Guide to Tilos: image of Livadia Bay

The Ultimate Guide to Tilos

  • May 21, 2023
  • Tilos

Updated May 2023

Part of the Dodecanese archipelago, Tilos is midway between the popular tourist hotspots of Rhodes and Kos, but life on this tiny island is a far cry from the bustling resort ambience of its busy neighbours.

Tilos is a haven of tranquillity. Home to craggy mountains, secluded beaches, carpets of wildflowers, rare birds, medieval castles, sublime sea views, a remote monastery, and a cave of dwarf elephants.

There are no big hotel developments here, and little in the way of noisy nightlife. This is an island people visit to step back in time to a more authentic way of life. Unsurprisingly it’s popular with nature lovers and walkers, but this tiny island is also a pioneer in environmental issues with a reputation for being very open-minded, as we’ll explain later in this guide to Tilos.

While the island has been spared the trappings of mass tourism, those who visit tend to return year after year. To find out more about this beguiling island, read on for our ultimate guide to Tilos.

A Brief Guide to the History & Mythology of Tilos

Like many Greek places, the name Tilos is steeped in mythology and legend. In mythology, Tilos is the son of Helios and Halia. He visited the island in search of herbs to cure his sick mother, and then returned to build a temple dedicated to Poseidon and Apollo in honour of her recovery. But what about the history of Tilos?

Archaeological evidence from the Harkadio Cave shows the island was inhabited in Neolithic times, when Tilos was home to the last population of dwarf elephants in Europe. Successive settlements have been dated to the Minoans, Mycenaeans, and Dorians, but it was in the Classical era when the island flourished, even minting its own coinage. This tiny island was also home to a Greek poet, Erinna, said to rival Homer.

Tilos’s prosperity made it a target. It was conquered by the Romans, and passed under the control of several different invaders during the Middle Ages, including the Byzantines, the Knights of St. John, and the Ottoman Empire. Its seven hilltop castles stand as testament to its struggles.

In the 20th century, both the Italians and Germans laid claim to Tilos before it became part of Greece in 1948, along with the other Dodecanese Islands. 

Guide to the Villages of Tilos


As the island’s main harbour, Livadia is the first port of call for most tourists and it’s the largest settlement on Tilos. Life revolves around the square, where fishermen sell their catch of the day, and locals and tourists mingle in the traditional tavernas and cafés.

There’s a sweeping pebble beach backed by tamarisk trees, and a long promenade dotted with tavernas and bars with prime seafront views.

Megalo Horio

The island’s pint-sized capital, Megalo Horio, or Big Village, is a maze of narrow, flower-lined alleyways, traditional, whitewashed houses, decorative mosaic courtyards, and beautiful churches, including Archangel Michael (Taxiarchis), Panagia Theotokissa, and Agios Ioannis Theologos with its beautiful frescoes.

The town is located on the lower slopes of Agios Stefanos, beneath the ancient settlement and the medieval castle. There’s a local café and a couple of excellent tavernas.

Mikro Horio

Mikro Horio, or Little Village, was once the largest settlement on Tilos. Residents began leaving after the Second World War, moving to Livadia or migrating overseas, until the village was finally abandoned in the 1960s. Wandering round the atmospheric crumbling houses is a little like stepping into a time capsule. Unless you visit on a summer evening when one of the houses turns into a popular bar.

Agios Andonis

The seaside village of Agios Andonis is a sleepy hamlet with a tiny fishing harbour. If you catch the beach at low tide, it’s possible to see the imprint of bones in the rocky seabed from the old Byzantine cemetery. There are a couple of tavernas offering delicious seafood; visit in the evening to catch the best sunset on the island.

Guide to the Beaches of Tilos

Tilos may not have dreamy white sandy beaches like some Greek islands, but its beaches have a wild, untamed quality and a beautiful, relaxing vibe. It’s worth having a pair of swim shoes to protect your feet in the water. Here’s our guide to Tilos’s best beaches.


Livadia is one of the most popular beaches on Tilos, largely because of its tourist facilities and location in the gently curving bay. Lounge on your sunbed beneath the tamarisk trees, listening to waves, reading a book, and watching the occasional ferry glide into the port. When you need to cool off, simply plunge into the clear, blue waters.


Located a short walk from Megalo Horio, the bay of Eristos is a long, curving stretch of sandy beach with a nudist section at the far end. Tamarisk trees provide valuable shade in summer, and there are a couple of tavernas serving delicious food. As one of the few Greek islands where free camping is tolerated, Eristos is popular with free campers during summer, with showers, toilets and even a rustic canteen on the beach. A bus service runs between Livadia and Eristos.


The remote, unspoilt beach of Plaka is walking distance from Agios Andonis. This sand and pebble beach has clear turquoise water, excellent for snorkelling and swimming. The area is backed by Plaka Gardens, and is home to a number of proud, colourful peacocks.


Accessible only by foot or by boat, the pretty pebble beach at Lethra is a gorgeous 45-minute walk from Livadia. There are no facilities at this sand and pebble beach, but there is a solitary tree providing some shade.

There are a number of other, remote beaches on the island that can only be reached by foot or by boat, including Skafi, Tholos, Agios Sergios and Stavros.

Things to Do in Tilos

The Byzantine Monastery of Agios Pandeleimonas

The Byzantine monastery of Agios Pandeleimonas, patron saint of Tilos, clings to the side of the island’s tallest mountain, with a commanding view over the sparking Aegean. Set in a lush location surrounded by giant cypress trees, the monastery has an attractive pebbled courtyard and the church walls are covered in 18th century frescoes. Visit on 26th July for celebrations in honour of Agios Pandeleimonas.

Harkadio Cave

Excavations led by professor Nikolaos Simeonidis at the Harkadio Cave in 1971 uncovered the bones of a group of dwarf elephants. It’s believed the elephants became stuck on the island after it divided from the coast of Asia Minor and their size gradually adapted to their new living environment. Excavations at the site are ongoing, but you can see the bones, Neolithic artefacts and other finds at the Paleontological Museum of Tilos, now located next to the Harkadio Cave. There’s also a small amphitheatre at the site.

Medieval Knight’s Castle

A steep path rises from the modern town of Megalo Horio, past the ancient settlement, to the largest and most complete of the seven castles. Built by the Knights of St. John, the castle sits atop the naturally fortified mountain of Agios Stefanos with commanding views over Eristos, Agios Andonis and the neighbouring island of Nisyros. It’s a challenging climb, but the views are well worth the effort.


There are walking paths all over Tilos, many of them ancient mule tracks. Clambering around the rocky hinterland is the best way to explore churches and castles, visit Mikro Horio, and discover secluded beaches and coves. The hills and valleys are filled with the heady aroma of wild sage and oregano, and wildflowers carpet the ground. Often, the only sounds you’ll hear are the gentle tinkle of goat bells and the faint buzzing of bees gathering pollen for Tilos’s famous thyme honey.


Tilos and its unoccupied surrounding islets are part of a protected ecological area, Tilos National Park, where hunting is banned. Because of this, bird life has flourished on the island, with Bonelli’s eagle, Eleonora’s falcon, Audouin’s gull and European roller amongst the 155 species spotted here. Birdwatchers flock to Tilos during spring and autumn to see migration, when species such as golden oriole, European bee-eaters and Eurasian Hoopoe pass through.

Tilos, the Green Island

The islanders of Tilos have a reputation for being open-minded, led by a succession of forward-thinking mayors. Mayor of Tilos from 1995 until his death in 2012, Anatasios Aliferis – known as Tasos – was the island’s doctor, responsible for a telemedicine project that became a pilot for all Mediterranean islands. He also performed two same-sex partnership ceremonies on Tilos, while still illegal in Greece. But his overriding legacy is as a bird and nature lover who banned hunting on the island and ensured the island’s status as a Natura 2000 protected national park.

Maria Kamma–Aliferi succeeded Tasos as mayor in 2012. Under her command, the island has become the first Mediterranean island to become entirely self-sufficient, thanks to an EU Horizon 2020 programme to create Greece’s first hybrid power station with wind and solar energy.

Since 2019 Tilos can boast complete energy self-sufficiency, moving on to other projects such as free electric vehicle charging points, electric buses, and the Just Go Zero Tilos project, which aims to transform Tilos to the world’s first green island with zero household waste. The island currently recycles over 80% of its waste, giving it the highest recycling rate in the world.

So if you’re interested in sustainable travel, Tilos is an excellent destination.

Getting to Tilos

Tranquil Tilos doesn’t have its own airport, so the best way to travel to the island is via ferry. As of April 2023, there are four weekly ferries from Piraeus (Athens) to Tilos, but the easiest route is to fly to neighbouring Rhodes. It’s a busy airport, especially in summer, and it handles domestic flights from Athens as well as direct international flights from many European countries.

Once in Rhodes, there are two options for getting to Tilos. One of the best and most direct options is to catch the Panagia Evangelistria from Kamiros Skala, which runs on a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (as of April 2023). There are also ferries and catamarans running between several Dodecanese Islands, which leave from Mandraki Harbour on other days. Alternatively you could fly to Kos, and catch a ferry from there.

If you book your holiday to Tilos with Nissia Holidays, our local representatives can arrange for onward transport between Rhodes airport and Tilos.

Once on Tilos, there’s a regular bus service connecting Livadia and Megalo Horio, which stops at Eristos and Agios Andonis. On Sundays, the bus also goes to the monastery of Agios Pandeleimonas. There are several places to hire cars and scooters, though note that you need a motorbike licence to hire a scooter in Greece.


With a typical southern Mediterranean climate, Tilos is gorgeous in the shoulder seasons. April, May, September and October see few rainy days. The temperature is perfect for walking, and wildflowers bloom across the island. September and October are particularly good for swimming, when the sea is like a bath after the long, hot summer.

From June, temperatures begin to heat up, with August being the hottest month. It’s perfect for lazy beach days, though if you’re out and about ensure you have lots of water and good sun protection.

Where to Stay in Tilos

Livadia is the main tourist hub on Tilos, and it has an excellent range of hotels and apartments, including Ilidi Rock, Livadia Beach, Eleni Beach Hotel, Irini Hotel, and Olympos Apartments.  The port town is well set up for the island’s low-key tourism with supermarkets, shops, tavernas, a bank with ATM, and a long beach that stretches around Livadia Bay.

To find out more about our range of Tilos hotels and apartments, see our Tilos accommodation page.

If our guide to Tilos has inspired you to learn more about this delightful island, contact Nissia Holidays on 01455 289421 or email us: info@nissiaholidays.com. We can answer any questions you may have and help you to plan your ideal holiday in Tilos. We look forward to welcoming you to this tiny island with a huge reputation for authentic Greek holidays, superb walking and wildlife, and a truly sustainable lifestyle.


Jo worked on Tilos in 2006, as the last Island Manager for Laskarina. She now runs a travel writing business and travel blog, The Wandering Wordsmith, and spends much of her year travelling. But Greece, especially Tilos, will always hold a special place in her heart.

  1. Andy says:

    First went to Tilos (and Symi) back in 1997 with the legendary Laskarina. Went back to Symi 3 yrs ago. Going back to Tilos in a couple of weeks. Can’t wait. Tried to do this with Nisida but nobody replied to my email request ☹️
    May be somebody will now as we hope to be going again in future.
    Best Regards

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