Best Things to See and Do
in Symi, Greece
1. Light a Candle at the Monastery at Panormitis
The Monastery of the Archangel Michael at Panormitis is one of the most popular visitor sites in Symi. Located along a charming seaside about 11 miles from Symi town, this monastery dates back to the 18th century and is visited by people of all religions who come to pray for health, protection, and fertility, among other things.
Within the monastery grounds, you’ll find two museums featuring paintings, icons, and chandeliers adding to the sacred feeling of the site. While the energy of the space is amazing and the museums are interesting, the monastery itself is small, so plan to either spend your afternoon relaxing along the beach or have a taverna meal after your visit. The monastery itself can be seen in under an hour.
2. Hike to the Castro and Windmills
Coming in at less than 23 square miles in size, Symi is a small island and one of the benefits of this is that despite the fact the hiking paths aren’t well marked, you can just look up and around to understand where you are. There are lots of hikes you can plan for during your stay, and exploring on foot is one of the best ways to take in the natural beauty and stunning views of this island.
I went for a beautiful hike from the port up to Symi Castle (the Castro) and over to the windmills. It took less than two hours and gave me a chance to see the windmills up close, as well as offering beautiful vistas of the port.
While only ruins remain today, the location of Symi Castle was an ancient acropolis until the castle was built in the same location by the Knights of the Order of St John in 1407. The castle’s ruins aren’t such an attraction, but the view is, and from this vantage point, you look over the colorful homes dotting Symi port.
From Symi Castle, it is an easy hike to visit the island’s famous windmills. These windmills are not working turbines but rather circular stone buildings that supported windmills in prior times. There are over a dozen of these structures running along the hills above Symi port. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even book a stay in a windmill as some of them are refurbished and available for nightly accommodation.
3. Go Sea Sponge Shopping in the Port
Symi is a fishing island famous for its sea sponge industry. All along the Port, you’ll find merchants selling Symian sponges, natural loofahs formed in the sea from silica, calcium, or calcium carbonate materials. If you are inspired by the sea sponges, there is even a small sponge factory to visit.
In ancient times, these sponges were used as currency, underscoring how connected to the sea Symian life has always been. Explore the sponge industry in Symi and take home some of these natural gifts.
4. Swim in the Crystal Clear Waters
Symi offers visitors many stunning beaches, including Nanou Beach, Marathounda Beach, Santa Marina, and St. Nicholas Beach. While Symi beaches are tranquil and beautiful, getting there requires some planning because many are accessible only by boat or on foot. Most beaches are organized, offering sunbeds and light food service for a fee. All of the beaches listed above have nearby tavernas if you want a more substantial meal.
If you want to add a little adventure to your beach experience, head to Agios Georgios Dysalona Beach, one of the beaches accessible only by boat. This amazing beach is surrounded by hundreds of cliffs and offers impressive views, especially in the late afternoon as the sun starts to fall. This is not an organized beach, so bring your own supplies, including sunscreen since there are no beach chairs or umbrellas to rent.
5. Taste the Local Cuisine
It is no secret that Greek food tastes amazing, and because of the vibrant fish industry in Symi, you’ll have lots of chances to explore seafood cuisine while visiting. The island is famous for Symian shrimp, a tiny red shrimp that is typically served boiled or fried and eaten whole. You’ll also find lots of classic Greek dishes like gemista (stuffed tomatoes and peppers), spanakopita (spinach pie), rice-stuffed grape leaves, and an array of fresh fish, often caught that same day. In addition to the Greek classics, you might notice Turkish influences with dishes like imam on many taverna menus.
6. Picture Perfect Port
Get your cameras out! Believe it or not, the best place to get a photo of Symi island in Greece is from the water. Trust us, as soon as you see the colorful buildings of the harbor you’ll be completely blown away. Snap some photos but still leave yourself time to take it all in before exiting the boat.
7. Walk Along The Symi Island Harbor
Once you’ve arrived on Symi Island you’ll surely be ready to explore the town. Honestly, we’ve never seen such a place exploding with colors!
The different reds, yellows, oranges, and blues hover above the restaurants and cafes of the harbor. They surround a beautiful bay filled with small boats and the sparkling blue water of the Aegean Sea.