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The lady of the Dodecanese

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The cosmopolitan air and architectural features of its pastel-shaded mansions that welcome you as soon as you approach the port by boat, make Symi a rare jewel of the Dodecanese. Italian finesse and prevalent elegance characterize this land of great maritime tradition and unparalleled grandeur, unfading to this day.

Symi was a global maritime power, and has thus accumulated significant wealth, while in the 19th century the island was home to the largest sponge fishing fleet in the world and a dominant force in the industry and international sponge trade.

More and more visitors discover Symi every year, while in recent years it has become a pole of attraction for Hollywood stars and the international jet set.

Routes & Attractions

Walking around the two listed settlements of the island, Ano Symi (Chorio) and Gialos (the island’s port) feels like being inside a living painting with colorful mansions of wealthy merchants and captains of the past, built on the steep slope of the rock.

Gialos is full of bars, tavernas and cafes. Walking along its alleys you will come across the Clock Tower (1881), the sculpture of "Michalakis", which depicts a small fisherman with a fishing rod in his hand, the Maritime Museum of Symi and St. John’s Cathedral, with its pebbled courtyard and a stone bell tower.

Walk up the 500 stone steps of Kali Strata, connecting Gialos with Chorio (Ano Symi). This is the old commercial street of the island, along which you will find picturesque alleys, well-tended churches and well-preserved neoclassical buildings with pediments, skylights and tiled roofs, lavishly decorated pebbled courtyards and beautiful shops. The route will take you to the main square with its stylish cafes overlooking the Aegean Sea.

In Symi you’ll find the most important and greatest pilgrimage in the Aegean, the historic Monastery of Taxiarchis Michael Panormitis (6th century), where you will admire the Byzantine hagiographies and the baroque bell tower.

Visit the Archaeological - Folklore Museum, that hosts archaeological findings from the classical to the Byzantine era and folklore exhibits such as the representation of a traditional house of Symi and local costumes.

Take the path through the cypress forest to reach the area of Kourkounioti with the 11 restored Byzantine wine presses, which testify to the long history of viticulture on the island, that lasted to the end of the 18th century.

Walk up to the Castle of the Knights (14th century) at the highest point of Chora, offering panoramic views of the island. While you are in the Castle, observe the coats of arms of the Grand Masters in the fortifications and visit the church of Megali Panagia.

Visit Emporio, the second harbor of the island with the "twelve caves", one of the most enigmatic sights of the island. These twelve cave domes are said to have been used as catacombs, burial monuments, but also painting/sculpture workshops in the Byzantine era.

In Pontikokastro, admire the 20 windmills once used for grinding grain; some of them have been restored and are now used as residences.

The traditional settlement of Pedi is ideal for strolling along the vineyards, olive trees and citrus groves.

Beaches & Activities

The largest beach of Symi, accessible only by sea, is Agios Georgios Dysalonas, with amazing turquoise waters, embraced by an impressive 300 meters high vertical rock. This pebbled beach, which takes its name from the homonymous church carved inside the rock, is not organized but provides some natural shade under the tamarisk trees.

The most beautiful beach of the island is Nanou, with large pebbles and green waters reflecting the surrounding cypresses.

Among the most popular beaches of Symi is sandy Nos, just 1 kilometer from the town of Symi. The beach is organized and popular but at the same time ideal for relaxation. Access is by hiking from the Clock Tower to the port.

In a cove with white pebbles and calm turquoise waters is the quiet, organized beach of Marathounta, one of the very few beaches you can reach by road often also frequented by goats!

The lively and fully organized sandy beach of Agios Nikolaos is ideal for families with children; with few pebbles, trees for natural shade and shallow turquoise waters, the beach is named after the small chapel built here.

Tastes of the island

The island is famous for the local tiny shrimp variety (plesionika narval), perfectly served with ouzo in the island’s tavernas. Other local delicacies are lachanontolmades (cabbage rolls), chickpeas with mushrooms and dill, gaelopita (fried pie made of atherinas) and fish balls.

Try the famous cakes of Symi (cheese pies) and local recipes, such as local oven-cooked goat.

Dessert lovers, buy the local acumia (donuts) and misocofti (dessert made of boiled prickly pears and flour).

Traditions & Events

Several festivals (known as panigyria) are held on major religious feasts the most popular being that of Panormitis in November, where after the end of the Divine Liturgy, drinks and food are offered to all visitors of the island.

August 15th is celebrated in Panagia Alithini and Panagia Myrtariotissa.

Every summer, between July and September, the island hosts the Symi Cultural Festival with the participation of Greek and foreign renowned artists.

Don’t miss...

Schedule a day trip to the islets of Nimos and Sesklia, which are designated archaeological sites. The former is famous for its olive groves and wildlife, while the latter is famous for its beaches and springs.

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