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Religious Tourism


The difficulty of transport connections, exclusively marine, between Cyclades and continental Greece, has maintained the island lifestyle almost intact. The habits passed from generation to generation and only the arrival of refugees after the Asia Minor Destruction in 1922, has added certain new tones. However after the Second World War, with immigration within the country and abroad, the industrialisation of production, tourism and the modern means of communication, conditions changed. All those characteristics-maintained for centuries-have been transformed in the last two-three generations. However not all were lost. Wise old traditions, secrets and values have been carefully looked after and still play a role in the everyday life of the locals, and more especially in special days of the year, like feasts, celebrations and even days of sorrow.

The unique relation of the Cycladic people with their religion is expressed in the many monasteries and places of worship, as the Evaggelistria of Tinos, the Ekatontapyliani of Paros and the Monastery of Virgin Mary (Chozoviotissa) in Amorgos. However traces of this particular relation are in the thousands of small churches that exist scattered around all the islands of the Cyclades.

The religious relation however presents also a human dimension.

The feasts of local protector Saints are celebrated on each island with a great dedication and unconstrained zest of the locals. At Sifnos and the Koufonisia the "panigyrades" and the "ktitores" at Serifos see to that all is organised in perfection. This is an ideal occasion for the travellers to get to know the way that locals have fun with islander songs and dances under the sounds of the violin and the lute, where festivities often last until the morning.

The Virgin Mary has a Leading role in the annual festivities circle of Cyclades. This has a distant resemblance to the prehistoric adoration of the goddess-mother (thus the imposing figurine of the great Mother that was discovered in Keros). Virgin Mary is honoured with innumerable locally given names in all the islands: Palatiani and Panachrantos in Andros, Kastriani and Revmatiani in Tzia, Odigitria in Kimolos, Portaitissa and Thalassitra in Milos, Vlacherniotissa and Protothronos in Naxos, Giatraina in Thirasia, Pantanassa in Sikinos, Ouranofora in Sifnos, Virgin Mary Martiatissa and Magiatissa in Folegandros.

Unique feasts for Virgin Mary of  panellenic and panorthodox radiation are those of Megalochari in Tinos, Ekatontapylianis in Paros and Chozoviotissas in Amorgos. In many of the islands on the 23rd of August, the Enniamera of Virgin Mary are celebrated, while in particular to the whole of Greece, a feast of Virgin Mary is observed on Saturday of the Akathistos Hymn (Virgin Mary Akathi in Schoinousa, Theoskepastos in Andros).
The period of Easter has a separate charm in the islands, with the simple magnificence of the procession of the epitaph in freshly white painted streets, and the feasts and dances throughout the week that follows. In Folegandros, Easter is celebrated with a three day procession of the picture of the Virgin Mary, where each house treats the procession with offerings while festive dances are set up in the evenings. In many of the islands, on the Easter Sunday afternoon, residents are assembled in the square and play "mbilious" or "tsounia", a traditional game that resembles bowling. At Ktikado of Tinos on Easter Monday, the custom of the Table of Love is celebrated-where Orthodox and Catholics eat at a common table. In Paros the traveller will have the opportunity to watch a unique custom throughout Greece;the representation of the passions of Christ.

The evening of the 23rd of June, eve of Saint John, or on the 24th of June, in Andros, Antiparos, Ios, Naxos, the traditional custom of Klidona takes place. Throughout all  islands, in summer, fishermen’s feasts are set up with abundant local wine and tasty marine tastes and at the end of the summertime, come the customs of vintage, crushing of grapes and rakiziou (production of raki). In Paros on the 3rd of November, on the feast of Saint George Methystis, the Parian people open their barrels of new wine in a custom that refers to dionysian feasts, while in Serifos on the 14th of November, the day of Saint Philippos, a great feast is set up, where residents open their new wine and take place in the famous "choirosfagia", an effervescent custom that has its roots in the Byzantine years and is observed in almost all Cyclades at the end of autumn and before Christmas. As it is natural, separate celebrations are held in the "marine state of Cyclades" for the protector Saint of seamen, Saint Nikolaos. In Koufonisia, a feast follows the church mass where seafood and cooked raki are offered, and in Schoinousa, people celebrate at the picturesque little church of Saint Nikolaos at the lighthouse of the harbour, with traditional cod and garlic dip as a main dish.

The period of Christmas and New Years Eve, brings festive celebrations. In Sifnos they sing the famous Christmas carols with verses based on comments regarding persons and situations on the island, while in Tripotamo of Tinos the famous custom of "Kavos", is celebrated with early Christian, medieval and Holly mountain elements.

The circle of traditions throughout the year, embraces the Cycladic house in the joys and in the sorrows of each year. In Anafi, the whole island is invited at wedding celebrations and the festivities last from Tuesday up to the next Monday, while the Sifnian wedding is a separate experience, with an enormous ritual, a two-day feast and the hundreds of extemporary poetic wishes.

In Kea, Amorgos and other islands, under the perception that death is not the end of the circle of life, but part of it, relatives of the deceased hold the custom of the farewell dinner ("Makaria").
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