Culture & Travel10 October 2023
Our neighboring country, Greece, is a top tourist destination, especially known for its stunning islands. This nation draws visitors from all corners of the world, and it boasts some truly enchanting islands. Among them is Symi Island, renowned as the smallest island in Greece. What makes it even more appealing is its location on both the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. Symi Island not only offers natural beauty but also boasts a rich cultural and historical heritage. Much like many other regions in Greece, Symi Island is steeped in deep mythological lore.
Symi Island derives its name from the wife of Poseidon, the god of the sea. However, during its time under Ottoman rule, the island was referred to as Sömbeki for an extended period. Symi Island was ultimately incorporated into Greece in 1948, following periods of Ottoman and Rhodes knights' rule. As you can see, Symi Island is teeming with history and stories. With its vibrant houses, narrow streets, and the breathtaking view that unfolds at the end of 375 steps, Symi Island is undeniably a place worth visiting. So, where should you explore on Symi Island?
Symi Roukouniotis Monastery
This monastery, constructed in the 15th century by the Knights of John, is situated on the island's western side, just 5 km from the city center. Therefore, it's easily accessible. Resembling a fortress, the monastery comprises two temples. Its three structures—ground floor, basement, and main building—are in excellent condition. Visitors can admire wall paintings, silverware, significant wooden artworks from the era, and religious symbols within the monastery. Every year on November 8, a holy mass commemorates the patron saints. We highly recommend adding it to your Symi Island itinerary.
Another place worth exploring is Panormitis Bay. The quickest way to reach this bay is by hiring a taxi or taking a bus, as it's 25 km from the city center. Car and motorbike rental services are also available for your convenience. In this bay, you'll find a noteworthy church, the Moni Taksiharki Mikhail Church, dedicated to Michael. Greek sailors believed Michael to be the protector of the Twelve Islands, making this church a significant place of worship for the Orthodox. As it's considered a pilgrimage site for Orthodox Christians, some ferries bring pilgrims here. We strongly recommend a visit.
This charming town, located very close to the center of Symi, is perfect for a swim in the sea. It's especially ideal for those seeking a tranquil time in nature. While the town has few shops and restaurants, it still garners significant interest. This is due to its beautiful beach and natural beauty, making it one of the island's most remarkable settlements. You can reach the town by taking a bus from the central port or hiring a taxi.
Symi Maritime Museum (Gialos)
The Symi Naval Museum in Gialos is one of the island's most intriguing and must-visit museums. Established in 1983, the museum houses a wealth of artifacts, including naval vessels, diving suits, and old maps. In other words, it provides a comprehensive look at maritime traditions from the past to the present. The museum also features fascinating items like numerous sponge collections, diving equipment, and diving stones. Particularly if you have an affinity for museums, this is a definite must-visit destination.
The 375-step Kali Strada staircase is a true symbol of this island. Linking the harbor area to the settlement known as Chorio, these stairs frequently draw the attention of tourists. Walking down these stairs means strolling along a narrow street adorned with charming, colorful houses, making it a delightful experience. While it might require a bit of effort to ascend these steps, you can rest assured it will be worth it for the breathtaking view that awaits you. You may also want to capture a memorable souvenir photo here.
Symi Archaeology and Folklore Museum
Another museum that we believe you'll relish visiting is the Symi Archaeology and Folklore Museum. Situated within an old, traditional mansion, this museum promises to transport you back in time. The museum is divided into three primary sections: Archaeological Collections, Byzantine Collections, and Folklore Collections. In the archaeological collection section, you'll encounter numerous Roman statues and relics from excavations conducted on the island. The Byzantine collection section features manuscripts, coins, and icons from the Byzantine era. The folklore collections section showcases a variety of traditional items, including musical instruments, clothing, sewing machines, everyday tools, and more. Consider adding this museum to your itinerary to explore the island's rich history.
Naturally, when visiting such a stunning island, taking a dip in the sea is a must-do activity. Symi's beaches are teeming with vibrant marine life, and the water is incredibly clear. If you're not in the mood for swimming but still want to explore the island, you can hop on a tourist boat departing from the harbor to tour the island and capture some photos. Symi boasts multiple beaches, so you can choose the one that suits your preferences. For those looking for convenience, Nos Beach, just a 15-minute walk from the center, is an excellent choice. Another nearby alternative is Pedi Beach. Whether you're eager to swim or interested in a boat excursion, a visit to these beaches is a must during your stay.