travel zone

Symi

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When I started writing articles for this site, describing my experiences and giving advice to people like you, searching for the ideal Greek island to visit, it never occurred to me I'd get so. nostalgic. I mean, it's only last year that I got to visit the last Greek island I'd never been at, thus completing the aim I'd set when I was still a young kid. While I was at it, I'd never thought I'd revisit many of these islands. See, I see traveling as an exciting adventure, a task of always discovering something new. If you've been there before, it's not a trip, it's just holiday. Of course there are places that I love, like Athens or Crete, but I still never expected I'd miss all of them.

When I visited the last island last summer, Ios, I decided I'd start visiting other places in the world, like NYC, Paris or London. I still want to. But, now that I think about it, there are so many Greek islands that I just need to revisit. I need to see them again, if only to relive those days.

Why am I telling you this now, in Symi's section? Well, to be honest. Symi was the first island I ever visited, other than Crete (where I used to live, so it doesn't count, does it?). Or at least, it's the first island I remember visiting. I was 9 back then and it was one of those family trips when I had no friends with me, only siblings and cousins.

Don't worry though; I'm not going to focus on my first experience. Besides, how trustworthy is a 9-year-old's opinion about a place (no offense to 9-year-olds)? I'm going to focus on my second visit, which was about 2 years ago, with Leela (my wife), my son, Hope, her husband and their two sons.

Now let me tell you that most of this beautiful island is uninhabited and undeveloped. Actually, besides Symi Town, only the hamlets of Pedi and Niborio are inhabited and they are connected to Symi Town by regular bus service.

map of symi - map

Cruzeiro greica

What does Symi look like?


Thankfully, the carefully restored traditional houses haven't given way to modern structures. The elegant neo Classical houses with tiled roofs rise in tiers up the old town. The natural landscape is just as scenic: no long stretches of beach, but a wild, jagged coastline of sheer cliffs and narrow creeks. This makes Symi a paradise for ramblers.

Just think: tarmac roads, surrounded by pine-covered hills and valleys of olive trees, free-roaming goats and stray cats, forgotten chapels. That's what Symi looks like.

symi greece - neoclassiacal building symi greece - neoclassiacal building

Are there any places in Symi I should see?


The first place that comes to mind is Gialos, Symi's largest harbor. The entrance is dominated by the municipal clocktower of 1880, the campanile of the Evangelistria Church and the statue of the little Fisherman. You'll also find the Kampsopoulos House which is now a restaurant and where, on May 8th 1945, General Wagner surrendered the Dodecanese to the Allies. Gialos is a beautiful place to wander around and look at what it has to offer. You could also visit the Naval Museum there.

greek islands - Nautical Museum greek islands - Nautical Museum

Speaking of museums, make sure you don't miss Symi's Archaeological and Folklore Museum. It contains statues and other Paleo-Christian objects, 12-13C Byzantine pottery, beautiful icons, traditional costumes etc. Just one tiny bit of advice: if you're planning on following the sign-posting to find it. by all means good luck! Better ask around and let the locals guide you to it, if you don't intend on getting lost.

greek islands - panormitis greek islands - panormitis

Finally, don't forget the closed Bay of Panormitis. Dominated by the monastery of Taxiarchis Michail Panormitis, the island's patron saint, the Bay is an enormous complex divided by a pseudo-baroque bell-tower down the middle. Don't miss the monastery, by the way. Famous for its miraculous icon of Saint Michael, it contains two museums, a folk museum and a collection of ecclesiastical treasures, as well as a library with old books and manuscripts.


Are there any historical or archaeological sites I should visit?

As most Greek islands, Symi has its own castle, the Castle of the Knights (or, alternatively, the Knights of Saint John Kastro). The castle incorporates blocks from the an-cient acropolis and the Church of Megali Panagia within its walls.

Other than that, the only place that comes to mind is the Dodeca Spilea (= twelve catacombs), really. Dodeca Spilea, as its name indicates, is a group of twelve underground tunnels that were used in Byzantine times as an artists' workshop. You'll find them in Niborio.

symi - Castle of the Knights

What about Symi's beaches?


Symi has some good, though not outstanding, beaches. The good thing about them is the water is always crystal-clear and the high temperatures permit swimming until the end of October.

One of the finest beaches is Nanou, a beautiful bay encircled by rocky hillocks. It's only accessible by caique or sea taxi, but it's worth it: pebbles, umbrellas and a little taverna in the shade of its few trees.

Then there's Agia Marina, a small beach with emerald waters, a taverna, lounging chairs and sand imported from Rhodes. It's accessible by boat from Pedi or Gialos.

Agios Georgios is another small beach in a lovely setting, with a few trees. Access is only by boat, again. Finally, Agios Emilianos is a picturesque bay with greenery opposite an islet with a monastery. Again, accessible only by boat.

agia marina beach pedi beach

Where should I eat in Symi?

symi-food

Thankfully, Symi is full of places where you can eat, so your choices are not limited.

One of the best restaurants in Symi is Mythos, in the harbor of Gialos. It has several tables on the waterfront in a quite elegant setting. Try the fresh fish. Unfortunately, it's only open for dinner.

Mylopetra, also in Gialos, is a quite attractive restaurant with traditional dcor. What makes it so special, other than the delicious Mediterranean and Greek foods it serves, is the 2m long ancient tomb dating form about 50BC that is visible through thick glass under the restaurant's floor. The finds from it are on display in the Rhodes Archaeological Museum.

Tholos, at the far end of Gialos, serves ouzo and appetizers and it's considered the best of its kind on the island. It also has a great view to the town.

Metapontis on the quayside of Emborios is a pleasant family restaurant adjoining the guesthouse with the same name. Panormion at the beginning of the quay in Panormitis is the only restaurant there. It has several tasty Greek specialties and fish. Finally, Meraklis behind the main quay in Gialos is a traditional taverna with moderate prices that is often crowded but it's definitely worth a visit.


What about Symi's nightlife?

symi - nightlife

There are several lively bars in the streets behind the south side of the harbor. Roloy Bar, for example, is a busy little watering hole one block inland from the south side of the port, open most of the day and a large part of the night. The Roof Garden is another good idea, a place that attracts the yachting crowd and sophisticated night owls. The Club in Gialos is a dancing bar that is great for a good bop. Alethini Taverna on the road to Pedi offers bouzouki nights with traditional music and dance. Finally, Valanidia, further along, also has bouzouki with top singing stars in high season.



How do I get to Symi?

There are daily excursion boats running between Symi and Rhodes. Also, Symi has up to four ferries a week heading north to other Dodecanese islands and Pireaus. Symi is connected by hydrofoil to Kos, Kalymnos and Rhodes.

Book online your ferry tickets to the greek islands and have them delivered at home easily.

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