighting and serene surroundings.

FOOTPATHS

Tilos has a vast network of trails that crisscross the entire island, some of which are signed. More than 100 bird species, 46 of which are endangered, find the island’s twelve hills to be the ideal breeding grounds thanks to the abundance of wild orchids, brushwood, and various herbs. Fortunately, hunting has been prohibited since that year. You may find a map of all the hiking trails on the island at the “Ligo apo ola” shop on the village’s main plaza in Livadia. It costs €5 and includes helpful notes on the different natural features, historic, and cultural landmarks you’ll pass along the way, as well as information on the degree of difficulty of each trek. You will need to set out early in the morning, pack a hat and drink, as Tilos lacks the tall vegetation needed to provide much shade.

From Livadia, we walked for almost an hour to the deserted farming settlement of Geras. We came into 20 German hikers en route to Despotis Nero Beach at the white Chapel of Aghios Ioannis. Further up, Tilos native and personal trainer Zafiris Economou was racing down the mountain. He says, “I adore running on the slope’s edge with views of the water and the shoreline. He built the “Street Workout” outdoor gym on Livadia Beach, which attracts locals and guests and serves as a training facility for teams of foreign professional sportsmen.

RECYCLING FOR EVERYONE

The company Polygreen is putting into action the Just Go Zero Tilos project, a comprehensive cyclical waste management program, in collaboration with the Municipality of Tilos and with approval from the Administrative Region of the Southern Aegean. The total reuse and recycling of all garbage is its aim. At the information desk at Livadia Square, you may find out more and get a fabric bag to use when shopping during your visit. As is already standard practice in all local companies, residences, and governmental buildings on the island, make sure to segregate your trash and put it in the proper bag.

AGIOS ANTONIOS

You may find a fully functional dairy built in a shipping container near the fishing community of Aghios Antonios, in the northern portion of the island. Goat’s milk is used by the Irinna dairy to create cheeses like thalassotyri, a fresh cheese submerged in seawater for 24 hours, and other goods. A 655–657 B.C. cemetery with petrified remains still discernible under the water is located along the shore. For the past 35 years, Eleni Kamma has operated the “To Delfini” taverna on the outskirts of the settlement, providing marine specialties and home-cooked meals.

She produces her own fava, fries fish that was caught that day, pickles capers, and cooks the renowned Tilos child goat in parchment paper. After supper, stop by the nearby cafe “O Gialos” for something sweet and indulge in superb Greek coffee and homemade treats like the custard-heavy galaktoboureko. Since there is lots of shade provided by the trees, you can visit this area throughout the day as well.

AGIOS PANTELEIMONAS

The Monastery of Aghios Panteleimonas was constructed in 1470 by the monk Jonas on a barren slope of Kriallos Hill in the northwest region of Tilos. It was later rebuilt in 1703. Its courtyard is paved with a gorgeous black and white pebble mosaic and is bordered by tall cypress and old plane trees. The building complex resembles a miniature fortification with its stone tower, low doorways, and winding streets. The monastery was frequently assaulted by pirates, as evidenced by the bullet holes in the outer metal-plated door. Because it was self-sufficient and had a water mill, an olive mill, and a sheep enclosure, it was a desirable target.

While the Holy Trinity fresco on the internal arch and the Christ Pantocrator in the dome date from 1776, respectively, the wooden iconostasis was made in 1714. At 270 meters above sea level, it provides views of Kos and Nisyros. The mist that gathers around Nisyros as the sun sets gives the impression that the island is floating in midair. Driving in the area around the monastery requires caution because the road winds and bends and there have been landslides in the past.

DWARF ELEPHANTS

The region that is presently covered with Aegean islands was once a single continent known as Aegeida two million years ago. Herds of animals could travel the land-bridge between Europe and Asia before sea levels rose and formed the island archipelago we know today. The 15,000 bones from 100 dwarf elephants, the last of their type in Europe, were found in the Cave of Harkadio on the island of Tilos in 1971. These 170 centimeter-tall creatures first appeared about 45,000 years ago; they went extinct approximately 2000 BC. According to experts, they used a considerably shallower water to swim to the island.

Research reveals that the elephants coexisted with people but that the deer had vanished before the elephants arrived based on the bones of deer, elephants, and turtles discovered in the cave. You may view the preserved bones of these dwarf elephants in the Paleontological Museum next to Megalo Horio. In the summer of 2023, the island’s Archaeological Museum is anticipated to open. It will contain artifacts, such as golden jewelry, and samples of ancient inscriptions from the Classical and Hellenistic periods.

BATHING WITH PEACOCKS

Plaka is a little beach with clear seas and fine stones mixed with sand that located four kilometers northwest of the fishing village of Aghios Antonios and beyond the Chapel of Kamariani. It is shaded by a big tamarisk tree. Across the lake, Turkey can be seen, and this area is covered in a lot of eucalyptus, cedar, and pine trees. It’s the perfect place for summer picnics and reading in the shade to see wild peacocks roaming around. Once they get used to you, the peacocks might even follow you to the water’s edge. Additionally, it’s a great location to watch the sunset, and Plaka is calm and uncrowded even in August.

ENJOYABLE DIPS

There are 19 beaches on Tilos, and the majority are reachable on foot or by boat. Few are serviced, however some parts near Livadia provide sunbathing areas. Impressive Eristos is a sandy beach with a few stones at the end of Megalo Horio’s verdant valley. Here is a stop for the $3 municipal electric bus that departs from Livadia. The campers that congregate each summer are provided shade by cedar and tamarisk trees. Take the narrow route on the eastern side that leads to a little bay to avoid the crowds. Because of the slick, algae-covered sandstone slabs in the shallows, you should use caution when swimming. More azure waters can be found at Lethra, which is on the other side of the island.

The long pebble beach was reached after about 30 minutes of walking along the cobblestone route from Mikro Horio, passing by wild pear, almond, and terebinth trees (the last of which were once used for making perfumes and medicines). We passed Kokkini Beach, which was tucked away in a tiny south-facing bay, just before Lethra. The Greek word “kokkini” means “red,” and the beach’s distinctive reddish hue comes from the iron in the sand. The sea surrounding the islet of Prasouda, whose jagged rocks serve as seagull perches, may have the island’s best waters.

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