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Things To Know Before Visiting Symi Island
About Symi Island
Symi is a small mountainous island in the Dodecanese, mostly known for its shipbuilding industry and sea sponge. Situated between the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos, and Tilos, and the Turkish mainland, the island is the perfect getaway for every nature lover searching for silence and true Greece feeling.
Symi is one of the smaller holiday islands in the Dodecanese group, just over 13km long and 8km wide.
This lovely spot is divided into Chorio, the upper town, Gialos, the lower town, also known as the main harbor, Pedi Bay, just below Chorio, Nimborios bay to the north of Gialos, and the Panormitis Monastery complex.
You’ll discover many beautiful colorful residences, gorgeous monasteries, hidden beaches, azure waters, and hiking trails.
Best Time To Visit Symi Island
For sure, the best time for visiting the island is during the spring and autumn months, when the temperatures drop, making the experience more pleasant. However, it doesn’t get busy even during the summer months, as it is a small island.
How to get to Symi Island
Symi doesn’t have an airport, so the easiest way is to fly to Rhodes or Kos islands and take the ferry from here. From Rhodes, the journey takes around one hour and around an hour and a half from Kos. From Athens Piraeus port, you’ll have to get the night ferry, and the trip lasts 13 hours.
Day Trips from Rhodes
Due to the islands’ proximity to Rhodes, you will have the chance to discover all the things to do on Symi Island on a day trip from Rhodes. A few companies in Rhodes offer day trips to Symi, with tickets starting from 35€. They usually begin in the morning and end late in the afternoon. The boat journey from Rhodes takes around one hour.
As soon as you reach the shoreline, you have a few hours at your disposal to discover the island. While many choose to visit the main port and maybe lay in the sun at the nearby Nos beach, the island has much more to offer.
So make the most of your day by renting a scooter and discovering all the things to do on Symi. Once you return to the ferry at the designated hour, the tour takes you to the Panormitis Monastery complex, which is the jewelry of the island.
From here, the ferry takes another hour to reach Rhodes.
Day Trips to Rhodes
If Symi island is your choice for a holiday, you can explore Rhodes on a day trip. The ferries leave in the morning and return later in the afternoon. You’ll have plenty of time to discover Rhodes’s old town and the harbor area, as this part of the city is filled with tavernas and coffees, historical sights, and shopping stalls. That’s pretty much everything you’ll be able to see during one day trip to Rhodes, so don’t plan anything else.
Where to stay on Symi Island
If you’re looking for holiday all-inclusive groups, you won’t find them here. But you’ll find plenty of villas, self-catering apartments, studios, and a few small hotels. The owners and the population generally are always kind and ready to satisfy all your wishes.
Most holiday accommodation is only open from April until October, so keep that in mind if you wish to visit Symi during the off-season. Once you have stayed on Symi, you will fall in love with the island and want to return!
Note. The water on Symi is brought by ship from Rodhes since there is no natural water apart from the one saved during the rains. So, if you’re staying on Symi Island, always use water wisely, as every drop matters.
Getting around Symi Island
First, consider that Symi is a mountainous island, with some places reached only on foot. Hiring a car won’t help much but renting a scooter would be much easier to explore. As soon as you get to the small port, you’ll find some scooter rental places, so make sure to grab one. But first, climb the stairs to Chorio, and only after wandering the upper town, hire a scooter.
There is a motor road from Gialos to Panormitis, on the other side of the island so you can drive there. Another option is to take the local bus, which runs between the Gialos port, Pedi beach, Nos beach, and Panormitis monastery every hour. That means you can reach all the main sights even without hiring a car or scooter. You’ll bump into the bus station as you get out of the ferry.
The Best Things To Do On Symi Island
Explore Chorio, the upper part of the town
Before heading to Chorio, you should know that there are stairs everywhere. Kali Strata is the famous path connecting the lower part with the upper part of the city. Around 400 stairs are getting up to Chorio – the upper part of the town and the old town.
I suggest doing this first thing in the morning when the temperatures are more bearable. Don’t hurry; take time to enjoy the cobbled-stones alleys, the old houses, and the blooming flowers. Observe the locals and the sleepy cats.
There is also a plethora of churches and bell towers. If you get tired, there are some tavernas and cafes along the way, so feel free to rest!
TIP. If you get to Symi on a day trip from Rhodes, walk up the stairs to Chorio first and only after head down to discover the port area and relax with a cold drink at one of the many tavernas encircling the shoreline.
Savor the views from the Kastro Castle
Once you get up on Chorio, you’ll bump into the Venetian Castle built by the Knights of the Order of Saint John back in the 14th century. The original purpose of this castle was to protect locals against invasions, but it fell in the Turks’ hands after their attack in 1522. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do or see, but you can walk around its remains.
Next, you’ll discover the beautiful small Panagia Church overlooking the Aegean Sea and Gialos within the castle grounds. After soaking some peaceful minds, head to the viewpoint for taking the most beautiful photos of the town. If your time allows you, visit the castle at sunset when the sun goes down behind the mountains.
Explore Gialos, the main town of Symi Island
As you arrive at the port of Symi, you’ll be amazed by the beauty of the colorful houses surrounding the shoreline. This harbor is one of the prettiest in Greece, and exploring its alleys is one of the best things to do on Symi Island.
Get lost on the narrow alleys, stroll around the harbor, admire the beautiful architecture and take plenty of photos. You’ll even bump into a replica of the famous Big Ben, a clock tower built in 1881.
Sample the local food
Being an island, seafood and fresh fish are the first options. There is an abundance of local delicacies, but the most famous dish appears to be “garadaki symiako” or popcorn shrimp – fried, crispy and sweet shrimps, served with a squeeze of lemon and eaten whole. Simply delicious! Other great dishes you should try are grilled octopus, mussels, squid and salad, oven-baked feta.
Head to Gianni taverna for the best souvlaki made from succulent chicken and pork and served with homemade salads and chips. You’ll find this place just over the bridge in the main port.
Rent a boat and discover the secluded beaches
Hiring a day boat is one of the best things to do on Symi Island. The most stunning beaches in Symi are accessible by boat, and the only way to get there is by renting one. If you want to make your trip memorable, rent a boat without a skipper, venture into the sea and discover the island on your own terms. Be watchful to the detailed description of how to operate the ship, and you’ll be fine. You’ll have the choice to be your captain and explore all the secluded beaches at your leisure.
Discover shallow bays, pristine beaches, and even get to the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis. Usually, the boats are rented from 9 am to 8 pm, leaving plenty of time to explore. You can find out more about renting a boat here.
TIP. Not far away from the departure point, you’ll get to St. George Bay, the most spectacular beach on the island. This place is famous for its vertical 300 meters cliff surrounding the shore and its turquoise water. Make sure to stop, go for a swim, and enjoy the views. Also bring some water and supplies as there is nothing else there!
Buy local souvenirs
If leather is your thing, head to Takis leather store, in the main port. Choose from bags, shoes, wallets, belts, and other exciting leather stuffs. Did you know Symi is famous for its sponge products? You’ll find them in many shops along the shoreline, in different shapes and packages.
Forget about everything in Pedi Village
Just a half an hour walk or a short bus/scooter ride from Symi town, you’ll find the lovely village of Pedi. Away from the central part of the island, here you’ll find the serenity you’ve lingered. There are a few tavernas and accommodation options.
Explore the little village before reaching the beach, a relatively 10 minutes walk to the south. Follow the seashore until you reach a gate, walk uphill, and down to a beautiful secluded beach. You’ll find a small cafe and sun umbrellas here.
Feed a stray cat
I know it’s not the kind of activity to include in an itinerary. But unfortunately, Symi, along with many other Greek islands, is famous for the many stray cats guarding cozy tavernas, roaming narrow alleys, or dozing around homestays.
It’s hard not to fall in love with them. While the locals look after them, many cats wander the streets searching for food. They last through the mercy of tourists who feed them, so make sure to leave cool water or food outside your accommodation if possible.
Relax at one of the lovely beaches
Next to Symi town, Nos is a small and crowded beach with watersports options for the active ones.
Nimborio Beach is a small beach with crystal water, 3 kilometers from the harbor, accessible by boat, car, or scooter. There are a few dining options, so make sure to try some delicious seafood.
Near Pedi beach, you’ll find Agia Marina Beach, a beautiful bay with a depthless sandbank, a tiny cove, and a lovely chapel. This spot is perfect for lying in the sun, snorkeling, and relaxing all day long but, remember, this beach is only accessible by boat!
Another beautiful beach not far away from Pedi beach is Saint Nicholas Beach, a lovely beach with a tavern and sunbeds and umbrellas.
One of the island’s best beaches, Saint George Beach is a rocky beach with crystal clear water. An almost 300m high, vertical rock stands behind the beach and sets a breathtaking scenery! Unfortunately, it’s only accessible by boat.
Marathounda Beach is a lovely pebble beach with beautiful crystal clear water and an excellent taverna with delicious food. You can reach the beach by bus, scooter or boat.
Nanou Beach is a lovely, picturesque beach with crystal clear water. You can reach this hidden gem on foot or by taxi boat. But remember, the walk will take around 45 minutes. You’ll find a taverna with sunbeds and umbrellas.
Hike around Symi Island
Did you know that the highest point on Symi Island is the Vigla at 616 meters? This means hiking is one of the best things to do on Symi Island. Even if there aren’t any marked walking trails, you can’t get lost. Every path leads to a town or village. Make sure to bring plenty of water, wear comfortable shoes, and sunscreen protection. The views are amazing, and you can quickly discover some secluded places.
Visit the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis
Located on the southwest coast, the Monastery of Archangel Michael Panormitis is the jewelry of the island, and a visit here is one of the best things to do on Symi Island. A prominent Greek Orthodox pilgrimage site dating back to the 18-century, the monastery has housed monks since the beginning.
The holy icon of the Archangel appeared miraculously on several occasions and was removed every time only to reappear mysteriously in this exact location. As a result, the church was built over the site. You can explore the impressive building and the inner courtyards, visit the two small museums, and climb the bell tower.
After the visit, try some ice cream and homemade pastry before heading to the nearby beach for a good swim.
Interactive Map Of The Best Things To Do On Symi Island
Underneath, you’ll find a customized map that includes all the locations mentioned in this article. Just open up this article on your phone and click on the frame in the upper right corner of this map. Google Maps app will open up and you can check all the details. I hope it helps!