Travel to Tilos, Dodecanese

Habor of Livadia, Tilos@Sotiris Lambadaridis

Tílos is a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It is part of the Dodecanese group of islands, and lies midway between Kos and Rhodes with a population of 533 inhabitants. Along with the uninhabited offshore islets of Antitilos and Gaidaros, it forms the Municipality of Tilos. Tilos is part of Rhodes region.

View of Livadia village in Tilos island, Greece
View of Livadia village and the habour of Tilos Island
Aerial view of Tilos island, Dodecanese, Greece
Aerial view of Tilos, Dodecanese

Coordinates: 36°26′N 27°22′E

Popularly, Telos was the son of Helios and Halia, the sister of the Telchines. He came to the island in search of herbs to heal his ill mother, and later returned to found a temple to Apollo and Neptune. However, Telos does not appear in Greek mythology and the name probably has an unknown pre-Hellenic origin. Pliny the Elder notes that in antiquity Telos was known as Agathussa. In the Middle Ages, it was known by the Italian as Episcopio, either because it was a Bishop Seat or because its position as Vantage Point.


Neolithic: Pottery and stone tools discovered in Kharkhadió indicate human activity on Tilos in the early Neolithic period 8000 BC – 7000 BC, along with the large assembly of dwarf (1.20-1.60 m tall) elephant bones, carbon dated at 4000 – 7000 BC (some now in the museum). Masseti (2001) suggests coexistence of these animals with humans, possibly into the historic period.

Aegean Bronze Age: Excavation has identified Pelasgian masonry, as well as suggesting Tilos was successively dominated by Minoans, Mycenaeans and Dorians.

Classical antiquity:

  • The island flourished during the classical era, minting its own coinage and being famed for clothing and perfumes.
  • Telos claims that poet Erinna (said to be Sappho’s equal) was born on the island around 350 BC.
  • In the 7th century BC, colonists from Tilos and Lindos settled in Sicily and founded the city of Gelas.
  • Herodotus (484 BC – c. 425 BC) described the centuries preceding him as the golden age of Tilos.
  • In the 5th century BC, Tilos was a member of the First Delian League and kept its independence until the end of the Peloponnesian War.
  • From the turn of the 4th century BC, for the next 200 years, Tilos was subject to the Seleucid Empire, Caria and then Ptolemaic Egypt under the influence of Rhodes, until in 200 BC, the island was incorporated in to the Rhodian confederacy.
  • The island was conquered by the Romans in 42 BC. Archaeological finds from Roman and early-Christian times demonstrate the prosperity of the island until the great earthquake of 551 AD

Tilos followed Rhodes into the Byzantine Empire and was a member of the naval Theme of Samos between the 9th and 14th century.

The Knights of Saint John took control of Tilos from 1309, restoring the Byzantine castles, and building new ones in order to defend against pirate raids. It was evacuated in 1470 as the Ottomans began the Siege of Rhodes and control passed to Suleiman I in 1522 when Rhodes fell.

In 1523, Tilos was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which lasted until May 12, 1912, when Italian sailors landed in the bay of Eristos during the Italo-Turkish War.
Tilos then became part the Italian possession of the Isole Italiane dell’Egeo. After the Italian Armistice of September 8, 1943, Tilos was occupied by German troops, and in 1948 it joined Greece together with all the Dodecanese islands.

View over Livadia, the port and main village on Tilos
View over Livadia, the port and main village on Tilos
The monastery of Agion Pandeleimon, Tilos, Greece - Photo by S. Lambadaridis
The monastery of Agion Pandeleimon@Sotiris Lambadaridis

Things to see

At the north-westside of Tilos, the Monastery of Agios Pandeleimon, (also patron saint of the island), sits on the slopes of Mount Profitis Ilias (654 m). The mountain borders a fertile plain running across the width of the island, with the settlements of Agios Andonis to the north and Eristos to the south. To the north-east of the plain is the capital of Tilos, Megalo Chorio, built in the early 19th century at the foot of the ancient city of Telos. The archaic ruins stretch up to the site of the acropolis of the ancient city, and the Venetian Kastro, built over it. To the west is Kharkhadio Cave, where excavations in 1971 unearthed Neolithic finds and bones of dwarf elephant.

Above the cave stand the ruins of the medieval Fortress of Mesaria. At southern end of the island, bordered by more fertile meadows, is Livadia, the major harbour and economic centre of the island. The island’s old capital, Mikro Chorio, first settled in the 15th century by the Knights of the Order of St John, overlooks the bay. It has been completely abandoned since 1960, its inhabitants having moved down to the harbour in the 1930s. A number of other settlements such as Lethra, Ghera, and Pano Meri have similarly been abandoned. Mount Agios Nikolaos (367 m) stands to the south of the bay.

Castles (Kastros) have protected the island’s inhabitants from pirate raids since the Dark Ages. The castles of the island are: Megalo Chorio, Mesaria, Mikro Chorio, Agrosikia and Stavrou Lambrou.

Skeleton of a Cretan Dwarf Elephant

Charkadio Cave: Greece stands out for its rich natural and cultural heritage. Although geological heritage is a rather new concept, the paleontological excavations in Charkadio Cave, Tilos Island (Dodecanese, Greece), dating back in 1971, have revealed findings belonging to the last European Elephants (Elephas tiliensis), that inhabited Tilos Island 45.000 – 4.000 years ago, thus providing significant scientific information on the palaeoenviroment.

External links

Tilos official website