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Symi Holiday Travel Guide


Symi, sometimes spelt Simi, is one of the smaller holiday islands in the Dodecanese group just nine kilometres off the Turkish coast north of Rhodes.
Symi is a popular destination for day trippers and there are regular daily excursions from the Rhodes port of Mandraki.
Once famed for boat building and its sponges, the trees have long been hacked down and the sponges been killed off by disease.
Symi today is noted more for peace and tranquillity than for beaches, which are in short supply, mostly shingle with larger stones underwater, have little shade and few facilities.
Symi is also noted for the very high summer temperatures, which can soar to 40°C or more in July and August and make the sheltered main port a sizzling cauldron.
Neoclassical mansions hang off the hills around the main port, a reminder of Symi's rich past and splendid sight for arriving visitors. In the early morning and late evening the bay is a haven of calm but for most of the day, it is thronged with day trip visitors.
One of the big tourist attractions on Symi is the monastery at Panormitis, a favourite with the boat day trippers who find a spectacular building in a large bay on the southwest tip of the island.

  • A favourite target of day trippers Symi changes character from sleepy to frenzied when the ferries come hooting into the bay.
  • Symi beaches are few, mediocre and often tricky to get to, requiring a long walk or a water taxi.
  • Inland, the island of Symi island is hilly and barren with a single fertile plain and a few farms scattered in the hills.
  • Symi is an island for those that prefer to get away from it all. Apart from walking, sunbathing and sitting in a taverna, there is little to do.

Beaches of Symi

Sizzling Symi is one of the hottest Greek islands. It lies just off the Turkish coast and most visitors stay in the steeply sided horseshoe bay of Gialos where summer temperatures can soar above 40°C. Even the Greeks say Symi is hot. Pastel painted neoclassical houses climb up the Gialos hillside, a reflection of the days when Symi was a thriving island made wealthy by shipbuilding and sponge diving. Today, Symi relies almost entirely on tourism; mostly day-trippers from Rhodes.

Gialos port Symi


Cameras begin clicking the moment the ferries pull into the harbour at Gialos, also spelt Yialos. A semicircle of Venetian mansion houses stagger down the steep hillside and ferry hoots echo around the bay.
Gialos is a favourite of day trippers with three or four big ferries arriving every day spilling passengers onto the long quayside that encloses the deep harbour.
Sponges and spices litter the waterside stalls while souvenir shops and tavernas tap the passing trade – at least 25 tavernas in Gialos alone.
The resort is split between the harbour of Gialos and the hillside town of Chorio. The dock is huge, helping Symi prosper as a former trading centre for sponges and shipbuilding.
Mansion houses around the bay fell derelict as traditional trades died but have since been snapped up by foreigners and many tastefully restored.
The amphitheatre hillside creates a colourful display but also traps the heat and prevents any breeze, giving Gialos a reputation as a cauldron.
There is plenty for the day visitor to see. The Nautical Museum has old maps, model ships and maritime stuff while the Folklore Museum has displays of paintings, photographs and traditional costumes.
At the entrance to the harbour is the Roloi clock tower, built in 1881, while the Cathedral of Timios Prodromos, erected 50 years earlier, has an impressive pebbled courtyard.
South-west of Gialos is the church of Moni Agiou Michail Roukounioti built by the Knights of St John in the 14th century on the ruins of a 5th-century monastery with frescoes and religious icons.

Chorio village Symi


Above the harbour of Gialos is the hillside village of Chorio, band the older part of the town. Chorio is reached from Gialos by road or a steep climb of steps on twin stairways that rise from the harbour.
Many of the houses in Chorio are well restored after years of neglect. Homes are often crammed together, creating archways and alleys in all directions and it is easy to get lost wandering the Chorio streets.
The central stairway from Gialos to Chorio is called the Kali Strata and visitors will find a maze of whitewashed alleys and stepped streets, with little traffic and tremendous views over the bay.
Tavernas, cafes and mini-markets can be found, mainly in the vicinity of Chorio village square.

Pedi beach Symi


The east road out of Gialos leads to the small fishing village of Pedi which has a narrow beach of shingle and a little sand, a trio of tavernas, a hotel and a small shop.
It was once a thriving fishing village, but very few people live in Pedi these days. The beach has sunbeds and natural shade from a long line of tamarisks.
Just three kilometres from Gialos, Pedi is easy to reach by foot, car or boat and the daily bus from Gialos stops right on the beach.
Set in a sheltered inlet, the quay is big enough to take the boats that carry fresh water over from Rhodes, a necessity as Symi has no natural springs of note.
A steep and rocky, but well-marked track leads to a stone and shingle beach at Agios Nikolaos beach, about a 20-minute walk, or visitors can take a taxi boat that also stops at Agia Marina beach.
A short distance inland is a catacomb complex known locally as Dhodheka Spilia

Agia Marina beach Symi


At the mouth of the Pedi inlet, on the northern side, is a tiny islet that lies offshore from the beach at Agia Marina. It can be reached by water taxi, and there are several each day from Gialos, or it is a 45-minute walk over rugged terrain.
Sunbeds are laid out along a concrete slab that curves around the bay. A little natural shade is provided by a couple of trees and a taverna serves up the basics.
The grey concrete, bare hills and blinding white umbrellas and loungers tend to give Agia Marina a somewhat desolate air.
The main attraction is that this is one of the few beaches on Symi that has sand underfoot for some distance from the shoreline.
The sand is also gently shelving and the water shallow, so it offers safe swimming for children, although there is not much to do here other than paddle in the sea or lie on a sunbed.

Agios Nikolaos beach Symi

Well served by taxi boats but within walking distance of Pedi is the shingle and coarse sand beach of Agios Nikolaos, on the opposite southern side of the inlet from Agia Marina.
The only beach on Symi that can claim to have some sand, Agios Nikolaos also has the advantage of tree shade from a neat line of tamarisks at the back of the beach.
At the furthest end, near the chapel to Agios Nikolaos, the sea is very shallow, warm and gently shelving, so it's a favourite spot for families with children.
A beach taverna has the basics, including toilets, and the tamarisks offer shade for goats as well as sun-bedded tourists.
The beach can be reached from Pedi on foot in around 30-minutes but the route is rocky and it's a very steep drop over large rocks to get down to the beach.
A water taxi from Gialos is a better bet and the journey takes about 20-minutes.

Agios Giorgios beach Symi


Heading south along the east coast is a narrow inlet at Dissalonias and a tiny beach at Agios Giorgios. It has no overland access and is visited only by those in a boat or by water taxi.
The beach is a narrow strip of shingle and pebble and there is no shade. There are also no facilities here so bring food and water if you intend to stay. The beach is desolate and exposed, offering no shade until mid-afternoon.
Agios Giorgios beach is backed by a sheer 300-metre vertical cliff drop that was used in for location filming for the famous 1961 war movie 'The Guns of Navarone'.

Nanou beach Symi


Nanou is another Symi beach that is 'blessed' with a more than usual share of goats. They often sit under the trees in the picturesque bay on the attractive but steeply sloped pebble beach.
The bay is bigger than most and has a sense of wide open spaces, although cliffs tower each side of the east-facing inlet.
A steep drop into the sea means it's not particularly attractive to families or for weak swimmers but the shore is great for snorkelling as the water is very clear.
Nanou has a small beach taverna, fenced in from the goats, toilets and a few sunbeds. The beach is a regular stop on round island boat trips but can be reached on foot.
However, the overland route is long and arduous across the centre of the island and the walk from Gialos takes about three hours.

Marathounta beach Symi


Just south of Nanou is a narrow bay of bright water with a shingle beach at Marathounta, sometimes spelt Marathounda. It is a short distance from the main road so taxis can drop here or visitors can hop on a daily water taxi.
Alternative routes are on foot over the hill from the bay at Panormitis or on one of the many overland island tours with a picnic lunch.
Marathounta is in a beautiful bay with a beach of pebble and shingle. The stones are steep and the water gets deep rather quickly so children will need watching.
A beach cantina is fenced off to stop the goats pestering guests at the tables and there are a few sunbeds on the stones and a small jetty for visiting boats to tie up.
Just a little way south of Marathounta is an even less visited bay at Faneromi with another strip of pebble and stone but no facilities.

Agios Vasilios beach Symi


The west coast of Symi is almost entirely composed of rocky and inaccessible cliffs. There is only one small beach of any note at Agios Vasilios, about halfway down the coast.
This beautiful but remote shingle and stone beach has no facilities but a few cypress trees offer a little shade.
It lies south-east of Gialos and well off the main island road. A long walk and a scramble down a rocky gorge are required to reach it.
Water taxis do drop off here, but it is usually only visited by weekly round-island cruises as it is the furthest beach from Yialos.
Agios Vasilios is an idyllic spot but lonely and isolated, hemmed in by rocky cliffs and scree with underwater stones and shingle.

Agios Emilianos beach Symi


The only other beach of note on the west coast is at Agios Emilianos, a favourite spot for round-island boat trips where the attraction is the dramatic setting of the monastery on an islet linked to the shore by a small causeway.
Agios Emilianos has a small, shingle beach below the whitewashed chapel. Picturesque it may be but the beach is very scruffy and stony, but a favoured spot for beach barbecues.
The monastery is not as attractive as the setting with whitewashed cube buildings enclosed by bare high walls.
There are a few other strips of shingle to be found around the nearby bays of Skoumisa and Maroni but all have a scruffy, unkempt air.

Nimborios beach Symi


Sometimes called Nimporio, Emborio or Niborios, the beach is set in a large bay and has a small string of pebble. It's popular with visitors from Yialos as there is a decent road from Yialos and it takes only about 20 minutes on foot.
Visitors can get to Nimborios by following the coast road past the Gialos clock tower or by heading inland, following the steep path that rises behind the town square. There are also daily taxi boats.
Nimborios is an old fishing village and there are plenty of summer apartments to let in the area, but no shops. A taverna provides sunbeds and it's a regular port of call for water taxis. Nimborios beach is only a narrow strip of stone but recommended for the views of the bay.

Nos beach Symi

The popular sand and shingle beach at Nos is close to the harbour at Yialos and so often referred to as the town beach. It is reached by walking past the Yialos clock tower heading along the Emborios coast road.
Nos is also called Paradise, probably as a sop to tourists and it's a narrow strip of shingle and sand with a double line of sunbeds. A pleasant taverna at one end overlooks the beach and rocky outcrops at the other end that add interest. The main road is just behind and above, so Nos beach is not very private.