A small “smudge” on the map, somewhere between Nisyros, Chalki and Symi; a place that remains still untouched by the rapid expansion of the tourist sector in Greece and the Mediterranean; a place with a huge history that goes back to the Neolithic times: Tilos, a virgin and wild place that at the same time is hospitable and welcoming to visitors, is one of the last “unexplored” islands of the Aegean sea.
There are boats from Piraeus to Tilos 2-3 times a week, arriving at the beautiful, quiet Livadia after a 14-hour trip, while there’s also the option of flying to Kos and then taking the boat across that only takes about 1 hour. Livadia is probably the most convenient place to stay on the island, since there you have access to all facilities and public services.
There are few places in Greece that maintain the intoxicating charm of a remote heaven on earth, so small that, if you’re in the mood and physically up to it, you can explore its every corner, going up steep hills on the island’s few trails. You can take in the ancient air of the island, swim in almost every remote beach, feel the energy of the medieval landscape, staring at Kastro ton Ipoton (Knights’ Castle) up to the deserted Mikro Horio and from there to the Museum of Dwarf Elephants, a unique attraction, not just for Greece but on a European level.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Tilos is one of the few places on earth where you can see how everyday life was thousands of years ago, and have ancient myths come to life, as if they were real. A few days on this tiny South Aegean island are enough for an unforgettable experience of this remote place that’s almost on a parallel universe.
What to see
Walking on the island’s lovely trails
Tilos is a small island where, due to its unique, bumpy terrain, it’s useful to have your own vehicle, for easy transportation, unless you plan to spend most of your trip in Livadia. It’s also good to know that there aren’t many rental cars on the island, so it’s best to book in advance.
Hiking afficionados however, can disregard the above and just let themselves get carried away by the beautiful landscape of mountainous Tilos, on wild trails with breath taking views, that connect the port and the island’s north part, as well as some of the best, unspoiled beaches, including the gorgeous Limenari and Agios Petros, that are only accessible on foot. 54km in total –though not all of them marked– of incredible trails waiting for you to explore them, promising a once-in-a-lifetime experience in one of the most unspoiled parts of the Aegean. Stop at the deserted village Gera to admire the amazing view of the open sea, and if you’re up to it, on the return, go down to the small, extremely beautiful beach of Agios Zaharios.
Another incredible path will take you to the medieval Kastro ton Ipoton (Knights’ Castle) one of the local landmarks. The view from there is stunning, but make sure to hike there in the afternoon, when the sun is not too hot. And no matter what time you go, make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen and bring water with you.
Museum of Dwarf Elephants
Tens thousands of years ago, when the Earth’s morphology was quite different from today, the last European elephants, as they were named by palaeontologists, took advantage of a sudden withdrawal of the sea and of the fact that the mainland was closer to the islands, to get to the Dodecanese. Many of them reached Tilos, and settled in the Harkadio cave, in Mesaria, creating a community 50.000 years ago. In 1971, the Palaeontology and Geology professor Nikolaos Simeonidis and his team discovered a number of fossils inside the cave, and you can seem them on display at the Museum of Dwarf Elephants (also known as the Palaeontological Museum) that is open daily, except Mondays, between 9am and 8pm.
Elephant skeletons, of around 1.40m height, as well as the skeleton of a baby elephant are among the interesting exhibits of the museum. The municipality aims for the museum to be associated with the Harkadio cave, which ideally will be open to the public soon.
A very very old settlement in the heart of Tilos keeps the memory of the past alive. The village of Mikro Horio was a vibrant settlement whose population started to gradually decline in numbers in the 1940s, until it was abandoned completely in the ‘50s. Nowadays, you’ll only see decrepit houses and ruins of a different world that is born again every night at 11, when the only building in the village still in operation opens its doors to the public: a lovely bar with an amazing view that stays open till early in the morning and is the perfect spot to watch the sunrise.
The monastery of Agios Panteleimonas
This monastery – hallmark of the island’s religious history is built on the steep slopes of Tilos and is a great attraction for brave, experienced hikers who manage to climb there. The building dates back to the 14th century, while inside you’ll see some marvellous frescoes and priceless works of arts, as well as the imposing, tall dome. Each summer, on July 26 & 27, one of the largest festivals on the island take place at the monastery, on the day of the celebration of Agios Panteleimonas.
Where to go swimming
The best-known beach on Tilos, and definitely the most easily accessible on an island where reaching a beach can prove tricky. Right next to the port, Livadia is a pebbled beach with crystal clear waters, and sunbeds and umbrellas. And if you don’t want to pay for an umbrella or sunbed, there are also many trees on the beach offering shade. Very close to the beach you’ll find shops and cafés as well as some of the best restaurants in Tilos.
A beloved beach on the west edge of the island, with fine soft sand. Eristos is surrounded by impressive rocks and is divided in two parts, one managed, with sunbeds and umbrellas, and one completely free where you can do as you wish. It’s a large, wide beach and is one of the more diverse parts of the island, as there’s a place here for everyone: families with small children under large umbrellas, large groups drinking beer and playing music on their guitars staying on the beach till late at night, as well as nudists at the edge. Beware of the very cold water in Eristos, since two cold springs come out in the sea.
The beach of Agios Antonios, one of the prettiest seaside villages on the island, will bring the long lazy summers of childhood to mind. It’s pebbled and has lovely bright blue waters, while the impressive palm trees offer nice shade even during the hottest hours. There are cafés and restaurants nearby, overlooking the small bay with the lovely waters.
If you’ve heard of the bay with the proud wild peacocks then you’ve heard of Plaka, the small beach about 4km from Agios Antonios. It has small pebbles, heavenly waters, and a few trees providing shade, creating an exotic setting. Plaka is particularly popular with campers who set their tents here.
Start from the port, in Livadia, and head to Lethra on a narrow, impressive path with an incredible view of the Aegean sea. After about 40min you’ll reach a truly stunning beach on the east part of Tilos. The perfect place for remote dives in turquoise waters.
The beautiful beach of Vlihada is near Livadia and has crystal clear waters providing more peace and quiet than Livadia beach. You’ll need to walk on a mountainous, relatively bumpy path and it’s not a great route if you’re afraid of heights and steep downhill descents, however, there’s also the option of the boat, that leaves the port daily, taking you to the less accessible beaches of Tilos.
Tholo, Skafi and Agios Stefanos
From the beautiful beaches of Tilos that you can only reach by boat, we recommend Tholo, Agios Stefanos and Skafi. Boats take you there from Livadia, but make sure you’ve brought provision as there’s no shade or any facilities to get any food or water.
Where to go for food and drinks
Right above the beach in Livadia, you’ll find the traditional restaurant “Kritikos” that has large, filling servings of well-made casserole dishes, as well as fresh fish and seafood. Try the amazing shrimp saganaki, the refreshing avocado salad, as well as the lovely fried cheese served with honey. The view from “Kritikos” is amazing and, if you’ve already eaten, you can enjoy the view with a drink.
Another popular restaurant in Livadia, “Mediterranean Delights” is located very close to the sea and opens early in the morning offering a wide range of breakfast choices and continues with a good variety of dishes throughout the day, with options ranging from seafood to delicious well-grilled souvlaki. All the ingredients are sourced from local producers, and the fruit comes straight from their own private orchard.
Leaving busy Livadia, we head to the island’s capital, the scenic and beautiful Megalo Horio, in the mountains. There, an old restaurant with a large balcony, surrounded by verdant fields, serves the most authentic version of the most traditional dishes on the island. If there’s a dish you must absolutely try then it is the goat stuffed with rice and liver, cooked in the wood burning oven, one of the most typical local dishes. This dish alone is worth visiting “Kastro” for.
Tilos, in its entirety, is undoubtedly an alternative island, unspoiled and uncompromised, a place still far away from the heavy tourist development. You’ll feel the heart of this alternative place beat at “Ino”, the lovely bar in Livadia, a stone’s throw from the sea. The atmosphere here is so laidback that it will bring memories of summers in the ‘90s to mind. You’ll put your phones away and have a drink enjoying the company of your friends, listening to rock music.
The bar in Mikro Horio opens daily at 23.00, switching on its yellow lights that scatter a mystic gleam on the empty houses around it.
The bar in Mikro Horio
It has no name, but it is, without doubt, one of the most recognizable spots on the island. In the abandoned Mikro Horio village, there is wonderful bar, hidden among the deserted houses. It’s a lovely refuge with a view of an otherworldly, truly unique place in the Dodecanese. The bar opens daily at 23:00, switching on its yellow lights that scatter a mystic gleam on the empty houses around it. If you don’t have a car, you can get to the bar easily on a bus provided by the bar, that makes regular trips until 5 in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays.
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