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As you arrive into the port of Symi you will be amazed by the island’s beauty with colourful Venetian mansions gracing the hillside and the azure waters lapping at the shore. As you begin to explore further, you’ll discover secluded beaches, impressive monasteries, stunning landscapes and clear waters which are sometimes even home to turtles!
Whether you’re a yachtie just dropping by for a few days, a writer looking for a pristine paradise to create your next work or simply a holidaymaker looking for a dreamy destination, Symi island has you covered. Read on to discover all you need to know about planning a trip to the beautiful island of Symi.
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A Guide to Symi Island, Greece
Where Is Symi?
Symi is a small Greek island in the east of the country, nestled in between the Turkish mainland and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Tilos and Kos. It is part of the Dodecanese chain of islands located in the south Aegean Sea. Thanks to its southern location, Symi offers great weather throughout Spring, Summer and Autumn, making it an ideal destination for a European getaway.
How To Get To Symi
As Symi is one of the smaller Greek islands it does not have an airport. Therefore, the only way to get to the island is by ferry. Fear not though, this is relatively easy as you can take an overnight ferry directly from Athens or take a shorter ferry from the nearby islands of Rhodes or Kos. Both of these islands have international airports, making them accessible from around Europe and the UK.
The Best Time To Visit Symi
The best time to visit Symi is in the spring or autumn when the weather is idyllic and the town and beaches are relatively quiet, but as Symi is one of the more off-the-beaten-track islands it never gets quite as busy as neighbouring Kos or Rhodes during the summer.
The island has highs of 20s+ from April onwards, peaking in the 30s during July and August and dropping slowly back down during October and November. These later months also boasts much warmer sea temperatures than spring, though, which is obviously a great draw who love swimming in the lush Aegean Sea.
Things to do in Symi
Explore the beaches
As Symi is a fairly rugged, mountainous landscapes many of the beaches are only accessible by hiking, moped or taxi boat. This does mean that they are relatively quiet and untouched though, which is ideal for those seeking a classically beautiful Greek beach. Gialos beach can be reached by walking around 1km north-west of Symi Town, Panormitis is the beach closest to the main monastery on the island (accessed by driving or bus) and Agia Marina is a quiet cove and taverna located a short taxi boat from Pedi.
If you’re looking for an easily-accessible beach with traditional facilities and tavernas, look no further than Nos, Emporios, and Pedi. Nos is the closest beach to Symi Town located at the Nautical Club just a short walk from the centre.
Visit the monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis
One of the most famous sites in Symi is the Archangel Michael Panormitis monastery located on the far southwest coast of the island. This large complex was built in the 18th century and has continuously housed monks here ever since. Visitors can explore the impressive church and bell tower, discover the two small museums (one featuring religious icons and artefacts and the other exhibiting items displaying folk culture) and even purchased baked goods from the fourno (bakery) on site. The monastery is located right on the waterfront which is a lovely place to take a dip.
The monastery celebrates its biggest festival on November 8th each year with many pilgrims coming from around the island as well as from further afield in honour of Archangel Michael.
Check out the art work at Takis leather
Located in the main port town, Takis leather store is a shop full of beautiful leather goods but below the surface of stunning shoes, belts, wallets and bags lies an even more artistic creation. Takis’ leather artwork draws inspiration from the island and Greece in general, with soldering iron dots and strokes being burnt into the leather to make intricate, detailed designs.
Takis refers to his work as leather pixels, with millions of tiny dotwork marks being burnt into the fabric to create depth and texture. His designs are truly unique and beautiful and are well worth seeing up close.
Walk around the port
As mentioned earlier, the port town of Symi is a real sight to behold; the pastel-hued houses cascading down the hillside around the bay. The main town is split into two parts, Gialos, the lower area around the port itself, with tavernas, bars and bobbing fishing boats and Chorio, the winding streets that move up the hill. The port is a peaceful place to watch the world go by, with kafenions dotted around the port serving up Greek coffee and snacks.
Walk up the stairs (Kali strata to Chorio) old capital
After you’ve finished exploring the port, it’s time to feel the burn in your legs as you walk up the stairs known as Kali Strata to the old town of Chorio. There are around 400 steps in total up the Kali Strata but thankfully each time you stop to take a breather you can enjoy another picture-perfect view of Symi Town. Not only does this staircase to Chorio offer wonderful views but there are a collection of great cafes and tavernas as well as the archaeological museum and the Kastro at the top too. This makes the effort more than worthwhile!
If you’re unable to walk up the stairs to Chorio, don’t worry as there’s a bus service that runs from the port to Chorio every hour too.
Check out the archaeological museum in Chorio
When you’ve reached the top of Kali Strata you can start exploring some of the things to do in Chorio. One of the main sites is the Symi Archaeological Museum a small museum located in a traditional Symian home that houses a collection of artefacts from a range of periods in Greek history. This includes items from the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras as well as some more recent traditional items such as clothing, tools and kitchen utensils.
Get lost in the alleyways of Chorio
After stepping back in time in the Archaeological Museum you can meander through the alleyways of Chorio to see where traditional local life takes place. The streets here are simply stunning and you can easily get lost here for a little while, stepping away from the worries of the world.
Admire the view from the Kastro (castle) and Panagia Church
Another thing to enjoy while up in Chorio is the Venetian Castle built by the Knights of Saint John during the 14th Century. This Kastro was built atop the ruins of an old Byzantine Castle, with an incredible hilltop location. Overlooking the terracotta roofs of the town and the deep turquoise Aegean Sea, this is a wonderful place to admire the beauty of the island.
Located within the castle grounds at the highest point is the small, well-preserved Panagia Church where you can light a candle or say a prayer for a loved one.
Take a boat trip to secluded beaches
If you’re spending a bit of time on Symi and want to explore some beaches slightly further afield then you’ll want to take a boat to one of the more remote coves around the island. This can be done by taking a shared water taxi from the main port or the port of Pedi, or by hiring your own boat for the day. Of course, by hiring your own boat you’ll have even more flexibility and freedom to take the island at your own pace and will be able to seek out more secluded spots.
Try the small shrimps of Symi
Last but not least, one of the things you must do while on Symi island is to try the deliciously fresh Symi shrimp that are served up in almost every restaurant around town. These little ‘garadaki symiako‘ are the taste of the island and are a favourite appetiser among locals and tourists alike. The plate of sweet fresh shrimp are served simply with a squeeze of lemon and are eaten whole thanks to their delicately soft shells.
How to get around Symi
There are a couple of different options when it comes to getting around the island, namely hiring a car or moped or taking the bus.
The island bus service leaves the town on the hour every hour, going to the Archangel Michael Panormitis monastery, Pedi beach, Chorio and Nos beach in Gialos port. This means even if you don’t have a car you can reach all of the main sights and beaches.
Alternatively, if you want more flexibility you can hire a car or moped, allowing you the time and freedom to discover some more off-the-beaten-track destinations.
Where to eat in Symi
Taverna Vasilis: If you’re looking for a traditional taverna serving up fresh Symian seafood look no further than Taverna Vasilis in the main port. The staff here are friendly and welcoming and the range of appetisers and fresh fish on offer mean that everyone is well catered for.
To Souvlaki tou Gianni in Yialos (port): For the best souvlaki on the island head to To Souvlaki tou Gianni just over the bridge in the main port. This little restaurant offers succulent pork and chicken souvlaki pita along with other grill house classics like meatballs, chips and salads.
Taverna Haris: Another restaurant serving traditional dishes is Taverna Haris with mouth-watering octopus, shrimp, salads, courgette fritters and feta baked in the oven. The service is great and the quality always high so you really can’t go wrong!
Where to stay in Symi
Anastasia Hotel: Nestled in the heart of Symi Town, Anastasia Hotel is a lovely traditional guesthouse located in one of Symi’s beautiful neoclassical buildings. The rooms are bright and spacious and being just a 10-minute walk to the beach you have the best of both worlds! Click here for more information and to check the latest prices.
The Old Markets: As the name suggests, is a hotel housed in the old market place, with the classical building having been transformed into a stunning boutique hotel. The rooms are elegantly designed, there is a gorgeous bar and terrace on site and massages and beauty treatments can also be booked to elevate your stay. Plus, the property has a swimming pool which is extremely rare for Symi, so what’s not to love?! Check here for more information and to make a booking.
So now you have all the information you need about booking a memorable trip to Symi all you have to worry about is when you’re going to book the flight! Let me know in the comments if you go to Symi and which were you favourite bars, beaches and tavernas.