Reasons Why You Should Visit Symi, Greece

Enjoy Greek island life to its fullest on your next trip to Symi
Enjoy Greek island life to its fullest on your next trip to Symi | © GRANT ROONEY PREMIUM / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Kim Gregory
28 September 2021

Symi is a Greek island rich in colour with rainbow-hued mansions, a winding old town, a modern port and delectable seafood. Here’s why you should go.

Kaleidoscopic Symi is an island like no other, from the second you set eyes on its sweep of bright mansions on the hillside. There’s an old town to explore and a port to wile away evenings sampling local fare by the sea. Discover the remains of a Venetian castle perched at the very top of the island and museums to learn about local life. Sample the culture first hand at one of the lively festivals, and don’t forget to return home with a famous Symi sponge for top-class pampering. The atmosphere in Symi is as vibrant as the view.

To see sunset by the port

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Sailing into the port of Symi is a pleasure unique to this distinctively beautiful island. You’ll be met by a flourish of colourful mansions ascending the hill, set against the backdrops of greenery and mountainside. Visit port Gialos on an evening to experience being in and amongst the colourful display, walking the promenade past fishing boats bobbing in the sea and stopping at tavernas for fresh fish. As the sun sets, the sky and waters burn orange and the mansions twinkle like magic.

To wander around the colourful town

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Colourful Houses, Symi Island, Dodecanese, Greece
© GRANT ROONEY PREMIUM / Alamy Stock Photo
Wander the hillside alleyways and marvel at the painted houses up close, with their perfect balconies and wooden shutters. Many are neoclassical in style – all are picturesque. Note the common use of blue: a symbol of Greek pride during the many years of Symi’s occupation. Between Gialos and the main town – Ano Symi or Chorio – you’ll find 500 steps called the Kali Strata. Climb to the elevated old town for its Byzantine churches and traditional tavernas with breathtaking island views.

For history and views at the Venetian castle

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At the highest point of Chorio stands Symi’s historic Kastro. The Venetian castle was established in 1407 by the Knights of the Order of Saint John to protect the island – their emblem can be seen above the entrance to the ruins. The remains of a second castle, Byzantine, lie next door. Visit the chapel of the Virgin Mary: a sacred site with unrivalled, panoramic views.

And this impressive monastery

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Symi. Dodecanese Islands. Greece. Monastery of Michael of Panormitis / Moni Taxarhou Mihail.
© Adam Eastland / Alamy Stock Photo
With lush green trees on one side and sparkling blue sea on the other, Symi’s Holy Monastery of Panormitis – dedicated to Archangel Michael Panormitis – is a celebration of the island’s beauty. The impressive architecture is thought to be from at least the 15th century, including the ornate clock tower that protrudes from the centre. There’s a library, museum and gallery to explore and a restaurant to dine at. It’s best to catch a boat to Panormitis, southwest of Chorio, as sailing up to the seaside site is an experience in itself.

Because the hiking is wonderful

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Secluded Symi has lots of untouched nature to discover. The hills have footpaths to follow so you’ll never get lost as you head for the hills. Spring and autumn are good times to hike the island, when the sun isn’t too strong. Along the way you’re sure to stumble across quaint villages and small chapels, as always offering stunning panoramic views.

To shop local

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A Sponge Shop in Symi
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Dotted throughout the towns of Symi are shops selling local wares like herbs from the hills and ouzo in pretty gift bottles. You’ll spot natural sea sponges nestled in lines of baskets as Symi has a long history of sponge diving. Islanders here actually started the traditional trade in Greece – which involved deep diving using stones for weight – in the Middle Ages. It brought great wealth to the island for a time. Head to Panormitis Sponges to buy the pampering products and hear history from the passionate grandson of an early sponge diver.

To party on the island

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Every summer since 1995, the island gets extra colourful when the Symi Festival lights up the town. It’s a big cultural event celebrating music, theatre, art and dance with up to 50 concerts, shows and creative evenings throughout July, August and September. Expect literature nights and musical performances from names big and small, with a joyful and creative atmosphere. It’s a great way to experience modern Greece.

To try the popcorn shrimp

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Symi has lots of great traditional Greek food in its tavernas, but it’s most famous for its excellent shrimp. There is still a working fishing scene here and with lots of shrimp in the Aegean, the fishermen pull it straight from the waters and sell it fresh to the restaurants. It’s often coated and deep fried to make popcorn shrimp: hot, crispy and fresh. The island even has a Symi Shrimp Festival, held in August.

You can learn about traditional life

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Immerse yourself in Greek island culture with a visit to Symi Archeological Museum, based in a pretty, traditional, yellow and blue mansion with neoclassical design. Inside, find artefacts like sculptures and folk art from many eras including Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine. It means you can get to know Symi’s history as you enjoy today’s modern scene.

You can sail the seas

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Pedi, Symi, South Aegean, Greece. Boat speeding across the sheltered cove of Agios Nikolaos.
© David Tomlinson / Alamy Stock Photo
Beaches across Symi offer spectacular bay views with waters of an unrivalled blue. Enjoy a relaxed beach day with everything you could need – sunbeds, tavernas, bars and more – at central Nos Beach or pebbled Pedi Beach. For something quieter, pack a picnic and head to Panormitis Beach, where there’s nothing but soft sand, warm waters and rolling hills. Hop onto a boat and sail the sparkling seas to the different beaches – none will disappoint.
These recommendations were updated on September 28, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh. This article is an updated version of a story created by Kim Gregory

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