Located deep in the southeast Aegean, right by the Turkish coastline, Symi gives the impression of being a remote and isolated island that lies off Greece’s regularly serviced ferryboat line. However, once there, it has many pleasant surprises to offer.
1. The colors of Gialos
Walk through the district of multi-colored mansions at Gialos, the island’s port, the area’s alleys, and work your way up the many steps to enjoy the large palette of colors the island’s buildings has to offer. The vast range of colors definitely makes the stroll around Gialos a captivating experience.
Visit the Naval Museum of Symi (Tel. +30 22460.72.363) at Gialos. Housed amid an impressive neoclassical building, it possesses a rich collection of items including diving gear and apparatus, sponges and old photographs.
2. The 500 steps of Kali Strata
Climb the 500 stone steps from Gialos to Ano Symi, or Chorio, the main town and island’s capital. Known as Kali Strata, the steps run through mansion areas and chapels all the way to the main square. From there, the view truly is magical.
3. The bay
Stroll around the port’s entire bay area, alongside the moored small boats and yachts. The shops operating here are open throughout the day, making this a lively stretch. Besides the port, the bay area is lined with traditional cafes and fish tavernas, many of these with fresh octopus hung to dry outside. The clock tower, an island monument built in 1881 and based on the design of London’s Big Ben, stands a little before the shipyard.
“Walk through the district of multi-colored mansions at Gialos, the island’s port, the area’s alleys, and work your way up the many steps to enjoy the large palette of colors the island’s buildings has to offer.”
4. A ride on a traditional boat
A ride around the waters of the island on Poseidon, a traditional boat, is recommended. Many of the island’s magical beaches cannot be reached via the land, which makes this sailing trip and the access it offers to the inaccessible beaches particularly worthwhile. Poseidon (Tel. +30 6973.220.215) embarks daily from the port at 10:30 and returns at 17:30. The itinerary includes Fokospilia, a well-hidden beach where seals may be spotted, swimming at Agios Vasilios beach, a meal on the islet Seskli, as well as coffee and one last dip at Agios Georgios beach.
Also enjoy the fish and seafood on offer. Symi boasts a rich sea tradition. Over the years, the island’s inhabitants have become renowned fishermen, sponge divers, ship builders and sailors. Even today, their bond with the sea remains strong. On a daily basis, locals dive for octopus, fish with trawls, and, of course, supply the island’s fish tavernas with fresh Symi shrimps.
5. Moni Panormiti
Visit the Monastery of Archangel Michael at Panormos, widely known as Moni Panormiti, on the south side of the island, at a bay of sensational beauty. The setting here is one of vast areas of bare land and occasional slopes with trees as well as rich green waters that offer visitors the opportunity to combine their monastery visit with a swim.
Symi is connected by ferryboat from Piraeus (approximately 17 hours). Alternatively, visitors may travel to Rhodes by ferryboat or plane and catch flying dolphins across to Symi (50 minutes) or ferryboat (1½ hours).