For an island as small and unheralded as Symi, it punches well above its weight. Weighing in at just 65 square kilometres, and standing in at about 2,500 thousand permanent dwellers, you would be right to dismiss Symi as just another beach-sun-sea island. I mean, one can obviously find all that in Symi, but one would find that there’s much more to see and experience.
The Italians made a few forays into Greek territory, and on one of them they got themselves Symi, and proceeded to make the island into one big architectural marvel. Neo classicism reigns supreme in Greece, but in Symi this is taken to whole new levels. The amiable Italians left, but their pastel hued neo classical mansions lining the promenade and much of the harbor, stayed. And with them, Symi became a spot on the map. It helps that the much bigger Rhodes sits just opposite. This in turn brought the Knights Templar into the fold before the Ottomans eventually made it theirs.
Symi has traditionally lived off the sponge industry. It’s been long revered for the quality of its sponges and along with Kalymnos they set the tone for everyone else.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
In Symi one can dream big. The mountainous inside is great for those interested in hiking, and exploring the old donkey trails of the island. As is tradition, Greek islands are nothing if not conducive to walking and exercising. And let’s face it, you might have to, what with all the delectable food you’ll invariably be destroying.
The beaches are something you’ll want to check on. A lot of them are only accessible by boat and of course we don’t need to tell you what that means. Nimporio, Marathounta, Nanou and Lapathos beaches offer a diverse set of sandy and pebbly terrains, and if you feel that much adventurous you can hire a boat and actually go to a neighboring deserted island like Nimos, Agia Marina and Agios Emilios. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?
There’s also a bunch of cool things that’ll keep you interested, namely the Symi Festival, celebrated between July and September. If you’re lucky enough to be around in those dates you’ll get the chance to enjoy live music, outdoor movie screenings, theatrical plays and an almost assuredly food event.
Symi doesn’t have a dearth of archaeological stuff (yet), but it does boast the obligatory Archaeological Museum with some neat finds from Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. Also worth checking out is the Kastro, a 15th century fortification built by the Knights of the order of Saint John. And of course, the Panormitis Monastery on the south side of the island. This place can help you combine a nice walk, followed by a refreshing swim in the waters around it.
Symi may be far, but it’s worth it. All you got to do is travel where few people have gone before.