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Symi Travel Guide: What to See and Do on the Island of Symi

June 18, 2024 9 min read.

As a hidden gem in the Dodecanese archipelago of Greece, Symi is known for its picturesque harbor, vibrant colors, neoclassical architecture, and laid-back atmosphere. This Symi travel guide will take you on a journey through the most important attractions, stunning beaches, the best time to travel, transportation options, and nearby destinations to explore.

General Information about Symi

Symi has a rich history dating back to ancient times. It flourished during the Byzantine era, the Knights of St. John period, and the Ottoman Empire. The island played a significant role in trade and shipbuilding, and its cultural heritage is reflected in its architecture and local traditions.

The island enjoys a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. The summer months, from June to September, offer warm and sunny weather, perfect for beach activities and outdoor exploration. Spring and autumn bring pleasant temperatures, making them ideal for sightseeing and hiking.

Moreover, the people of Symi are known for their warm hospitality and friendliness. It is customary to greet locals with a smile and a simple "yasou" (hello) or "kalimera" (good morning/day). Respect for the local customs and traditions is appreciated, such as dressing modestly when visiting religious sites and avoiding excessive noise in residential areas.

Location of Symi

Symi Greece Map on Google Maps

Most Important Attractions of Symi

Symi, a captivating Greek island nestled in the Aegean Sea, beckons travelers with its idyllic beauty, vibrant architecture, and rich cultural heritage. Renowned for its colorful neoclassical houses cascading down hillsides, Symi offers a picturesque setting that is bound to leave visitors in awe. Below you will find the main sites of Symi.

1. Symi Town

Symi Town, also known as Gialos, is the island's main settlement and a captivating sight to behold. Its colorful neoclassical houses, adorned with vibrant shutters and balconies, create a stunning backdrop against the crystal-clear sea. Wandering through the narrow streets and exploring the local shops and tavernas is a must-do experience.

2. Symi Architecture and Colors

The architecture of Symi Town is a true highlight. The grand mansions and traditional houses showcase intricate details and vibrant colors, contributing to the island's unique character. Take a stroll through the streets, marvel at the beautiful facades, and capture the essence of Symi's architectural charm.

3. Symi Harbor

The picturesque Symi Harbor is the heart of the island, lined with waterfront cafes, restaurants, and fishing boats. As you sip your coffee or enjoy a meal, admire the magnificent views of the colorful houses cascading down the hillsides, creating a postcard-perfect scene.

4. Panormitis Monastery

Located on the southwestern coast of Symi, the Panormitis Monastery is a significant religious site and a popular pilgrimage destination. The monastery, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, features impressive Byzantine architecture and houses a museum exhibiting religious artifacts.

5. Castle of the Knights

Perched on a hill overlooking Symi Town, the Castle of the Knights is a medieval fortress that offers panoramic views of the island. The ruins of the castle and the surrounding area provide insights into Symi's past.

6. Ancient City of Symi

The ancient city of Symi, located near the main harbor, showcases remnants of its historical significance. Discover ancient walls, rock-hewn tombs, and artifacts that offer a glimpse into the island's ancient civilization.

7. Kali Strata Steps

The Kali Strata is a network of stone steps connecting the harbor to the upper town. Climbing these steps not only provides a scenic workout but also reveals beautiful houses, gardens, and chapels along the way.

8. Archeological Museum of Symi

Immerse yourself in Symi's history and culture by visiting the Archeological Museum of Symi. Housed in a neoclassical building, the museum exhibits artifacts, photographs, and traditional costumes that glimpse the island's past. You can learn more about this building on its official website.

Photo of Symi and boats

Photo of Symi and boats

Photo by Dimitris Kiriakakis on Unsplash

Top 5 Beaches of Symi

Symi is blessed with an array of stunning beaches that cater to different preferences, from secluded coves to family-friendly shores. Let's explore three remarkable beaches on the island.

1. Νανού Beach

Nestled on the southeastern coast of Symi, Νανού Beach (also known as Nanou Bay) is a hidden gem that enchants visitors with its untouched beauty. This secluded pebble beach is embraced by cliffs and surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise waters. Its tranquil atmosphere makes it an ideal spot for those seeking peace and solitude. While there are no facilities or beach bars here, nature lovers will appreciate the unspoiled surroundings and the opportunity to swim in the pristine waters.

2. Saint George Bay

Saint George Bay is a picturesque beach situated on the northeastern coast of Symi. With its pebble shoreline and crystalline waters, this bay exudes a serene and inviting ambiance. It offers a mix of sunbeds and natural shaded areas, making it suitable for both sun-seekers and those desiring a bit of shade.

The calm waters of Saint George Bay are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and even paddleboarding. Additionally, a small tavern nearby offers refreshments and traditional Greek dishes, allowing visitors to indulge in the flavors of the island.

3. Toli Beach

Toli Beach is located on the northern side of Symi and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. Its golden sand and crystal-clear waters make it a fantastic spot for swimming and sunbathing. Toli Beach provides sunbeds and umbrellas for rent, ensuring a comfortable and relaxing beach experience.

Visitors can take advantage of the beachside tavern, which serves delicious Greek cuisine and refreshments. Toli Beach's proximity to the main town also adds convenience for those looking to combine beach relaxation with exploration.

4. Agia Marina Beach

Situated on the western coast, Agia Marina Beach charms visitors with its golden sand, shallow waters, and serene atmosphere. Relax under the shade of tamarisk trees or indulge in water sports.

Another similar beach is Nos Beach, located a short distance from the harbor, which it's an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling.

5. Marathounta Bay

Tucked away in a secluded cove, Marathounta Beach provides a secluded retreat. Its calm waters and rocky backdrop make it perfect for those seeking peace and quiet.

Each of these beaches on Symi will offer you a unique atmosphere and natural beauty, providing visitors with an opportunity to unwind, soak up the sun, and revel in the island's breathtaking surroundings. Whether you seek seclusion, family-friendly facilities, or a vibrant beachside experience, Symi's beaches have something to offer for everyone.

Photo of Aegean Sea and Symi's coast

Photo of the Aegean Sea and Symi's coast

Photo by Dimitris Vetsikas on Pixabay

How to Get to Symi

Here we will mention the different transportation options to travel to Symi. Choose what suits better to you!

By Air

Symi does not have its own airport, but the closest international airport is located on the nearby island of Rhodes. Travelers can reach Rhodes Airport through direct flights from major cities across Europe and other parts of the world. From Rhodes Airport, the most convenient way to get to Symi is by taking a ferry.

By Ferry

Ferry connections to Symi are available from various ports, providing a scenic and enjoyable journey. The main ferry port on Symi is located in Yialos, the island's main harbor.

Rhodes to Symi

Rhodes serves as a central transportation hub, making it a popular starting point for travelers heading to Symi. Regular ferry services operate between Rhodes and Symi, with several daily departures during the peak tourist season.

The ferry journey from Rhodes to Symi takes approximately one to two hours, depending on the type of ferry and route chosen. Travelers can choose from high-speed catamarans or traditional ferries, both offering comfortable amenities and stunning views of the Aegean Sea.

Other Islands to Symi

Symi can be easily accessed from neighboring islands within the Dodecanese group for those exploring the Greek islands. Ferry connections are available from islands such as Kos, Kalymnos, and Tilos, allowing travelers to incorporate Symi into their island-hopping itinerary. The frequency of ferry services may vary depending on the season, so it is advisable to check the schedules in advance.

Ferry tickets can be purchased at the respective ferry ports or through authorized travel agencies. It is recommended to book tickets in advance, especially during the peak summer months, to secure your preferred departure time and ensure a smooth journey.

Traveling by ferry to Symi gives you the opportunity to soak in the stunning Aegean Sea views, breathe in the fresh sea air, and embrace the anticipation of arriving at this enchanting island destination.

Photo of a ferry reaching Symi

Photo of a ferry reaching Symi

Photo by Dimitris Vetsikas on Pixabay

Getting around Symi

As Symi is a small island, the best way to explore its beauty is on foot. The narrow streets and pathways make walking the most convenient mode of transportation. However, if you wish to explore more remote beaches or travel uphill to Chorio, you can rent a scooter or use local taxis.

Best Time to Travel to Symi

The best time to visit Symi is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) seasons when the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowds are fewer. The temperatures are mild, allowing you to explore the island comfortably without the scorching heat of summer.

Photo of a typical donkey ride in Symi

Photo of a typical donkey ride on the island of Symi

Photo by Anke on Pixabay

Destinations Near Symi

Rhodes: Take a day trip to the neighboring island of Rhodes, famous for its medieval Old Town, ancient ruins of Kamiros, and the enchanting Valley of the Butterflies.

Tilos: Visit the unspoiled island of Tilos, known for its pristine beaches, charming villages, and the Megalo Chorio Castle.

Nisyros: Embark on a unique adventure to Nisyros, a volcanic island. Explore the volcanic crater, stroll through the picturesque villages, and relax in the therapeutic hot springs.

Traveling to Symi: Conclusion

Symi offers a magical blend of history, natural beauty, and Greek charm. Whether you're wandering the streets of its harbor, basking on secluded beaches, or exploring nearby islands, Symi promises an unforgettable experience. So, pack your bags and get ready to immerse yourself in the captivating world of Symi!

More Travel Guides!

If you would like to continue learning about this and other wonderful destinations, we invite you to visit our travel guides section and plan your next adventure with Greca.

Do I need a visa to visit Symi?

If you are a citizen of the European Union or Schengen Area, you do not need a visa to visit Symi. However, visitors from other countries should check the Greek visa requirements.

Can I rent a car or scooter in Symi?

Yes, you can rent cars and scooters in Symi. However, keep in mind that the island has narrow roads and limited parking spaces.

What are the accommodation options in Symi?

Symi offers a range of accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses, and self-catering apartments. There are options available in both the main town and smaller villages.

What are the must-visit attractions in Symi?

Symi is known for its picturesque harbor, colorful neoclassical houses, and the Monastery of Panormitis. Other popular attractions include the Castle of the Knights, Chorio (upper town), and the beaches of Nimborio and Marathounta.

Are there any hiking trails in Symi?

Yes, Symi has several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the island and the surrounding sea. One popular trail is the Kali Strata, a stone-paved path connecting the harbor to Chorio.

Are there any local festivals or events that take place in Symi?

Yes, Symi hosts several local festivals and events throughout the year. One popular event is the Symi Festival, which takes place during the summer months and includes cultural performances, music concerts, and art exhibitions. The Festival of Panormitis is also celebrated in July, attracting pilgrims to the Panormitis Monastery with religious processions and festivities. It's a great opportunity to experience the local traditions and celebrations on the island.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Symi?

While tap water in Symi is generally safe for brushing teeth, it is advisable to drink bottled water to avoid any potential stomach issues.

Are there any medical facilities on the island?

Symi has a medical center that can provide basic healthcare services. For serious emergencies, patients may need to be transferred to a hospital on Rhodes.

Are there any boat tours or day trips available from Symi?

Yes, there are boat tours and day trips available from Symi. You can explore nearby islands and attractions, such as the island of Nimos, and the Panormitis Monastery, or even take a boat trip to the Turkish coast.

Can I visit Symi on a day trip from Rhodes?

Yes, it is possible to visit Symi on a day trip from Rhodes. There are regular ferry services between Rhodes and Symi, allowing you to spend a day exploring the island and return to Rhodes in the evening.

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