The winter population of this small island, just 65 km (40 miles) northwest of Rhodes is about 100 in winter, quintupling in the summer.
Farming was its mainstay up until the 1970s, with sufficient water and fertile enough land (volcanic in origin), but as on many islands of the Dodecanese, locals abandoned the farming life, many emigrating to Australia or the United States, and the late 1980s saw many tourist rooms being built.
In 1996, the mayor, a member of Greenpeace, banned hunting and declared the island a wildlife refuge, making long term European visitors happy, and hunters and owners of rugged terrain vehicles angry.
The former have long enjoyed the fine walks on the island, and though many dirt roads have been bulldozed in previously roadless parts of the island, there has also been some recent restoration of old kalderimia (cobbled paths). Good hiking maps are available for the island. Tilos has good beaches and coves, some allowing freelance camping, two main towns, some pasture land, cypress, walnut and almond trees, and is unique in having been home to miniature elephants during the Stone Age.
The port of Livadhia (meadows, in Greek) is pleasant enough, with some rooms, good summer tavernas, and breakfast places; its beach is not always clean, due to furtive waste dumping.
Stavros beach is an hour walk from the port, the last quarter hour a steep descent, though the water is clean and there are caves to swim to (but no shade or facilities). It's a half day hike to Despoti to Nero, on the island's northeast peninsula, the trail passing through two abandoned villages, first Yera, with a little beach and spring , and then Kalami.
Ayios Seryos beach is to the south near Tholos cove. Mikro Horio (also deserted) is a ¾ hour walk from the port on an old trail. Oddly, the empty village has a music bar with a bus to it and a 15th of August celebration at the old church. One can hike from there down a beautiful canyon to a beach below.
Megalo Horio is 8 km by paved road from the port, with ancient walls, whitewashed houses and gardens, narrow stone paved roads, and overlooks a fertile plain that extends to Eristos bay, which in turn is overlooked by a Knights' castle. There are rooms, tavernas, cafes, bars. Taxiarkis Church holds festivals on the 8th of November and the 28th of July, with some dancing. In the town museum one can see bones of the miniature elephants.
The Knights' castle, near Harkadio, is a 45 minute walk from the village. Eristos beach, with some facilities, is perhaps the best beach on Tilos, though there's a reef. Many camp here in summer, not all of them cleaning up afterward; nearby Kokkino coves has nude bathers, a taverna, and rooms in the nearby orchards. Accessible on foot from Megalo Horio are the beaches of Skafi, Ayios Andonios (with sea caves), and Plaka (shallow water).
The 15th century fortified monastery of Ayiou Pandelemona, built high up over the sea, has a big festival 25-27 July. A beautiful place, with a pebble mosaic courtyard, a huge tower gate, frescoes, shade trees and water.