The luminescent sunset in Oia at the northern tip of the Greek island of Santorini, is now one of the most instagrammed moments.
It’s a magical, memorable experience — except for the thousand or so sweaty bodies packed on the narrow streets. Santorini has been struggling with overtourism for years, a victim of its own success after a push from the government to attract tourism.
A more authentic Greece — the one that Santorini offered before the crowds — can be found in the smaller haven of Tinos. With its own enchanting sunsets and rugged charm, this under-the-radar gem is an alluring alternative.
A short (2hr) ferry ride from Santorini and just thirty minutes from Mykonos, Tinos is the laid-back sister to Greece’s high-watt destinations. Beckoning to be explored, Tinos is dotted with villages, hidden inland to protect them from pirates during a bygone age, and an unusual network of 18th-century dovecotes perched on hillsides and above ravines. The Panagia Evangelistria church in the capital, Chora, built around what is said to be a miraculous icon, is a destination for pilgrims around the world.
Where Santorini boasts a volcano, Tinos, with its mountainous spine and unusual rock formations, is renowned for the pure white marble used since ancient times to build its houses, archways, streets, churches and fountains.
At the center of the island is the otherworldly landscape of Volax, scattered with boulders, some the height of small buildings. In ancient Greece, Tinos was reputed to be the home of Aeolis, the king of the winds, who whipped around the mountains and carved giant sculptures from the dark granite. To the west, Tinos’s cliffs are filled with gorgeous green marble that has been used in architectural projects at Buckingham Palace and the Louvre.
Exploring other villages is a chance to sample artichokes, capers, black squid-ink noodles and local cheeses, including Castellano, scented with the aromatic mastic plant, and Kopanisti, a pungent local cheese.
Tinos’s beaches are more expansive than Santorini’s, and under the blazing sun, the turquoise sea is calm. And as night falls, the sunset from one of Tinos’s mountainside villages is about as breathtaking as a sunset on Santorini — minus the hordes.
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