You know that it’s a special island; so close to bustling Rhodes in the Dodecanese and yet such a contrast in character. What you may not know is that Symi ranks as one of the most popular summer destinations in the Mediterranan for those seeking a holiday with style, one that combines cosmopolitan flavour with old-world glamour, class and tradition. It’s an island rich with history and culture, with expensive yachts along the harbour and sailboats that make their way daily from nearby Turkey.
Thanks to its unique elegance and special ambience, Symi has become a second home for people from all over the world. Whether you arrive at Gialos by ferry or cruise ship, you will be welcomed by the imposing homes of this multicoloured, listed neoclassical settlement. In its tavernas and restaurants you’ll sample the famous Symi shrimps. While on the other side of the island you’ll light a candle and say a prayer at Taxiarchis Michael of Panormitis, the monastery that houses the icon of the famous miracle worker. Welcome to Symi!
What to do on Symi
Gialos: colour, glamour and old-world charm
Ochre, salmon, red, blue, turquoise, grey; the stately neoclassical buildings at Symi’s port, Gialo, preserve the colour and glamour of its glorious past. A place that looks as if it were taken straight from the pages of an old book, its many sights and attractions include Timiou Prodromou Monastery, founded in 1838, the old Customs House, the Fish Market, the stone bridge, the statue of a young fisherman, the Clock Tower (built in 1881) and the old boatyard in Harani.
Higher and higher: Kali Strata
No fewer than 500 steps guide you from Gialo to Horio, in Ano (Upper) Symi. It was once the only way to get from one town to the other. Now, as you make your way up, imagine the old days when you’d pass well-dressed ladies in crinolines and gentlemen in tails. This is Kali Strata, boasting lavish homes and boutiques in what is the most beautiful, wealthiest part of town. At the top, an oasis, an outdoor cafe awaits. From here, watch the setting sun bathe Gialos in its technicolour glory.
Horio: glamour and nobility
You’ve arrived at Horio (meaning village) and now, with the locals as your guides, a fascinating journey through local history is about to begin; one that includes Spetsaria, the old community pharmacy with its glass containers and late 19th century architectural splendor; the impressive Hatziagapitou-Hatzioanou mansion; the Farmaki mansion which houses the Archaeological & Folklore museum. After you’ve stocked up on culture, stroll through the cobblestone streets to the Kastro and take in the view of the Aegean.
Monastery of Taxiarchis Michael Panormitis
Here devotees queue to get in, and it’s worth the wait as the church seems to exude its own mystical energy. Famous for its miracles, Panormitis is a major pilgrimage site. The monastery has existed since the 15th century and the icon of the Archangel Michael (the patron saint) is considered miraculous. Feel like staying the night? The monastery rents out some of its spartan rooms.
Hidden gems of Symi
This is the most famous and traditional dish in Symi. Small and flavourful, you’ll eat them fried in the tavernas of Gialo and Horio.
The Nautical Museum
Sponge diving and other underwater stories await you at this museum which is housed in an impressive neoclassical building in Symi’s old shipyard. Put this on the top of things to do during your holiday on the island.
Set sail for the beaches of Symi
Day cruises will take you to whatever beach you chose; whether it’s Ai-Giorgi, Dysalona, Agia Marina, Nanou or Fokospilia, you’re bound to have a wonderful time. And, as Gialos recedes into the distance, you can take a last admiring glance at all its neoclassical splendour.
Experience the best of Symi
- Symi shrimps
- Kali Strata
- The Nautical Museum
- The Monastery of Taxiarchis Michael Panormitis