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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re keen to explore further, head to the capital Athens for beautiful beaches, authentic cuisine and historic attractions. Choose between the top hotels or go for a boutique option – all are bookable through Culture Trip.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.