Lying an hour’s ferry ride and a different world away from Rhodes, 9km off the Turkish coast, Symi is one of the smallest of the Dodecanese Islands, measuring just 13km by 8km.
Elegant Venetian-style houses in shades of pastel pink and white cling to the steep hillsides that tumble down to a perfect azure bay. Once a major trading port, known for ship building and sponges, Symi’s harbour is breathtakingly lovely. Sleek yachts and cruise launches bob alongside fishing boats and water taxis in the port where in the mornings, the ferries arrive to disgorge their passengers, returning late afternoon to return them to Rhodes. During the day, the harbour area of Gialos (or Yialos) teems with visitors browsing its plethora of shops selling sponges, cosmetics, souvenirs and handcrafts; or occupying tables at one of its 25 or more pretty harbour side tavernas. Rarely do the visitors brave the heat of the day to venture up the endless steps to the small town of Chorio where cats snooze in shaded doorways and vine covered verandas offer respite from the heat.
Once the day trippers have left, the harbour resumes its sleepy lifestyle. As sunset fades, the twinkling lights of its tavernas reflect in the still waters and the evening air fills with the irresistible aromas of cooking as the serious business of dining gets underway.
Buzz Trips Opinion
This was one of the most idyllic, away-from-it-all Greek holidays I’ve ever had. My apartment overlooked the beautiful harbour and every day I took a water taxi or a bus to one of the many secluded beaches, lunching at tavernas on the beach and returning by water taxi in the late afternoon. Evenings were spent lingering over dinner and ouzo at the huge choice of restaurants around the harbour and at weekends, venturing into the local disco. I bought beautiful handmade jewellery on the island and naturally, a sponge! The perfect location for sun worshippers who like it hot, I’d recommend Symi to anyone wanting complete rest and relaxation in idyllic surroundings.
We’re talking serious Greek chill-out here with most of the emphasis being on enjoying the sun and the water. But after a hard day on the beach when the day has cooled a little, it’s well worth climbing Kalí Strata to explore the old town with its wonderful vistas back over the harbour. Don’t miss the 19th century apothecary shop with its old jars and wooden drawers and the little museum (follow the blue arrows). On the way back down, enjoy the sunset shadows through the ruins above the harbour. For some ecclesiastical culture, take a road or boat trip to the monastery of Panormitis on the south western coast. Still a working monastery, this is the site of an ancient pilgrimage every November. Check out the superb black and white tiled courtyard.