Symi also transliterated Syme or Simi (Greek: Σύμη) is a Greek island and municipality. It is mountainous and includes the harbor town of Symi and its adjacent upper town Ano Symi, as well as several smaller localities, beaches, and areas of significance in history and mythology. Symi is part of the Rhodes regional unit.
The shipbuilding and sponge industries were substantial on the island and, while at their peak near the end of the 19th century, the population reached 22,500. Symi's main industry is now tourism and the population has declined to 2,500.
The island of Symi lies 24 miles (40kms) to the northwest of Rhodes, covering an area of 26 square miles (68 sq kms). It is approximately 8 miles (13kms) long by 6 miles (9.5kms) wide, with Mount Vigla its highest point at 2021 feet (616m).
The main harbour is Yialos (Symi Town) with smaller settlements at Pedi, Nimborio and Marathounda. Yialos is the main tourist area, where visitors from a wide range of countries – Scandinavians, French, Italians, Turks, British - create a very cosmopolitan atmosphere. Yialos is linked to the Horio or village by a flight of 360 steps known as the Kali Strate or beautiful stairway, a 19th century replacement for an ancient, stepped footpath, the Kataraktis, which originally connected the two parts of the town. Horio contains a selection of kafeneions, restaurants and small grocery shops and is also the most populated section of the island, retaining the authentic atmosphere of local life. Yialos is also linked to Horio by a metalled road which winds around the hillside before heading off across the island’s part-wooded interior to Panormitis in the south. This is a large monastery complex which attracts visiting tourists and pilgrims all year round. For walkers, there are also numerous footpaths and road-tracks around the island.
Legend has it that during the Trojan War, ancient Symi craftsmen sent three ships and King Nereus to aid the Greek forces. In historical times, the Dorian Greek, Roman and Byzantine civilizations all left their mark on the island, as did the Knights of St John during their supremacy on nearby Rhodes. These influences are still apparent in much of the island’s architecture, several small churches and icons dating back to these periods. From 1522, Symi became part of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1912, Symi was again occupied, this time by the Italians during the Turko-Italian War, who remained until World War II. The British finally occupied Symi in 1944 after repeated bombing by both Allies and Axis powers. It was not until 1947 that the Dodecanese Islands, including Symi, became part of the modern Greek state.
Things to Do
Motorbikes, small cars and pleasure boats are available to hire. An extensive range of walks and excursions continues throughout the season. Cookery lessons can be arranged with the owner/chef of a renowned, local restaurant. You are also invited to join in traditional dancing sessions organised by the Women’s Association of Symi.
The annual Symi Festival, held from July to September, is an important cultural event on the island. Theatre, open-air cinema, dance, traditional and classical music, literary and art exhibitions are all included in the summer programme.
Symi is unusual for a Greek island in boasting a variety of excellent restaurants serving both traditional fare or general Mediterranean cuisine. Certain establishments only use locally caught fish and organically grown produce, making eating out during your stay on Symi a genuine pleasure. The remaining kafeneions continue to serve ouzo-mezes in authentic surroundings.
Getting Around Symi
Symi has hardly any metalled roads so most travelling around the island is by foot, sea taxi or four-wheel drive vehicle. Walking can therefore be one of the pleasures of a holiday on the island and there are a number of guided walks available every week throughout the season. There are also excursions by jeep and boat, designed to explore the island's beauty spots and beaches., and remote churches and monasteries. Other excursions are available to the nearby islands of Kos and Tilos.
The Monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis is a Greek Orthodox monastery built on the southwest coast in the early 18th century. It overlooks a bay, and is still inhabited by monks.
The Kastro overlooks the main town of Symi, Ano Symi. It was built by the Knights of St. John as an expansion of a Byzantine castle on the same site, many parts of which are still visible. There are also remnants of an ancient citadel on which the two later castles were built.
The municipal clock tower which was built circa 1880
The War memorial in the harbour consists of a monument "the Dove of Peace" in front of a bas-relief sculpture of a Trireme
The town of Symi alone has thirteen major churches and dozens of chapels, some dating back to the Byzantine era.
The village of Nimborio has surviving ancient Pelasgian walls and a set of twelve domes remaining from workshops used by artists.
Yialos, Symi Harbour
Chorio in the evening sun
Church in Chorio, with the windmills and Pontikokastro in the distance
Browse through our accommodation listings and let us know which properties appeal to you, your proposed dates, your budget and for how many people you need accommodation. Also let us know if it is a special event such as a romantic honeymoon or other celebration holiday. We will email you back with suggestions and advice to help you book the right accommodation for your perfect Symi holiday.
We will also answer any questions concerning accessibility, suitability for children and other concerns you might have. When you book your accommodation through the Symi Visitor, you will be advised on all the little details that help to make your Symi holiday as relaxing as possible, from a pre-booked airport taxi should you need one to a pre-booked hotel room if you arrive at an inconvenient hour.
How do I get from the airport to Rhodes harbour?
There is a large taxi rank immediately outside the arrivals hall at Rhodes Diagoras airport. This operates on a first-come-first-served basis and there are usually plenty of taxis waiting. The standard fare from the airport into town is currently 18 euros, but you may be charged more if you have a lot of luggage or are a large party. There is also a regular bus service.
If you have booked your accommodation through the Symi Visitor, a pre-booked airport taxi can be arranged for you if you wish. This is particularly useful if time is short between your landing time and the departure of the ferry.
Which ferry do I catch to Symi?
There are two boats connecting Rhodesand Symi, the 'Proteus' and 'Symi II' car-ferries. You can check our timetables, which are updated every month, for details. You can also book online or see details of where to buy tickets. There is an ANES kiosk in Mandraki harbour; you can also buy tickets from the agents in the commercial harbour.
The Symi II leaves from Mandraki Harbour in Rhodes New Town, the Proteus from the Commercial Harbouroutside the walls of the Old Town.
(See photo opposite)
The Dodecanese Express hydrofoil also runs regular services between the Dodecanese islands in season; their timetables are here. These boats leave from Kolonna. (see photo)
The Tilos Star is currently (June 2010) running a Sundays only service between Rhodes and Symi. You can read details and see the timetable here.
If you have booked your accommodation through the Symi Visitor you will be advised on which boat to catch and arrangements will be made for your luggage to be taken care of if you have a long wait. When you arrive in Symi as a Symi Visitor guest, you will be met from the boat and transferred to your accommodation by taxi or porter as appropriate. Your arrival transfer from the harbour to the accommodation is included in the price.
Finding a flight
On the Internet, there are any number of bargain-flight websites. Some will allow you to book on-line, others take telephone bookings. It pays to shop around and to buy early, if you can. You will need to book a flight to RHODES preferably, but KOS is a good alternative.