Greek Guide


Symi Island Greece Greek Holiday Destinations

Symi is one of the Greek Dodecanese Islands located off the south west coast of Turkey where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean. It's a small, unspoilt island which attracts hikers, nature lovers and those thirsting for a taste of the "real Greece".

Hundreds of day trippers flock here in the summer months from nearby Rhodes which is a far bigger and more popular holiday destination. They come to visit one of the most attractive harbours in Greece and the island's famous Monastery of the Archangel Michael. The islanders and those foreign visitors who have come to soak up Symi's slow pace of life breathe a sigh of relief when the ferries ship away the masses before sun down.

The island has no airport but there are regular ferry services to and from Rhodes (two hours) which has an international airport with flights to Athens, several UK airports and other European capitals. A Flying Dolphin will get you to Rhodes, 11 kilometres south of Symi, in just under an hour. There are also regular ferry and hydrofoil services linking the island with several others in the archipelago.

The island is just 13 kilometres from north to south and eight kilometres from west to east with a total area of 68 square kilometres. It's best explored on foot or by water taxi as the road "network" is a one carriageway affair doesn't give access to the island's far flung corners.

Ferries dock at the main port town of Gialos which is a delightful concoction of strikingly beautiful pastel coloured neo classical mansions arranged in tiers on the steep hillside overlooking the harbour. The town is mercifully free of modern development and remains architecturally protected by law from the ravages of mass tourism which have scarred many of the bigger resorts in the Greek islands. The port's grandiose buildings serve as reminders of a more glorious bygone age when Symi prospered from its lucrative ship building and sponge diving trades. Less than a century ago this was one of the wealthiest of all the Greek islands.

But the ship building industry went into decline and the advent of synthetic sponges sounded the death knell for the decidedly hazardous occupation of diving for the real thing.

Now Symi is very much the poor relation of affluent Rhodes, too short of fresh water to support anything other than a relatively small tourist industry. You won't find huge luxurious hotel and conference complexes here nor the kind of frantic nightlife for which the Rhodian resort of Faliraki is so famous.

What you will find is an attractive island peppered with dozens of tiny monasteries, forested with pines, oaks and junipers and fringed by numerous pretty pebble coves many of which can only be reached on foot or by water taxi.