Imagine a Greek island whose white-washed houses were powered only by wind and sun, where dolphins danced in its sapphire seas, and orchid-studded trails meandering across meadows and mountains were more plentiful than roads. Welcome to Tilos. Yes, it might be the island none of us have heard of, but that, perhaps, is its appeal. Part of the remote Dodecanese archipelago that hugs the Turkish coast, tiny S-shaped Tilos stands serene and solitary between bustling Rhodes and Kos. There’s no airport, it’s too far from its larger neighbours for day trips by boat, and mainland Greece is a 15-hour ferry journey away. So, the island quietly carves its own path – one that over the past few decades has had a refreshingly green hue.
The 5 reasons we LOVE Tilos
1. Tilos leads the way in environmental protection and eco-tourism
Tilos stands out as a global leader in environmental innovation and eco-tourism. This remarkable transformation began with its visionary mayor, a passionate ornithologist, who boldly banned hunting—an unconventional move in Greece's hunting culture. Overcoming bureaucratic obstacles, he turned Tilos into a full-fledged nature reserve, setting a powerful precedent for conservation efforts.
Tilos didn't stop there. It became Greece's first island to transition to renewable energy, harnessing its abundant sun and wind resources. With European support, an electricity production and storage system were installed, meeting more than three-quarters of its energy needs. Solar panels now feature on every home, buses and other council-owned vehicles are electric, and solar-powered infrastructure has taken over the island. Moreover, Tilos has made remarkable strides in waste management, achieving an impressive 91.7 percent recycling rate. This eco-conscious island is not only an environmental pioneer but also an enticing destination for eco-tourists seeking a green paradise where nature and sustainability thrive.
2. Visitors can enjoy 27km of picturesque hiking trails
The prime seasons to explore Tilos' network of hiking trails are April, May, and September when daytime temperatures are just right, hovering around 20 degrees Celsius. During spring, the island transforms into a vibrant tapestry of green, illuminated with colourful Aegean-blue hyacinths, poached egg-shaped rock roses, and delicate holy orchids. In autumn, the mountains turn a rich russet gold, and the sea remains invitingly warm for post-hike swims.
These footpaths trace ancient routes once used by farmers to reach terraced fields that crisscross the island. Ian, our knowledgeable Tilos representative, shares, "The network of paths is so extensive you could spend a fortnight hiking and do a different walk every day." Thanks to local volunteers' signposting, excellent maps, and an outstanding walking guide by fellow Brit, Jim Osborne, navigating these trails is a breeze. Standout hikes lead from Livadia along the coastal routes, both north and south. The northward path takes you to the scenic Lethra's shingle beach, while heading south leads to the spring-fed beauty of Despoti Nero. Don't miss the ancient, cobbled trail leading through terraced landscapes up to Mikro Horio (Small Village), founded high in the mountains as protection against pirates. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a casual stroller, Tilos' trails promise a journey through nature's wonders you won't soon forget.
3. Relax at serene spots and beautiful beaches
While Tilos may not boast the typical sandy beaches found on some Greek islands, its unique shingle and volcanic sand shores offer a distinctive charm. The best part? You'll likely have these tranquil beaches all to yourself. Aside from Livadia's striking sienna-red volcanic sands, most of Tilos' beaches are covered in smooth pebbles.
For those seeking a bit of adventure, head to the north coast, where beaches such as Skafi and Plaka await. These serene spots are a reward for those willing to take a scenic walk. At Plaka beach, keep an eye out for a delightful surprise – wild peacocks that call the area home.
For a taste of unspoiled nature paired with convenience, Eristos beach is a top choice. Its vast pinky-grey sand-and-shingle expanse is generously shaded by tamarisk trees, making it a favourite spot for wild campers.
4. Experience rich and thriving biodiversity
Tilos wears its commitment to environmental preservation proudly, as the entire island stands designated as a nature reserve. Here, birdwatching enthusiasts are in for a treat with over 100 bird species identified, including 46 considered threatened. Keep your binoculars at the ready to catch a glimpse of the majestic Bonelli's eagle, the graceful long-legged buzzard, and the striking Mediterranean black shag. However, the island's inhabitants extend far beyond its birdlife.
Tilos also serves as a sanctuary for rare monk seals and turtles, contributing to its remarkable biodiversity. This thriving ecosystem owes its richness in part to Tilos' fertile lands, nourished by a network of underground springs. As you explore the island's trails, you'll bear witness to the harmony of nature here, leaving you in a state of awe and appreciation for what this island has achieved.
5. Taste authentically Greek cuisine
Tilos doesn't just captivate with its natural beauty; it also tantalises your taste buds with its food. The island's culinary specialties often revolve around the local goats that freely roam its picturesque landscapes. Among Tilos' most celebrated dishes is the liver-stuffed goat which is baked in the oven. Another crowd-pleaser is giaprakia, a delicacy featuring cabbage or vine leaves stuffed with spiced meat, its name derived from the Turkish word "yaprak," meaning leaf.
The island's restaurants are family-run and offer a warm and authentic atmosphere where you can try traditional meals. What makes these dishes even more delicious is the use of locally produced olive oil, extracted from the land’s ancient olive trees. For the freshest catch and a memorable dining experience, venture to the charming fishing village of Agios Antonios on the north coast. With two inviting tavernas offering just-caught fish, you can indulge in your meal while gazing at the sun setting behind neighbouring Nisyros.
If Tilos beckons you, Sunvil offers a range of accommodation choices to suit all types of travellers. By visiting you will not only have a splendid holiday, but you will also be supporting the island’s initiative and helping others to see that an alternative to mass tourism can work.