During the late middle ages, the island was under the control of the Knights of St. John; the ruins of seven small fortresses can still be visited.
Tilos has the ruins of seven castles and a couple of picturesque monasteries. The most recent claim to fame on Tilos is the discovery of a number of ancient skeletons of a species of pygmy elephants which survived on the island until about 3500 bc.
Because of a long-standing hunting ban, the island is a birdwatcher's joy. Walkers also enjoy the many pleasant paths on Tilos.
Tilos has good beaches, and many of them are tolerating, if not fully accepting, nude sunbathing.
Unique Island Flora and Fauna
Tilos has more than 125 wild bird species (one quarter of which are included in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive); 378 documented plant species [unofficial estimate exceeds 1,000], including 28 different types of orchids, 8 of which are classified as rare; six mountains reaching 654 meters in height which are dotted with 7 ancient castles and hundreds of Byzantine chapels; 19 beaches, which are accessible by road or only by sea or on foot; and an underground network of freshwater springs that nourish the entire island including the fertile agricultural valley of Eristos to the south.
Tilos is surrounded by the blue Aegean which is populated with the critically endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal, Bottlenose and Striped Dolphnis, tuna, whales and priority marine habitat types such as the pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals [Thero-Brachypodietea].
The island economy is primarily based on eco-tourism and also agricultural farming of fruits, vegetables, and citrus, olive, almond and pear trees.
Island eco-tourism features 6 principle island walking paths that vary in distance and degree of ease or difficulty; Byzantine era churches with original frescoes; autumn and spring donkey rides through the countryside to a seaside picnic on the beach; a visit to the Harkadio Cave in Messaria which is the archaelogical site of the discovery of Neolithic tools, fossils and the bones of deer and dwarf elephants that inhabited Tilos in 7,000 B.C.; the magnificent 15th century monastery of St. Panteleimon at the west end; and bird watching, especially during the island’s three year LIFE Nature Project which is designed to increase the population of three threatened wild bird species.