Symi

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The Island of Colours

Neoclassical Mansions and Captain Houses under the Romantic Atmosphere of the Colourful Harbour
While approaching the harbour of Symi, you will be overwhelmed from millions of feelings. The colourful houses of the village climbing to the slopes of the mountain seem like an image of a fairy tale novel. The rich mythological tradition reflects to the history of the island. The beauty of Symi is a unique spectacle. Neoclassical mansions and abandoned captain houses, cobblestone courtyards and pebbled mosaics give an aura of nobility to the island while the bougainvillea flowers add a colourful touch to the romantic atmosphere. You might even sense the atmospheric air of Symi when you climb the five hundred stone steps that lead to the once most commercial street of the island. Stroll around the kalderimi, the stone bridge that connects the two sides of the village, renowned as the Bridge of Love and you might even feel like you stepped back in another era, and observe the famous shipbuilders of Symi at the small shipyard of Harani who maintain the shipbuilding traditions of the island. An island with strong elements of romanticism, that resembles a colourful canvas, will go beyond your expectations; It will salute you stately, secluded, rocky and wild but above all beautiful.

 

Discover Symi

Best of Symi

The Capital of Symi

The Harbour of Gialos is the harbour of Symi located on the northern side of the island. The charming settlement is one of the most romantic villages of the Dodecanese embellished with neoclassical mansions and abandoned captain houses, cobblestone courtyards and pebbled mosaics that give an aura of nobility to the island. The two sides of the harbour are connected with the stone bridge, known as Kalderimi, that lead to the charming square of Kambos. The main stairway that leads to the capital of Symi, known as Horio, is called Kali Strata. The beautiful village has a traditional character with old mansions, charming chapels and labyrinthine cobblestoned alleys that spread towards the hillside. The entire area is crowned from the castle of the Knights standing on the highest point of the settlement. Since 1970, the whole settlement has been declared as preserved owing to the historical importance of the buildings.

The Beach of Agios Georgios Disalonas

The Beach of Agios Georgios Disalonas is one of the most impressive beaches of the Aegean. It is a pebbled beach with emerald waters located on the east side of the island. It is the most beautiful beach of the island lying in front of a vertical cliff of three hundred metres. The beach is accessible either through a hiking path from Pedi or by boat.

The Castle of the Knights

The Castle of the Knights is located on the highest point of Ano Symi. The defensive fortress was built on the remnants of the ancient acropolis of Symi from the Knights of Saint John in 1407 with the intention of strengthening the defence system of the island. At the main entrance, an emblem of the Knights can be found. Today, the outer defensive walls of the castle are the sole significant remains. The castle of the Knights offers panoramic views of the surrounding areas.

The Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormiti

The Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis is one of the most important pilgrimage centres of the Dodecanese located on southwest side of the island. The monastery was constructed from the architect Anastasis Karnavis in 1783 while it was decorated from the local iconographers namely Monk Neofytos and Kyriakos Karakostis. The impressive bell tower of Panormitis was built in a baroque style in the early 20th century, and resembles the bell tower of the monastery of Zagorsk in Moscow. Inside the monastery, one can visit an interesting folklore and ecclesiastical collection. The cells of the monastery can accommodate up to five hundred guests wishing to stay overnight. Excursions boats to the monastery operate from the harbour of Gialos.

Archaeological Sites

The Pondikokastro is considered to be one of the oldest monuments of the island found in the area of the windmills. It is a strange circular stone building, known as the grave of Nereus from the locals. Unfortunately, archaeologists have not yet been able to determine the age of the monument. One can access the monument by ascending the five hundred steps of Kali Strata.

Castles

The Castle of the Knights is located on the highest point of Ano Symi. The defensive fortress was built on the remnants of the ancient acropolis of Symi from the Knights of Saint John in 1407 with the intention of strengthening the defence system of the island. At the main entrance, an emblem of the Knights can be found. Today, the outer defensive walls of the castle are the sole significant remains. The castle of the Knights offers panoramic views of the surrounding areas.

Churches and Monasteries

The Chapel of Agios Emilianos is a charming chapel located on the islet of Agios Emilianos. The chapel is an ideal spots for enjoying the sunset. Usually, the circumnavigation of the island with the boats passes through this spot.

The Chapel of Virgin Mary of the Castle is a beautiful chapel located on the highest point of the castle. The chapel offers spectacular views of the surrounding areas.

The Cathedral of Timios Prodromos is beautiful church with a marvelous pebbled yard and an impressive bell tower located on the harbor of Gialos. The temple is connected with the most historical moments in the life of the island, as it is related to the resistance against its conquerors.  At the entrance of the courtyard, various cultural events are held during the Festival of Symi.

The Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis is one of the most important pilgrimage centres of the Dodecanese located on southwest side of the island. The monastery was constructed from the architect Anastasis Karnavis in 1783 while it was decorated from the local iconographers namely Monk Neofytos and Kyriakos Karakostis. The impressive bell tower of Panormitis was built in a baroque style in the early 20th century, and resembles the bell tower of the monastery of Zagorsk in Moscow. Inside the monastery, one can visit an interesting folklore and ecclesiastical collection. The cells of the monastery can accommodate up to five hundred guests wishing to stay overnight. Excursions boats to the monastery operate from the harbour of Gialos.

The Monastery of Archangel Michael Roukouniotis is a fortified monastery located on the west side of the island. The monastery was constructed on the remnants of an ancient temple from the Knights of Saint John during the 15th century. It consists from two interesting temples with significant murals within the courtyard shaded from an impressive umbrella-shaped cypress. The monastery celebrates in honour of the patron saint of Symi on November 8.

Museums and Monuments

The Archaeological and Folklore Museum of Symi is housed in the traditional mansion of the family of Gianeski in Horio. The museum exhibits a rich archaeological collection of inscriptions, pottery, textiles and musical instruments of the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The Ecclesiastical and Folklore Museum of Symi is housed within the premises of the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis. The museum exhibits an interesting collection of underwater antiquities and a collection of manuscripts, portable icons and sacred vessels.

The Maritime Museum of Symi is housed in a beautiful neoclassical building in the Square of Kambos. The museum exhibits artefacts from nautical equipment of old diving suits, maps and photographs and ships models of the local ships.

The Reading Room of Aigli is one of the most ancient libraries of the Aegean housed inside the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis. The museum exhibits manuscripts of ecclesiastical, historical and philosophical content.

The Shipyard of Harani will take you back in time, as you will see the manner that fishing vessels were made with simple tools. Harani is the last preserved shipyard of the island that showcases the inextricable connection of the island with shipbuilding. During the Ottoman occupation, the residents of Symi gained special privileges from the Turks as they built the fastest ships.

Promenades & Villages

Gialos is the harbour of Symi located on the northern side of the island. The charming settlement is one of the most romantic villages of the Dodecanese embellished with neoclassical mansions and abandoned captain houses, cobblestone courtyards and pebbled mosaics that give an aura of nobility to the island. The two sides of the harbour are connected with the stone bridge, known as Kalderimi, that lead to the charming square of Kambos. The main stairway that leads to the capital of Symi, known as Horio, is called Kali Strata. The beautiful village has a traditional character with old mansions, charming chapels and labyrinthine cobblestoned alleys that spread towards the hillside. The entire area is crowned from the castle of the Knights standing on the highest point of the settlement. Since 1970, the whole settlement has been declared as preserved owing to the historical importance of the buildings.

Emborios, else known as Niborio, is a seaside settlement located on the northern side of the island. It is considered to be one of the most charming fishing settlements of the island with a nice pebbled beach. Emborios has a picturesque atmosphere with traditional houses and red tiled roofs. It is worth mentioning that a tavern operates in the village during the summer. Emborios is an ideal place for those looking for relaxation and peacefulness.

Pedi is a seaside settlement located on the northwest side of the island. The beautiful settlement has a peaceful atmosphere with beautiful natural surroundings. It is worth mentioning that Pedi is renowned for its delicious fish taverns. Pedi is ideal for those seeking for tranquillity and calmness.

Sunset Spots

Spot: Castle of the Knights, North Symi

Spot: Bridge of Love, North Symi

Spot: Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis, South Symi

Excursions

Boat Trip: The Island of Halki is a mysterious island with artistic landscapes that compose a beautiful image of a marvellous canvas, a charming village waiting to catch your attention. A handful of neoclassical mansions spread around the charming harbour of the island in all the shades of the colours of the rainbow that reflect under the blinding light of the sun. Characterized by Unesco as the island of Peace and Friendship, Niborio is the colourful capital and harbour of the island! The beautiful settlement has an authentic atmosphere with tall mansions and enormous windows under the red tiled roofs and cobblestone labyrinthine alleys. And what about the size? Whatever Halki lacks in size, it replenishes in landscapes and colours; besides they say less is more. This is Halki, a tiny island with virgin natural beauty eager to be discovered. An island with traditional colours and remarkable historical monuments create a peaceful and tranquil environment even for the most discerning travellers.

Boat Trip: The Island of Kos has been the crossroads of cultures and civilizations from the mythological era of Hercules and the Hellenistic period of Asclepius. It is a mysterious island where the beauty of Ancient Greece meets the Oriental exotic elegance and the sophistication of Italy. The rich history of Kos is visible all over the island through the scattered heritage of historical monuments. Kos gives a taste of multiculturalism as evidenced from the unique architecture that embraces all the historical periods of the island, an exciting history that gave birth to a culture with impressive monuments of incomparable beauty. The imposing purity of this beautiful island is combined with the exotic natural beauty of endless sandy beaches that compete with the verdant valleys and water springs. Every corner of the island is hiding an unexpected surprise. Dive in the crystalline waters of Paradise, enjoy the sunset from the village of Zia, wander around the cultural wealth of Asclepius, cycle to the Palm Avenue of Kos, surf to the waves of Mastihari, hike to the mountain of Dikeos, swim to the isle of Kastri and visit the volcanic island of Nisyros to experience the unique beauty of Kos! Mountainous traditional villages and medieval monuments, exotic natural beauty sceneries with the spirit of Hippocrates wandering around the island under the sun of the Aegean, it is no wonder that the island of Kos hides dozens of unrevealed beauties.

Boat Trip: The Island of Nisyros is a mysterious island of the Dodecanese that was captured from pirates, conquered from the knights and subjugated from the Turks, an island that hypnotizes the traveller from the captivating contrast between the lunar volcanic scenery of the inland and the surrounding fertile area of dark beaches and thermal springs. Nisyros shapes an exceptional character with its unique mystical beauty embellished with diversified landscapes of a seductive and idyllic volcano atmosphere. The island emits a distinctive charm that goes beyond natural beauty, possible due to the captivating energy vibes of the active volcano. The outstanding contrast between the volcanic colours of the volcano and the whitewashed houses of the Aegean will definitely amaze you while the lunar sceneries of the crater of the volcano with the odour of sulphur will make you want to hold your breath! Evident in every little stone, the volcanic composition of Nisyros has been originated from the massive eruptions millions of years ago. Fascinating contrasts between the dark brown earth and the deep blue sea forms a succession of darken seashores of extreme wild beauty. Nisyros is a truly genuine island with an unusual beauty. The captivating landscapes, the hypnotizing landscapes and the thermal springs might even feel like you have “Nisyriasi”: a word meaning a severe addiction to the volcanic energy of the island in the world of Nisyros!

Activities

Hiking: Symi hosts numerous paths ideal for lovers of hiking. Walking around the island, one will have the opportunity to discover hidden churches and monasteries with great views. (1) One of the most beautiful routes starts from the harbour of Gialos and leads to the village of Horio through the five hundred steps of Kali Strata. (2) Another interesting route starts from Horio and leads to the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis. It is a beautiful route that passes through verdant sceneries and scattered churches.

Snorkelling and Spearfishing: The crystal clear waters of Symi are ideal for snorkelling lovers while the rich marine life of Symi is ideal for spearfishing lovers.

Beaches

Agios Emilianos is a pebbled beach with crystal clean waters located on the west side of the island. There, you will find the the beautiful chapel of Agios Emilianos. The beach is only accessible by boat.

Agios Georgios Disalonas is a pebbled beach with emerald waters located on the east side of the island. It is the most beautiful beach of the island lying in front of a vertical cliff of three hundred metres. The beach is accessible either through a hiking path from Pedi or by boat.

Agios Vasilios is a pebbled beach with crystal clear waters and cypress trees located on the west side of the island. It is a remote beach ideal for those looking for tranquillity. Agios Vasilios is an idyllic spot with rocky surroundings and an ideal place to enjoy the sunset. The easiest way to access the beach is by boat.

Agios Nikolas is a sandy beach with blue waters and pine trees located on the east side of the island. The beach is well organized with sunbeds and umbrellas, and a tavern. The beach is accessible either through a hiking path from Pedi or by boat.

Marathounda is a pebbled beach with emerald waters located on the south side of the island. It is an isolated beach ideal for those looking for peacefulness. A canteen operates at the beach.

Nanou is a pebbled beach with azure waters surrounded and cypress trees located on the southeast side of the island. It is one of the most scenic beaches of the island. A tavern operates at the beach.

Niborio is a pebbled bay with emerald waters located on the northwest side of the island. It is one of the most popular beaches of the island due to its close proximity to the center of the town.

Nos is a pebbled beach with crystal clean waters located on the north side of the island. It is a beautiful beach with sunbeds and umbrellas, and a tavern. The beach offers beautiful views to the surrounding areas.

Pedi is a natural bay with crystal clear waters located on the northeast side of the island. The area offers a series of consecutive beaches ideal for snorkelling lovers. Nearby taverns offer delicious fresh fish. Excursion boats operate to the beaches of the island.

Panormitis is a scenic pebbled beach with crystalline waters located on the southwest side of the island. It is one of the most charming areas of the island located in front of the Monastery of Panormitis. Due to the close proximity to the monastery, nudism is prohibited.

Coffee Corners, Gastronomic Delights & Cocktails Inspirations

Coffee Corners

Elpida: Coffee, Gialos

Kantirimi Cafe Bar: Coffee, The Square

The Olive Tree Cafe: Coffee and Pastries, Kali Strata

Roloi Cafe: Coffee, Gialos

Gastronomic Delights

Dafnes: Greek Cuisine, Toli bay

Haritomeni: Greek Cuisine, Pitini

Georgio and Maria: Greek Cuisine, Kali Strata

Muses: Greek Cuisine, Gialos

Pandelis: Greek Cuisine, Gialos

Tholos: Greek Cuisine, Gialos

The Windmill: Greek Cuisine, Gialos

Cocktails Inspirations

Tsati: Cocktails and Drinks, Gialos

Vapori: Cocktails and Drinks, Gialos

Local Products & Specialties

The local products of the island include fresh fish, thyme honey, wine and wild herbs.

The local products of the island include fishballs, chickpeas with dill, stuffed cabbage leaves with fava, shrimps, akomia, a local sweet, and gaelopita, a smelt pie.

Events & Festivals

Every summer, numerous cultural and musical events takes place on the island with the participation of various acclaimed performers.

Every 17th of July, the traditional celebration in honour of Agia Marina takes place on the homonymous islet.

Every 15th of August, the traditional celebration in honour of Virgin Mary takes place in the Monastery of Panagia Alithini.

Every 8th of November, the traditional celebration in honour of Archangel Michael takes place in the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis.

History & Mythology

Mythology

One of the antiquity names of the island was Egli, the nymph who gave birth to the Three Graces while another myth states that Symi was the name of the nymph who God Poseidon fell in love with, and had a son, Chthonios, the first king of the island. However, another myth reveals that the island was named after the daughter of Ialysos and Dotida, who was kidnapped from Glafkos and was brought to the island. He was the first resident of Symi, an excellent fisherman and shipbuilder, who constructed the ship of the Argonauts leaving the everlasting legacy to the island.

History

Archaeological findings show that Symi has been inhabited since the prehistoric times. The island followed the historical path of the Dodecanese, felling under the domination of the Roman and Byzantine Empire and the Order of the Knights of Rhodes who contributed to the economic prosperity of Symi helping in the development shipbuilding, sponge fishing and trade. When the Ottomans conquered the island, the people of Symi managed to gain important privileges from the Sultan that gave them autonomy and great benefits in seamanship. Subsequently, Symi served as the capital of the Dodecanese. This was the golden era of Symi in 1900 for a decade.  However, Symi was dominated from the Italians followed from the English and the German occupation. Symi was incorporated to Greece in March of 1948.

Travel & Transport

By Boat (216 Nautical Miles): Symi is accessible by boat from the harbour of Piraeus. The journey usually lasts seventeen hours. The quickest way to get to Symi is by airplane to the island of Rhodes. There, you can hop on a boat and visit Symi. The journey usually lasts one and a half hour. Symi is also connected with the islands of Agathonisi, Kalymnos, Kastelorizo, Kos, Leros, Leipsoi, Nisyros, Patmos and Tilos. Book your tickets with FerriesinGreece.com !

Mysterious Greece Tips

About Symi

Symi is one of the smallest islands of the Dodecanese located northern from the island of Rhodes, eastern from the island of Tilos and Nisyros and southern from the island of Kos. Symi is a mountainous a rocky island and the largest part is bare while there are pine forest on the east part. Symi is an ideal destination for those looking for tranquillity and seclusion. As the size of the island is tiny, there is only one bus service. It is advisable not to rent a car, as the road network is limited. The majority of the beaches are accessible by boat while there are numerous hiking trails.

Climb 500 Marble Steps

The only way to get from the harbour of Gialos to the village of Horio is by ascending the 500 marble steps of Kali Strata! On your way uphill, you will have the opportunity to admire outstanding two and three storey houses with symmetrical doors and windows. These massive mansions used to belong to wealthy merchants and captains, who brought the artistic styles of the West because of their professional activities. The traces of this influence are distinctive from the coloured plaster, the gable roofs, the cornice doors and windows, the wooden doors and the exquisite ironwork balconies!

Dedicate a Day to the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis

The Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis is one of the most important pilgrimage centres of the Dodecanese located on southwest side of the island. Even if you are not a religious believer, it is worth visiting this unique monument. The monastery was constructed from the architect Anastasis Karnavis in 1783 while it was decorated from the local iconographers namely Monk Neofytos and Kyriakos Karakostis. The impressive bell tower of Panormitis was built in a baroque style in the early 20th century, and resembles the bell tower of the monastery of Zagorsk in Moscow. Inside the monastery, one can visit an interesting folklore and ecclesiastical collection. The cells of the monastery can accommodate up to five hundred guests wishing to stay overnight. Hop into a boat from Gialos to visit the monastery!

Discover the Wine Presses of Symi

In the Byzantine times, Symi flourished from the development in commerce, shipbuilding, sponge fishing and viniculture. Viniculture was indeed developed created due to the production of the white wine. Today, there are 11 stone wine presses that have been reconstructed using the authentic rock parts at the area of Kourkouniotis! One can discover the area by hiking!

Explore Symi by Boat

Hop on a boat to discover the inaccessible beaches of Symi!  One will have the opportunity to enjoy the wild sceneries of the beach of Agios Georgios Disalonas, the lovely beach with the charming chapel of Agios Emilianos, the sandy beach with turquoise waters of the islet of Agia Marina and the sandy beach of the islet of Sesklia. Excursion boats operate from the Gialos, Pedi and Panormitis.

Enjoy your Coffee at The Olive Tree Cafe

Hiding in the staircase of Ano Hora, The Olive Tree Cafe is one of the best places to enjoy your cocktail in its lovely terrace overlooking the endless blue of the Aegean!

Hiking to the Monastery

Wear your trainers, grab two bottles of water, get a map and start walking! The longest route of Symi is 22 kilometres leading to the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis! The route is uphill in the beginning with panoramic views of Gialos and Horio. Continuing, one will have the opportunity to admire the rocky sceneries and the large forest of cypress and pine trees. Walking on this route, you will also count deserted churches and monasteries including Agia Marina, Agia Aikaterini, Agia Triada, Agios Prokopios and Prophet Elias. The fortified monastery of Archangel Michael Roukouniotis with its impressive wall paintings is one of the gems you will encounter. Going downhill towards the bay, you will reach the imposing monastery of Taxiarhis Michael Panormitis!

Observing like an Olympian God

Guessing you want to take a panoramic picture of the colorful village of Symi? Climb up to the village of Horio to capture one of the best pictures for your album!

Participate in the Authentic Celebrations of Symi

The most important traditional celebration of the island is held in honor of Archangel Michael Panormitis on November 8. On that day, pilgrims and faithful throughout the Dodecanese and beyond visit the monastery!

Stay Overnight in the Monastery

The Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis rents the cells of the monastery for guests wishing to stay overnight. Undoubtedly, the spiritual aspect makes for an enriching experience!

Wandering in one of the most Romantic Villages of the Aegean

Gazing the colourful island of Symi, it is hard not to fall in love with this neoclassical settlement! The lovely village was built on the mountain foothills of Vigla for reasons of safety and protection of pirate invasions. This part is known as Horio or Ano Hora. The highest point of Horio is dominated from the ancient citadel and the traces of the castle of the Knights. The settlement was centred on the castle and gradually began to extend to the coast of Symi namely Gialos, Niborio and Pedi. In 1971, the settlement of Symi was declared as a preserved settlement from the Ministry of Culture. The two and three storey houses with the pebbled courtyards, the decorative motifs, the gabled pitched tiled roofs and the iron balconies create a distinctive noble character. However, the audacious diversity of the houses and the pastel colours calm the imposing cliffs of Symi. The harbour of Gialos was developed in the 15th century with dense layout and vaulted passages while it took its final form in the early 20th century. The beautiful houses of Gialos were constructed from Carpathian craftsmen. Indeed, the upper part of Gialos is an exceptional architectural sample due to the interesting mixture of the architecture of the Aegean and elements of the Venetian fortress architecture. It is worth noting that the influence of the European Neoclassicism was great to the people of Symi. They brought marble from the island of Paros and the mount of Pendeli to construct balconies and stairs, pumice stones from Santorini to construct the stone masonry, porcelain from Nisyros to plaster, wood from Trieste for doors and windows and tiles from Marseilles. Walking towards Ano Hora, one will find one of the most beautiful districts namely Kali Strata. The significant development of maritime activities and cultural relationships between Egypt and Asia Minor contributed to the relationship of an urban neoclassicism. On your way uphill, you will have the opportunity to admire outstanding two and three storey houses with symmetrical doors and windows. These massive mansions used to belong to wealthy merchants and captains, who brought the artistic styles of the West because of their professional activities. The traces of this influence are distinctive from the coloured plaster, the gable roofs, the cornice doors and windows, the wooden doors and the exquisite ironwork balconies! On the other hand, the buildings of Gialos are characterized from influences of the European Neoclassicism such as the two storey house of Fotara and the three storey house of Kalafata made in the style of the Venetians and Naples. Other monuments of Gialos include the impressive clock tower built in 1881 and the sculptures of the Dove of Peace and the Statue of Mihalakis made from Kostas Valsamis.

Photo Credits

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Note: All the images are copyrighted from their owners. Please see Terms & Conditions. You can find the original images at the following links:

Agios Georgios Disalonas Beach: Andrea Casadio by Panoramio

Crystal Waters: Andreas Kontokanis by Flickr

Fisherman: Oliver Clarke by Flickr

Goat: Benedetta Romani by Flickr

Harbour: Shutterstock

Horio: Konidair by Panoramio

Kali Strata: Symidream.com

Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis: Shutterstock

Old Houses: James Austin by Flickr

Pebbled floor: Грец ия остров Сими by Panoramio

View of Symi: Charley1965 by Flickr

Windmill: Red Rose Exile by Flickr