There are many things to do in Symi island Greece! After spending a few days on the beautiful island, here are my favourite activities.
Symi island Greece
Symi is a small Greek island in the Dodecanese island group. It’s located close to the better known Rhodes, and is only a few miles away from the Turkish mainland.
If you are pushed for time, visiting Symi is possible on various day trips from Rhodes Port, just outside the Old Town. However, it’s totally worth spending a few days in Symi, as the small island is pretty amazing.
In fact, I was so impressed, that I included Symi in this list of 22 beautiful places to visit in Greece! Have a look.
I spent about a week in Symi island and could have easily stayed longer! The picturesque port town, wild mountainous landscape, lovely beaches and delicious food would appeal to every traveller.
Here are some of the best things to do in Symi island Greece – apart from taking seriously beautiful photos!
1. Walk around the port area of Symi town
The small town of Symi is the absolute highlight of a visit to the island. The wonderful architecture and beautiful main harbor make it an incredibly picturesque place. It’s one of the most photogenic port towns I’ve been to in Greece – and I’ve been to dozens!
Take your time to walk around the small port, and explore the colourful houses, narrow alleyways and quaint little boats. For wonderful views of the bay and the Aegean Sea, you can climb up the various stairs to the upper levels of the town. Some of them are quite steep!
Symi town has many shops, cafes and restaurants, where you can buy souvenirs, or stop for a coffee, meal or drink. It is busier during daytime, when the daytrippers arrive from Rhodes. If you are spending a few days in Symi, make sure you explore it in the evening as well.
2. Climb the famous 500 stairs all the way up to Chorio
Above the main town, on the top of the hill, you’ll find the small village of Chorio. Although it’s geographically close to the port, it feels like a world away.
To reach Chorio, you have to walk up 500 (!) stone steps, known as “Kali Strata”. On your right and left you will see plenty of fantastic neoclassical houses. Some of them have been restored, while others are in ruins.
On the way up, you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the beautiful bay. There are also a few cafes and tavernas around a little square, where you can stop to catch your breath.
The “Kali Strata” stairs are not particularly steep, but it’s best to avoid climbing during the hottest time of the day. Bring some water with you, and don’t forget your hat and sunscreen! Or go in the shoulder season, for example in April, May or October.
3. Walk around the ruins of the Venetian Castle in Chorio
Like most of the Greek islands, Symi has a long and rich history, and has been inhabited for thousands of years. Since the ancient times, an Acropolis existed on a hill above the town, in modern-day Chorio.
In the 15th century, the Knights of Saint John built a castle over the ruins of the ancient acropolis. There’s not much of the castle grounds left, but you can still enjoy the lovely views over the harbour.
The castle is not very well signposted, and Google Maps will not always lead you very accurately. We had lots of fun climbing up and down the numerous stairs on a spring day, when the weather was not too warm, but I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it during summer.
Afterwards, we went for a lovely meal at a small restaurant called the Secret Garden, which I totally recommend. They even have some live music nights!
4. Visit the famous Panormitis Monastery
The 18th-century Monastery of Archangel Michael, also known as Panormitis monastery, is one of the most popular attractions on Symi island.
It is located on Panormitis Bay, on the southwest coast of the island, and it’s a wonderful place to visit. The church and bell tower are very impressive – take your time to observe the interior of the church.
Within the monastery grounds, there are also two small museums, an Ecclesiastical Museum and a Folklore Museum. Sadly, as we visited during the shoulder season, they were closed.
If you are looking for a truly peaceful place to stay in Symi, you can spend a few nights in the monastery grounds! The price of a room is about 20 euro, and you would need to confirm in advance.
How to get to Panormitis Monastery
Many people visit the monastery on a day trip from Rhodes. If you are travelling independently, you can reach the Monastery by public bus service, a taxi, or a boat from the main port.
Alternatively, you can hire a car or moped, and stop on the way to enjoy the lovely mountainous landscape. Note that the road is narrow and winding at some places – which would make the bus a very interesting experience!
5. Visit the Archaeological and Folklore museum in Chorio
There’s no better place than the archaeological museum in Symi if you want to find out more about the island’s rich history. You will see exhibits from the ancient times, and some interesting Byzantine icons.
Right next to the archaeological museum, there is also a small folklore museum, housed in an old traditional house of Symi. It’s a good place to appreciate the architecture and learn more about the recent history of the island.
You will find the museum tucked away among the hundreds of stairs in Chorio.
6. Visit the beautiful Symi beaches
Symi doesn’t have long, sandy beaches like the beaches in Rhodes. Yet, there are many bays and coves where you can enjoy the crystal-clear azure waters.
Just a short walk to the west of the port town, you can visit the tiny Nos beach. Nimborio beach is further out, and it should take you a little over a half-hour walk to reach it.
One of my favourite beaches in Symi was Agios Nikolaos / St Nicholas. To reach it, you would first need to get to Pedi beach, to the east of the port town, and hike along an easy trail for 10-15-minutes.
The beautiful beach has sun umbrellas, loungers, and a small taverna, so you can easily spend a few hours.
If you don’t mind a longer walk, you can hike from Pedi to Agia Marina beach. We were planning to go, but had climbed so many stairs on the day that we got lazy… next time!
Here is some more information about the beaches in Symi.
7. Explore all the secluded beaches in Symi on a boat trip
While you can reach some of the beaches in Symi by road, others are only accessible by sea. This includes the famous Saint George Bay, Nanou beach and Seskli, an uninhabited island near Symi.
A boat called Poseidon departs from the main harbour on a daily basis, taking you to some of these wonderful beaches. This boat journey lasts for a few hours, and includes a barbecue on the beach. You can book your trip directly at the port.
Another option is to hire a taxi boat, which will take you to a specific beach and bring you back at an agreed time. Prices will vary, depending on the beach you want to go to.
Kayaking in Symi
If you are feeling more adventurous, you can take a kayak trip from Pedi beach with Trekking Hellas. This is what we did, and we totally loved it – we were the only people on St George Dysalonas beach
Here are my impressions: Kayaking in Symi.
8. Taste the local food in Symi island
It’s no secret that Greece has some fantastic food! Apart from staple dishes, like the Greek salad and , every area in Greece and every Greek island has its own local specialties.
The most famous dish in Symi is small, deep-fried shrimp, or garidaki symiako in Greek. I’m fairly certain that I saw it mentioned as popcorn shrimp somewhere – not sure why!
These tiny shrimps are meant to be eaten whole. I have to say, I didn’t find them particularly special… maybe it’s just me!
The same tavernas would usually serve fresh fish and seafood dishes, like kalamari or grilled octopus. If you like those dishes, Symi is a fantastic place to try them.
Where to eat in Symi
Apart from the Secret Garden, which I mentioned earlier, our favourite place to eat in Symi was Elpida Cafeneio. It’s located on the west side of the port, close to the clock tower.
If you order any alcoholic drinks, they treat you to a small plate of food that comes free of charge! If you want to have a few beers by the harbour, this is by far the best place to go.
9. Check out the souvenir shops
After you’ve seen the main sights in Symi, you might want to get a souvenir to bring back home. You’ll find many of the popular Greek souvenirs, but my suggestion for something unique is to look into natural sea sponges.
Sponge diving is one of the things that Symi used to be famous for. Along with Kalymnos, the two Dodecanese islands were home to hundreds of sponge divers, not long ago.
I was really looking forward to visiting the museum of Maritime History and sponge diving, but it’s sadly closed down 🙁 The one in Kalymnos made up for it though!
Your best bet if you want to learn about sea sponges, is to visit one of the stores that sell them. You will find out more about the different types of sponges, their features and their various uses.
You will also get the chance to see the equipment that divers used a few decades ago!
10. Talk to the people!
In my experience, Symi is home to some of the friendliest, chattiest people in Greece! I found out so much about the island’s recent history and lifestyle.
Nikos and Eva, the lovely owners of the studio where we stayed in Symi, told us many stories about their lives on the island. As an example, Symi had no electricity until 1966, and the first car arrived on the island in the 1980s!
Eva even showed us the traditional house she grew up in. Not to mention all the stories we found out about the sponge divers!
As a side note, many of the people living permanently in Symi have moved here from abroad. English is widely spoken, so I totally suggest striking a conversation with the locals, and finding out more about the lovely island.
How to get to Symi Greece
For visitors travelling from abroad, the easiest way to reach Symi island is to get a flight to Rhodes, and then take a short ferry crossing.
In summer, there are a few daily ferries travelling from Rhodes to Symi and vice versa. You can check out routes and book your ferry tickets at Ferryscanner. Travel time is up to 1,5 hours.
If you only have time to visit Symi on a day trip, check out these day tours from Rhodes. You won’t regret it – it’s one of the most picturesque islands in Greece!
Getting around Symi
Symi is a relatively small island. The port town is flat, and you can easily get around on foot. Climbing up to Chorio and the Castle is another story, as you need to climb all these stairs!
If you want to explore the island by road, you can use the bus service, one of the few taxis, or perhaps rent your own moped or car for a day or two.
As with any Greek island, don’t forget the numerous small boat trips and sea taxis!
Best time to visit Symi
Summer in Symi can be uncomfortably warm, with temperatures rising well over 40 C. Weather-wise, the best time to visit Symi is during the shoulder seasons of spring and early autumn, when the weather is pleasant but not excessively warm. Bonus: you will experience the island with fewer crowds.
However, summer is a great time to go if you want to observe the local festivities, called panigiria in Greek. Some of the biggest ones are on 24 June, 6 August, and 15th August – Dormition of Virgin Mary.
In July, August and September you can also attend the Symi Festival, with various cultural events.
Another great time to visit Symi is during Greek Easter. You will get to see some of our unique customs, and experience the island in full bloom!
FAQ about the best things to do in Symi Greece
Here’s what people visiting Symi island often ask:
Are there any sandy beaches in Symi?
Symi doesn’t really have any long sandy beaches. Most of the beaches have a mix of pebbles, gravel, and a little bit of sand. The water, however, is extremely clear and lovely!
How long is the ferry from Rhodes to Symi?
If you are planning an island hopping trip on your own, there are several daily ferries from Rhodes port to Symi. Depending on the ferry you take, your trip will take anywhere between 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.
How many people live on Symi?
Symi’s population is around 3,000 people.
Where is Symi Greece?
Symi is one of the Dodecanese islands in Greece and you can only get there by sea. The closest Greek island with an international airport is Rhodes.
How expensive is Symi?
We found Symi to be very reasonable in terms of prices. During the shoulder season, you can get rooms for 30-35 euro a day. Depending on what you order, meals start from about 10-15 euro per person – but a simple souvlaki will be a lot cheaper!
More Greece travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this article on what to do in Symi Greece, which is also known as Simi Greece! Have a look at these other ones:
- What to pack for Greece
- Driving in Greece
- Tips for visiting Greece in summer
- Is Greece expensive (short answer: no, it’s not)
- Beaches in Patmos
- What to do in Nisyros