If it's a clear day, one of your first sights of Tinos from the ferry will be the odd mountain with a bare summit that looks bizarrely like a twisted fist. This is Exobourgo, a mountain eminence crowned by the remains of a Venetian kastro (castle) about 15km (9 miles) outside of Hora. Sheer rock walls surround the fortress on three sides; the only path to the summit starts behind a Catholic church at the base of the rock, on the road between Mesi and Koumaros. As you make the 15-minute ascent, you'll pass several lines of fortification -- the entire hill is riddled with walls and hollowed with chambers. As you might expect, the view over the Cyclades is superb from the summit (565m/1,854 ft.). The fortress itself has long been in ruins -- and was never as imposing as, for example, the massive Venetian fortress at Nafplion in the Peloponnese. The Turks defeated the Venetians here in 1714 and drove them from the island.
The village of Kambos is not far from Exobourgo; with a car, nothing in Tinos is very far from anything else. In 2011, the Costas Tsoclis Museum (tel. 22830/51-009; firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon-Sun 9am-1pm and sometimes 6-9pm; entrance free at present, but that may change) opened here. The museum -- more gallery than museum -- showcases the work of the 20th-century Greek artist who was born in Athens, but had a home on Tinos. The museum occupies the former village school house, which had been abandoned when the village's population plummeted. Just outside the museum, you'll see Tsoclis's metal sculpture showing the long, writhing scaly tail of the dragon slain by St. George. Inside, some 45 of Tsoclis's works are on display; the most memorable is perhaps the fiery display Prometheus Imprudent, which typifies Tsoclis use of what he called "living painting"; the combination of painting and video projection which he helped to popularize.
A bus from Hora several times a day to the nearby Convent of Kechrovouniou (also known as the Monastery of Kurias Angellon/Our Lady of the Angels), one of the largest in Greece -- almost a town in its own right. It dates from the 10th century and was the home of Pelagia, the nun whose vision revealed the location of the island's famed icon; you can visit her cell and see a small museum of 18th- and 19th-century icons. The convent is usually closed from 1 to 4pm; if you arrive when the convent is closed, you can stroll outside the walls and visit the small deer park and the nearby chapel, with its impressive display of the skulls of deceased nuns and monks. If you have more time to spend, take in the hamlets of Dio Horia, Arnados, and Triandaros, all on the slopes topped by the convent; Arnados has a number of stegasti, tunnel-like streets formed by the overhanging second-floor rooms of village houses; Dio Hora has a wonderful village fountain, and Triandaros has several restaurants and nice side streets. Don't be surprised if you hear German spoken here: many Germans have bought homes in this area.
Loutra is another especially attractive village with many stegasti; building houses with their second stories protruding over the street below was a clever way to have as much house as possible on a small amount of land. An imposing 17th-century Jesuit monastery contains a small museum of village life; implements for making olive oil and wine are on display alongside old manuscripts and maps. It's usually open mid-June to mid-September from about 10:30am to 3:30pm (no phone). If the door is locked, ring the cow bell at the entrance and hope for the door to open. From mid-July until the beginning of September, the Ursuline School is open for a fabulous tour that depicts the students' lives and studies, until the school closed in the 1950s. Admission is free at the museum and for the convent tour. Both places are usually closed during siesta time (3-5pm).
The Museum of Traditional Pottery (admission 2€; open Apr 1-Oct 1, 10am-4pm; no phone or website at present), opened in 2009 in Aetofolia, one of the smallest and most charming Tinian villages. There are labels throughout in Greek and English and museum guide Lila Tsigkriki speaks excellent English. The museum showcases pottery made -- or found -- not only on Tinos, but on the neighboring island of Sifnos, as well as other Cyclades. The displays are delightful as is the traditional 19th-century island house which is now the museum, with its kitchen filled with locally made pottery. Don't miss the little pottery barbecue, called a "foufou," from the sound made when cooks blow on the coals.
After touring the museum's well-stocked kitchen, you may be thinking of food, so head for the village of Volax, where tall trees shade the excellent family-run Taverna Volax (tel. 22830/41-021), one of the very best places on Tinos to eat, relax, and enjoy the passing scene. Don't miss the local loukanika (sausages), best accompanied with some Tinian wine. Volax is in a valley known for a bizarre lunar landscape of rotund granite boulders. On the theory of "if you have lemons, make lemonade," the villagers constructed a substantial stone amphitheater for theatrical productions; a schedule of summer performances is usually posted both in Volas and in Hora. Volax is also known for its local basket weavers, whose baskets are remarkably durable and attractive; you'll see signs pointing to their workshops. Be sure to visit the town spring, down a short flight of steps at the bottom of the village. Channels direct the water to the fields, and the basket weavers' reeds soak in multiple stone basins. From Volas, you may want to head on to Koumaros, a beautiful village on the road between Volax and Mesi, both of which have many of the arched stegasti passageways.
Pirgos, at the western end of the island, is one of Tinos's most beautiful villages, with an enchanting small plateia with enormous plane trees, a marble fountain, several cafes, and two tavernas, usually open for lunch and dinner in summer, less regularly off-season. Pirgos gets lots of visitors and, alas, the prices in the cafes and restaurants are high, the quality is mixed, at best, and the service is slow and often grumpy. Renowned for its school of fine arts, Pirgos is a center for marble sculpting, and many of the finest sculptors of Greece have trained here. In 2008, the superb Museum of Marble Crafts opened just outside Pirgos. On a terrace leading to the museum, huge marble blocks and quarry equipment recreate a Tinian marble quarry. Inside, the museum takes visitors into the lives of the sculptors and artisans of Tinos, with the help of photos and videos. Displays include examples of the more than 100 kinds of Greek marble, fanlight windows, doorway ornaments, and grave monuments done by Tinian artists -- and a good selection of the tools used to make them. The museum has a cafe (great coffee, fresh orange juice, and, if you're not driving, fiery tsiporo liqueur and tasty mezedes) and an excellent shop, with the cheapest, most endearing and portable souvenir I have seen: a small white eraser, decorated with a traditional Tinian carved braid pattern (1€). The museum is open Wednesday to Monday 10am to 6pm in summer, 10am to 5pm off-season (admission 3€).
In Pirgos itself, the Museum of Yiannoulis Chalepas and Museum of Panormian Artists occupy adjacent houses, and give visitors a chance not only to see sculpture by local artists, but to step into an island house. After you see the small rooms on the ground floor, you'll be surprised at how large the cool, flagstone lower story with the kitchen is. The museums are located near the bus station, on the main lane leading toward the village. Both are open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 1:30pm and 5:30 to 6:30pm; admission is 2€.
Although you may be tempted by the sculptures you see on sale in local workshops, even a small marble relief is not easy to slip into a suitcase. In the hardware shop across from Pirgos's two museums, Nikolaos Panorios makes and sells whimsical tin funnels, boxes, spoon holders, and dustpans, as well as dovecotes, windmills, and sailing ships. Each item is made of tin salvaged from olive oil and other containers, and every one is unique (some with scenes of Pallas Athena, others with friezes of sunflowers, olive gatherers, fruits, or vegetables). All these are delightful folk art; they cost from 15€. Nikolaos Panorios is usually in the shop mornings (tel. 22830/32-263), from about 9am to 1pm.
Trying Your Hand at Marble Carving -- Tinos has a long tradition of marble carving. If you want to try your hand, the Dellatos Marble Sculpture School (tel. 22830/23-664; www.tinosmarble.com), just outside Tinos town, in Spitalia, offers 1- and 2-week workshops, from May through October, for would-be marble workers.
A Swim, a Snack, an Ancient Site -- If you're staying in Tinos town, the easiest place to take a dip is the beach at Kionia, about 3km (2 miles) west of Hora. Just across from the pebble-and-sand strand where you'll swim are the island's only excavated antiquities, the modest remains of the Temple of Poseidon and one of his many conquests, Amphitrite, a semidivine sea nymph (Tues-Sun 8:30am-3pm; admission 3€). When sheep or the custodians have trimmed the vegetation at the site, you can make out the foundations of the 4th-century-B.C. temple, and a large altar and long stoa, both built in the 1st century B.C. As usual with a site where Romans lived, there are the remains of a bath. Finds from the site are on display at the Tinos town Archaeological Museum (Tues-Sun 8:30am-3pm; admission 3€). When you head back to town, you can have a drink and a snack at the Mistral or Tsambia taverna, both on the main road near the site. Closer to town, also on the main road, you can check your e-mail at the Para Pende cafe. Depending on your mood, you can do this excursion on foot, by public bus, or taxi. If on foot, keep to the side of the road and don't expect the trucks and motorcycles to cut you much slack.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.