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Why Should I Visit Symi?

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Symi at a glance

With its cosmopolitan grandeur and great naval tradition, Symi island has been called the “jewel of the Dodecanese”. Its elegant capital, consisting of the port of Yialos and the hillside settlement of Horio, makes an immediate impression with its Italian refinement and beautiful neoclassical architecture in pastel colours.

 

The picture-postcard beauty of the architecturally protected town extends to the blue-green waters of its crenelated coastline, which attracts thousands of yacht-owners and sailors every summer.

Every corner of the island testifies to the wealth and splendour of Symi in the 18th and 19th century as a global shipping and sponge-fishing power, while its aristocratic charm has been discovered in recent years by international jetsetters and Hollywood stars. Whether you come on a day-trip from Rhodes or for a longer stay, this tiny corner of paradise at the edge of the Aegean will provide indelible memories to look back on and cherish. Choose a ticket to Symi to visit it!

10 reasons to visit Symi
  1. To discover one of the largest and most beautiful neoclassical towns in Greece, with mansions in shades of ochre, white, blue, salmon and red, built by rich captains and merchants. Perched on the side of a steep hill, they are a living work of art that never fails to capture the hearts of visitors.
  2. To visit the historic 6th-century Monastery of the Archangel Michael at Panormitis, one of the largest sites of religious pilgrimage in the Aegean, to admire its magnificent Byzantine icons and baroque bell tower.
  3. To try the famous Symi shrimp, the tiny variety found in the waters around the island.
  4. To climb up the Kali Strata, the 500 stone steps connecting the port of Yialos with Horio (Ano Symi). This old shopping street goes through an enchanting setting of picturesque alleys, beautiful churches, imposing neoclassical mansions with pediments, fanlights and tiled roofs, courtyards with pebble mosaics and decorative floors, and charming shops, until it reaches the main square with its pretty cafes and views of the Aegean.
  5. To visit the Archaeological & Folklore Museum with archaeological finds from the Classical to the Byzantine period and ethnographic displays including the recreation of a local home and traditional costumes.
  6. To discover the nautical tradition of the island at the excellent Maritime Museum. Its collection is devoted to the sailors, merchants and sponge-divers of Symi.
  7. To walk through a cypress forest in the area of Kourkounioti, where eleven restored Byzantine wine presses bear witness to the island’s long history of viticulture, which lasted until the late 18th century.
  8. To take a romantic stroll around Yialos and see the impressive Clock Tower (1881) and “Michalaki”, the statue of a boy holding a fishing pole.
  9. To enjoy the unparalleled view of the island from the 14th-century Castle of the Knights of St. John, which stands at the highest point of Horio. Admire the escutcheons of the Grand Masters on the fortifications and the church of the Virgin Mary inside.
  10. To go to the iconic Symi Cultural Festival (July-September), in which both Greek and foreign artists take part.
The top 5 beaches

St. George’s: Symi’s largest beach is distinguished by its crystal-clear turquoise waters and impressive setting at the foot of 300-metre-high cliffs. It takes its name from the church on the rock. Access is by sea.

Nanou: Considered the most beautiful beach on the island, this is a paradise of large pebbles, dark green waters, and cypress trees that cast a shadow over the sea. It has sunbeds and a taverna.

Nos: One of the island’s most popular beaches is within walking distance (1 km) of Symi Town. Although it is an official tourist beach, it succeeds in balancing a cool cosmopolitan atmosphere with tranquillity and relaxation. The coast is sandy and the waters crystal-clear. It is worth coming here on foot from the Clock Tower in the Symi’s port.

Marathounda: One of the island’s quietest and most beautiful beaches stretches around a bay with white pebbles and sheltered blue-green waters. It has umbrellas, sunbeds, and a taverna for snacks and refreshing drinks, and is one of the few beaches that can be reached by road (17 km south-east of Symi Town). The local goats that often choose to wander here are a picturesque bonus.

Saint Nicholas: A sandy beach with a few pebbles, trees offering natural shade, and shallow turquoise waters that make it ideal for families with children. This popular beach also offers amenities such as sunbeds and a taverna. The church of Saint Nicholas stands at one end.

Don’t leave Symi without…
  • Climbing up to the castle of Pontikokastro, which is surrounded by twenty windmills that would once have ground grain, some now converted into houses.
  • Taking a day trip to the islets of Nimos and Sesklia, which are designated archaeological sites. The first is famous for its olive groves and wildlife, and the second for its beaches and natural springs.
  • Buying a wooden carving from a local artisan as a souvenir of your visit to the island.
  • Breathing in the atmosphere of the traditional village of Pedi, which is verdant with vines, olive trees and fruit trees.
  • Drinking coffee at one of the traditional cafes on the harbourfront.
  • Visiting Saint John’s Cathedral, with its elaborate pebble mosaic courtyard and stone bell tower.
  • Exploring Emporeio (the island’s second port) with its “twelve caves”, one of the most mysterious sights on Symi. These hollow vaults might have been catacombs, burial monuments, or Byzantine painting or sculpture workshops.
Tasty experiences
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with local akoumia (doughnuts) and misokofti (a pudding made with boiled prickly pears).
  • Enjoy ouzo with fried Symi shrimp and gaelopita (smelt fried together in a pie).
  • Sample favourite local mezes such as cabbage-leaf dolmades with split-pea puree, chickpeas with mushrooms and dill, and fishcakes.
  • Try the famous local tourtes (cheese pies).
  • Choose a ticket to Symi and, don’t miss the local slow-cooked goat, one of the traditional specialities of the island.
Trivia

The people of Symi were the first Greeks to engage in sponge-diving, and it was from them that other islanders learnt how to fish, process and trade sponges. They were also the first to bring a diving suit from India to Greece, first using it in Symi in 1863. In the 19th century, the island had the largest sponge-fishing fleet in the world and was a dominant power in the industry and international trade of sponges. However, the ban on sponge fishing by the Italian administration governing the Dodecanese during World War I marked the gradual decline of the profession on the island, a development crowned in the 1930s with the appearance of synthetic sponges.​

MAP OF SYMI
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