Harkadio cave is located between Megalo Chorio and Livadia, in an area paved with volcanic lava, and is 3.5 km from the port. It is in Messaria, 2.5 km southeast of Megalo Chorio. With a diameter of 21 m., a maximum height of 4.5 m., and an area of 200 sq.m. is divided by a stalagmite into two unequal chambers. Although it does not present remarkable natural decoration, it is scientifically considered very important. Paleontological excavations carried out here in the 1970s have uncovered numerous bones of dwarf elephants and other animals (deer, turtles, rodents), as well as stone tools from the Neolithic period (8,000 BC). The cave hides other secrets as in its deeper layers volcanic material has been found and at least two zones with phosphate compounds that refer to fossilized bones.
At the bottom of the sea, on the beach of Agios Antonios, the ruins of a sunken city of the Hellenistic Period can be seen. The diver will discover an ancient cemetery with fossilized human skeletons.
The whole island is part of the Natura 2000 network. Its rare and at the same time rich flora and fauna, make it part of the protection of its ecosystems. Tilos is a place of presence of important populations and protected birds such as eagles, hawks, nightingales, goldfinches, herons, bee-eaters.
In total there are sixteen different types of ecosystems or habitats on the island, one hundred species of rare birds living in the twelve verdant mountains, four hundred species of flowers and herbs that grow in the hills and valleys.
At the same time in the sea caves of the island live Mediterranean seals Monachus Monachus, as well as peacocks very close to Plaka beach, in a location with tall eucalyptus trees.
Specialties of the island:
- the kid (small goat) in the oven with potatoes
- the stuffed goat in the oven with rice and spices
- the blush of the pot
Other local gastronomic feasts are:
- the giaprakia, ie dolmade with minced meat wrapped in vine leaves
- pork kavroumas, ie fried pork
- the pork with wheat in the oven
- poumbari or koulousoufades, ie pork or beef intestines, stuffed with minced meat or livers, rice and herbs, which are either baked in the oven or boiled first and then fried
The island is also famous for its local handmade pasta:
- Koulouria, a type of spaghetti served with red sauce or butter and cheese
- Barley, which locals add to various dishes, such as beans and lentils
- Tsouvras, ie tomato soup with rice or oatmeal and chopped wheat cooked in water or milk.
- Potato meatballs, chickpea meatballs, chickpea soup with rice, pork lard, green pies, mizithropites, cheese pies with local mizithra or hard cheese of Tilos, rustic salad with caper leaves.
- Xerotigana, ie syrupy doubles
- Melekounia, a type of macaroon
- Pougkakia, stuffed with almonds and sesame
- Sweet pies
- Eftazima (Seven-leaved) cookies
The island is full of paths that some lead you to mountain peaks and plains, others to old churches and others to beautiful beaches that are not accessible by car.
During the hike, you will meet rare birds and the smells of thyme and other herbs will captivate you.
Some trail routes are:
- Megalo Chorio – Paleontological Museum – Mikro Chorio – Stavros Beach – Livadia (16 km)
- Livadia – Agios Zacharias Beach (10 km)
- Livadia – Lethra Beach (9 km)
The island has rich historical and prehistoric findings.
Tilos is known as the “island of dwarf elephants”, since the last elephants in Europe lived there. They appeared from the Mesolithic Age, when Tilos was part of Asia Minor. When it was detached and formed as an island, the elephants trapped there had to adapt to their new environment. Thus, gradually after thousands of years their size decreased to 120 – 160 cm. Today, the findings are kept in the Paleontological Museum.
- In the areas of Garipa and Lakkes, there are ruins of Minoan influence of the Bronze Age (3rd – 2nd millennium BC).
- The influence of the Mycenaean era is evident on the island, through the surviving finds in the area of Kastellos.
- The early Doric settlement with the citadel at the top (Castle) and the city of the 4th c. BC is a very important archeological site worth visiting. It is located near Megalo Chorio in the north of the island, and you will be impressed by the high tower-like terraces that supported the houses.
- In the bay of Livadia, ruins of an ancient fortress were found.
- Near the church of Asomata, north of Megalo Chorio, early Christian tombs came to light.
- At an altitude of 270 meters above a steep cliff near Livadia, is the castle of Agriosykia. A castle used by the Knights of St. John (Ioannites), but it is possible that it pre-existed as a Byzantine fortress.
- The abandoned settlement of Mikro Chorio is an “open” attraction. Organized in a settlement by the Knights of St. John (15th century), built with amphitheater views, it is now a ghost village, and it is worth visiting.
- Parts of an Ancient wall of the Hellenistic Era, north of the Church of Taxiarchis.
During your stay on the island do not hesitate to board one of the boats located in the port of the island and discover the enchanting, deserted beaches of Tilos, Tholos, Skafi, Lethra and Agios Sergios.
For windsurf lovers the central beach of Eristos is the ideal destination.
In Tilos during the period of the Ioannites Knights a local form of ecclesiastical mural was developed. In many of the two hundred chapels of the island, there are samples of this special style, frescoes, which distracts the eyes of visitors and believers.
The most important religious monument of the island is the Monastery of Agios Panteleimon. It is located on the northwest side of the island, in an imposing landscape on the mountain of Profitis Ilias. The monastery was built between 1470-1480, with the financial help of the monk Ionas from Crete, as reflected in the hagiography in the katholikon of the monastery that depicts Ionas with the Monastery in his hands.
The katholikon of the monastery is built on the site of an ancient temple and the complex also includes a tower – pillar, cells, warehouses, kitchens, and other spaces. The wood-carved iconostasis of the church dates to the 18th century. The monastery celebrates on July 27 and there is a big three-day festival.
In recent years, the island holds road races in the summer months with the participation of adults and children.
There are several sports facilities in Tilos. Specifically, a football field with a turf, an open basketball court, two open volleyball courts, and two beach volleyball courts, one at Eristos beach and one at Livadia beach.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Many festivals take place on the island, mainly during the summer months. Most important:
- Of Agios Panteleimon on July 27. It is the largest on the island and lasts three days and the party starts on July 25. Not only all the inhabitants of the island flock there, but also the expatriates from wherever they are. They come to honor the patron Saint of their island and to dance together sirto, sousta, apostolic (local dance) and Cretan dances accompanied by local instruments. Attendees are offered a lemonade kid with potatoes.
- Of Panagia on the 14th of August. It is celebrated on the eve of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, in Mikro Chorio, where chickpeas and wine are offered due to fasting.
- Panagia Politissa on August 22, stay at the Nine Days of Panagia.
- Of Panagia Kamariani on the 23rd of August. A festival near Megalo Chorio, where the “cup dance” is danced, which takes its name from the cup held by the first dancer, in which he throws money while dancing, until he delivers it to the next one. The money is raised for the maintenance of the churches.
- Paleontological Museum, in Megalo Chorio, with dwarf elephant bones, information material, blueprints and photos from the excavations in the Harkadio cave. In the Harkadio Cave, 15,000 bones were discovered from 40 dwarf elephants that were 120-150 cm high and belonged to the species Palaeloxodon antiquus falconi BUSK. Other animals found during this excavation but in deeper places, were deer which disappeared before the elephants arrived on the island. Bones from turtles, micro-mammals, and fragments of tusks that may have been used as tools have also been found.
- Archaeological Museum, in Megalo Chorio, with pottery, clay figurines, reliefs, inscriptions, and sculptures of the Classical and Hellenistic Period.
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