THE CHARMING BEAUTY OF SYMI
These days, the fishing and sailing boats in the waterfront bob to a different, more relaxed tune. That, though, hasn’t stopped Symi retaining its authenticity and traditions. Take a look around you … at the generously laid out tavernas and those houses rising theatrically up the hillside towards the upper town. You will be gripped by the urge to explore.
Before you head anywhere else, make sure to give the port the time it deserves. The clocktower and much-photographed belfry of the church of Panagia Evangelistria stand out. But mostly this is where you can best appreciate the colours and grandeur of the mansion houses rising up the hill.
Climbing Kali Strata
It’s quite a climb but tackling the 500 stone steps of Kali Strata, connecting the harbour to Ano Symi, is the best way to explore the town. Essentially one long winding staircase, takes you through the lower and upper town, allowing you to enjoy the neoclassical architecture, pebbled courtyards and tiled roofs from every angle. You’ll be stopping at the shops with local handmade products, or maybe a bakery or café along the way.
The view from the Byzantine Castle
If you can, keep climbing all the way to the Byzantine Castle above the town. It was built in the 14th century by the Knights of St John as an expansion to an existing fortification and there are even remains of an ancient citadel up here.
Whether you eat in the port or the upper town, you’ll love the food. There are traditional cafeterias and ouzeries for a coffee and a snack, but you should definitely try a fish taverna by the sea. Symi is legendary for its seafood, particularly the prawns. Keep an eye out for atherinopita (a seafood pie), the handmade pasta and local honey balls called akoumia.
The monastery of the Archangel Michael Panormitis
Some boat trips include a stop at the 18th century monastery in Panormo Bay, which was traditionally a pilgrimage site for seamen. It has two museums (one folklore and one religious) and is famous for its frescoes and wood carvings.
St George’s Beach
Most boat trips stop for a swim here and it’s not hard to see why. Accessible only by boat, it’s the largest and most impressive beach on the island, with a massive vertical rockface reaching a height of 300m.